Monday, 29 September 2014

Japan: early thoughts

As well as vague musings about Japan and the title race, I’m going to try and analyse why my recent form has been patchier than a pirate convention.

But first: Japan.

The Suzuka circuit is a proper racing circuit, no namby-pamby street nonsense. Fast, has a flowing quality similar to Silverstone and the early part of the Texas circuit, and with relatively little room for error (hopefully they won’t copy the wimps of Monza and add massive run off to areas that are traditionally guarded by gravel traps).

Which makes it a bit surprising Hamilton has never won there. He’s got a very good chance this weekend. The gremlins struck Rosberg at the perfect time, and it’s hard to see anyone other than Mercedes taking the win (reliability notwithstanding).

The higher speed nature should also be handy for Williams, and I’d expect them to have the beating of Ferrari and probably Red Bull as well.

Rain is entirely possible in Suzuka, so we should keep an eye on the skies.

Hulkenberg or Perez to score or maybe creep into the top 10 may be value, but we’ll have to see how things develop.

Anyway, to betting. In the second half (Germany onwards, inclusive) I’ve had six bets and only two have come off. That’s a small green or small red result, depending on whether you hedged or not (not hedging is green). Obviously, that’s disappointing. Not catastrophic, but it’s been a bit poor.

Luck plays a significant part in F1 bets, because of the nature of the sport, so I think it’s useful to know whether a bet fails or succeeds due to luck, or misjudgement.

In Germany I tipped Magnussen to be top 6. In the event, he was 9th, and at least 30 seconds or so off of 6th. I can’t recall the details, but that just looks like a misjudgement, overestimating the car.

Hungary was delightful. I backed Rosberg for pole at 3.6 but that came off because Hamilton’s car had one of its many qualifying problems. I can’t say if Rosberg would’ve won had Hamilton been able to compete for pole, but at the very least there’s a strong element of luck there. The race bet also came off (Red Bull to top score). I remember the race well and can categorically state that was flukey as hell on my part. Rosberg was perfectly disadvantaged by the safety car, Ricciardo drove very well and Red Bull gave him the ideal strategy, aided substantially by the safety cars. On pace, Mercedes would’ve gotten most points. So, we’ll call that a fluke and a half.

In Belgium I backed Alonso for a podium. In the end, he was a measley 7th. However, he was significantly hampered by a 5s penalty (small time but had a big impact). I’m not sure it would’ve come off anyway, but the fact it never had a chance was due to an odd misfortune.

In Italy I backed (as a single bet, half stake each) the Lotuses not to be classified. The last time they both finished a race had been some months ago, I think. They decided Monza was the time to rediscover reliability. I’d consider this bad luck, given Lotus’ recent shoddy form.

And, finally, I Backed Ricciardo to win at 10.5 in Singapore. After Rosberg’s electronic issue effectively promoted Ricciardo to 2nd on the grid I was hopeful, but he went and had a bad start. I suspect the hedge would’ve been matched had he started better, but then, if all the races had gone well this betting lark would be a doddle. Plus, the Rosberg problem was lucky and if he’d started the two Silver Arrows would’ve been over the hills and far away. So, misjudgement (good and bad luck balancing out).

That’s a majority of misjudgements. Yes, some bad luck, but also a hefty slice of good in Hungary. It seems I’m mostly overestimating mid-pack cars, and the ability of Alonso to drag his car to a good result. Red Bull seem the only ones likely to (at high downforce circuits) challenge Mercedes for most points.

A better strategy might to be look at top 6, top 10 and to reach Q3 for the mid-grid runners. Force India, McLaren and maybe Toro Rosso. Rosberg for pole has typically worked pretty well, too.

As always, comments and predictions about Japan are welcome, and if you have any cunning insights about my recent rubbish form or general tips, those are welcome too.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Singapore: post-race analysis

Must admit I found the race a bit gruelling. There was a good helping of on-track action, but from both a title and race bet perspective it seemed things didn’t quite go right. Ricciardo’s bad start and power problems prevented him from running second for a long while. If he had, I feel confident the hedge would’ve been matched. Still, it’s easier to bet with hindsight. My bad patch continues, but we’ll see how the next race goes.

Rosberg and Kobayashi had nightmare formation laps. Rosberg couldn’t even get off the line and Kobayashi suffered a reliability failure on the formation lap. Though Rosberg started from the pit lane his car had a terminal electronic problem which robbed him of any pace, and at the tragically comic effort at a pit stop he was forced to call it a day.

Off the line Hamilton retained the lead, Ricciardo bogged down and was passed by both Vettel and Alonso and Button made up a few places. For a long while the tedious track saw the gaps increase with relatively little action. As expected, three stop strategies were the preferred option for many. Button was having a decent crack at a two stop (I think) when, late on, his car failed and he had to retire from what was 7th.

Sutil and Perez collided, eventually costing the Mexican his front wing, which exploded into a shower of debris which prompted a safety car. This not only closed up the field, it allowed Alonso (then 2nd, I think) to pit, and emerge 4th but with the soft [prime] tyre on. Hamilton, Vettel and Ricciarod ahead of him did not pit, but the Briton was the only one who had yet to use the soft tyre, meaning he was the only one who would have to have another pit stop.

Suddenly the race became rather more interesting. When the safety car finally left (it remained out so long the sixty-first lap was axed and the race became sixty laps long) he immediately pulled away but it wasn’t clear if his supersoft tyres would last long enough for him to pull out the necessary gap. Alas, it was. He came out in 2nd but because Vettel’s tyres were so very old passing him was a formality.

There was altogether more fighting in the middle of the pack. Vergne was given a five second penalty for exceeding track limits, but managed a flurry of late moves to claim 6th, and not only that but to extend his advantage to such an extent the five second penalty saw him retain the strong finish for Toro Rosso. Won’t do his efforts to claim a seat elsewhere next year any harm at all.

Massa was largely anonymous in the race but drove competently to retain 5th. Bottas (like Massa) had been running around on tyres about 37 laps old by the end, but, unlike his older team mate, failed to make them last. On the last lap or two the Finn slipped from 6th to 11th.

Alonso was 4th, but may feel irked not to have finished up on the podium. Raikkonen’s 8th was so-so, perhaps a shade disappointing.

Perez got 7th, and had a good race, and Hulkenberg had a decent result with 9th. Not outstanding for the team, but pretty good given where they started, especially for Perez.

Magnussen claimed 10th. Interestingly, he complained the drink was of no use to him because it was so hot it was burning his mouth. Kvyat also complained around lap 44 that the race was incredibly hard (due to heat/humidity).

Maldonado was 10th for a while, but slipped back to miss out on a point and retain his current tally of zero. I don’t spread bet, but do recall his average was about 66 pre-season (laying it was practically the only thing Mr. Putney and I agreed upon).

Quite disappointed with how the bet turned out. After Rosberg suffered his problems I thought Ricciardo, starting effectively second, had a good shot, but his poor start and power problems meant it wasn’t to be. I’ve had some wins due to good luck and it’s unreasonable to expect I’ll never suffer losses likewise. However, I’ve had a fairly bad patch recently so I’ll have to try and think about why that might be.

It’s not good for the title race either.

Hamilton 241
Rosberg 238
Ricciardo 181

Perversely, despite finishing two spots behind Hamilton, Ricciardo took a step forward. He was about 70 points behind the leader, now it’s just 60 (the leader, of course, having changed). It’s still very close between the Mercedes drivers, and Ricciardo might have a chance, but I still think it won’t be his year. People should not write Rosberg off. Leaving aside reliability failures for Hamilton, which may happen in the next few races, he’s still got a great shot at the title. I do think Hamilton is the favourite for it now, alas.

Mercedes 479
Red Bull 305
Williams 187
Ferrari 178
Force India 117
McLaren 111

I think the top four places will be the same at the end of the season. Top two are pretty much settled. Williams are much faster in a straight line than Ferrari and this was one of their weakest circuits. Force India and McLaren is hard to call (Force India leapfrogged McLaren today).

We’re off to Japan in a fortnight, to the fantastic Suzuka circuit. A proper track, not a damned street circuit, so it should be great. Hopefully, it’ll be green too.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Singapore: pre-race

I missed the first half of qualifying as the BBC’s Judas Iscariot approach to broadcasting F1 doesn’t seem to cover having it on either Radio 5 or Sports Extra, and I had to go online.

Sutil and Maldonado joined the usual suspects in leaving in the first part of qualifying.

In Q2 Button, Vergne, Hulkenberg, Gutierrez, Perez and Grosjean went out. Grosjean sounded furious over the radio due to some engine problem or other which really angered him. Sounds like he’s at the end of his wick with Lotus’ shoddy reliability.

Force India continue to slide down the competitive order. Particularly tricky at a circuit like Singapore.

In Q3 Hamilton was fastest, ahead of Rosberg. Ricciardo and Vettel have the second row, with Alonso and Massa on the third (Massa had been fastest earlier in the session but failed to improve later). Raikkonen and Bottas are next, with Magnussen and Kvyat rounding out the top 10.

Commentary info suggested Rosberg set his fast lap in Q3 on a used set of supersoft tyres, very surprising as the tyres barely last a lap. Raikkonen had to stop on track due to a mechanical issue. I wonder if that info was wrong, given Rosberg was only seven-thousandths off.

A three stop race, or possibly more, seems likely. Strategy could play a role, as the tyres really don’t seem to last long. This may disadvantage Williams, which have tended to be so conservative as to damage their own prospects.

The race is forecast to be dry.

Early thoughts on bets:
Vettel podium
Red Bull top score
Alonso podium
Safety Car
Ricciardo to win (each way)
Lotus drivers not to be classified

Vettel was 2.62 with Ladbrokes for a podium (making up one place). However, he starts on the dirty side of the track, I’m not sure his head’s in quite the right place and Ricciardo’s been very strong all year.

Red Bull are only 2.75 to top score, which is bloody mean. A realistic prospect but the odds are tight-fisted. It’s almost as if Ladbrokes doesn’t want me to make money.

Alonso was 3.85 with Betfair for a podium. The Ferrari has looked racier... I’m not sure whether it can match the cars ahead on race pace. Something to consider, though.

In all (six or so) Singapore races to date the safety car has made an appearance. It’s not quite a dead cert but it’s not far off. Ladbrokes offers 1.2, which, to be honest, is genuinely tempting.

Ricciardo is 8 to win, about what I’d expect, with Ladbrokes, and 10.5 with Betfair. Hmm. I’ll add that to the Alonso and Safety Car bets for further consideration.

I do feel a bit unlucky both Lotus drivers finished in Monza, but in Singapore it’d be even unluckier. Maldonado is 2.1 not to be classified, and Grosjean 2.25. A hard to drive car, mid-grid starting position and potential reliability failure all make this eminently possible.

So, unexpectedly, I have more potential bets to consider than I’d imagined.
Alonso 3.85 for a podium
Safety Car 1.2
Ricciardo to win (8 each way, or 10.5 hedged)
Lotus drivers to fail to be classified (2.1 and 2.25)

I checked last year’s result and, counter-intuitively, only two drivers retired (admittedly, one of them was Grosjean). So, I’ve decided against repeating the Monza bet, tempting though it is.

I think the Safety Car bet is likely, but the low number of retirements last time indicate it’s by no means certain, and the forecast is for it to be dry. So, my aversion to short odds means I won’t go for that either.

Which leaves Alonso for a podium, or Ricciardo to win (either each way, which is top 2, or hedged).

I think Alonso’s a great driver, but I do not believe his car is good enough. Ricciardo’s been driving phenomenally well this year, he’s also had the luck, his car’s competitive and well-suited to Singapore.

So, the question is whether to back each way, or hedge it on Betfair. The agony of choice. I decided to go for Betfair, backed 10.5, hedged at 4. Often one of the Mercedes drivers has started poorly, and I think Ricciardo could get close enough for the hedge to be matched. Bad tyre wear or an error could see him take the win.

So, just a single tip:
Ricciardo to win, 10.5 (hedged 4)

Tomorrow will probably see less passing on-track but more strategy, as the tyres are crumblier than old cheese.

Morris Dancer

Singapore: pre-qualifying

Ah, Singapore. Tight, twisty and tedious as Monaco, although it does look nicer due to being nocturnal.

The tyres are soft and supersoft.

In P1 Alonso was fastest, ahead of Hamilton and Rosberg (but don’t get excited, Alonso has topped a session or two earlier this year and it didn’t translate to marvellous pace in the race. The car’s simply not good enough). Vettel and Ricciardo were next, followed by Vergne, Raikkonen, Button, Kvyat and Perez.

In P2 Hamilton led Alonso and Ricciardo, with Raikkonen, Vettel, Magnussen, Button Perez, Hulkenberg and Kvyat rounding out the top 10. Rosberg was one and a half seconds off the pace, as a Maldonado crash brought out a red flag during his fast lap.

P3 had Alonso fastest again, barely half a tenth ahead of Ricciardo. Rosberg was third, then Vergne and Vettel, wuth Hamilton sixth, then Massa, Bottas, Raikkonen and Gutierrez.

The mini-forecast on the sport’s official site suggests that storms could hit on both Saturday and Sunday, so I’ll check the forecast before before qualifying and the race.

Suggestion from commentary (featuring co-commentator Eric Silverman, who seems sound) was that Mercedes' P3 times were sandbagging. I’m inclined to agree.

Weather forecasts indicate a 40% or so chance of rain during qualifying, which makes a bet less likely.

My initial thoughts were:
Rosberg for pole
Vettel/Ricciardo pole each way

Rosberg was only 2.5, which was significantly meaner than I was expecting (perhaps 3.5 or even longer). He has a good chance but with rain possible and a mistake likely to lead to a curtailed session I am not inclined to back this.

Vettel was 17, Ricciardo 13 for fastest Q3 time (Ladbrokes). Hmm. Quite tempting. But with Mercedes sandbagging and Alonso possibly getting in the way I decided against it. I’m generally wary of betting when rain could be on the way (and at Singapore/Monaco) anyway.

So no bet.

I expect Mercedes to get pole, Williams to be some way off for once and Red Bull to have a decent day.

Morris Dancer

Monday, 15 September 2014

Singapore: Early Thoughts

There’s been some pretty significant news between Monza and Singapore, with Montezemolo (not too surprisingly) resigning/being resigned as big cheese of Ferrari. Joe Saward, F1 journalist who knows his beans, reckons it’s possible Mattiaci will move to take Montezemolo’s post, with Brawn becoming the new team principal of Ferrari. That would set the cat amongst the pigeons.

In addition, teams have now been banned from giving drivers advice over the radio. The concern is that the rule is so broad that practically any communication at all from pit to car could contravene it (full story here):

Peter Prodromou, a top aerodynamicist formerly working under Adrian Newey, has now joined McLaren. It’s a good move for the team though I doubt his appointment will be the panacea they need to return to winning ways. Surprising just how much the team’s performance has declined since 2012, when they had the fastest car (albeit with poor reliability).

The Singapore circuit is tight, twisty and generally quite slow. Overtaking is perhaps harder than anywhere else (could argue the case between there and Monaco). This puts an especial premium on qualifying, so a cock-up or reliability failure could ruin a weekend. Whilst I expect Mercedes to maintain their dominance Red Bull will be relatively stronger here, and Williams probably a little weaker (being fastest in a straight line won’t help too much at the stop-start Singapore circuit).

Rosberg, of course, got pole and the win in Monaco, but it was very tight. Could go either way this weekend. With a potentially high attrition rate it could be an opportunity for one of the backmarker teams to score (as Bianchi did for Marussia back in Monaco).

No early bets for me this time.

Any comments, questions, tips and so forth are welcome in the comments section.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Italy: post-race analysis

Both Lotuses finished. Bit miffed. Both failed in Belgium, Grosjean at Hungary and Germany (Maldonado didn’t finish at Silverstone but the reliability failing was so late on he was still classified). First time since Austria in June neither Lotus had a problem. Oh well. None of the early Williams bets came off either, and whilst they don’t count in the ‘official’ records it’s still a bit disappointing.

The start was terrible for Bottas and Ricciardo and pretty bad for Hamilton. The Briton slumped to 4th, from pole, Bottas went from 3rd to 12th and Ricciardo lost many places as well. Great start for Rosberg and Magnussen (1st and 2nd respectively) with Massa getting up to 3rd.

Magnussen began a long afternoon of drifting backwards through the field (not always gracefully, as his late moves defending from Bottas saw him earn a 5 second stop and go penalty). Massa claimed 2nd but was soon dispossessed by Hamilton. Rosberg failed to stop for the first corner twice, the second occasion enabling Hamilton the most contact-free form of taking the lead, after which the order of the top three was settled.

Bottas climbed inexorably through the ranks, but a very slightly slow, and perhaps mistimed, pit stop put him down around 9th, meaning he had to do it twice. Eventually he finished 4th, but if he (rather than Massa) had been 2nd early on one wonders if he would’ve been able to claim victory.

Vettel had a great start, in stark contrast to Ricciardo. Red Bull split their pitting strategy (just one stop for everyone) which ended up screwing the German. He was pitted early, which meant his tyres were shot by the end. Ricciardo was pitted late (due to being out of position following his bad start) and he had fresh tyres at the end, enabling him to pass everyone save the Mercedes and Williams (including Vettel, who might feel somewhat disgruntled).

Magnussen drove pretty well, but moved perhaps too swiftly too late too many times defending against Bottas, earning himself a 5 second stop and go. The time was added at the end of the race, as he didn’t have another pit stop to make. He ended up 10th with Button 8th, just behind Perez.

Perez pitted early, and drove well on old tyres (with clouds of brake dust, somewhat alarmingly) to defend against Button. Hulkenberg had a poor showing, managing only 12th.

Alonso had his first non-classified finish (reliability failure of ERS which shut off the engine automatically, as without that there’s a chance of the engine literally exploding) since 2009. Raikkonen finished a mere 9th.

Kvyat was on for 10th (bearing in mind Magnussen’s penalty) but very late on his brakes gave up and he had to drive very slowly to reach the finishing line without crashing. Bit of a shame for the talented Russian. Vergne’s 13th won’t necessarily help him find a drive next year.

Other than Alonso, Chilton (for the second time in his career) was the only driver to have a non-classified finish.

Incidentally, it was confirmed shortly before the race that Williams will be retaining both drivers for next year. Not too unexpected, and probably makes sense.

It was a fairly entertaining race, no major crashes or controversies, good for Hamilton, not so bad for Rosberg, solid for Williams but perhaps an opportunity missed. Ferrari very much on the back foot versus their rivals.

Rosberg 238
Hamilton 216
Ricciardo 166

Singapore’s up next in a fortnight. Expect Red Bull to be far more competitive. However, unless Rosberg starts having DNFs and Ricciardo starts regularly beating both Mercedes drivers I do not think he will be able to have a realistic shot at the title. He’s 72 points off the leader right now.

Mercedes 454
Red Bull 272
Williams 177
Ferrari 162
McLaren 110
Force India 109

The top two places are effectively done and dusted, I think. Williams might’ve been able to close the gap with better results in the past, but as things stand I don’t think it’ll happen. The Ferrari duel for Williams will remain, but the white car is simply faster.

For McLaren, I think they’ll end up winning the tussle with Force India. The McLaren seems to have been improved a bit, and Force India have been off the pace for a while.

There are six races left, and Rosberg leads Hamilton by 22 points. I still expect this to go down to Abu Dhabi. I just hope the title doesn’t depend on the stupid double points on offer there.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Italy: pre-race

Rosberg’s car was fixed in time for qualifying, so he suffers no grid penalty.

In Q1 Caterham and Marussia, as expected, left proceedings. Slightly less expected was the double departure of Lotus. That car is shocking this year. Reportedly, they’ve stopped developing it and are focusing on 2015’s car instead. Perhaps wise, but it can’t be too much fun being a driver there this year.

In Q2 neither Sauber went any further, and we also lost Raikkonen, Vergne and Hulkenberg. Kvyat qualified 11th but due to the penalty mentioned in the pre-qualifying piece he’ll be set back 10 places and start 21st.

Q3 was quite interesting. There were reasonable margins between the top four, who were Hamilton, Rosberg, Bottas and Massa. Hamilton’s pole lap was very impressive. However, behind them it was much tighter, with six-tenths covering 5th-10th. The two McLarens had a good day, with Magnussen ahead of Button, and both ahead of 7th-placed Alonso. Red Bull cannot be happy with 8th and 9th (Vettel ahead of Ricciardo) and Perez was 10th.

Interesting to note Mercedes-powered cars filled the top six slots, but Force India were some way adrift. Good news for McLaren in the Constructors’.

There is a small chance of light rain tomorrow. I do not expect it to happen and if it does I don’t anticipate a significant impact. The only shock event that’s easy to foresee (if that isn’t too oxymoronic) would be a very bad crash, probably at the start, bringing out the safety car.

The Williams is a match for the Mercedes on race pace and perhaps even faster. However, it’s hard to pass at Monza (counter-intuitively, pole-sitters have a better chance of winning in Monza than Monaco). To win Williams will need a great start, or for Mercedes to have reliability/driver problems. The start’s critical for the Mercedes drivers, and for Red Bull. The Red Bull has strong race pace but starts very far back and is some way off the pace on the straights, and will find it hard to make up ground. I expect the podium to be entirely Mercedes/Williams.

I don’t think McLaren will go forwards. The car seems improved but it’s a step back from the Mercedes/Williams.

Strategy shouldn’t play much of a role as both the hard and medium last a long while and one stop is expected by just about everyone.

Quite hard to think of a cunning potential bet, to be honest, so I just perused the markets on Ladbrokes to see what appeared. These were:

Maldonado/Grosjean not to be classified, 2.2, Ladbrokes
Rosberg to win, 3.75 (4.4 Betfair)
Race leader after lap 1, Rosberg 4.5

The Lotus drivers have awful reliability, and Maldonado very occasionally collides with others. To be honest, I’m seriously tempted to back them not to be classified at just over evens.

The Rosberg to win and lead lap 1 bets are almost the same thing. Barring reliability issues, if he leapt ahead of Hamilton early on then I think he’s likely to stay there (cf Hamilton doing that to Rosberg at Bahrain). Against this is that Hamilton generally seems to start better, and both men will be trying their utmost not to make contact.

Hmm. Very tempted by Rosberg, but I think not. Hamilton tends to start better and Monza’s hard for overtaking. [If I had gone for it, I would’ve gone for Rosberg to win with Betfair at 4.4, hedged at around 2.5].

Instead, I’ve decided to split a stake and, with equal halves, back Maldonado and Grosjean not to be classified. Their Lotus seems horrendously unreliable and hard to drive.

So that’s:
Maldonado not to be classified, 2.2 (Ladbrokes)
Grosjean not to be classified, 2.2 (Ladbrokes)

Counts as a single tip, however it goes, as I’m splitting one stake evenly between the two. If either one comes off it’s green.

I think it could be very tight at the front. It’s also possible this could be the most boring race for a little while as overtaking’s so hard. On the other hand, the same’s true of Hungary, and that was rather entertaining.

Morris Dancer

Italy: pre-qualifying

The compounds in Monza will be hard and medium.

Mercedes have indicated they may have to drop one of their two drivers if they can’t get along. I think that’s a gross over-reaction, as was their condemnation of Rosberg during the Spa race. Drivers including Vettel, Hulkenberg and Alonso have since said they believe the collision to have been a racing incident, a view that I subscribe to.

The FIA will not have a look at it, something Hamilton’s questioned. The Briton (whether you believe the incident to be mistake or malice) currently has a lot of sympathy but such utterances may lose him some.

Anyway, the circuit in Italy is rather nice. It’s a collection of straight lines with very few proper corners, so straight line speed is what matters most. This will help cars powered by a Mercedes and probably hinder Ferrari-powered cars the most. The Parabolica, which is a proper corner, has been emasculated this year by the removal of a gravel trap outside the track limit and its replacement with weak-kneed tarmac. Damned shame.

In P1 Hamilton was over half a second ahead of Button, with Rosberg third and almost a whole second behind his team mate. Then we had Alonso, Magnussen, Vettel, Raikkonen, Perez, Kvyat and Hulkenberg.

McLaren look surprisingly tasty, and the Mercedes drivers’ difference I would put down to fuel loads or suchlike. Neither Williams is in the top 10, which either means my early bets are the most stupid thing since George Lucas thought of Jar Jar Binks, or they’re sandbagging and were bursting with fuel.

In P2 Rosberg was fastest, but less than a tenth ahead of Hamilton. Surprisingly, Raikkonen was third, barely a tenth off the pace and two-tenths ahead of Alonso. Bottas, Button and Vettel were separated by four-thousandths of a second, with Magnussen, Massa and Ricciardo rounding out the top 10.

Hamilton missed about an hour of P2 due to a problem with the car (getting the engine fired up, I think). He came very close to Rosberg’s time but never seemed at ease (can take that either way, as it could mean he’s got extra speed in his pocket, or that he’s on edge). McNish reckoned the Mercedes was fastest over one lap but on race pace Williams were top, with Mercedes second and Ferrari/Red Bull about the same. However, overtaking can be tricky and a single stop is expected during the race so that might yet be advantage Mercedes.

In P3 Hamilton was fastest by over four-tenths, with Alonso second, a little way ahead of Bottas and Massa (whose times were very close). Button was next, then came Vettel, Raikkonen, Kvyat, Ricciardo, and Hulkenberg.

During P3 the commentators referred to rumours that the Ferrari engine has been somewhat improved in power terms. This would explain them being more competitive than might’ve been the case. The Ferrari team also changed their gear ratios (which you can only do once this season). From next year ratios will be fixed for all year long.

In P3 Rosberg had a gearbox problem which prevented him getting much running. The team was hoping to get it sorted without needing to replace it for qualifying, and we’ll see whether that’s the case or not [if not he’ll get a grid penalty]. Perez also suffered a gearbox problem which caused his car to stop on track. Neither got to have a run at qualifying simulation.

Brakes and DRS were not working that well, Hamilton claimed. Hopefully that won’t recur during qualifying/the race.

P3 also saw Vettel complain the K was misbehaving, (kinetic energy). That’s very significant as it could mean a loss of power which would cost him dearly, as well as altering brake balance and causing potential brake failure (see Mercedes in Canada). Rocky, Vettel’s race engineer, suggested it was a one-off sort of problem.

Mercedes has a long ratio (barely using 8th gear), with Force India close to that and the other teams shorter. A longer ratio may help the gearbox (fewer gear changes) but won’t boost performance.

Kvyat gets a 10 place penalty for being on his sixth engine (season limit is five).

Potential bets -
Alonso top 3 in qualifying
Lay Kvyat points
Lay Rosberg podium (if he gets a grid penalty)
Hamilton pole
Rosberg pole

I’m not sure about Alonso being top 3. His odds were 3 (there was a tiny amount at 4.5), which is too short. I think Raikkonen or the Williams could pose a risk, so no bet there.

The Kvyat points bet is based on a probable qualifying of around 8th and starting 18th with the penalty. However, as there was £10 available at 21, which is horrendous, no bet.

Laying Rosberg for the podium was based on a race competitive Williams and Red Bull coupled with a potential grid penalty. But the odds were a downright stingy 1.43.

Hamilton’s likely to get pole, but 1.66 isn’t that tempting given Rosberg’s strong record. Rosberg was 3.4, but if he did get a grid penalty he might well alter his car set-up to maximise overtaking potential at the expense of overall pace, compromising qualifying.

So, no bets at all. I do expect it to be very tight between Williams and Ferrari after the Mercedes, with Red Bull and McLaren also close together.

Morris Dancer

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Italy: Early Thoughts

It sounds like Rosberg’s been fined for his action in Belgium. I’d be amazed if that’s the last testy moment we have between the title rivals this year, though.

Anyway, to Monza. The circuit’s nice and fast, and is essentially a collection of straight lines joined by tiny little corners. Do not expect Red Bull to be fastest or second fastest as, although the Renault seems improved, the Williams is fastest in a straight line closely followed by the Mercedes.

Red Bull were fast in Spa, but recall they had a wing thinner than a supermodel on a diet, whereas the Williams and Mercedes had bigger rear wings (adding more downforce but costing pace on the straights). So, the latter two teams have more drag to lose and straight line speed to gain, as well as having the best engines anyway.

I think that Williams, particularly Bottas, might be the ones to watch. A few times this year Williams have run the Mercedes’ team close (and could’ve perhaps had a shot at winning in Austria, I think it was).

These don’t count as tips for the purpose of records. They’re just bets I’ve made (all Ladbrokes),
Bottas, each way, pole 17
Bottas, each way, win 15
Williams top score 7

It’ll also be interesting to see how the other teams cope with the simple straight line requirements of the circuit. I fear Ferrari’s asthmatic hamster of an engine may struggle.

As always, comments, tips, insights and the like are welcome below.

Morris Dancer