Red Bull is gambling that Max Verstappen will be the next big thing in Formula One but, while the team has a track record of promotion future stars, Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix could be a race too soon for the Dutch teenager.
Verstappen is a talented driver, of that there is no doubt, and he may go on to match the exploits of Sebastian Vettel, whom Red Bull promoted in similar circumstances not all that many years ago. But it is asking a lot of Verstappen to be a huge success in his first Red Bull drive because, while Red Bull and Toro Rosso share the same owner, there are several significant differences between the cars that they race.
According to Verstappen, who gave a recent interview on Dutch television, the Red Bull car is a totally different vehicle to the Toro Rosso – it is a bit more aerodynamic, it is a bit smaller and its seat is not in the same position. Also, different engines power the Red Bull and Toro Rosso cars. But the biggest difference is their steering wheels.
Bookmakers tend to be slow to release race head-to-head markets but one thinks that it may be worth waiting for prices to appear for Daniel Ricciardo to finish ahead of Verstappen in the Spanish Grand Prix. One’s expectation – based on other Spanish Grand Prix markets such as winner, top three and top six – is that bookmakers will offer odds of around the -143 mark that Ricciardo will beat Verstappen.
Punters who do not follow Formula One may be unaware of the incredible amount of technology contained within a steering wheel. The steering wheel in a Red Bull vehicle does not look or feel like one in a Toro Rosso car, which means that Verstappen will have had to learn the Red Bull controls from scratch after he replaced Daniil Kvyat alongside Ricciardo. Verstappen would have spent many hours practising in a Red Bull simulator but the learning curve is steep and it will be interesting to see how he handles racing for real.
Ricciardo outperformed four-time Formula One champion Vettel in his first Red Bull season so his credentials are terrific and Verstappen will have to produce a special performance on his team debut if he is going to outshine the Australian driver in the Spanish Grand Prix provided that mechanical problems do not befall one’s headline selection.
Nine different drivers have won the last nine editions of the Spanish Grand Prix but it is difficult to look beyond either Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg this year. The issues that one has are that Hamilton has made a terrible start to three of this season’s four Formula One races and Rosberg’s run of victories must, according to the law of averages, come to an end soon. The Spanish Grand Prix’s Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has a long run from the grid to the first turn so a quick getaway is essential, otherwise a driver could lose several positions before the opening corner. One is convinced that Hamilton is quicker than Rosberg but one is unwilling to bet on the British driver again until he proves that he can make a fast start.
If one is looking for a Spanish Grand Prix bet at a big price then one could consider backing Verstappen not to finish. Verstappen is a thrill-seeking hothead who could push his Red Bull vehicle too far in an effort to impress his new colleagues. Bet365 is offering odds of +450 about Verstappen not finishing the Spanish Grand Prix. Verstappen has retired from five of his 23 Formula One appearances.
Ricciardo to finish ahead of Verstappen
Spanish Grand Prix, Sunday 15th May
Estimated Odds: -143
Verstappen not to Finish
Spanish Grand Prix, Sunday 15th May