May 3, 2023, 11:58 am
With the first sprint race weekend in the books, we can finally assess the impact the new format will have on F1 Fantasy this year. Many people believed that the additional sprint race on Saturday would mean far greater points spread across the field. As it turns out, the total number of points scored by the drivers in Baku was only slightly higher than the total scored on average in the first three rounds.
The 20 drivers totaled 230 points at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix last weekend versus an average of 221.33 over the first three races of the season. Sergio Perez was the weekend’s big winner, reaching Q3 in both qualifying events and bringing home victory not only in the sprint race, but also in the feature race. He qualified 3rd on Friday, clocked the fastest lap in the sprint on Saturday, and was voted Driver of the Day on Sunday. He had a dream weekend, and yet his fantasy points total for the three days in Baku was 61, the same number of points teammate Max Verstappen scored in Saudi Arabia.
How is that possible? Well, for one, the drivers were not awarded any additional points for the sprint shootout, meaning Perez’s 2nd place qualifying on Saturday didn’t add to his total. His sprint race victory only garnered him 8 points, while his fastest lap in that race brought home a measly 5. Because he started on the front row on Saturday and the second row on Sunday, he gained only one place in the sprint and two places in the feature race for a total of just 3 points. Since he took the lead of the feature race while Verstappen was in the pits, he was only credited with one overtake in each race for a grand total of 2 overtake bonus points.
By contrast, Verstappen qualified 15th in Saudi Arabia, meaning his drive to 2nd place in that grand prix meant that he gained 13 positions throughout the race for 13 points. Ten of those positions were gained on track, giving him 10 additional points for overtakes. He then pipped his teammate (somewhat controversially) at the end of the race for the fastest lap, which gave him 10 more points for a grand total of 61.
This is why it is recommended that you save your Extra DRS Chip, which gives a 3x point boost to the driver of your choice, for a race in which a driver in a top team is taking a known penalty and starting at the back of the grid. It is also why you want to tune into qualifying to see if any top driver you don’t have rostered for the week has an issue and is set to start Sunday’s race out of place. This would provide you with an excellent opportunity to get that driver into your lineup by employing your Final Fix Chip, which allows you to make a transfer between qualifying and the race.
So is there no difference at all between a sprint race weekend and a regular weekend as far as F1 Fantasy goes? Not necessarily. While the opportunity to score more points did not result in a major difference at the top, we did see more negative points scored in Baku than at any other race this year. Five drivers delivered negative points on the weekend for a total of -59 fantasy points, compared to -37 in Australia, -33 in Saudi Arabia, and -46 in Bahrain. Logan Sargeant garnered the highest negative of the year at Baku, bringing home -20 points for his managers. An additional qualifying event, combined with another 100 km of racing on Saturday, means more opportunity for jeopardy and so negative points.
So how do you mitigate your risk in future sprint races? The obvious answer is to use your No Negative Chip, if you haven’t already done so. Another possibility is to employ Auto Pilot, which gives your DRS Boost (2x points) to your top scoring driver regardless of your manual selection. This would serve as a safeguard against your top driver running into reliability issues or collisions, and reduce the risk posed by the extra laps of racing to the top of your lineup.
As for the current top of the field, we have a new points leader in Sergio Perez:
Perez not only leads the grid with his 44.25 points-per-week, but also holds the distinction of being the most valuable driver over $10M. Perez’s $18.4M cost is just 5th highest among drivers, and his 9.62 points-per-million is second best to only Fernando Alonso’s 12.31. Perez is currently delivering more points for far less money than his World Champion teammate Max Verstappen, and yet Perez is rostered by just 46% of teams. With another street track on tap this weekend in Miami, albeit a temporary one and one with different characteristics from Baku, Perez needs to be rostered wherever possible.
Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin continue to have outsized value thanks to their depressed cost, and so should also be rostered wherever possible for the upcoming Miami Grand Prix. Red Bull Racing has delivered 379 total points on the year, 195 more than the next highest (Aston Martin), and despite their high cost ($27.6M) are still delivering the second most points-per-million of any constructor on the grid (13.73 vs. Aston Martin’s 26.29.)
Only two drivers not in one of the best four cars on track are currently in the top-10 in points-per-week: Pierre Gasly and Kevin Magnussen. Gasly continues to outperform his teammate, Esteban Ocon, who at $9.2M and -1 point total on the year is the worst value of any driver not in a Williams. Gasly qualified 7th in his Alpha Tauri at Miami last year, but didn’t finish the race after coming together with Lando Norris on lap 45. Magnussen also didn’t see the checkered flag at Miami in 2022, but he is the only driver this year who costs less than $7M to break into the top-10 in points-per-week. He can certainly be considered for the back end of your lineup this week.
Zhou Guanyu slipped out of the top-10 when his Alfa Romeo overheated on the streets of Baku, giving him -20 points for a DNF. It is a shame because Zhou was on for another decent week, with 10 points tallied from positions gained and overtakes in the two races combined. Zhou did not have a great weekend last year in Miami, qualifying 17th and retiring on lap 6 due to a hydraulic issue, but he continues to be one of the best values on the grid, delivering 5.42 points-per-million.
Alfa Romeo has also been a good value, but this week was overtaken by Haas as the best value of any constructor under $10M. Haas has now scored 60 total points to Alfa Romeo’s 54, and Haas costs $0.8M less than the Swiss-based team. Haas did not have a good showing last year in Miami, but they are currently delivering the third highest points-per-million of any constructor.
Finally, Miami was a good track for Ferrari last year, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finishing 1-2 in qualifying and 2-3 in the race. Ferrari looked a lot better in Baku than in any of the previous races, securing pole for both the sprint and feature race and scoring their highest fantasy point total of the year with 63. But at $22.2M, the Scuderia are still in the bottom half of constructors in points-per-million and until either their cost comes down or their points go up should probably continue to be avoided wherever possible.
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