April 25, 2023, 9:02 am
After four weeks off, Formula 1 will return this coming weekend at the Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan. Qualifying for Sunday’s race will be held on Friday, with a Sprint Shootout and Sprint Race on Saturday. There will be more fantasy points on offer this weekend due to the addition of the Sprint, with positions gained/lost, overtakes made, and fastest lap driven in the Sprint Race all contributing to a driver’s points total. In addition, drivers will be awarded points based on their final results in the Sprint Race, as follows:
With more points available over the course of the weekend, you may be tempted to use your Extra DRS Chip, which gives you a 3x boost to the driver of your choice. There is definitely some logic in that thinking, but the first few rounds of the season have shown that the greatest potential for scoring points this year occurs when a driver in a top team starts out of place.
In Saudi Arabia, Max Verstappen started 15th due to a driveshaft failure in Q2 and totaled 61 points over the course of the weekend, the highest tally of any driver on the year. If Verstappen has a perfect weekend in Baku, qualifying first on Friday (10 points), winning the Sprint Race on Saturday with the fastest lap (8 and 5 points, respectively), and winning the race on Sunday with the fastest lap (25 and 10 points, respectively), he would total 58 fantasy points, 3 points shy of his tally in Saudi Arabia.
You could certainly make the case that it is worth using your Extra DRS Chip this weekend, but you may be better off holding onto it until Verstappen takes a known penalty later in the year and starts at the back of the grid. Also, with the additional Sprint Shootout and Sprint Race there is greater potential for jeopardy and so negative points this weekend, especially considering that Baku is a high speed street circuit. If you want to use the Extra DRS Chip on a Sprint weekend, you may want to wait until one of the next five, none of which takes place at a street track. You may also want to take this opportunity to use your No Negative Chip instead, if you haven’t already done so in one of the first three rounds this year.
Since we now have three rounds in the books, we can finally get a good look at the points-per-week for all 20 drivers on the grid:
It should come as no surprise that the two Red Bull drivers, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, lead the league with 44.00 and 38.67 points-per-week, respectively. Red Bull has the fastest car with the widest working window and Verstappen and Perez have capitalized when starting both on pole and down the order. Both drivers should continue to be rostered at a high percentage.
Fernando Alonso is 3rd in points-per-week with 28.33 and at only $8.9M continues to be the best value on the grid. His former teammate, Lewis Hamilton, is 4th in points-per-week with 21.33 and is becoming a potential play despite his high cost ($23.8M). Mercedes has a rash of updates coming over the next few weeks, starting this weekend in Baku, where they finished 3rd and 4th last year. Hamilton could be in for a good weekend and is already delivering the best value of any driver over $17M, with the obvious exception of the two Red Bull drivers.
Charles Leclerc, on the other hand, is delivering the worst value of any driver over $17M. Leclerc has had a nightmarish start to the season, finishing the first three rounds with a grand total of 1 fantasy point. He continues to be rostered in a very high percentage of teams (31%), despite his high cost ($21.1M) and low points-per-week (0.33). Clearly, people are banking on a return to form for Leclerlc, and by extension Ferrari, but you might be better off waiting until both have shown some consistency before adding them to your roster.
Perhaps the biggest surprise on the list is Zhou Guanyu, who is averaging 12.00 points-per-week. Zhou is the 6th highest scoring driver on the grid and only the 16th highest priced driver at $4.9M. He is easily the best value of any driver not named Fernando Alonso and is rostered by just 17% of teams. Zhou has been buoyed by overtake bonuses and with the addition of the Sprint race this weekend will be given even more opportunities to add to his point total.
The most interesting debate emerging in this early part of the season is whether to start Pierre Gasly or Lance Stroll. Gasly is rostered in 32% of teams, averages 9.00 points-per-week, and costs $8.1M. Stroll is rostered in 31% of teams, averages 8.00 points-per-week, and costs $7.6M. They are extremely close by all measures and both have not reached the checkered flag in one of the first three races, depressing their point totals.
At this point in the year, Stroll is in the better car and many people value car over driver. However, many people also roster Stroll’s teammate, Fernando Alonso, and taking Stroll means doubling down on Aston Martin (tripling down if you also carry them as a constructor.) That’s a lot of eggs in one basket that does not have a long track record of success (like, say, Red Bull) and many people would prefer to hedge their bets. If that’s the case, then you may want to roster Gasly instead of Stroll. Alpine showed an excellent rate of development last year, is set to bring its first significant upgrade to Baku, and returns to a track in Azerbaijan at which Gasly had a lot of success last year, with an appearance in Q3 and a top-5 finish in his Alpha Tauri.
While Gasly has performed well in the early part of the year, his teammate, Esteban Ocon, has struggled mightily. Ocon has totaled -8 fantasy points, the second lowest on the grid after Alex Albon’s -19. While Albon drives a Williams and costs only $5.3M, Ocon is in a car thought to be the 5th best and costs $9.2M. You can certainly argue that Ocon has been thwarted by bad luck thus far, with three penalties in Bahrain and a late crash with his teammate in Australia, but even in his only clean race of the year he scored just 7 fantasy points. Ocon is probably best left off your roster until he and Alpine take a step forward.
As for the constructors, the ranking by points-per-week after the first three rounds looks like this:
Red Bull continues to lead the way with 90.33 points-per-week, but it is Aston Martin that continues to provide the best value, with 43.00 points-per-week and a price tag of only $6.9M. That means they are the 2nd highest scoring team and just the 6th highest priced team, delivering an astounding 18.7 points-per-million.
Also delivering great value is Alfa Romeo, who are the 5th highest scoring team with 21.33 points-per-week and just the 8th highest priced team at $6.1M. If you’re looking for value at the bottom of the constructors list, look no further than the Swiss-based team, who are delivering an impressive 10.49 points-per-million.
On the other end of the spectrum, Ferrari is delivering the worst value of any constructor valued at over $20M. Their 31.00 points-per-week and $22.1M price tag is good for only 4.21 points-per-million, 14.49 fewer than Aston Martin. Baku was a disaster for them last year, with Carlos Sainz retiring on lap 8 with a hydraulics issue and Leclerc on lap 21 with a PU issue. They need a good result as much as anyone this weekend, but can’t be recommended until both drivers and constructor start showing some consistency.
Lastly, McLaren had their best week of the season and is scheduled to bring a major upgrade to Baku. However, they remain one of the worst values on the grid, with a $9.0M price tag and only 11.33 points-per-week. Their 3.78 points-per-million is second worst on the year and, unless their promised upgrade vaults them out of the mid-field, should continue to be avoided at all costs.
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