Sunday, 1 December 2019

Abu Dhabi: post-race analysis 2019

Not the most thrilling race, for the most part, but it was green, which is nice.

Off the line the Ferraris started well, and got very close to Verstappen. Leclerc managed to get past the Dutchman, who found himself fending off Vettel.

Further down the field Gasly got tagged by someone (perhaps Stroll) and had to immediately pit and get a fresh nose. This took an age, and he was last by a country mile after the first lap.

At the sharp end Hamilton cruised off into the distance, where his own trouble was deciding at which restaurant he would celebrate his latest triumph (as an aside, I expect my bet on him to beat Schumacher’s win total to come off next season).

Bottas quickly got up to about 15th or so, having started dead last, but mysterious reasons meant nobody could use DRS for the first quarter of the race, and he got bottled up for a while behind a Racing Point. He eventually made headway and the miraculous reappearance of DRS then helped him out for the rest of the race.

The soft tyres on Vettel’s car actually held up surprisingly well, meaning that Ferrari didn’t make a needless strategy blunder after all. Gosh.

Nevertheless, the two Ferraris pitted earliest of the frontrunners. Hamilton and Verstappen stayed out for quite a while, as did some cars further down the order (particularly Perez).

Bottas continued to gain, and when both Ferraris had a second pit stop this allowed him to reach striking range on Leclerc, but only on the final lap. The Finn ran out of time, but the Monegasque faces investigation for his team misreporting the fuel in his car during qualifying, so Bottas may yet be promoted to the podium.

Behind him was Vettel and Albon, the German passing (having had an extra pit stop) the Thai late on. And leading the way serenely was Hamilton. Verstappen got 2nd, in a bit of a No Man’s Land, unable to challenge the Mercedes but clearly faster than the Ferraris. I really hope Red Bull can give him a car that can have a tilt at the title next year. A Hamilton-Verstappen duel would be great for the sport.

Further back, Perez’s long initial stint allowed him to benefit from fresh rubber late on and he passed Norris to be best of the rest. The Briton was right behind, though, and has done well in his first season. Kvyat and Sainz rounded out the points positions and it currently appears (may change if Leclerc is penalised) that the Spaniard will be sixth in the Drivers’ table, the best of the rest. He’s driven well all year and McLaren are finally bouncing back from their prolonged sojourn in the wilderness.

The bet was not very exciting, but it did come off, with the only retirement being Lance Stroll (he boxed and retired, unsure why).

In green/red terms, this season has been a welcome change, with both halves of 2019 profitable. I didn’t hedge much but that approach was less profitable (but still green). It’s been a pretty good year, the French car park aside, with one or two good bets and the odd fluke (Perez a couple of races to be best of the rest was sheer luck).

Looking forward, only two teams change drivers, and just one at each. Renault says goodbye to Hulkenberg, who may or may not return (again), and takes on Ocon. Williams parts ways with Kubica, and brings in Latifi. Hope they have a better season in 2020.

Not sure whether I’ll put up a post-season review, or whether I’ll be writing these again next year. I imagine I’ll still offer tips, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Nice to end the year with a green race, though.

Morris Dancer

Abu Dhabi: pre-race 2019

Unfortunately it was the same old story in Q1, with Kubica slowest of all and Russell just ahead of him. Worth noting the actual back of the grid will see Bottas starting last due to his new engine. Both Alfas also failed to progress, as did Grosjean.

In Q2, Magnussen was slowest, meaning he starts just ahead of his team mate. Both Racing Points and Toro Rossos also failed to progress (Renault will be pleased to get both their cars into the top 10, which may help them in their inter-team battle). I believe that Ferrari did something interesting, with Vettel starting on the soft and Leclerc possibly starting on the medium tyre (unsure if he qualified on that or the soft). Given how crumbly the soft is, especially on the Ferrari, that’s a very counter-intuitive choice.

Hamilton seemed faster on the first run in Q3, and so it proved. Bottas will start last but qualified with a time second only to his team mate. Verstappen will line up alongside Hamilton on the grid, which could make it a tasty start.

Then we have the two Ferraris on the second row, which might see sparks, followed by Albon and Norris, who’s had a rather good first season (slightly harder to assess Albon given he’s a long way off Verstappen, but has also been promoted to race against one of the best drivers in just his first season). Ricciardo and Sainz are next, with Hulkenberg last of the top 10/9.

Just on Ferrari: they cocked up. Yeah, shocking, I know. Leclerc didn’t get in a final lap because he lacked the time. He blamed Vettel (ahead on-track) for backing up too much, though others were doing that too. It was a strategic mistake but indicative of the team’s current state that his first reaction was to blame his fellow driver.

I believe the only penalty is Bottas’ (back of the grid). The weather, shockingly, is expected to be dry.

Early betting thoughts:
Bottas podium [as suggested earlier by Mr. Sandpit]
Albon podium
Vettel/Leclerc DNF

Bottas is 3.75 for a podium, which is a bit tight given that he starts last and has his team mate, two Ferraris, and Verstappen in the way (as well as perhaps Albon). That said, the new engine will serve him well come the race.

Albon is 4. This is almost certainly not value. I’d prefer to back the Ferraris DNFing. The drivers ahead of him are all faster, or in faster cars, and the most obvious way for this to come off is some more red-on-red daftness.

Vettel and Leclerc are both 7 to DNF. Got to say, I’m wondering about this. Last race of the season, already some grumpiness (see above), they’re fighting to be the top dog in the team.

As usual, I perused the market to see what leapt out.
Special, 2.2, all Mercedes/Red Bull top 6, both Williams classified
Leclerc, winner, each way, 11 (third the odds, top 2) [or hedge and back on Betfair]
Norris, winner without the big 6, each way 5.5 (third the odds top 2)
McLaren, 1.83, double points

Barring accidents etc I fully expect both Mercedes and Red Bulls to be top 6, and Williams have a very good finishing record. It might actually be best or just behind Mercedes. So although 2.2 aren’t huge odds, it’s well worth considering.

It’s interesting that Leclerc (and Vettel, who’s 15 and definitely starts on the soft tyre) has such long odds to win given the Monegasque is just 1.53 for a podium. Breakdown/accident is always possible and Verstappen’s had some very iffy starts this year, although he’s also tended to recover very well. Against that is that when Leclerc was grumpy at Monaco he promptly introduced his car to the wall.

Norris starts 7th, best of the rest. So winner without the big 6 is 5.5 on him holding station. He’s a good driver but has also had a fair share of bad luck this year and the crumbly red tyres might lead to complications for those who made the lower part of the top 10.

McLaren have generally had the best car outside the top 3 all year, and have two good drivers. Misfortune and the odd spot of poor reliability has cost them here and there, though, so 1.83 is good on pace but I do wonder about their reliability.

At the moment the bets I like the look for most are Ferrari DNFs at 7, and the special at 2.2.

In the end, I think the special at 2.2 makes more sense, tempting as a Ferrari implosion is.

And that’s my final tip of this season.

The race starts at 1.10pm.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Abu Dhabi: pre-qualifying 2019

Almost immediately after putting up the post-race analysis for Brazil, Hamilton received a 5s penalty for the Albon collision, promoting Sainz to his first ever podium position and putting the Briton down to 6th.

For this weekend, Bottas starts at the back due to taking a new engine. Mr. Sandpit has suggested backing him for a podium, which seems a reasonably good idea.

In first practice, the Finn was fastest, half a second ahead of Verstappen, who was narrowly faster than Hamilton. Albon, Vettel, Grosjean, and Leclerc followed, with Magnussen, Giovinazzi, and Hulkenberg rounding out the top 10.

Bottas also topped the second session, a third of a second ahead of Hamilton. Leclerc and Vettel weren’t far behind, and Verstappen was following closely. Albon, Grosjean, Perez, Kvyat, and Gasly were next.

Third practice saw Verstappen fastest but with both Hamilton and Bottas within a tenth. Albon was over a third of a second off his team mate, but narrowly ahead of Vettel and Leclerc. Perez, Ricciardo, Sainz, and Gasly round out the top 10.

At this stage, Verstappen for pole and maybe Albon for a podium seem interesting.

Verstappen was 4 for pole, which is tempting but not outstanding. The each way is a third the odds top 2. Decided against it.

Qualifying is at 1pm, the race tomorrow is 1.10pm.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Brazil: post-race analysis 2019

The race was quite interesting towards the end. The bet failed, and never looked like coming off, but given how topsy-turvy the last few laps were it easily could’ve. A lot happened, so do forgive me if I get one or two details wrong.

Off the line Vettel was passed by Hamilton, but otherwise it was formation flying. Leclerc began devouring those ahead of him with little effort, and within perhaps a dozen laps was behind Albon.

Hamilton was within a few seconds of Verstappen and pitted first, switching to fresh softs (as did Verstappen). The Dutchman exited the pits behind the Englishman but took no time at all to retake his leading role. There was interesting strategic differentiation, with Vettel and Albon (then 3rd and 5th) on medium tyres, and Bottas and Leclerc (4th and 6th) on the hard.

Ricciardo locked up trying to pass Magnussen and ended up spinning the Dane and buggering his own front wing, necessitating a pit stop and a 5s penalty.

Hamilton never quit bitching about his second (used) set of softs. More surprisingly, Bottas pitted after 11 laps only on the hard tyres. He emerged behind Leclerc and although he appeared clearly faster was unable to get past. Looked a bit like a number two driver today, I’m afraid to say. And then his engine blew up.

The Finn sensibly parked his car right by a marshal’s station, and I was very surprised to see a full safety car deemed necessary. Hamilton was ordered to do the opposite to Verstappen, and stayed out when the Dutchman pitted (NB he, Hamilton, and the rest had already had second stops by this point). Vettel also stayed out but Albon and Leclerc came in for fresh tyres.

At the restart Hamilton was a sitting duck and duly lost the lead in no short order. Behind him, the Ferraris were squabbling. The merest touch caused catastrophic damage to both, leading to a double DNF and mutual recriminations over the radio. Another safety car was called. Mercedes boxed Hamilton for fresh tyres. Verstappen, Albon, and Gasly became the podium position fellows. Would the race resume?

Yes, for two laps.

Hamilton passed Gasly without trouble and then came up against Albon. The Thai left a gap, and Hamilton went for it, but collided, spinning the Thai who ended up out of the points, and letting through Gasly. The young Frenchman fought off a determined Hamilton, the pair ended 2nd and 3rd behind Verstappen.

Amidst all the chaos, the Dutchman was serene and supremely quick. A very well-deserved victory.

Sainz was 4th, another strong result for McLaren, with Norris 8th for double points delight. Speaking of which, Alfa Romeo had Raikkonen and Giovinazzi 5th and 6th, which is very tasty for the team. Ricciardo was 7th, Perez 9th, and Kvyat 10th.

Albon ended up 14th. Bit rough given he was within touching distance of a first podium result, but he’s been confirmed for Red Bull for next season and he performed very well today, so I’m sure he’ll get there. As an aside, I believe Albon was 101 to win before the race, so if I’d backed that each way I would’ve been less than delighted with the eventual outcome.

I think Bottas got fastest lap, which means that point isn’t allocated. Not sure.

Mercedes 710
Ferrari 479
Red Bull 391
McLaren 137
Renault 89
Toro Rosso 83
Racing Point 67
Alfa Romeo 53
Haas 28
Williams 1

The astonishing result was fantastic was Toro Rosso, catapulting them not merely ahead but almost certainly out of reach for Racing Point. It also puts them within potential striking distance of Renault at the next and last race, in a fortnight. Alfa Romeo cannot realistically be caught by Haas, who are consigned to being the second worst team this year. McLaren are best of the rest. Even a Renault 1-2 would not be sufficient to overhaul the gap.

Bit of a surprising result, it’s fair to say. Next race is in Abu Dhabi, in a fortnight.

Morris Dancer

Brazil: pre-race 2019

Qualifying was a little unexpected, for me, at least.

The first session had the usual departures of the Williams, and the more surprising exit of Sainz, who suffered a reliability failure. Kvyat and Stroll also failed to make the cut.

In Q2 it was as competitive as ever. Norris was a hundredth off Raikkonen, but couldn’t progress, whereas the Finn did. Behind Norris were Ricciardo, Giovinazzi, Hulkenberg and Perez.

The first runs in the final part of qualifying had Verstappen top dog, eight-thousandths ahead of Vettel, Leclerc being next. On the final run only two of chaps at the sharp end could improve, Verstappen extending his triumph by a tenth, and Hamilton nudging ahead of Leclerc (who has a grid penalty of 10 places in any event). Bottas and Albon will be behind this year’s champion, followed by Gasly, Grosjean, Raikkonen, and Magnussen.

The weather should be dry. Leclerc, as mentioned, has a 10 place grid penalty. Sainz races despite not setting a qualifying time.

My initial betting thoughts were:
Verstappen win
Leclerc top 6
Norris points

Verstappen is just 1.83 for the win. I think he has a great chance, although if I go for this it’d be the win-only enhanced market where he’s a marginally longer 1.91 (evens on Betfair). Bit tight, though.

Leclerc is only 1.25 for a top 6 finish. Could happen, and probably will, but there’s plenty of opportunity to either screw up or have someone else get in your way. Too short to tempt.

Norris is 1.67 for points. Bit tight, perhaps still value.

Other things that caught my eye:
Vettel, win (each way), 6 
Vettel, first lap leader, 3.5
Bottas, win (each way), 10 (15.5 win-only Betfair)

Vettel was closest to Verstappen and has longer odds than Hamilton despite starting ahead of him. There’s also the chance the Dutchman will bugger up the start (happened a couple of times) allowing Vettel to pass him (although the run to the first corner is short). (7 win-only is up on Betfair).

That’s the basis of the 3.5 first lap leader for Vettel idea.

Hamilton has a history of going off the boil a bit after securing a title, so Bottas at 10 may be worth considering too. Both he and Vettel have been driving pretty well lately. Although Verstappen’s rightly the favourite. He’s 15.5 on Betfair.

So, lots of marginal value and nothing that stands out.

Decided to go for Bottas on Betfair at 15.5 for the win with a hedge set up at 5.

Race start is 5.10pm UK time. Post-race might be up this evening or tomorrow morning.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Brazil: pre-qualifying 2019

Leclerc has a new power unit, so he’ll face a grid penalty.

First practice was mixed (wets, inters, and slicks), and saw Albon achieve the distinction of being fastest and having a crash. Bottas was half a second off the Thai, with Vettel a few tenths further back and a similar margin ahead of Leclerc. Sainz was best of the rest, ahead of Hulkenberg and Ricciardo, with Gasly, Kvyat, and Norris rounding out the top 10. [Hamilton only completed a couple of laps].

Vettel was fastest in second practice, two-hundredths ahead of Leclerc. Verstappen was a tenth further back, two-hundredths ahead of Bottas, who was less than a tenth ahead of Hamilton. Less than a quarter of a second covered them all. Magnussen was seven-tenths down the road, ahead of Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Albon and Sainz.

Unfortunately the way the timings work out make it unlikely I’ll be able to be online between final practice and qualifying, so no tip.

Also, the pre-race ramble will probably be up tomorrow morning.

Morris Dancer

Monday, 4 November 2019

USA: post-race analysis 2019

Quite a good race, with some excitement at the end, but the main reason it’ll be remembered is that it was the scene of Hamilton’s sixth title triumph. On the betting front, the blog bet did not come off (although if you followed the earlier tip that did).

Before the race began Red Bull replaced Verstappen’s rear wing after noticing, on the out lap, that it had a fracture.

Off the line the right hand (odd) side had good starts. By coincidence or not, this meant the Ferraris had poor starts, with Verstappen passing Vettel immediately. At the first corner Albon and Sainz came together, necessitating a first lap pit stop (the first of three, I think) for the Thai. Vettel was bizarrely slow and got passed by his team mate, and then Hamilton, with seemingly little effort. He then fell prey to Norris and Ricciardo, complaining on the radio of his car understeering like crazy, which was especially strange because he did not appear to have had any contact with anyone.

The top three rapidly started to pull away from Leclerc, who was lapping a second a lap slower than them. Vettel’s day then went from bad to worst when the vibrations of a harsh kerb destroyed his suspension. He parked thoughtfully close to a marshal’s station, so his car could be recovered without requiring either a full or virtual safety car.

Meanwhile, Verstappen’s medium tyre wear was inferior to the Mercedes. He slowly fell back from Bottas and into the grip of Hamilton. The Red Bull was first to pit for the hard tyre, followed the next lap by Bottas. Shrewd from Mercedes as their chap was just ahead of Verstappen leaving the pits but soon stretched that gap. The Red Bull, whilst faster than the Ferrari by a wide margin, seemed to lack the edge to take the fight to the Mercedes.

Hamilton, some laps later, was instructed to enter the pits. He deemed this optional and stayed out, whereupon Bottas (on fresh tyres) passed him with little effort. The Briton duly pitted for hard tyres. He would not pit again.

On track he was behind Bottas and Verstappen but believed both would have to stop again. And so they did, the order switching so he led with Bottas behind and then Verstappen. Hamilton was driving very well, and traffic was buggering Bottas’ hopes and the tyre advantage he had. Eventually the Finn drew near and the Briton defended robustly, forcing his team mate to back off. But whilst Hamilton’s talent remained undimmed his tyres were degraded and he was unable to keep Bottas behind him, the Finn surging forward to claim a victory, leaving a grander prize for his team mate.

Verstappen suddenly discovered some pace in his Red Bull (which may have been nursing a broken front wing). He drew near Hamilton and seemed to have the edge, but Magnussen binned his Haas into a gravel trap, and the double waved yellows aided Hamilton’s stalwart defence. The Dutchman ran out of laps and had to make do with last place on the podium.

Leclerc was a lonely 4th. Even without the weird issues that plagued Vettel’s horrendous race, the Ferrari was strangely slow. This No Man’s Land position did enable him to pit late for softs and achieve the fastest lap (ironically), but the Ferrari has gone from all-conquering to also-ran very quickly.

Albon was next, which is pretty damned good considering he was forced into a first lap pit stop and had one more than Leclerc, but finished just 26s behind him.

Ricciardo was 6th, making a one stop work for Renault once more. A tasty drive, and he ended up winning his race-long duel with Norris, who two-stopped, by four-tenths of a second. Not a bad driver, young Norris (this was his last race as a teenager). He finished ahead of Sainz, although the Spaniard’s race was made more difficult by the first lap collision with Albon.

Hulkenberg was next up. He started, I think, on the hard tyre, but it didn’t work for him as he may’ve wished. Still, double points are handy for Renault in the Constructors’ competition.

Perez had a good race, advancing from the pit lane to take the final points position. Raikkonen and Kvyat were the fastest chaps to miss out on points. Particularly good from the fortysomething Finn who started way back in 17th.
In addition to Magnussen and Vettel the only other DNF was Kubica, whose car was retired in the garage.

So, Hamilton is king of the F1 castle once again. Hard to deny he’s one of the best the sport has ever seen, but we’ll need to see how many he racks up before trying to assess his whole career. At the moment, I’m content with my bet at 9 on him to exceed Schumacher’s win total (he needs 92 and is on 84).

Hamilton 381
Bottas 314
Leclerc 249
Verstappen 235
Vettel 230

The top two are nailed on, but the battle for best of the rest, with just two races left, is quite tight, especially as the Ferrari has recently decided being fast is no longer fashionable.

Mercedes 695
Ferrari 479
Red Bull 366
McLaren 121
Renault 83
Racing Point 65
Toro Rosso 64
Alfa Romeo 35
Haas 28
Williams 1

With just two races to go, the only fight still in the balance is probably Racing Point against Toro Rosso. Today Kvyat (so I read on Twitter) was actually ahead of Perez on track but got penalised for shenanigans. And that’s why Racing Point is ahead of Toro Rosso instead of vice versa. [There seems to be some numerical wonkiness. The numbers above are from the official F1 site but I think they might have gotten Kvyat/Perez’s points a bit confused on the drivers’ front… suffice to say any penalty was still advantageous to Racing Point].

My bet failed, from the blog anyway. The early tip and the hedge worked. I do feel a bit irked to have spotted the Bottas 13 for pole bet and then decided against it, but it’s easier betting with hindsight. A red weekend, but not horrendously awful.

Of the many football bets made with tiny stakes here and on PB, I had a red Saturday and green Sunday, being moderately green overall. I quite like this approach of numerous tiny bets.

The next race is in a fortnight, in Brazil, which might just be my favourite circuit.

Morris Dancer