Sunday, 27 December 2015

2015 season review

Well, that wasn’t a classic.

I finished moderately ahead, which is good, but it was a bit down on some other years. In racing terms, the total dominance of Hamilton, especially in the first half of the season, made the title race a concept rather than a reality.


Probably increased their margin over the field compared to last year. Reliability improved to near perfect, pit stops were all good and the only black spot was a perplexing (some would say suspicious, but I think that’s a bit conspiracy theory) loss of pace in Singapore. Their engine remains the best, though Ferrari narrowed the gap, and the car itself was one of the best, making it formidable almost everywhere.


Made a great leap, from 4th to 2nd this year (the opposite of Red Bull). Vettel fits the team like a glove, and, whilst Raikkonen was lacklustre, the two drivers actually get along. Right now they seem the team likeliest to challenge for the title in 2016 but there remains a significant pace deficit to Mercedes. They were the only team to win this year, other than Mercedes, and the only other team to get a pole position (I think).


They came 3rd, for the second year in a row. After the recent years of woe, this is a great result, but the team must be disappointed not to have narrowed the gap to Mercedes. The driver lineup is very well-balanced, but some strategic errors (the team seems overly cautious) probably cost points. More downforce is needed. I expect them to achieve podium results next year again, but they really need to get another win under their belt.

Red Bull

As well as slipping dramatically down on pace, despite two very impressive drivers, Red Bull also managed the impressive feat of pissing off every engine manufacturer with their incessant whining. On track, the car was weak on top speed but the chassis remains very good, arguably the best on the grid. On slower circuits, the Red Bull was competitive. I do not think they’ll make much headway next year.

Force India

A great year for the team after a difficult start. Late to the tests, then stuck without upgrades for about half the season. But when the B-spec car and upgrades rolled in, Perez and Hulkenberg made the most of it. The two drivers are very well-matched and where one seems weak, the other seems strong (Perez is good at Yas Marina, Hulkenberg at Interlagos). Perez got another podium, and whilst Hulkenberg’s never had one, he did win Le Mans this year. The team may be acquired by Aston Martin.


If Force India had a difficult year, Lotus’ was a triumph of team spirit over economic reality. Literally visited by bailiffs and locked out of their own hospitality unit, Lotus survived on borrowed sandwiches and joie de vivre, achieving an almost incredible podium at Spa for Grosjean (whose departure from the team was due to its inability to guarantee its presence on the grid when Haas came knocking). They return to being Renault next year, which will hopefully revive their fortunes.

Toro Rosso

The little sister of Red Bull, Toro Rosso had a pair of newcomers who performed very well indeed. Verstappen’s overtaking prowess (and occasional exuberance, though I think Monaco was the only blatant mistake) is well-known, though I think Sainz has been a little overlooked (and more unfortunate with reliability). Next year they have Ferrari engines [albeit the 2015 version]. They may actually be faster than Red Bull, which is sticking with Renault, so we shall see.


A so-so year for the Swiss team, but after its first and only failure to score any points in 2014, I imagine they’d take it. Finishing 8th also means they get some prize money. Nasr and Ericsson seem decent drivers, though it can be hard to tell with a backmarker team.


Easily the worst year I’ve ever seen for McLaren. The car itself seems ok, but the Honda power unit is a dog. Although a dog can protect your house from burglars, cheer you up when you’re down, and is a great companion. As well as being well down on raw horsepower, the electronic aspects seem just inefficient/ineffective, so on long straights the power runs out and the car is something crazy like 160bhp off the best. There are positives and negatives, looking forward. The problems seem reasonably understood. But there’s limited scope for development. McLaren need to leap back into at least the midfield. They’ve got a fantastic pair of drivers, but they need an engine that bloody works. Worth noting they’ve been more patient and friendly with Honda than Red Bull have with Renault.


Just scraping onto the grid, this was always going to be a place-holder year for the team. And so it proved. Trundling at the back a day and a half behind everyone else must be pretty miserable, and they’ve lost Graeme Lowdon (former team principal when it was Marussia), which is a shame as he seemed to have his head screwed on right. However, next year they’ve got a Mercedes engine, so that should help propel them to challenge for points. If not, they may sink.


Not on the grid this year, but they will be next, with Grosjean and probably Mexican eyebrow-enthusiast Gutierrez. The team will have Ferrari engines and many other bits from Ferrari. In fact, some think that all the work Haas has done this year in the wind tunnel (all legitimately, but far more than would be permitted had they been on the grid) is, ahem, helpful to Ferrari. I think Haas will hit the ground running in 2016 and definitely score points. The likes of Sauber should be worried about being pushed further down the pecking order.

So, who will the contenders be for 2016?
Hamilton is an obvious one. Rosberg may be. He was poor in the first half of the year but ended with six consecutive pole positions and three consecutive victories. Vettel is another obvious candidate.

But beyond them? Very speculative, but Ricciardo and Kvyat could be in with a shot, though that depends on Renault getting their act together. I do not think Williams will be able to compete as their engine may be a few races behind Mercedes in terms of upgrades, and the team needs more downforce. Alonso/Button could, but that’d require one hell of a comeback from Honda and I don’t think there’s sufficient flexibility to make the necessary changes.

In all likelihood, it’ll be a Hamilton versus Rosberg versus Vettel contest.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Abu Dhabi: post-race analysis

A straightforward case of poor judgement on my part with the bet. Unfortunate, but if I had perfect judgement this betting business would be a lot easier.

The start of the race was great. Hamilton was a bit slow and it seemed either Perez or Raikkonen might pass him. However the Ferrari and Mercedes closed off Perez’s path, which meant he had to back out, and Hamilton fended off the Finn’s advances.

Hulkenberg passed Bottas and Ricciardo, Sainz pulled off multiple passes and Vettel (admittedly with a much faster car than those around him) roared up the field.

It was a bad first lap for Alonso, and worse for Maldonado. The Venezuelan was put out of the race by the Spaniard, who had himself been forced to collide with the Lotus after he was tagged by a Sauber. Alonso was compelled to take an early pit stop, then insult was added to injury when the stewards, led this week by Stevie Wonder, blamed him for it and gave him a penalty.

For a short time the top four were pretty close, but then gaps started opening and it was clear Rosberg had the measure of Hamilton, Mercedes was too strong for Ferrari, and Force India couldn’t quite keep up with the prancing horse.

Vettel, starting (unusually) on the soft tyre, had a longer first stint than most chaps and, due to differing strategy, obligingly let his team mate past twice.

Pit stop woe ruined Bottas’ race. He was released dangerously early by his crew, smashed immediately into the back of a McLaren that was diving into the pits ahead of him (and therefore had clear right of way), broke his front wing, had to complete a slow lap with half a front wing to get a new one with an extra stop and then got a five second penalty.

Towards the end of the middle stint the gap between Rosberg and Hamilton, which had been around 8s, reduced sharply as Hamilton upped his pace (it appears his German friend was suffering tyre degradation). Rosberg pitted with a lead of about 1.5s. And the team kept Hamilton out for about 10 more laps. Why? Well, it could be that Mercedes had a stupid day. Or it could be they were manufacturing a soft 1-2 result, because Hamilton had been steadily whittling away Rosberg’s lead up to that point. On fresh tyres, the German extended his lead, and Hamilton ended up 8s behind him at the flag.

Cock-up or conspiracy, I don’t think it was driver favouritism so much as the management wanting a good result, and not wanting to risk any actual racing getting in the way of it.

Raikkonen was a clear, slightly lonely, 3rd with his team mate next but a long way back. Perez got a good 5th for Force India, who have had a very solid season. Ricciardo claimed 6th, with Hulkenberg 7th (so strong double points for the team). Massa’s 8th was a bit lacklustre given Williams were so strong here last year.

Grosjean said au revoir to Lotus with a brace of points and Kvyat, despite having dodgy brakes, just about clung onto 10th.

Although Button was only 12th, the race had just a single retirement and he was able to compete and race against other cars instead of just getting passed. Not great, but it seems an improvement for McLaren.

On that note, post-race Christian Horner said Red Bull had an engine deal for next year and that Ron Dennis wouldn’t be happy. Horner may be being a bit silly, but if the team does have a Honda engine that would presumably only be with McLaren’s agreement, as the latter team reportedly has a veto on such an arrangement.

We shall see.

As we shall see whether Aston Martin take over Force India, Renault take over Lotus, who the new Manor Marussia team principal will be and if any other teams disappear.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Abu Dhabi: pre-race

Well, qualifying did not go quite to script. The grid is unexpected in a few ways, which may hopefully create opportunity.

In Q1, the Manor Marussias of Stevens and Merhi were at the back, but the other three cars all had misfortune of one kind or another. Ericsson suffered a reliability failure, Alonso could’ve reached Q2 but got a puncture and Vettel/Ferrari simply believed the German’s lap was good enough, didn’t go out again, and ended up 16th. Of course, Vettel had to start from the back due to disqualification in 2012, and ended up on the podium (I think), so he may yet have a good race.

In the second session, Grosjean’s Lotus failed him, so he starts 15th. Ahead of him as Nasr, Maldonado, Button and Verstappen, who qualified a tiny margin behind his team mate and loses (10-9) the qualifying head-to-head against Sainz, who I think is a bit overlooked.

Q3 was quite exciting for a few reasons. After the initial run, Perez was ahead of Raikkonen, in 3rd. Rosberg was ahead of Hamilton for pole, but it was very tight. After the second runs, Hamilton got the top spot only to lose it moments later. That’s six consecutive poles for Rosberg, and he got this one by nearly four-tenths, which is a huge margin.

Perez, alas, got pipped by the Finn and starts 4th, but that’s still tasty and Force India look in good shape. It’ll be an intriguing contest, as Raikkonen was the only chap to escape Q1 on soft tyres, so he has an extra fresh set of supersofts for the race (optimal strategy is thought to be 2 stops, with 2 stints supersoft and 1 soft). Perez may try and make what should be a dead cert 2 stop into a 1 stop (and he’s achieved such things before).

Behind the Mexican are Ricciardo and Bottas, as well as Hulkenberg, half a second back from Perez (as Interlagos is a Hulkenberg circuit, I think Yas Marina is a Perez playground). Massa is behind Hulkenberg, as are Kvyat and Sainz.

I think Williams, despite having good top speeds, may suffer with tyres. Red Bull and Toro Rosso will not enjoy the straights. Mercedes and Force India should have a nice day, and it’ll be interesting to see how Raikkonen and Vettel do.

Only on one occasion has the chap on pole converted that to victory, though that stat is bedevilled by reliability misfortune, rather than reflecting the characteristics of the circuit (passing is historically tricky, but some cars this season are a cut above others).

Initial betting thoughts were:
Vettel top 6
Lay Ricciardo top 6
Raikkonen podium
Perez podium
Button points
Hulkenberg top 6

For a podium, Raikkonen was 1.61, and Perez 5. That seems a silly contrast to me. (1.75 and 3 on Betfair).

Vettel was an unattractive 1.3 for top 6, Hulkenberg 2 and Bottas had a lay value of 3. None tempt.

Button was 3 for points, which is too short.

So, the Perez bet looked interesting, but I’m not sure about it. Although, upon checking, he was better than Raikkonen in Q1 and Q2. Hmm. Anyway, I decided to idly browse the markets and see if anything leapt up at me.

Grosjean, points, 2.37, was the only thing that made me think. So, there’s that, Hulkenberg at evens for top 6 (I know I said that didn’t tempt, but when famished even cabbage begins to resemble food) and Perez at 5 for a podium (I’d prefer that on Betfair to hedge but at the moment only 4.3 is available).

In the end, I opted for a Perez podium at 5. I think the Ferraris and Force Indias are ahead of the Williams and Red Bulls, which makes it a Perez-Raikkonen duel (Hulkenberg is outmatched at Yas Marina by his team mate).

Morris Dancer

Abu Dhabi: pre-qualifying

Got the feeling this might be the last race broadcast on the BBC, perhaps on free-to-air TV. We shall see.

Important off-track rumours swirl. Aston Martin may end up taking over Force India. The team has punched above its weight for a while now, and has a very solid driver line-up, so I wish it well.

Still no official confirmation, but it seems Red Bull, for all its owner’s bitching, will have a Renault engine next year.

However, the Lotus-Renault deal, which is meant to be all but done, may have hit a late snag. Not surprisingly, Ecclestone and money are involved (because Renault would be rejoining the sport as a constructor, some manner of deal was done with Ecclestone and apparently it’s fallen through).

The sport really does need to get a grip on finance and spread the wealth more fairly.

Next year Haas will have the 2016 Ferrari engine, whereas Toro Rosso are likely to have the 2015 version (from around Texas-time). Worth considering when looking at the next season.

The tyres for this weekend are soft and supersoft (incidentally, next year an ultrasoft will be available. Why we have three varieties of soft rather than a supersoft and superhard is beyond me. Perhaps ‘superhard’ was deemed a bit too racy).

In P1 Hamilton was a tenth ahead of Rosberg, with Raikkonen well over half a second down the road in third. Kvyat, Vettel and Hulkenberg had less than a tenth between them, with Ricciardo, Perez, Maldonado and Massa rounding out the top 10.

In P2 Rosberg was a tenth ahead of Hamilton, with Perez half a second down the road. Ricciardo, Vettel, Kvyat, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Alonso and Maldonado were the rest of the top 10, all quite close together.

At this stage it seems Force India may be in for a decent weekend.

In P3, Rosberg was three-tenths up on Hamilton, but that was because the Briton cocked up his earliest supersoft laps and I don’t believe that’s a representative gap. Vettel, just over three-tenths behind Rosberg, was next, with Perez impressive in 4th, ahead of Raikkonen and Ricciardo (and half a second up on Hulkenberg). Massa and Bottas were next with Sainz ending the top 10 (incidentally, Button got up to 11th, which is a bit unexpected given the long straight the circuit has, which puts a premium on engine power).

Kvyat was unable to run a lap in P3 because of electrical issues with his car. Interesting Williams were behind Force India.

Early betting ideas:
Perez Q3
Lay Bottas Q3
Rosberg pole

A meagre 1.21 was available for Perez to reach Q3. Bottas was layable at 1.5, but only for a very small amount.

I’m surprised Rosberg is odds against for pole. It’s very tight between him and Hamilton, but 2.22 for the chap who has the last five consecutive pole positions is a bit unusual. That said, he and Hamilton are evenly matched and the odds aren’t long enough to tempt.

So, no bet in qualifying.

I’ll probably put the pre-race piece up this evening.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Brazil: post-race analysis

Must be said this was not a classic. Not enthralling to watch, and not profitable either, with both McLarens being uncharacteristically reliable, and not even a crash to enliven proceedings. Bit disappointing, given the circuit.

Anyway, off the line Bottas shot up from 7th to 5th, but otherwise it was largely trouble-free (before the start, Sainz’s Toro Rosso stopped and he had to start from the pit lane).

Sainz’s engine then conked out on lap one.

And it pretty much stayed that way throughout.

There was some good defensive driving by Rosberg (though Hamilton seemed to give up near the end), and Hulkenberg, little seen, managed to keep Kvyat behind him after retaking the place by undercutting with an earlier pit stop. An impressive drive by the German and a good result to comprehensively beat his team mate after being overshadowed in recent races (must be said Interlagos is not Perez’s favourite track, but might be Hulkenberg’s).

Massa was a bit lonely and anonymous in 8th. Grosjean rose through the field to get 9th, and Max Verstappen, as impressive and entertaining as usual, did well to get 10th.

The usual suspects of Rosberg, Hamilton and Vettel were on the podium, followed by Raikkonen and Bottas.

The McLarens were well-matched with the Saubers, and it’s a bit depressing to think that for the former team that’s actually a better than usual performance.

Rosberg thus secures 2nd in the drivers’ title race, for what that’s worth, with Vettel 3rd.

One more race left, in Abu Dhabi. Let’s hope it’s both more exciting and more profitable.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Brazil: pre-race

Qualifying went more or less to form, with some woe for Grosjean and McLaren, and a good performance by Hulkenberg. Grid penalties and overtaking potential, and perhaps weather, may present opportunities come the race.

In Q1 we saw the traditional McLaren engine calamity, which forced Alonso to sunbathe before joining Button on the podium for larks. As well as the two McLarens, both Manor cars failed to progress, and Maldonado, disappointingly, was fastest of those to leave at this stage.

Q2 was rather more competitive. Grosjean should’ve been in with a chance of reaching Q3 but left it late to go out, then spun and ruined his tyres, to the extent he qualified a paltry 15th. Nasr did well to qualify 11th, ahead of Sainz and Perez (who was comprehensively outqualified by his team mate), with Ericsson between Perez and Grosjean.

Worth noting that as well as Bottas’ three place penalty and Ricciardo’s 10 place drop, Nasr may suffer a penalty for badly blocking Massa in Q2.

At the sharp end, Q3 was tighter than a miser’s purse strings. Rosberg was a tenth faster than Hamilton on the first run, and less than a tenth faster than him on the second, so the German maintains his superb qualifying form for yet another pole. Also worth recalling that whilst overtaking is eminently possible here, last year Rosberg drove brilliantly to keep Hamilton behind him.

Vettel, as you may well have guessed, was next up, but half a second down the road. He was followed by Bottas, Raikkonen and Hulkenberg. Kvyat, Massa, Ricciardo and Verstappen round out the top 10.

Rain seems unlikely.

Initial bets that took my fancy:
Hulkenberg top 6
Kvyat top 6
Grosjean points
No Safety Car

Hulkenberg and Kvyat were hovering around evens to be top 6, which is too short to tempt.

Grosjean was 2.37 for points, which also seems a shade tight.

No Safety Car is 2.75. It’s been a few years since there’s been one and no rain is forecast. On the other hand, it seems eminently likely one or both McLarens will explode at some point.

Given that, the 2.75 available (each) for Alonso and Button not to be classified seems very good value.

So, two tip (Ladbrokes)s:
Alonso, not to be classified, 2.75
Button, not to be classified, 2.75

Race starts at 4pm tomorrow. Interlagos is perhaps my favourite circuit, so it should be a good race.

Morris Dancer

Brazil: pre-qualifying

Been having some monitor issues, so if the pre-race or post-race pieces do not emerge, that’s why. Unless I’ve keeled over, obviously.

In foot-shooting news, Dietrich Mateschitz, owner of Red Bull and Toro Rosso and chap desperate for a competitive engine, has taken the not necessarily clever step of insulting every manufacturer. It seems entirely possible both teams could just leave next year. It’s his own damned fault for burning bridges with Renault and not having another engine lined up, but it’ll be a great shame for the many hundreds of people who work for the two teams if they lose their jobs because Mateschitz is a spoilt brat.

Saw neither of the first two practices sessions (I tend to watch online, and, consequently, forgot).

Tyres are soft and medium.

Anyway, Hamilton was fastest by half a second in P1, leading his team mate, followed by Vettel, Ricciardo and Raikkonen. Kvyat was next, then Bottas, Verstappen, Hulkenberg and Maldonado.

In the second session, Rosberg was half a second up on Hamilton, Vettel again best of the rest and followed by Raikkonen and Ricciardo. Bottas, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Kvyat and Massa rounded out the top 10.

In P3 Hamilton was a tenth up on Rosberg, with Vettel seven-tenths off the top time. The German was followed by his Finnish team mate, with Bottas, Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Perez, Maldonado and Verstappen rounding out the top 10.

Bottas has a three place grid penalty for a practice infringement. Ricciardo has a 10 place grid penalty for taking a new engine. During P3, Horner suggested either a 2 or a 3 stop strategy could work. Maybe room for Perez to benefit, as he’s a good racer but also kind to his tyres. Also worth noting that overtaking is eminently possible.

There’s a small chance of rain during qualifying. Ricciardo’s penalty and the nature of the circuit should mean he sets up the car for the race to enable overtaking, which may compromise absolute pace.

Early betting thoughts I had were:
Grosjean to reach Q3

The odds on Grosjean were just 1.33, which is nowhere near enough.

So, no tip, though I have a few ideas for the race.

The pre-race piece may be up tomorrow rather than this evening.

Morris Dancer

Monday, 2 November 2015

Mexico: post-race analysis

A good race from a betting perspective, and reasonable as a spectator. The Nasr bet was plain wrong. I overestimated attrition and the pace of the car, and he was always behind his team mate too, so that was just a smorgasbord of ill-judgement on my part. The Bottas bet had its fair share of luck, but luck does play a role in F1 betting, more, perhaps, than other sports, and I shan’t complain if it’s good.

At the start, Vettel and Ricciardo came together at the first corner. The Aussie was clearly behind, and had it been at any time other than the start I suspect a penalty would’ve been dished out. It gave Vettel a puncture at the worst place to get it.

Otherwise it was pretty much formation flying. Massa did get ahead of Bottas but then locked a brake and lost the place. Rosberg broke free of DRS range from Hamilton fairly easily, and though the two Mercedes were never more than a few seconds apart the pair of them swiftly began leaving Kvyat, Ricciardo, Bottas et al. far behind.

Raikkonen, who started some way down the grid due to a penalty, passed Bottas about a third of the way into the race, but the two drivers came together. The Williams was fine, the Ferrari suffered terminal damage. Raikkonen was philosophical and Bottas, to my slight surprise, received no penalty.

The second pit stop for Rosberg was unexpected (his team had told him previously he had to make the tyres he was on last to the end), and Hamilton had to be repeatedly called into the pits before he did so (the team citing safety issues). This meant the Briton returned to following the German, instead of retaining the gifted lead, albeit with tyres that might not last.

Around lap 52, Vettel crashed out. He’d had a few off-track excursions earlier in the race, and his exit made it the first in about nine years that Ferrari failed to have a single car classified. The crash also brought out a safety car.

Williams, having pitted before lap 10, were always on for 2 stops. Red Bull appeared as if they could make do with 1, meaning Bottas had little hope of a podium (unless the Red Bull tyres fell off a cliff, which was a possibility). However, when the safety car emerged the only car of those four to stay out was Bottas, initially, but he came in the following lap and effectively retained 4th behind Kvyat.

When the safety car came in, Bottas was right on the tail of Kvyat and, without DRS, managed to pass him on the straight. Bottas was on the medium tyre, Kvyat the soft. The Russian kept within half a second of the Finn for several laps, but Bottas was unflappable, and then Kvyat’s tyres faded and he dropped back.

This was in contrast to Massa, who was 5th ahead of Ricciardo but got passed by the Aussie.

Perez, who stayed out and did not make a second stop during the safety car period, was being closely followed by Verstappen, but in the closing laps managed to pull away. Impressive tyre management once again from the Mexican. That said, his team mate finished ahead of him.

Grosjean got the final point, less than a second ahead of Maldonado.

From a betting perspective it’s the best on a bet-and-forget basis of the year, although the hedged result for the UK (where 3/3 bets came off) was a little better. I think 8.4 is the longest odds bet that’s come off this year, which is nice.

There were several pieces of good fortune, though. Vettel getting an early puncture, both Ferraris failing to finish, no penalty for the Raikkonen collision and the late safety car meaning Red Bull (perhaps unnecessarily) pitted were all helpful for Bottas. However, the Finn nailed the pass when it was on, kept Kvyat behind skilfully despite inferior pace tyres, and then stretched his legs to a comfortable 3rd, in the end.

As for Nasr, I overestimated, the car, the driver, and the rate of attrition. Fortunately, you only lose one stake even when you’re wronger than the Thirteenth Earl of Wrongcaster.

It’s also worth noting that the DRS seemed less effective than might be expected on such a long straight, which is presumably due to the high altitude and thinner air.

It was a good day for Williams and Red Bull (as well as Mercedes, obviously), but terrible for Ferrari. Force India also had a strong points finish, with Toro Rosso and Lotus getting the last few points. Sauber and McLaren never looked like troubling the scorers.

Here’s the Constructors’:
Mercedes 617
Ferrari 374
Williams 243
Red Bull 172
Force India 112
Lotus 71
Toro Rosso 65
Sauber 36
McLaren 27
Manor 0

I think that’s mostly done and dusted, with the exception of Lotus and Toro Rosso, who have just 6 points between them.

The penultimate race, Brazil, is in a fortnight.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Mexico: pre-race

Button was not able to get out for qualifying due to a signal problem, so will start last. Ferrari did good work to resolve an exhaust problem for Raikkonen.

In Q1, as well as losing Button, we saw the departure of Alonso, Nasr, Rossi and Stevens.

The last few minutes of Q2 saw raindrops coming down. Sainz was the fastest man to leave at this stage (it was tight at the lower end of the top 10), with Grosjean and Maldonado both failing to reach the next session. Ericsson was next, and Raikkonen slowest, due to his issues (detailed below).

Raikkonen may well get a 5 place grid penalty should he change his gearbox. He suffered a brake issue during Q2 [although there are reports he just didn’t bother due to his grid penalty], as well as the problem he had in practice. He pitted in Q2 after going out on medium tyres, rather than the faster softs. Bloody odd to just not set the fastest time possible, if that is what happened [possible the car just wasn’t as good as it should be, due to issues mentioned already]. After his penalty, he starts 18th.

Q3 saw Rosberg get another pole, with Hamilton 2nd (the German was faster throughout qualifying). Vettel and Kvyat form the next row, then Ricciardo and Bottas. Massa and Verstappen form row four, Perez and Hulkenberg finish off the top 10.

Initial betting thoughts:
Nasr points
Hulkenberg Not To Be Classified
Grosjean Not To Be Classified
Kvyat top 6
Kvyat podium
Bottas podium
Lay Rosberg podium
Safety Car
Lotus double score (Mercedes engine will help on the straights)
Hamilton to lead lap 1
Lay Rosberg lead lap 1

After leaving it overnight so the markets could awaken, the points odds on Nasr were 4.33 with Ladbrokes and 4.7 with Betfair, which is interesting. I expect the race to have a fair rate of attrition, and Nasr's a decent, steady driver.

Grosjean was a mere 2.37 Not To Be Classified, which is too short. Hulkenberg is 3.25. Given his recent difficulties and starting mid-grid (nice place for a crash) that may be worth considering.

Kvyat is 1.4 to be top 6. That’s too short.

The Russian is 3.75 for a podium. May be worth considering, it’s hard to say how things will play out in the race due to the newness of the track. Bottas is a whopping 8 for a podium. In Q3 he was half a tenth off 5th-placed Ricciardo, whose odds are 3.5. I think that may be value.

Rosberg has a lay value of 1.3 for the podium. Not convinced by that.

A safety car is just 1.33. Whilst I think one likely, the odds do not appeal.

Lotus are 5 for a double points finish. They’re close to the points, although reliability on both the mechanical and driver front is a cause for concern.

Hamilton is 3.25 to lead lap 1, and Rosberg has a lay value of 1.7. I think the lay may be worth considering, as he could be passed off the line or during the long straight. On the other hand, the odds are a bit tight.

So, two exciting bets (both Betfair):
Nasr, points, 4.7 (hedged at 2.34)
Bottas, podium, 8.4 (hedged at 3)

Race start is 7pm, UK time.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Mexico: pre-qualifying

In not very shocking news, Mexican eyebrow-enthusiast Esteban Gutierrez (former Sauber driver) is to join Haas, alongside Grosjean. Whilst he seemed amiable at Sauber, Gutierrez never really set the world alight and Grosjean will be a de facto, if not de jure, number one in that team.

Graeme Lowdon and John Booth are reportedly going to leave Manor at the end of the season. I’ve seen Lowdon interviewed a couple of times, and he always came across as someone with his head screwed on right, working hard to try and secure the team’s ongoing existence and propel it up the grid. It also seems technical chief Bob Bell is to leave the team.

If Manor do leave the sport it would be a great shame after it was rescued at the 11th hour last year, and as it has Mercedes engines and Williams components due for 2016, which would really help the team improve its pace.

There are also talks going on between Aston Martin and Force India, though nothing has been announced as yet.

The tyres this weekend are soft and medium.

The track is slipperier than a Blair apology, and from the little footage I’ve seen (as of yet) the circuit seems to have relatively little run-off. There may be potential for overtaking. The qualifying could be wet, though the race is likely to be dry (both start at 7pm UK time).

A safety car seems eminently possible, and I’ll be checking the Not To Be Classified market too (as well as the obvious example of Maldonado, the other Lotus of Grosjean, McLarens and Hulkenberg may be worth a look).

Speaking of McLaren, changing their engines a lot means they get grid penalties and will (unsure if it’s certain or merely likely) start from the back.

The circuit’s altitude means, as Mr. Sandpit helpfully related yesterday, the teams run Monaco levels of downforce but his Monza-like top speeds, which may present some interesting challenges and opportunities.

In P1 Verstappen was fastest, with Kvyat and Raikkonen following (the two drivers having identical times). Vettel was next, then Ricciardo and Rosberg, with Bottas, Sainz, Perez and Massa rounding out the top 10.

The first practice session was also notable for Rosberg’s rear brakes bursting into flames. Mercedes decided, quite understandably, to cut a few more holes in the car to enhance ventilation.

In P2, Rosberg led Ricciardo and Kvyat, followed by Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonen. Bottas, Alonso, Button and Massa came next.

Rosberg was fastest in P3, a hundredth ahead of Hamilton. Ricciardo and Vettel were close to the Briton, followed by Kvyat, Perez, Bottas, Sainz, Massa and Hulkenberg.

Grosjean ground to a halt in P2, and suffered some reliability issues in P3 as well. May be value, in the race, to back Not To Be Classified. I’ll cover that in the pre-race piece.

Potential bets:
Rosberg pole
Sainz Q3
Perez Q3

Rosberg was only 2.34 with Betfair. Whilst he’s had 2/3 poles recently (the other being Vettel), that’s not tempting given the track’s slipperiness and narrow confines.

Sainz and Perez are both under 1.8 for Q3. Again, not tempted.

So, no bet.

The pre-race piece will be up tomorrow, probably in the morning. That’ll give me a chance to sleep on it, check the highlights online and let the markets warm up.

Morris Dancer

Monday, 26 October 2015

US: post-race analysis

US: post-race analysis

In betting terms, the race was more or less flat. One bet came off, the other didn’t. Both had the pace but either a small mistake or some misfortune with the track cost Hulkenberg. So, a slight shame there, but these things happen.

The race was difficult to follow at the time, let alone recall the following day’s afternoon, as there were four safety car periods (two virtual, two actual). Therefore, I have cheated somewhat and used a short highlights video to remind me what went on.

At the first corner, Hamilton barged his way past Rosberg. Not the most gentlemanly of moves, and the German seemed quite unimpressed with it after the race. It also allowed both Red Bulls to pass Rosberg at the same time and Perez shortly thereafter.

Vettel had a storming first lap, climbing all the way to 7th from 15th in short order.

In the early stages of the race the Red Bulls appeared faster, on a damp but drying track and intermediate tyres, than the Mercedes. Ricciardo passed Hamilton around lap 15/56.

Hamilton was especially struggling on his tyres, and at one point was down to 4th whilst his team mate had recovered to 1st.

After a safety car period, which erased Rosberg’s 10s lead over his team mate, Vettel passed Ricciardo for 3rd.

Ricciardo continued to slide down the order (at this stage the track was almost entirely dry and slicks were on), getting passed by the impressive Verstappen. Hulkenberg then tried the same, but failed (unsure if it was driver failure or a slippery track to blame), putting the German out and necessitating a pit stop for Ricciardo.

Hulkenberg peeled off the track and another virtual safety car emerged (there was one and an actual safety car earlier). Rosberg pitted as did Vettel, Perez and Verstappen. Hamilton did not (he was 2nd to Rosberg at the time, so the German got the preferential treatment).

On-track, Vettel was passed by Rosberg, so the Mercedes was 2nd and Vettel 3rd. Hamilton wasn’t too far ahead but would have to pit again because his tyres would not last the distance.

Kvyat then crashed, and another real safety car came out, during which Hamilton pitted. Rosberg then made a mistake and slipped off-track, enabling Hamilton to reclaim the lead without really doing anything.

Many different drivers led the race at various points, but in the end it was the same chap who won it. Rosberg claimed his traditional runner-up spot, with Vettel not able to challenge the Mercedes, in the end.

Verstappen had a great result in 4th, and Perez, who earlier seemed a bit on the back foot, secured a strong 5th for Force India.

Button’s 6th will go down very well with McLaren, although the late power loss for Alonso robbed him of what should’ve been a similar position, and the team of a strong double points finish. The Spaniard ended up 11th, a second a half off the final point.

Sainz was 7th, with the unusually anonymous Maldonado 8th. Nasr got a couple of points in 9th, and Ricciardo managed to nab the final point.

Hamilton wins his third title. A bit of a 2011-style victory. Undoubtedly the combination of driver and car was the class of the field, but the Mercedes advantage meant it was never really in doubt. Not a classic season. I hope Ferrari (and/or others) can improve sharply for 2016.

McLaren’s decent result for Button means they’re just nine points off Sauber for 8th. As a matter of pride (and Constructors’ cash) that would be a good gain for them, and it’s not impossible to close the gap.

Force India are 32 points up on Lotus, and I can’t see that being closed. Critical for Force India, as they get both lots of lovely money and one of just five decision-making seats available to teams (which is a ridiculous system, or F1 governance, as it’s known).

Toro Rosso close to within 7 points of Lotus, thanks to Verstappen’s great 4th and Sainz’s impressive recovery from the back of the field after slapping the wall with his car in the morning. Toro Rosso’s driver line-up is very good indeed. I think they may well leapfrog Lotus.

So, although the Driver’s title is done and dusted, there are a couple of interesting Constructors’ battles that are ongoing.

The next race is Mexico, this coming weekend. The race starts at the same time (7pm, UK time). It’s possible that the impact of Hurricane Patricia may cause the race to be cancelled although, thankfully, the damage caused appears to have been less than expected.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 25 October 2015

US: pre-race

Only 2/3 practice sessions were run, because it became dangerously wet towards the end of Q2. Even so, it was full wets only both Q1 and Q2, which were not without incident.

In Q1, Sainz introduced his wheel to the curb, and his car to the wall. Wet and tricky, but the second qualifying in a row this occurred, though thankfully the crash was far more minor this time. As is traditional, both Manors also failed to progress. The Saubers both exited the stage here as well, after struggling consistently in the wet conditions.

Q2 was pretty tight. The Red Bulls had a lovely day, almost challenging Mercedes for the top spots, and there was a nice spat between the Force Indias, Williams, Lotus and McLaren to see who else could make it through. Ferrari were so-so, but both drivers (due to an engine change) will incur a 10 place grid penalty and, in soggy weather, that could prove more significant than would usually be the case.

Because of worsening weather, Q3 was cancelled and the Q2 times were used to set the grid (excepting those who left in Q1, of course). That gave Rosberg the pole, ahead of Hamilton.

Kvyat leads Ricciardo on row two, then we have Perez and Hulkenberg, Massa and Verstappen, then Alonso and Bottas. Grosjean and Button are 11th and 12th, with Maldonado and Ericsson next, then Vettel and Nasr, Rossi and Raikkonen, with Stevens and Sainz (if the latter’s car can be mended in time) bringing up the rear.

I happened to glance at a forecast, and it seems the race may be at least partially dry. Which makes it even harder to call.

Potential bets:
If it’s wet -
Alonso to score
Hulkenberg top 6
Perez top 6
Lay Raikkonen points
Safety Car
McLaren double score (maybe)

If it’s largely dry or wet-and-dry -
Perez podium
Massa top 6
Button points

On reflection, I like the Force Indias the most because they should be alright in both the wet and the dry, unlike, say, the Williams.

Very tricky. Been very wet all weekend but it should be dry for the race, which should see something of a return to normal. If so, that’ll help Ferrari climb through the field, as well as Williams. It may harm McLaren (not sure how Alonso’s new engine stacks up), and Red Bull/Toro Rosso, who benefit in wet weather from their good downforce.

So, a difficult guess. Alonso for points would perhaps be the tempting outsider bet if rain were certain, and Perez (maybe split with Hulkenberg) for a podium is an interesting outsider if it’s dry.

The forecast is for it to be dry. The bets I’m seriously considering are:
Alonso, points 3.25 (Betfair)
Perez/Hulkenberg, podium 7 (Ladbrokes)
Perez/Hulkenberg top 6, 2.12/2.04 (Betfair)
Grosjean, points 2.25 (Ladbrokes)

Poor reliability puts me off Grosjean. Probably dry weather puts me off Alonso. Which leaves Force India. I think a podium is credible. If it’s dry, they should pass the Red Bulls on the straights, but the Ferraris should struggle to completely close the gap against Mercedes-powered cars. That said, the Ferraris are very quick indeed.

Tip: I’ve decided to back both Perez and Hulkenberg to be top 6 with Betfair (2 bets, not 1 stake split between them), at 2.12 and 2.04 respectively.

The post-race analysis will probably be up tomorrow.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 24 October 2015

US: pre-qualifying

The race has been overshadowed, almost literally, by Hurricane Patricia. The hurricane, with the most powerful winds ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere, has struck Mexico, but its long range effects include massive rainfall in Texas. It’s entirely possible qualifying will be delayed and there’s a chance the race itself may be cancelled (and that Mexico’s return to the calendar may have to be put back to 2016).

In happier news, Jolyon Palmer will drive alongside Pastor Maldonado at Lotus next year (or Renault, as it may well be known). Assuming the team makes the grid.

P1 was soggy indeed, but for the sake of completeness: Rosberg was quickest, ahead of Kvyat, Ricciardo and Sainz. Next up was Hamilton, Vettel and Verstappen, with Raikkonen, Alonso and Bottas rounding out the top 10.

The second practice session was rained off.

If we do have a race and it’s rainy, that will relatively assist the Red Bulls and Toro Rossos, whilst harming Williams significantly. I’d be looking at bets involving Verstappen, Alonso [Button is very good in the wet but Alonso has an apparently improved engine], and Hulkenberg. I rate Vettel, Hamilton and Bottas very highly in the wet, but the first two are at the sharp end anyway, and Bottas would likely be compromised by his car’s weakness in the rain.

Third practice was delayed due to deluge. Because of the uncertainty around when that’ll happen, or even if, and whether qualifying will happen or be delayed, I’ve decided to just post this early.

The extreme weather situation also means no tip for qualifying. Assuming the race goes ahead (it could be the first for years to be rained off), I will endeavour to offer a tip for it, as usual.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Russia: post-race analysis

A quite entertaining race, and a green bet. Better without hedging, of course. As it happens, the hedged and non-hedged season to-date profit levels are now exactly matched. Hard to assess whether it was a wise or lucky bet due to the high number of racing incidents.

The race was interesting from the start, with Raikkonen getting past Bottas and Rosberg just managing to fend off Hamilton. Hulkenberg spun early on, giving Verstappen a puncture and ending Ericsson’s race. After the safety car, Rosberg did well to keep Hamilton behind him, but the German developed a terminal throttle problem and was forced to retire.

That ended excitement at the sharp end, but fortunately there was entertainment to be had further down the field. Grosjean was following Button (the Lotus having pitted) when he got out onto the marbles, lost control, and introduced his car to the barriers. A second safety car emerged, during which many cars visited the pits.

Perez was an early pitter, as was Ricciardo. The top few cars (Hamilton, Bottas and the Ferraris) stayed out, as did Nasr. At this stage I grew concerned about the Nasr bet, given the competitive times put in by the likes of Perez et al.

When Vettel, Bottas and Raikkonen pitted, the Williams driver was stuck in traffic which enabled Vettel to get the jump on him. However, Raikkonen ended up right behind Bottas, who was himself closely following Ricciardo (then in 4th place). Perez was in an impressive 3rd, but struggling to keep his tyres alive.

Bottas got past Ricciardo and set about chasing Perez. Raikkonen also soon passed the Aussie and closed back up on his compatriot. Perez’s tyres ran out and Bottas overtook him, but moments later so did Raikkonen. On the final lap the Ferrari made a reckless move, hit the Williams (putting Bottas out of the race), damaging his own car, letting Perez back through to take the final podium spot. Raikkonen eventually finished 5th, behind Massa. Daft move on Raikkonen’s part. Bottas’ icy calm “What the **** was that?” summed it up accurately.

Late on, Sainz lost out on certain points after his brakes failed, and Ricciardo had some sort of issue (possibly suspension) and had to pull up with only a few laps left to go.

The late retirements allowed both McLarens to finish in the points, Button ahead, which is a nice 1 point present for Alonso’s 250th race.

Kvyat ended up 6th, a good result given the Red Bull’s characteristics, with Nasr a strong 7th for Sauber. Unlikely to alter Sauber’s title position, but it helps them consolidate 8th.

Maldonado was 8th, and had an uneventful race, which is a little unusual. For all the (often deserved) mockery, he drove well, scored some points, and his team mate was the chap to crash. Verstappen was only 11th, but after suffering a lap 1 puncture and doing almost the whole first lap at a snail’s pace, trundling to the pits, that’s quite impressive.

Hamilton got 1st, of course, and Vettel was a slightly lonely 2nd, with Perez a day behind and Hamilton a day ahead.

So, an oddly high number of retirements due to some reliability problems and many crashes.

On the betting front, it was green. It’s quite difficult to assess if it was lucky or not, because the safety car closed things up twice (harming Nasr’s prospects) but many cars ahead of him failed to finish (helping his prospects). Without hedging, it’s the greenest result in the second half. Which is nice.

The next race is the US, in a fortnight.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Russia: pre-race

Sainz remained, as expected, in hospital undergoing checks during qualifying. He appears to be fine, and is intent on performing in the race, though I’m not sure if the team or medical staff will agree.

As expected, both Marussias left in Q1, as did Ericsson and Alonso. Only the Mercedes managed to make it through without using the substantially faster supersoft tyres.

Q2 was rather more competitive, with every departing driver from a different team. From 11th to 15th, we lost Kvyat, Nasr, Button, Maldonado and Massa. Massa reportedly had bad traffic, and by the time he cleared it his tyres had gone. There was a second from Maldonado to his team mate, and nearly two betwixt Massa and Bottas, so that seems credible, given how closely matched the Williams drivers have been this year.

In Q1 we had a slight surprise, with Rosberg getting his second consecutive pole. He was faster than Hamilton in all sectors, and topping the time sheets in every session. No fluke this. However, he started pole last year, buggered up the braking for turn 1 and lost the race then with a very early pit stop.

Behind the Silver Arrows we had Bottas, leading Vettel and Raikkonen. Hulkenberg and Perez came next, a strong starting position for the Force Indias. Grosjean starts 8th, with Verstappen outqualifying both Red Bulls and Ricciardo only 10th.

The race is expected to be dry. The long and tricky pit lane entry suggest one stop, if possible on the tyres, will be the preference of teams.

Initial thoughts that sprang to mind were:
Rosberg win
Vettel podium
Force India double score
Safety Car

Rosberg was only 2.3 or so for the win, which is too short given Hamilton’s advantage wheel-to-wheel.

Vettel’s 1.8 for a podium. Bit tight.

And 1.72 for Force India to double score is also mean, given reliability and crashing potential.

Safety Car was 1.68 with Betfair. Which is somewhat tempting (the 1.5 on Ladbrokes is not).

So, nothing leapt out at me. In line with standard operating procedure, I browsed the markets hoping someone had horribly mispriced something.

The following seemed of interest:
Nasr for points at 4 (4.3 with Betfair).

So, tip:
Back Nasr at 4.3, hedged at 2 [NB if liquidity runs out, I’d back at 4 on Ladbrokes]

Really hard to call the race due to lack of running. Could be entertaining if all the set-ups are wrong.

Morris Dancer

Russia: pre-qualifying

The tyres this weekend are soft and supersoft. Lauda reckoned Mercedes were worried about a Singapore-style blip because of the smooth track surface (Mexico is reportedly similar), but we’ll see how that goes.

Alonso has a new and apparently improved Honda engine. Button does not, because there’s only one.

The first two practice sessions are worthless, as the first suffered a delay due to a massive diesel spillage and the latter was very wet. However, I’ve included the top 10s for the sake of completeness [top 8 for P2 as only 8 completed timed laps].

P1: had a German top group of Hulkenberg, Rosberg and Vettel, followed by Perez, Ricciardo and Sainz, with Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen and Raikkonen rounding out the top 10.

P2: Massa, Vettel, Bottas, Verstappen, Alonso, Kvyat, Sainz and Button.

The third practice session was curtailed when Sainz had a significant crash which brought out the red flag. Again, for the sake of completeness only, here’s the top 10:
Rosberg, Bottas, Hamilton, Perez, Massa, Hulkenberg, Button, Maldonado, Alonso and Nasr.

As he was taken to the ambulance on a stretcher, Sainz gave a thumbs up. Good to see after a lengthy extraction from the car (which was practically buried by the soft barrier).

The crash means the teams got about half an hour of dry-running in practice. Qualifying and race set-ups could be guesswork. For that matter, so will any betting.

The circuit does have significant straights, putting a premium on power and being advantageous for the Mercedes-powered cars. Qualifying should be dry.

Not much at all to go on for betting. Maybe the Force Indias to reach Q3. Instead of a list of potential bets, I just browsed Ladbrokes/Betfair to see what was there.

Nothing grabbed my eye, and giving the lack of running I’m not going to make a speculative bet. So, no tip for qualifying.

Let’s all hope Sainz is absolutely fine. I don’t think he’ll be in qualifying whatever his condition, so if he isn’t that may not be indicative he’s suffered a (serious) injury.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Japan: post-race analysis

Not a classic, either as spectacle or bet. The bet narrowly failed, making it two red results this weekend. It’s particularly disappointing as both were very close, but losing’s losing whether it’s by an inch or a mile.

GeoffM’s bets (posted on previous article) were sound, excepting the Massa bet. Good spot on Sainz for points, which I would not have backed [being honest].

Off the start, Rosberg cocked up and slipped back to 4th. The rest of the top five flew in formation, but the Lotuses and Hulkenberg had decent starts. There was woe further back, with a tiny collision [so small it was barely perceptible] between Ricciardo and Massa giving both punctures on the starting straight, and put them both a minute and a half back by the time they trundled into the pits.

Perez also got a puncture on lap one, but later in the lap, and he lost 40-50s or so.

Gaps opened up, except between Bottas and Rosberg. The German closed on the Finn but was unable to pass and eventually dropped back a little due to some overheating. At the time, things were looking good, with Bottas 3rd, Rosberg 4th and Raikkonen 4s off his compatriot in 5th. I should’ve had a hedge on the bet, and suspect it would’ve paid off here.

Hamilton sailed around the track. It was rather dull at the sharp end. Nobody challenged him in any way. Rosberg got past first Bottas and then Vettel, because the Mercedes advantage, having vanished last week, has returned to ridiculously enormous (and, unlike last season, there’s no duel between team mates).

In the middle stint Bottas was on the medium tyre and Raikkonen on the hard, yet the latter seemed faster. This may have been due to higher temperatures favouring the otherwise slower hard compound. Lap after lap, Raikkonen was within a second, but Bottas drove calmly to stay ahead. Until Raikkonen pitted. He emerged right behind the two Lotuses (Loti?). Williams immediately reacted, pitting Bottas, who came out behind both Loti, and Raikkonen.

The top five were Hamilton, Rosberg, Vettel, Raikkonen and Bottas. Hulkenberg had a very good finish in 6th (having started 13th) and the Lotuses, Grosjean leading Maldonado, secured a double points finish, which was good to see. Toro Rosso also had a lovely day, with Verstappen and Sainz rounding out the top 10.

Alonso just missed out in 11th (and complained on the radio of having a GP2 engine), and Perez recovered pretty well from his early puncture to end up 12th.

So, not a classic. Bet may have been green if I’d hedged, which is something to remember.

The result means Williams consolidate their 3rd position in the Constructors’, having recently lost ground to Red Bull. Lotus closed the gap to Force India (who hold 5th), but Hulkenberg’s strong finish mitigates that damage. Toro Rosso look highly likely to get 7th now.

The 17 point gap from Force India back to Lotus is the only gap I think might be closed. Sauber have a 9 point lead over McLaren, and seem likely to remain ahead. McLaren’s tribulations present an opportunity for much needed Constructors’ cash for the Sauber team.

Hamilton has a 48 point lead over Rosberg. The fat lady is not yet singing, but she’s waiting in the wings.

The next race is Russia, in a fortnight. Last year, I think I remember it being compared to Australia, so that may be a useful reference point.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Japan: pre-race

Bit frustrating in qualifying. Sainz was 8th at the end of the first run in Q2, but ended up 12th, after suffering a bad set of tyres (not just an excuse, the vibration was so extreme it was visible externally). Would he have made Q3, given he didn’t improve and all those around him did? Hard to say. He would have had a shot, and the tyres prevented that. The upside is that my ‘brave’ bet, whilst wrong, did appear to have some basis in reality.

Q1 ended early with a yellow flag for Verstappen when his car ran out of electricity. Both Manors left at this stage, as did both Saubers and Button. Verstappen did make it to Q2 but was not able to run and therefore qualified 15th (pending potential penalties).

In Q2, Sainz was initially sitting pretty in 8th, with the Force Indias and Lotuses off the pace (Alonso also being slow, as one would expect). However, all save Sainz improved at the end, which meant he was only 12th, immediately behind Hulkenberg, who takes a 3 place grid penalty for the Massa collision in Singapore (the German, upon seeing a replay, has conceded it was his fault). Maldonado is right behind Sainz.

Q3 saw the return to normality, with the Mercedes a mile and a half ahead of the other cars. Rosberg got pole by less than a tenth (oddly, Hamilton’s never gotten pole in Japan). A little surprisingly, Bottas was best of the rest, ahead of Vettel. Massa and Raikkonen share the third row, with Ricciardo and Grosjean next. Kvyat made a mistake and had a massive crash which rolled his car over and destroyed half of it, but he was ok. However, that did mean he was last. Perez didn’t set a lap time (due to the ensuing red flag), but qualified 9th.

The race may be wet or dry, and tyres are medium and hard, same as Spain (where Rosberg got pole and victory). Two stops is expected to be the norm, though Ricciardo’s hoping he might be able to get away with one (it’s thermal issues rather than wear which is the problem).

There’s a pit lane start for Kvyat, as he needs a new gearbox, engine and chassis.

Race start is 2-4pm local time. BBC was muttering about rain but the forecast I’ve seen suggests it’ll be dry.

Initial betting thoughts:
Safety Car
Maldonado not to be classified
Verstappen points [decided against after he got 3 grid penalty for parking his car on-track]
Perez points (good on tyre wear and solid top speed)
Force India double score
Bottas podium
Ricciardo top 6

I think there’s a decent chance of a safety car, but 1.4 is far too short. Race should be dry, although the lack of run-off increases the chances of a safety car.

Maldonado is evens not to be classified. That might be value, given his record, but he was classified last time.

Although I’ve ruled it out following his penalty, Verstappen was barely evens for points. Given he’ll start 18th or so, that’s not tempting (especially as the Renault-powered cars will find it easy to get stuck behind the others, which are better on the straights).

Perez was just 1.66 for points. He has a decent chance, but that doesn’t appeal to me.

A double points finish for Force India is 3.5. I believe Hulkenberg starts 13th (3 place grid penalty, but Kvyat ahead of him has a pit lane start). Perez starts 9th. That may be worth considering.

Bottas is 2.37 for a podium. Sometimes Mercedes have dodgy starts, which would help the Williams. The car is probably best of the rest, but there is only one podium spot up for grabs and Vettel will be after it.

Ricciardo is 1.6 for a top 6 finish. Too short to appeal.

So, of those Force India to double score at 3.5 and Bottas for a podium at 2.37 seem most interesting, though neither grabs me hugely (worth noting the 4.5 I decided against tipping on Rosberg to win each way [top 2] is now just 2.2. So, mistake on my part not to back that).

I therefore quickly perused Betfair and Ladbrokes to see if anything leapt out at me.

Bottas to be winner without the big three was evens on Betfair. That’s quite tempting. And it’s out to 2.78. That’s the one, I think.

Bottas to be winner without the Big 3 at 2.78 (Betfair)

I think the race starts at 6am, rather than the expected 5am. Should be fairly dull at the sharp end, but could be a good fight behind the Mercedes.

Morris Dancer

Friday, 25 September 2015

Japan: pre-qualifying

Quite a lot of important off-track stuff to consider before we come to the race weekend. Most obviously, a few days after Volkswagen buying Red Bull became a story it emerged the car maker has been cheating on emissions tests. This has led to multi-billion dollar fines being mooted in the media, and the CEO’s resignation.

Naturally, this throws into significant doubt the potential deal with Red Bull. It may yet happen, or be delayed, but we shall have to wait and see.

On a related note, Ferrari has indicated it will offer Red Bull engines. This would probably be for a couple of years whilst VW [perhaps] develops their own engine. However, Red Bull, maintaining its deserved reputation for entitled whining, now wants a works deal (parity with Ferrari, rather than with Ferrari’s other customer teams). If not, they’re threatening to quit the sport.

Given that Ferrari has offered at very short notice to provide engines (a not inconsiderable undertaking due to the staffing/infrastructure requirements, not to mention Red Bull’s treatment of Renault), this is yet more pathetic dummy-spitting. For four years Red Bull had total dominance, winning every title. They barely mentioned Renault. After one ‘moderate’ year (they had 3 wins) and one ‘poor’ year (they’ve had a number of podium finishes) they’re in open warfare with their engine supplier.

It’s pathetic.

Lotus’ financial woes continue, as they were locked out of their own hospitality in Japan. It seems the Renault deal is more or less done for the team, though, and hopefully that’ll resolve everything.

Perez is to remain at Force India. There had been murmurings he might go to Lotus, to take a seat which may be vacated if Grosjean goes to Haas, as is rumoured. Button has said it’s McLaren or nothing for him, and it’s expected his future will be confirmed in the near future.

Both qualifying and the race may be wet, so check the forecast. In the wet, I’d expect that to relatively help Red Bull and hinder Ferrari, and do significant harm to Williams. Verstappen was looking pretty good in an early wet session (perhaps practice) this season, and Button’s excellent in wet-dry conditions.

P1 was very wet, to the extent only 12 drivers set flying laps. For the sake of completeness, the top 10 were: Sainz, Kvyat, Rosberg, Vettel, Hamilton, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Massa, Ericsson and Bottas.

P2 was also pretty soggy, but some times were set on intermediates. Kvyat was fastest, ahead of Rosberg and Hamilton, followed by Ricciardo and Vettel. Raikkonen, Sainz, Verstappen, Nasr and Maldonado rounded out the top 10.

Hamilton seemed a bit off Rosberg’s pace in both sessions, but they were both wet which means that it’s difficult to draw a firm conclusion. Kvyat looked good in both.

Given there are just 2 practice sessions to go on (I’m not getting up at 4am to see how P3 went) and both were wet, it’s unlikely I’ll offer a tip, but I’ll peruse the markets anyway in case something leaps out.

It seems qualifying may well be dry, which further complicates matters. As well as paying a modicum of attention to the saturated practice, I thought it useful to cast an eye over the Silverstone grid, as there are some similarities between Japan and the UK (in terms of F1 circuits, as well as constitutional monarchy).

To my surprise, I found something that tempted me.

Tip: Sainz, reach Q3, 3.5

He was competitive in the wet and has (in dry qualifying) a recent history of about 50/50 reaching the top 10. The Toro Rossos are roughly on a par with Force India at recent qualifying, but the Force Indias are 1.5 (Verstappen is 3.25, but I went for Sainz as he was faster in practice and at Silverstone).

I was also tempted by the 4.5 (each way) for Rosberg to win, but thought that a stretch too far.

Oddly, it appears qualifying starts at 7am. Hmm. Not quite sure what to make of that. Thought it was 6am, but the BBC coverage is 6-8.30am, and Twitter seems to agree it starts at 7am. Bit odd.

Morris Dancer