Leclerc drives down Las Vegas GP odds

Charles Leclerc © Gallo Images

The public wasn’t allowed to watch Charles Leclerc’s practice session in the wee hours of Friday morning, but it certainly took note of the Ferrari driver being the fastest around the Las Vegas Grand Prix’s 3.8-mile track.

Max Verstappen remains the -275 favourite by BetMGM to win Saturday night’s race, but the dominating Red Bull star’s odds have shifted from opening at -350.

Meanwhile, Leclerc has moved from +2200 to +500.

After the first practice session was abandoned due to work on a loose manhole cover, the grid was forced to wait two and a half hours in the early morning local time before taking the track for an extended 90-minute session.

Leclerc then turned in a time of 1 minute, 35.265 seconds.

That was more than a half-second faster than teammate Carlos Sainz, who received a 10-spot grid penalty for Saturday’s race after his car was damaged by the loose manhole cover.

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso rounded out the top three fastest times.

“It looks good for now. I like the track, it’s fun to drive,” Leclerc said. “I always liked street tracks but this one is a good one.

“We look quite strong for now. It’s difficult to understand exactly where we are in race pace, but in quali pace we seem strong. We still have to work and try to do a step forward for tomorrow, but it’s a good start.”

Verstappen, who has won 17 of the first 20 races to secure his third consecutive world championship, was sixth-fastest, behind Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

While Verstappen has been backed by the most money with 34.5 per cent at BetMGM, McLaren’s Lando Norris has drawn the most total bets at 15.9 per cent.

That makes Norris the book’s biggest liability this week, ahead of American Logan Sargeant, who has been backed by 0.7 per cent of the money at +150000 longshot odds.

With Verstappen the heavy favourite, sportsbooks are being creative with the props they are offering.

That includes BetMGM, where a prop for any driver other than Verstappen taking the checkered flag is +190.

Leclerc is being offered at -150 to finish in the top-3, while AlphaTauri’s popular driver Daniel Ricciardo is +200 to earn at least a point with a top-10 finish.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton or Mercedes teammate George Russell winning the race is being offered at +1200.

“Race weekend in Las Vegas has the potential to shatter every company record for the sport,” BetMGM chief revenue officer Matt Prevost said.

“Popularity for automotive sports in the US continues to grow and the activity we’re already seeing around this event is remarkable.”

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