Sunday, 7 October 2018

Japan: post-race analysis 2018

Quite an eventful race. The Leclerc tip didn’t remotely come off, but for reasons that will become clear he was the unluckiest man since Thorstein Mirrorsmasher. I maintain that the value was there but a catalogue of woe, some self-inflicted but mostly bad luck, cost him. The silly 901 bet didn’t come off, but the 3.75 on Ericsson to win his group (Sirotkin, Vandoorne, and Stroll being the other members) mentioned on PB did.

Off the line Hartley left the handbrake on, Stroll, unusually, lost places, Vettel gained great ground and Leclerc went backwards. At the sharp end it was formation flying.

Vettel continued to make significant gains, passing after the initial getaway. However, Magnussen’s idiotic habit of weaving, this time on a straight in front of Leclerc, caused a collision between the two. This led to an early pit stop (and very slow nose changed) for the Sauber, which switched onto medium tyres, and eventually destroyed Magnussen’s tyre, bringing out a belated safety car. At this point, Ericsson also dove into the pits, for the medium compound, Magnussen was forced to box, and Vettel had climbed to about 4th.

After the safety car period ended, Vettel tried an incredibly clumsy pass on Verstappen, and caused a needless collision (Verstappen, incidentally, had a five second penalty for an earlier unsafe return to the track after accidentally running wide. I think that was a shade unfair, particularly given Magnussen’s moronic manoeuvre received no penalty). The Dutchman was essentially unscathed whereas Vettel was either last or second to last. All the German’s good work was undone.

Meanwhile, Ricciardo was slicing through the field like a pirate at a whittling competition. Unfortunately for Leclerc, he was bottled up by Hulkenberg. The gap made it plain the Sauber was faster but not quite by enough to effect a pass. When the pit stops happened, Hulkenberg, unhelpfully, staying out for longer than almost everyone else, Leclerc wasn’t quite highly placed enough. Worse still, he had two fast Force Indias right behind him and his rear tyres were crumbling. Leclerc was duly passed and had to pit (although it’s worth noting Ericsson, right behind him on track, was able to keep his intact right to the end of the race).

The Monegasque’s day of misery came to an end when something on his car broke. He managed to stop just by a marshals’ point, allowing the VSC rather than full safety car to be deployed. Hulkenberg also had to retire, returning to the pits to do so.

The Force Indias, incidentally, did very well in pitting when they did, enjoying fresh rubber and benefiting both from the Saubers pitting too early (and thus being slow) and the Toro Rossos, particularly Gasly, pitting too late and missing their opportunity.

At the sharp end, Verstappen had closed in on Bottas. Whenever the pair encountered traffic it was clear the Silver Arrow struggled a lot more, but in fresh air the Finn was a couple of tenths faster. Despite the odd lock up, Bottas was able to retain 2nd.

Verstappen and Ricciardo got 3rd and 4th, a strong result for the team given Ricciardo started 15th.

More woe for Ferrari. Vettel’s head has gone, and the team’s strategic judgement is iffy. Should’ve been far closer but they’ve contrived to throw it away. As a neutral, it’s rather sad to see.

Perez and Ocon were 6th and 8th respectively. Great points for Force India, who, until very recently had 0 points due to the takeover. The car was fast and solid throughout, and both drivers put in a good shift. Grosjean got 7th, another good result for Haas. Sainz nabbed the final point for Renault, but the team really do need to clock up more or they’re going to end up losing their place to Haas.

Toro Rosso come away with a double finish and no points at all. Given where they started, that’s pretty horrendous. Worse still, Gasly showed they did have decent pace, but lost out severely in the pit stops, whereas Hartley simply went backwards off the line and never recovered.

So, serene for Hamilton at the front, tense for the other podium places, and joyously chaotic in the midfield scrap. Misjudgement by me to go for just Leclerc rather than him and Perez, as per last time, to win outside the big 6. Still, it’s not difficult to pick winners when you know the outcome.

Mercedes 538
Ferrari 460
Red Bull 319
Renault 92
Haas 84
McLaren 58
Force India 43
Toro Rosso 30
Sauber 27
Williams 7

I think the top three are effectively settled now, with Williams destined for last. Everywhere else is up for grabs. Renault haven’t been scoring nearly as many as Haas in recent races. Further down, I wouldn’t be surprised if Force India overhauled McLaren (who must be grateful they did so well early on, as they now seem to have either the slowest or second slowest car. Saw a chap on Twitter remark that the car had actually lost time from 2017, based on fastest laps before the race). Toro Rosso will be ruing their failure to score today, as they remain just 3 points ahead of Sauber.

Hamilton 331
Vettel 264
Bottas 207
Raikkonen 196

Alas, it’s 2017 all over again (or 2013, for that matter). A tight title race that just falls to pieces and lets one of them waltz to victory. Bit of a shame. Still, got the individual races to enjoy until the season’s officially over.

Mildly annoyed with myself for not backing Perez and Leclerc as per last time, but there we are.

The next race is in the US, in a fortnight. Always like the Texas circuit, as it’s proof new tracks can be good, rather than identikit street circuit processions.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Japan: pre-race 2018

With changing conditions, the result could’ve gone a bit wonky (and did, for Red Bull and Ferrari). Happily the bet’s each way aspect came off, with Bottas qualifying in 2nd, making it a small winner.

Qualifying began with the threat of rain in the air (not unexpectedly). The first session had a couple of surprises, but neither was weather-related. Ericsson, whose Sauber had been looking good, went for an excursion in a gravel trap and ended up with three wheels on his wagon. Further up, the fastest to be ejected at this stage was Hulkenberg. The German had spun in third practice and Renault had done well to repair his car, but his running was limited and he failed to improve on his final lap (unlike many others, including his team mate). That said, he wasn’t miles off the pace so it suggests the Renault just isn’t all that quick here. Sirotkin and both McLarens also failed to progress, with Stroll doing well to make Q2.

Q2 also saw an upset. Early on, Ricciardo’s Red Bull (now running the theoretically faster but iffier C-spec Renault engine) ran out of electricity. The loss of power required some nifty work in the garage, but the problem couldn’t be fixed in time and even if it could’ve been, rainfall meant he would’ve had his work cut out to reach Q3. The usually optimistic Aussie, who sounds like he’s recovering from a minor bout of pestilence, was audibly frustrated with the situation. The two Toro Rossos did very well to reach Q3, the late rain meaning others (such as Leclerc and Magnussen) were unable to improve and displace them. Sainz and Stroll also failed to progress.

Hamilton had topped Q1, and Bottas Q2. Who would be fastest in Q3, and what tyres should they slap on? Rain had been falling quite a bit at the end of the previous session but had pretty much stopped by the start of Q3. Everyone who wasn’t in a red car went for the supersoft. Ferrari went for intermediates, Vettel commenting even before the green light came on that it was too dry. He was right. The blunder cost Ferrari some precious time in a session that would end up being very wet.

On the first flying lap, the only one that counted, Hamilton was top and Bottas a couple of tenths down, but still a second ahead of Verstappen, who managed to qualify 3rd. Both Ferraris, on their delayed flying laps, made errors. Raikkonen’s put him 4th, Vettel’s a shocking 9th. Grosjean continued to make his horrendous start to the season an ever fading memory, lining up on the third row just ahead of Hartley, a fantastic result for the Kiwi. Gasly is just behind his team mate, joined on the fourth row by Ocon. Vettel and Perez comprise the fifth row.

Leclerc and Magnussen will be 11th and 12th which may be handy for tyre choice. However, it’s worth noting the two Mercedes will be starting on the middle tyre, the soft, whereas the rest of the top 10, assuming the race is dry at the start, will be on the supersoft.

Forecast is for the race to be dry throughout.

Based on the grid, my current betting thoughts are:
Raikkonen, podium
Verstappen, win
Ricciardo, top 6

Raikkonen is 2.5 for a podium. So-so, given he needs to make up a place and, if opportunity arises, Ferrari will likely have him step aside for Vettel.

Verstappen is 8.5 to win. Hmm. Each way, it might be value, though I’m concerned about his engine failing.

Ricciardo is 1.44 for a top 6 finish. I think he’s a dead cert to have the pace, but it requires his car to actually make it. Solo, this doesn’t work, but pairing it with a Not To Be Classified bet might work (though if his car conks out on the final lap, both bets would fail).

Incidentally, Ocon has a three place grid penalty due to insufficiently slowing under red flags.

As always, I perused the markets to see if anything leapt out at me.
Raikkonen, win each way, 15
Perez, winner without big 6 each way, 8.5
Leclerc, winner without big 6 each way, 17
Toro Rosso, most team points, 751

Raikkonen to be winner each way means he has to pass Verstappen, or have the Dutchman’s car fail, and then pass a Mercedes. It’s possible he could slip between them in pit stops. The odds are a bit longer than I’d expect, but if he has Vettel right behind him he’ll be obliged to move over, and has a bad habit of losing places off the start.

Perez starts 9th, but it’s a bit tricky getting a handle on his pace as he was seemingly put out too late in Q3 so he was a day and a half behind everyone else. He’s 8.5 to make up two places on non-big 6 chaps. It’s quite tempting, but maybe not as much as the bet below.

Leclerc starts 10th, thanks to Ocon’s penalty, and has choice of tyres. Not only that, his pace, based on Q1, was better than that of everyone (outside the big 6). Each way, the bet pays off to 8th placed (with zero retirements and assuming Ricciardo passes him), so I think it’s good value.

The Toro Roso to top the points is based on the high chance of a Red Bull deciding to run out of power, and the lower chance (but not 750/1 long chance) of both a Ferrari and Mercedes DNF. If that happens and all else stays the same, Toro Rosso would be likely to top score, weird as that sounds. I’m not advocating this as a main tip, but if you have ten pence or a pound you’re desperate to gamble, stick it on this. And don’t complain if they hit each other on the first lap…

Tip for the race:
Leclerc to win, each way, without the big 6, at 17 (19 with boost).

Early start, so hopefully I’ll wake up in time for it.

Annoyingly, just before I posted this Leclerc’s odds were cut to 13. That’s still value, but obviously not as good.

Morris Dancer

Friday, 5 October 2018

Japan: pre-qualifying 2018

Despite the approaching typhoon, the weather forecast improved and practice on Friday was dry. In first practice, Hamilton was top, about half a second ahead of Bottas and Ricciardo. Raikkonen and Vettel were three-tenths off the Aussie, with Verstappen a little further back. Ocon, Grosjean, Leclerc, and Ericsson rounded out the top 10.

In second practice, Hamilton again led Bottas by about half a second. Vettel was next, albeit four-tenths off, with two-tenths between him and Verstappen, then Verstappen and Raikkonen. Ricciardo was only a tiny margin off the Finn. Ocon, Grosjean, Ericsson, and Hartley followed.

At this stage, it seems that Ocon, Grosjean, and Sauber are in good shape. Hamilton seems to have a tidy edge over everyone, and Bottas an edge over everyone except his team mate. However, practice can be misleading and rain is a strong, although just outside, possibility for qualifying.

Because third practice is at 4am, I’m putting this post up now rather than in the practice-qualifying interval. Qualifying is at 7am UK time tomorrow, with the race start a little after 6am on Sunday.

Early betting thoughts were:
Bottas each way pole
Ricciardo podium
Both Saubers to reach Q3

Bottas is 5.5 for pole (5.75 with boost). The same odds as last time. Again, I don’t expect him to actually get it, but I do think he has a good chance of being second. A potential pitfall is the possibility of precipitation, however.

Ricciardo’s nearly 3 for a podium but I expect the odds to lengthen after qualifying, when the Red Bull has a significant power disadvantage.

The latter market didn’t show up. May only appear after final practice.

In addition, there’s 2.5 available for a winning margin of over 0.2s. Two credible ways that happens: it rains and the gaps are weirdly enormous, or if Hamilton just blasts everyone with a fantastic lap in the best car.

Both the Bottas and margin bets are tempting. In the end, I decided to back the Bottas bet, each way. Practice is far from perfect as an indicator, but the margins are too significant, I think, to ignore. It also appears that the fancy mystery that was giving Ferrari mega-power on the straights has vanished.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Russia: post-race analysis 2018

Two bets and two wins. What an odd race weekend. There was also rather more on-track action than last year, mostly thanks to the two Red Bulls carving through the field, and no safety car.

Off the line, Vettel got a great start but was unable to capitalise as Hamilton benefited from Bottas’ slipstream. Further back, Verstappen had a flyer and Ricciardo left the handbrake on. Leclerc made good progress, passing Ocon, I think.

The Renaults and Red Bulls started on the soft tyre. So did Gasly, with Hartley opting for the hypersoft, but the Toro Rossos both had weird spins on the same lap and ended up retiring (not quite sure why, suspicion is an identical mechanical failure).

The Red Bulls, particularly Verstappen, were racing through the order, whilst those at the sharp end pulled away from the midfield but were reasonably close together.

Pit stops came relatively early, around 8-16 (of 53 laps) for those on the hypersoft. Bottas pitted first. When Vettel followed he emerged just behind the Finn, but when Hamilton did likewise the following lap he found himself effectively 3rd, behind Vettel (Verstappen was leading the race but required a pit stop). However, Vettel locked up at the worst moment, and Hamilton was able to pass him. Yet another costly mistake for the Ferrari driver.

Further back, Leclerc was effectively 7th (Hulkenberg, ahead, had to pit), running a lonely but competent race. Magnussen was some way behind, holding up the Force India pairing. Despite a swap to see if Perez could have better luck, it didn’t work, and the Force Indias switched back again. Rather more civilised than what happened in Singapore.

At the sharp end, Verstappen, despite being on very old soft tyres, was still going at quite a pace, but backing the Mercedes into Vettel. The Silver Arrows ordered Bottas to resume wingman duties and let Hamilton past. Tactically smart, but harsh on the Finn, who duly did as instructed. Later, when the race was safe, the order was maintained and Hamilton got the win.

Verstappen pitted with just 10 laps left, switching onto the ultra- rather than hypersoft. They didn’t really live up to their name and, if anything, he seemed a shade slower than he’d been on his ancient soft tyres.

Relatively unusually, all the big 6 finished, with Mercedes ahead of Ferrari and Red Bull last. Leclerc, Magnussen, Ocon, and Perez also score points. The Toro Rossos were the only cars not to be classified.

Mercedes 495
Ferrari 442
Red Bull 292
Renault 91
Haas 80
McLaren 58
Force India 35
Toro Rosso 30
Sauber 27
Williams 7

Still a tall order for Force India to overtake McLaren but it’s not impossible, especially given the latter team now seems to be vying with Williams for slowest car on the grid. Haas could yet take 4th from Renault. Neither looked tasty today.

Hamilton 306
Vettel 256
Bottas 189
Raikkonen 186

There are five races left. Vettel needs to average a 10 point advantage. Hard to see that happening. Not impossible but almost certainly requires Mercedes to have some DNFs.

The next race is Japan, at the very next weekend. It’s entirely possible it’ll be very wet so keep an eye on the weather forecast.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Russia: pre-race 2018

Well, tickle my tangerines. Must admit, I thought Hamilton very likely to get pole, with Bottas in with a good shot of second, and was quite surprised to see the Finn fastest. Good start to the weekend, and may make the race a little more interesting.

The coverage I had of qualifying was, er, limited. To intermittent bits of text (I was attempting to navigate my way across the Atlantic Ocean, in a beer barrel, equipped only with a road map of Brazil, so you can appreciate I had other things on my mind).

First session was more of the same, with McLaren and Williams slowest. Hartley also failed to escape.

An interesting thing happened in Q2. Renault had a cunning plan. They didn’t bother running. Knowing Gasly and the Red Bulls had penalties coming, Sainz and Hulkenberg occupied themselves with crosswords whilst the others raced away needlessly in hypersofts. The Renaults guaranteed themselves 11th and 12th on the grid, with choice of tyres. No idea how useful that will be, but we’ll find out tomorrow.

All five cars, therefore, that were eliminated in Q2 did not set a time.

Hamilton led both sessions to date, but could he repeat the fate and claim another pole? On the first runs, Bottas was four-thousandths faster, and the Finn increased the margin later to grab an unlikely pole, Hamilton alongside him. Vettel was half a second off Bottas’ pace, with Raikkonen even further adrift. Ominous for the Ferraris, who may be rather grateful the Red Bulls are starting in Vladivostok.

Who was best of the rest? Magnussen. Given Haas, Force India and Sauber all had both drivers in Q3 it was interesting to see just how jumbled they were. Magnussen led Ocon, Leclerc, Perez, Grosjean and Ericsson. All will be starting on the hypersofts.

Worth noting both of the last two races have featured only four DNFs, each time three occurring on the first lap when a safety car also emerged. Forecast is for it to be dry.

Initial betting thoughts:
No Safety Car
Lay Bottas lead lap 1
Renault double score
Lay Ricciardo top 6

No Safety Car is 3.25. Perhaps a little mean given recent history.

Unhelpfully, the Betfair lead lap 1 market consisted of Any Other Driver and no-one else.

Renault are 2.3 for a double points finish. Neither terrible nor fantastic.

There’s a lay value of 2.8 on Ricciardo to be top 6. Given that, I’d sooner back the not to be classified odds of 3.5.

I perused the markets, when they finally went up, and saw the following:
Leclerc to win without big 6, 5.5
Perez to win without big 6, 9.5
Force India double points finish 1.9
Red Bull, most team points, 67

I do like the winner without the big 6 market. Magnussen and Ocon start ahead of Leclerc, for it is he, and Perez. However, it’s a long run to turn 1 and if either Magnussen or Ocon cock it up they’ll be passed with great rapidity. The each way aspects is a third the odds for top 2 (outside the big 6). Leclerc starts one place ahead of Perez. Magnussen and Ocon are both below 3.

Force India have two cars starting in the top 10 and an excellent record this year. On the other hand, 1.9 is a bit tight.

Red Bull to score most points may sound outlandish, and that certainly explains the odds. However, there is an outside shot of it coming off. The top three teams are miles faster than everyone else. If a Ferrari and Mercedes tangle on the first lap and take one another out, there is a chance, perhaps a likelihood, that we end up with 3rd and 4th being Red Bull. If that is the case, they’ll top score with 17 points. Of course, if both Ferraris and a Mercedes or both Mercedes and a Ferrari get taken out, the odds only get better. However, that does rely on a slice of luck. A big slice. And neither Red Bull having a DNF. But then, the odds are 67.

As far as I can tell, Red Bull have only top scored once this year, at the Chinese Grand Prix (having started 5 and 6).

I’m quite tempted by the Red Bull bet, long odds as it is. The winner outside the big 6 market appeals to me too. As always, I decided the best way to decide was to sacrifice a goat to Athena and enter a meditative trance.

In the end, I decided to split one stake between Leclerc and Perez winning without the big 6 (each way for both). That’s at 5.5 and 9.5 respectively.

I think the race starts shortly after midday, which is oddly early. Anyway, we shall see whether it’s entertaining. The circuit isn’t the best, alas.

Morris Dancer

Russia: pre-qualifying 2018

Greetings, fellow cathedral enthusiasts.

During the break, Sauber announced they had signed Giovinazzi as Raikkonen’s team mate, with Marcus Ericsson slipping to reserve driver. Giovinazzi has driven a couple of race weekends previously. He was pretty quick but also crashed quite a bit.

Haas have confirmed they’re keeping both drivers for next year. Toro Rosso recently declared that Kvyat would be making something of a surprise return in 2019.

For the race, both Toro Rosso and Red Bull will be taking new engines and starting from the back.

In first practice Vettel was fastest, edging Verstappen by half a tenth, with Hamilton a quarter second back from the Dutchman. Bottas was next, but Ricciardo was half a second off the Finn and a second off the ultimate pace. Ocon, Raikkonen, Magnussen, Hulkenberg and Giovinazzi rounded out the top 10.

Second practice had a Mercedes 1-2, with Hamilton two-tenths up on Bottas, himself two-tenths ahead of Verstappen, with Ricciardo close behind. Vettel and Raikkonen were next up, followed by Perez, Gasly, Ocon, and Ericsson.

At this stage it seems Force India may be top of division two.

Third practice had Hamilton a quarter of a second ahead of Bottas and six-tenths ahead of Vettel. Raikkonen was just a couple of hundredths off his team mate, and a couple of tenths ahead of Verstappen (Ricciardo half a second further back). Leclerc, Ocon, Magnussen and Perez round out the top 10.

Decided to back Bottas, each way (third the odds for top 2) to ‘win’ qualifying at 5.5 (5.75 with boost). He’s got a good shot of being top 2, and a small chance of pole.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Singapore: post-race analysis 2018

A classic the race was not. There were a few moments of intrigue, but mostly it was a procession amongst the top six. Said it before, and I’ll say it again: street circuits like here and Monaco are poor.

However, it bet did come off (each way), although my daft qualifying tip does make the weekend overall slightly red.

Off the line Vettel started well and Verstappen poorly. The Dutchman was aided by the short run to the first corner, managing to fend off the German assault until a few corners later when Vettel made an important pass.

In the midfield, Perez was partying like it was 2017. Ocon drew alongside him and the Mexican gave his team mate a nudge into the wall, ending the Frenchman’s race. Ocon was eminently diplomatic about it, and Perez claimed he didn’t see him.

The spray of carbon fibre and ruined Force India brought out the safety car (although but for this entirely avoidable collision there would not have been one, so the no safety car bet might be worth considering in future if the race is dry and you can get appropriately long odds).

The safety car went in and the procession resumed. Hamilton was not driving quickly which meant the gaps mostly remained small, with the top six gradually easing away from Perez (then 7th). Vettel boxed first for ultrasoft tyres, but caught a smidgen of traffic. This actually enabled Hamilton to extend his lead upon pitting for the soft tyre. Verstappen was aided by excellent timing from his team to emerge side-by-side with Vettel, but with the critical inside line. The German was unable to get past, and thereafter drifted away from the ‘battle’ for the lead.

The top six finished as they were (Bottas, Raikkonen, and Ricciardo the lower end of that), but there was some excitement further down the field. Sirotkin was dragging out a very long stint on his tyres, and Perez was getting increasingly frustrated at being clearly faster yet unable to pass. When he did finally overtake, the Russian came back at him. The Mexican took this poorly, driving into the side of Sirotkin’s Williams, earning himself a drive-through penalty. Not a good day for the Force India driver.

Although some gaps were small, the difficulty overtaking put a premium on track position, leading everyone who had a choice to pit only once. This then meant eking out the tyres, leading to slower times and an unwillingness to take any risk or life out of the tyres. So, like Monaco (although perhaps not quite as bad) it was a processional trundling rather than an actual race.

The lower points went to Alonso, Sainz (nice day for the Spaniards), it is he, Leclerc, and Hulkenberg (good day for Renault too). Ocon was the only chap to DNF, though it was hardly his fault.

Hamilton 281
Vettel 241

As good as over? I wouldn’t go that far, but Vettel needs a stroke of serious luck very soon. Even if he wins the next race and Hamilton suffers a DNF, that’s still a 15 point gap in the Englishman’s favour.

Mercedes 452
Ferrari 415
Red Bull 274
Renault 91
Haas 76
McLaren 58
Force India 32
Toro Rosso 30
Sauber 21
Williams 7

Having taken great leaps forward with double points finishes, Force India find themselves with one driver suffering a DNF and the other being pointless. Meanwhile, McLaren, whom they seek to overtake, extend their lead a little. Good day for Renault in their tight battle with Haas as well. Toro Rosso are probably a shade disappointed not to score, especially as Leclerc picked up another couple of points.

Bad news. The next race is in Russia. Slow, tedious, festooned with ninety degree corners. On the plus side, I hear the cathedral is wonderful.

Morris Dancer