Sunday, 24 May 2015

Monaco: post-race analysis

In some ways, a slightly dull race that burst to life at the end, but also a deeply frustrating one from a betting perspective. The Kvyat bet was plain wrong, he drove well throughout. The Force India double points bet really should’ve come off, but for Alonso pushing Hulkenberg into the barriers on the first lap. And even then he finished 11th. I try to be objective about when I’m just wrong and when I’m unlucky, but it does feel like every 50/50 is going wrong so far this year (the late safety car at one race, the Maldonado retirement last time when Lotus had the pace to double score, Hulkenberg today). Still, I think luck evens itself out over time, so hopefully I’ll end up with some flukey wins later this season, but it’s pretty frustrating right now.

Off the line Kvyat passed Ricciardo, otherwise station was more or less held. Annoyingly, Alonso barged Hulkenberg out of his way (both started on the soft [prime] tyre), costing the German about a minute and a new nose. Because he started soft, he had to change to super-soft and shift to a two stop strategy, costing another 20-30s or so.

It was dry, and it was Monaco. The cars circulated. Maldonado retired (his car broke. Again. For all the jokes, he’s actually been driving really well this year, and has been let down by dire reliability). Alonso, having ruined my bet, was struck down by the implacable power of karma and also retired due to poor reliability.

With perhaps 15 laps or so left, Verstappen was behind Grosjean, who was struggling. The young Dutchman was eyeing up the French chap’s rear, poised to pounce, but buggered it up and rammed Grosjean from behind, taking them both out of the race. A safety car emerged.

And then Mercedes decided to be very stupid. Hamilton, who had around 21s advantage over Rosberg, was pitted. And came out not only behind his team mate, but Vettel as well.

Hamilton was on the faster supersoft tyre and was clearly faster than Vettel, but the German didn’t win four world titles by accident and in Monaco track position is king. There was no way past for Hamilton, who was (briefly) under threat from a very fast Ricciardo (who, having been obligingly let past by his team mate, slowed before the line to let the talented young Russian back ahead of him).

Behind Ricciardo was Raikkonen, who complained on the radio of being pushed aside by the Aussie [unlike the Alonso-Hulkenberg collision, which led to the Spaniard suffering a not very onerous 5s stop-and-go penalty during a pit stop, the Finn did not have any damage or hit the barriers]. Perez was rock solid in 7th, from start to finish, and had pretty good pace, it seems.

Button gets McLaren’s first points of the year. But for Alonso’s retirement after making the gods angry, they would’ve gotten even more. Hard to judge pace properly, given Monaco’s premium on track position, but we’ll see how they do in Canada.

Nasir was 9th, getting yet more valuable points for Sauber. Not really sure how that happened. He’s a pretty good driver, and the car seems a little hit-and-miss, but good on its day. Sainz got the final point. Hulkenberg was 11th.

However, there’s only one story from the race, which is Mercedes’ monumental and entirely unforced buggering up of strategy by needlessly pitting Hamilton. Had he emerged ahead of Vettel, the ultimate pace of the car would’ve allowed the top two to open up a gap to the Ferrari and then swap places. Vettel being 2nd meant that was not a viable strategy. Hamilton drops 10 points, net, to Rosberg, and 3 to Vettel, both of whom are genuine title contenders.

Here’s how the title race stands after a memorable race in Monaco:
Hamilton 126
Rosberg 116
Vettel 98

Hamilton’s still favourite, but I’m surprised Rosberg’s as long as 6.2. The German started this year pretty poorly, but he had a strong race in Bahrain, cruised to victory in Spain and won again in Monaco (yes, it was a fluke, but the points still count, as does the potential damage done between Hamilton and the team for their stupid decision which cost him the win).

The top four Constructors seem locked in place (Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams, Red Bull) but 5-8 are pretty tight:
Sauber 21
Force India 17
Lotus 16
Toro Rosso 15

Lotus have been suffering dire reliability, and Force India have a B-spec car coming later this year (after Austria) which should help their pace. I doubt Sauber can retain their current 5th spot, but if they do it’ll be a fantastic achievement for a team that was, frankly, terrible last year.

I have been a bit down on Monaco [with just cause] but there’s no denying the twist this year made the end of the race dramatic and enthralling. Betting-wise, I remain a bit miffed.

Anyway, the golden rule of betting is to only bet what you can afford to lose. Doesn’t mean I’m happy about a combination of ill-judgement and misfortune, but I am looking forward to the next race. And, best of all, it’s a proper circuit. Where you can exciting things, like passing other cars. In a fortnight, F1’s in Canada.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Monaco: pre-race

A plain misjudgement on my part with Vettel. The colder temperatures may not have helped, and if it had been rainier that could’ve swung it, but, then, if I’d offered a winning tip that would’ve been nice too.

Q1 saw the traditional departure of Manor Marussia. Both Saubers, whose car appears to be struggling in the tight streets [worth remembering when we reach Singapore], also exited, as did, surprisingly, Bottas. He didn’t have a car issue, except in that it wasn’t very fast.

In Q2 Alonso was first out when his engine decided to go on strike. Massa also failed to escape, as did Hulkenberg [who was outclassed by his Mexican team mate]. Button would’ve made it through, most likely, but a late yellow flag forced him to slow. Grosjean was fastest of the Q2 departures, making this the first time in 2015 he’s been out-qualified by Maldonado [who’s actually been driving pretty well, I think].

In Q3 things were very tight between the two Mercedes drivers, until Rosberg locked up badly on his final run, and Hamilton went even faster to get pole. Vettel starts 3rd, but well adrift of the Silver Arrows on pace, with his erstwhile team mate Ricciardo alongside. Then we have Kvyat and Raikkonen, and Perez. Sainz was 8th fastest, but starts from the pit lane. Maldonado and Verstappen round out the Q3 result.

It’s Hamilton’s first pole in Monaco, which sounds weird. Given the 90% pole to win conversion rate over the last 10 races, that’s handy for him.

Surprised how bad the Williams was. McLaren had more in it, but Alonso was screwed by reliability and Button by a yellow flag that stopped the team achieving a first Q3 appearance this year. Unusually, the Briton appeared much happier with the car than the Spaniard.

As well as having little opportunity for passing, the race’s excitement will not be increased by the predicted one stop, minimising the potential for strategic shenanigans. The weather forecast is for no rain.

Sainz starts from the pit lane due to missing a weighbridge, and Grosjean has a five place grid penalty for his gearbox being changed.

Potential bets:
Safety car
Button points
Raikkonen podium/top 6
Massa points
Lay Kvyat top 6
Kvyat not to be classified

A safety car is very likely. Not guaranteed (I don’t think we had one last year) but probably 90% or so. 1.15 is available. That’s probably marginally value. But I loathe short odds. The agony of choice…

Button starts 10th due to the Grosjean and Sainz penalties. He’ll be behind Verstappen, Maldonado and Perez, and I think he’s got the potential to nab McLaren’s first points, though it’s not a certainty by any stretch. The 1.83 for points (Ladbrokes) seems a bit stingy, especially given McLaren’s reliability issues.

Raikkonen’s been driving very well. I think the Ferrari has the edge over Red Bull. The single stop and near impossibility of passing means he does have the potential to do well, if the cards fall his way. A top 6 finish is 1.28 (not worth it, with the risk of a crash, not necessarily his own doing). Podium is 4.5. That might be worth a shot.

Massa is only 1.83 for points. I just don’t think that’s value. In fact, if the money were there I’d recommend laying it. The Williams has been slow throughout the weekend so far.

Kvyat was swearing angrily on the radio in practice, and has been a little fiesty/aggressive/manic this year. At Monaco, that sort of nonsense causes crashes. Plus the Red Bull may go backwards in the race. A lay value of 1.88 is available for him to be top 6. Oddly, the ‘not to be classified’ odds are only 2.75. In the prior 5 races, Kvyat’s had 2 retirements [there’s also the general dodginess of the Renault engine which could cost him].

Of the above bets, none stands out as obvious value, but the Kvyat one seems most tempting.

I perused the betting markets to see what appeared. Force India to double score at 3.75 was one possibility (Perez starts 7th and Hulkenberg 11th).

So, two bets (both Ladbrokes):
Kvyat, not to be classified, 2.75
Force India, double score 3.75

Morris Dancer

Monaco: pre-qualifying

Quite a bit of news since the last race. Hamilton signed a new three year contract for more than double the pay of Rosberg, and F1 will return to refuelling in 2017 and allow free tyre choice for teams from all four compounds in 2016 (pending further approvals).

Tyres are supersoft and soft, I think.

Hamilton was fastest in P1, a tenth ahead of Verstappen. Ricciardo and Vettel followed closely, then came Sainz, Maldonado, Kvyat, Raikkonen, Rosberg and Massa.

The second practice session was wet, but I’ll include the top 10 for sake of completeness. Hamilton was fastest again, a day and a half ahead of Rosberg, who was three-tenths up on Vettel. Then we had Raikkonen, Kvyat, Sainz, Verstappen, Alonso, Hulkenberg and Grosjean.

Alonso was 11th in P1 and 8th in P2, so keeping a beady eye on him for making Q3 may be an idea. The Toro Rossos look rather tasty. Top 6 bets for Sainz/Verstappen are something I’ll keep in mind.

In P3 expectations were confounded when Vettel was fastest, with a very tasty lap. Rosberg was a couple of tenths back, and Hamilton only 3rd. Ricciardo was next, then Sainz, Raikkonen, Kvyat, Button, Verstappen and Grosjean. Not sure if Alonso did a qualifying simulation or not.

The times in P3 are a bit open to interpretation, as Rosberg had a great middle sector but was ropey for the rest of the lap, and Hamilton was stuck in traffic which slowed his qualifying run. Vettel’s lap was great, and does represent his top pace.

Potential bets:
Alonso Q3
Verstappen/Sainz Q3/Top 6 in the race
Vettel pole [hedged]

Traffic will be critical, weather is expected to stay dry. So, the congestion could create problems and introduces an element of pot luck. Verstappen was unable to get in a final qualifying lap due to some issues with the car [I missed most of P3 on the radio, but it sounded fairly minor], hence being ‘only’ 9th.

Pole seems to be a three horse race. Rosberg’s had it here the last two times, and had the pole in the last race. Hamilton’s looked good all weekend, and Vettel had a very good qualifying simulation.

Alonso was evens to reach Q3. Whilst he stands a decent chance, it’s far from certain, so no bet there.

Verstappen and Sainz were just 1.5 each to reach Q3. Again, too short to tempt. For the race (top 6) they were 2.3 and 2.5 respectively, which is a little tastier, but still not great.

Vettel’s 7.2 for pole with Betfair, and just 6 with Ladbrokes (although each way for top 2 at 1/3 the odds is available). This is the only bet to which I gave more than a moment’s thought. After some prevarication, I backed him (price then 7.8, I’d take 7 or higher) and hedged at 3.6.

So, one tip:
Vettel, pole, 7.8 (Betfair), hedged at 3.6

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Spain: post-race analysis

It seems this year must be the most frustrating so far. The Lotus double score bet didn’t come off. Both drivers and the car were performing well enough. Maldonado lost 30s in a prolonged pit stop after suffering some damage (odd damage) to his rear wing, and later had to retire. On pace, he and Grosjean were dead certs (before the pit stop) to get into the points. Whilst it doesn’t feel like a misjudgement, it’s another red result, which is a little disappointing.

Off the line, Hamilton had a slightly tardy get away, enabling Vettel to pass him into the first corner. The Briton shifted to a three stop strategy, and whilst this eventually enabled him to claim a comfortable 2nd, it also meant that Rosberg cruised to his first victory of the season. Vettel was relatively untroubled in 3rd, albeit grumpy on the radio.

Ferrari didn’t have the pace for the win but Vettel did a good job of annoying Hamilton until the team screwed up his strategy (that said, I think he would’ve been 3rd anyway). What was worse was getting Raikkonen’s wrong, which saw him stuck behind Bottas (not unlike Bahrain, when Vettel was stuck behind the younger Finn).

Massa recovered well from a rubbish qualifying to get 6th.

Ricciardo ended up 7th and Kvyat nabbed the final point. Not too bad, but given where Red Bull were, it’s not great.

Grosjean got a comfortable 8th. Maldonado had been faster than him and driving well, but suffered rear wing damage, not sure how, and eventually had to retire (again, not sure why). He had a very long pit stop when the crew cleared away a large, dangling piece of carbon fibre which cost him 30s and may have kept him out of the points, but it wasn’t clear. Pretty disappointing for the team as they easily had the pace for a double points finish.

Right from the off it was clear Toro Rosso had buggered up their aerodynamic settings. They had too much drag, which made the car quick over one lap but a sitting duck on a long straight with an over-long DRS zone. They spent the whole race gradually drifting down the field due to the set-up mistake. A shame, but there we are. Sainz got 9th and Verstappen was out of the points in 11th.

Alonso was out of the points but driving well when his brakes failed. Thankfully, the McLaren front jack man had the agility and reflexes of a serval when the Spaniard came in to retire, and no-one was harmed when he overshot his pit box by some way. He was going a lot better than Button, who finished but had problems with the car and was a lowly 16th.

Grosjean also overran his pit box, and unfortunately his front jack man did take some pain. I don’t think it’s serious (he was smiling ruefully on the camera as he had some ice over his delicates) but even so, I hope Grosjean apologises after the race.

After strong performances in other races, the Saubers were a bit lacklustre with both drivers finishing out of the points and never threatening to do otherwise. That said, they were a bit rubbish at one earlier circuit (I forget which), so this may be a flash in the pan, or it could be the first sign they’re being out-developed.

Force India had minimal upgrades, unlike most teams, and it showed, with Perez 13th and Hulkenberg 15th. After Austria they should get the B-spec car, and hopefully be able to get points regularly.

Both Manor Marussias finished, Stevens once again ahead of Merhi.

The race was not a classic, although there was a fair bit of overtaking and other shenanigans in the midfield and lower down the order. The aerodynamics still make it tricky to follow cars too closely.

Bit frustrated by the Lotus result. Every race this year has been red. I was right about the pace being there. I’m not sure, at the time of writing, why precisely Maldonado retired.

Drivers’ title:
Hamilton 111
Rosberg 91
Vettel 80

Vettel’s not out of it, but with the Mercedes still the class of the field he’ll need the team to out-develop Mercedes. Hamilton remains in a strong position. I believe he had the pace today but the bad start and lengthy stint stuck behind Vettel made victory impossible. Good day for Rosberg, but everything’s still looking rosy for Hamilton.

Hamilton’s got to win 11 of the remaining 14 races to beat the season record. I think that’s possible but by no means certain.

Next up: Monaco. Great circuit for radio.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Spain: pre-race

Glad I didn’t bet on qualifying, as it went somewhat differently to my expectations.

In Q1 we had the familiar sight of both Marussias exiting, and Force India will be disappointed to lose both drivers at this stage. Marcus Ericsson qualified 16th.

Q2 was rather more competitive, as might be expected. Nasr was the slowest [bit of a bad circuit for Sauber, it seems], with the two McLarens ahead of him, and the two Lotuses ahead of Alonso (very two-by-two). However, there was a pretty large margin between Grosjean and 10th place.

In the final part of qualifying, Rosberg beat Hamilton to pole by a quarter of a second. Impressive stuff from the German. Vettel was 3rd and Bottas 4th, followed by Sainz and Verstappen, with Raikkonen only 7th. Kvyat, Massa and Ricciardo round out the grid.

Poor from Raikkonen and Massa, it seems (both well down on their team mates). Good for Rosberg, and if the Ferrari’s got the race pace this could see the title get a bit more competitive. Or Hamilton might win again. Pole-sitters have an 80% record in recent years of getting the win.

There’s a very long (longest on the calendar) run from the grid to the first corner. This may hamper the Red Bulls, with Ricciardo often starting badly. It’ll also be interesting to see if the Lotuses or McLarens can get into the points. Renault reliability is another factor to consider.

Early bets I thought of included:
Alonso points
Vettel win each way
Toro Rosso double score
Lotus double score
Williams double score
Massa top 6
Bottas podium

Alonso’s a great driver, and the McLaren’s improved again. There’s also the potential for Renault-engined cars ahead to expire, or be rubbish off the line and gift him a few places. He’s 2.3 for points. I’m uncertain about that.

Vettel is 11 to win, 1/3 the odds each way (Ladbrokes). Ferrari have been pretty smart strategically, and strategy will matter a lot in Spain.

Toro Rosso are 2.1 to double score. I think the cars have the pace and the drivers are good, but I have my doubts about the engines.

Lotus are 4 to double score. I rather like that. They should’ve double scored in Bahrain but Maldonado had a slow stop and then got hit by Button.

Williams are 1.4 to double score. Too low [likely to happen, but still].

Massa is evens for a top 6 finish. That looks reasonably good, but I think the top four on the grid will get into the top 6, and Raikkonen probably likewise. The Toro Rossos could stand in his way.

Bottas is 3.25 for a podium. I’d probably want a little longer, given his car would appear to be a margin behind the Ferraris and Mercedes.

Almost all the above are marginal. Somewhat tempting, but definitely not clear cut.

On balance, I think Lotus to have both cars in the points at 4 is the best bet. They should’ve done it in Bahrain (it was misfortune they did not). Cars ahead may well be slower, have bad starts or have their engines blow up.

So, just the on tip: Lotus to double score at 4, with Ladbrokes.

Morris Dancer

Spain: pre-qualifying

It’s been three weeks since the last race, and teams will’ve been doing all they can to upgrade their cars (with the possible exception of Force India, who have a B-spec car coming sometime during the European leg of the season, perhaps after Austria). McLaren will be desperate to keep making up ground, although that’s largely an engine issue, and Ferrari/Mercedes will both want to have the fastest car on the grid.

Tyre compounds are hard and medium.

Worth mentioning Spain’s circuit is tricky to overtake on, and generally not very exciting. So, much passing will be in the pit stops due to strategy. That said, a Mercedes behind almost any other car (barring Ferrari and Williams) will probably have a shot of muscling its way through, especially if Hamilton’s driving. Starting position and strategy will be at a premium.

In P1 Rosberg was seven-hundredths ahead of Hamilton, who was almost a second ahead of Vettel (himself barely three-hundredths faster than Raikkonen). Three-tenths further back was Sainz, then we had Verstappen, Kvyat, Massa, Ricciardo and Nasr.

P2 was rather different, with Hamilton four-tenths up on Vettel, who was the same margin ahead of Rosberg. Raikkonen was a tenth down the road, and followed by Kvyat, Verstappen, Button, Bottas, Sainz, and Massa.

At this stage, it looks pretty good for Toro Rosso. Button being top 10 is a little surprising.

In P3 commentary it emerged that the Honda engine was able to use more power than previously, which obviously helps. How much remains to be seen.

Pirelli tweeted a two stop race is expected. The option tyre is about 1.6s faster than the prime, apparently. Also worth recalling there’s the longest run to turn 1 of any circuit, so the start has plenty of scope to lose or gain places. Red Bull have suffered more engine reliability problems, which may hamper them in the race as well.

P3’s results were a bit unexpected. Rosberg was fastest, a tenth up on Vettel, who was a tenth up on Hamilton. Bottas was a little further back. Then we had Raikkonen [whose car had a wrong setting], Ricciardo, Massa, Verstappen, Kvyat and Sainz.

Hamilton screwed up his final sector, which is where the Mercedes has the advantage over the Ferrari. I still expect him to get pole.

Bets that sprung to mind were:
Alonso/Button for Q3
Verstappen Q3
Kvyat Q3
Hamilton pole
Vettel top 3

Alonso’s odds for Q3 were just 2.1, Button likewise. It’s possible but those odds are too short.

Verstappen was 1.5, and Kvyat 1.35. Given possible McLaren resurgence and Renault issues, even less tempting than the above.

Hamilton’s just 1.54 for pole. I think him likeliest to get it, but he cocked up his simulation and Rosberg’s been ahead of him in two out of three practice sessions. Frankly, Rosberg at 3.35 may be the better bet.

None of the qualifying odds tempt me, so no tip.

The pre-race piece may go up after the BBC highlights, so it could appear in the evening rather than afternoon (and that gives more time for the markets to get going).

Morris Dancer