Veteran oddsman Michael ‘Roxy’ Roxborough’s formula for Formula 1

Bet on it: Las Vegas bookmaker loves to play the favorites, disdains the underdogs.

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Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands drives the Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia on April 2 in Melbourne, Australia.

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — A while back, Michael “Roxy” Roxborough discussed Formula One racing with Jeff Ma, who helped an MIT blackjack team knock over this city for a few million in the mid-1990s.

From 2014-20, British ace Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes won 65 of 138 F1 races. He stood on the podium, as a top-three finisher, 111 times.

“Jeff told me he didn’t know anything about Formula One, but he was betting Hamilton every race and was winning,” Roxborough said. “He said, ‘Can you believe it? There’s some people betting against him!’

“I said, ‘Yeah, me! And it’s killing me!’”

Mercedes, Roxy admitted, had a special car.

“It never conked out. Hamilton made some mistakes, but he could overcome them because the car was so far ahead of everybody. It often used to be a race to the first turn.”

For the first time since starting F1 in 2007, Hamilton went winless in a campaign last season. He finished second or third nine times, making Roxy money.

“I respected that he drove that well in a car that essentially was third-best. When you’re driving the best car, it’s very difficult to judge a driver. But I played Hamilton well last year.”

WHEN ROXY RINGS

A former bookmaker and oddsman, Roxy, 72, is Las Vegas gambling royalty. When he calls, all else becomes secondary.

With an F1 street race coming here in November, and its hierarchy already so enamored with Vegas it boosted a three-year deal to 10, I’ve been eager to tap Roxy about this exotic beast for two years.

However, he’s been limiting interviews.

He and wife Alise bask in their beachside abode in Southeast Asia, and betting F1 and thoroughbreds — he’s attended nine Melbourne Cups, and he goes to major horse races in Hong Kong and Singapore—are priorities.

Recently, he rang. A Vancouver native, Roxy was living with his family in Michigan, then Indiana, at 10 and 11 when racecars first fascinated him.

“When motor sports were pretty dangerous.”

When, in 1966, legendary scribe Jim Murray penned, “Gentleman, start your coffins.”

“The cars have so many safety features now,” Roxy said. “Doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous. But, doing 200 mph, they can flip over four or five times and drivers get up and walk away. Amazing.”

EVAPORATING EDGES

Fifteen years ago, F1 matchups offered a keen angle. According to Roxy, a third to 40 percent of the cars didn’t finish races.

“Reliability,” he said. “Cars conked out all the time. It was the best. You could just bet all the underdogs [in matchups], and you really wanted to bet the slower car to win because you were getting a big price.

“Now, what they call ‘reliability’ is pretty good. Maybe one or two cars won’t finish, due to mechanical problems.”

Four desk screens highlight the office of his global headquarters. The big one contains lap times, certain track-section updates which include each car’s tire type and how long they’ve been riding them.

A program Roxy concocted displays lap-time changes based on tire degradation.

Two other screens show real-time odds at Asian shops — whose menus and figures shame the U.S. He fashions in-race bets, for top-six and top-three finishes, and the victor. A small screen shows the race.

“I’m not watching it,” Roxy said. “But just before I pull the trigger on a bet, I glance over to make sure my guy didn’t drive off the road.”

Copycats abound. If he blinks, primo odds and prices evaporate.

“The only reason I’m telling you now is, it’s disappearing. The edge is decreasing.”

A teasing laughter is pure Roxy.

“Maybe, over the past three years, it’s been profitable. I beat my head into the wall when Hamilton dominated. Have I made money on it, lifetime? Sure. But is it a good use of time?

“It’s been one of the poorest uses of time.”

RED BULL ROARING

Since ’21, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has won 27 of 47 races, with 38 podiums. However, in mid-March, +500 underdog Sergio Pérez won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

A February practice session wowed Roxy.

“The times looked really close, but Red Bull was operating on slower tires the whole time. The fact that they could outrun the other teams, who were using faster tires, says a lot.”

At the Westgate SuperBook, Verstappen is the 2-to-5 favorite (risk $100 to win $40) to win in Azerbaijan on April 30, then it’s Pérez (9-2), Fernando Alonso (12-1) and Hamilton (16-1).

Roxy shuns longshots — “You need something paranormal to happen” — but mentions George Russell in Brazil. Last year, at 12-1, the Briton won the São Paulo Grand Prix, which occurs Nov. 5.

Two weeks later, Vegas, where massive repaving for the race is creating traffic nightmares.

In 1981 and ’82, Caesars Palace staged an ill-fated F1 race on a counter-clockwise parking-lot course, where the Forum Shops and Mirage now stand.

The Nov. 19 race is expected to provide a $1.3-billion economic boon. Forty years ago, though, Caesars reaped scant casino profits.

Roxy was there. Cue that devilish laugh.

“They thought they were getting the Monte Carlo crowd, but they don’t gamble much even when they’re in Monte Carlo.”

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