Sunday, 21 June 2015

Austria: post-race analysis

Pretty good race, with crashing, a safety car, a good helping of passing, a late duel, although it was a little sterile at the sharp end. On the betting front, both tips came off. Button’s car had a reliability problem, and Alonso has a rather alarming high speed crash with Raikkonen [fortunately both men are fine].

Rosberg enjoyed a flying start, passed Hamilton immediately, and retained the lead throughout, never truly coming under threat. Bottas slid back a few places, and Ericsson jumped the start, which earnt him a penalty.

On the first lap Raikkonen appeared to lose control, at which point Alonso’s McLaren collided with the Ferrari, taking both cars out of the race (the McLaren parked atop the Ferrari). The safety car came out for several laps, and although it took a while for the wreckage to be removed both drivers were entirely unharmed.

A few moments later Will Stevens peeled off and parked his Manor Marussia on the wayside due to a reliability problem.

Formation was held when the safety car entered the pits and racing resumed.

Verstappen had gotten ahead of Bottas at the start, but the Finn soon dispatched the talented Dutchman, and set about hunting down Hulkenberg. The German held him at bay for a short time, but when the Williams got past his Force India he pitted, and the undercut worked, getting him out ahead of Bottas when the latter driver made his stop. It didn’t last (the Williams was just too fast) but it was the right strategic call.

There were some nice contests on track, including Nasr and the Lotuses (Loti?), Hulkenberg and Bottas (twice), and a little train of Perez, Maldonado, Bottas and Hulkenberg at one point (the first two drivers out of position as they had yet to pit).

It looked like the top five were set in stone, but it was not so. Ferrari had a horrendously long pit stop for Vettel, and even though he had a significant advantage over Massa, the Brazilian passed him in the pits. Vettel spent the last 20 laps or so closing that gap (the Ferrari was clearly faster) but he was unable to make the pass and Massa got the 40th podium of his career.

Late on there was a prolonged tussle for 7th between Maldonado (who drove well again, despite twitching the car like a twelve year old after their first coffee) and Verstappen. The Dutchman was ahead and was defending skilfully, but the Lotus was faster and when Verstappen’s tyres appeared to run out (he cocked up a corner, unclear if it’s true it was the tyres or that’s a racing driver’s excuse) the Venezuelan had him.

Grosjean, who might have had a tilt at a top 6 finish, had to retire due to reliability issues. Lotus need to sort that out. Their car’s fast, but you only get points if you finish. Sainz also retired.

Force India had a nice race, Hulkenberg holding onto 6th, and Perez climbing to 9th. I’d missed that they have a slightly updated (third generation, apparently) Mercedes engine now, which won’t have hurt their performance.

Ricciardo got the final point, finishing the race on the option tyre and passing Nasr. A slight shame for the talented Sauber driver. Kvyat seemed to spend the whole race getting passed.

On the betting front, hard to say whether Alonso would’ve finished without the crash. Button’s retirement was due to reliability, but if Alonso had finished then the relatively short odds (2.5) would’ve whittled the profit margin to half of one stake. But, if luck plays a role I’d sooner it be good than bad, and both came off.

Rosberg was plain faster today. Hamilton got a 5s time penalty for crossing the white line outside the pit exit, but even so his team mate had him beat all day long. The gap at the top is narrower than might be thought, so this title race is actually far from over.

Hamilton 169
Rosberg 159
Vettel 120

Vettel isn’t 100% out of it, but if both Mercedes retired from the next two races and Vettel won twice, he’d have a lead of just 1 point. Reliability in Ferrari and Mercedes is very good, so that’s unlikely. To get the title, or even another win, Ferrari needs to up the pace.

Rosberg started the season badly, and seemed to have almost adopted the mentality of a number two driver. Since Bahrain (where, ironically, he had a great performance but finished only 3rd) he’s been more competitive, winning fairly in Spain and Austria, (and fluking a bizarre win in Monaco, but they all count). He’s won three of the last four races.

Vettel 120
Raikkonen 72

That’s a hefty gap. I think Raikkonen may not get his contract extended. Ferrari have been interested in Bottas for a little while, and Hulkenberg’s Le Mans win will hopefully help his prospects of a top seat. Right now, the second Ferrari seat is the best one likely to be available in F1.

Mercedes 328
Ferrari 192
Williams 129
Red Bull 55
Force India 31
Lotus 29
Sauber 21
Toro Rosso 19
McLaren 4
Manor Marussia 0

I think the top three are more or less nailed on. With a new Force India due to arrive at the next race (a B-spec car) and Lotus having good pace, there’s a chance Red Bull could be passed by both of those teams (although Lotus need to sort out their reliability). I suspect Red Bull will retain 4th spot, but it’s not a certainty by any stretch of the imagination.

The next race is in a fortnight, in the UK.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 20 June 2015


The track was still drying from the P3 showers, so if it rains in the race expect it to stay soggy for a long time. Unfortunately, it didn’t rain again, which could’ve put the cat amongst the pigeons.

Q1 saw the departure of both Manor Marussias, Merhi ahead, as well as the surprising exit of Perez (16th), the less surprising exit of Button (17th) and the shock departure of Raikkonen (18th). It was suggested the Finn might not have been fuelled sufficiently for his final lap, which he aborted, but Ferrari denied there was any such issue, or a technical problem. Doesn’t bode well for Raikkonen’s contract extension (a decision will be made by the end of July).

In Q2 every car that failed to escape was from a different team, which is unusual. Maldonado was the fastest of those to leave, followed by Ericsson, Sainz, Ricciardo (who has looked out of sorts this weekend) and Alonso.

Q3, which featured two German drivers (Vettel and Hulkenberg) whose team mates left in Q1, was an amusing farce. Grosjean buggered up his final two laps by putting his tyres on the wet stuff at the end of his penultimate lap, which compromised his final run (he qualified 10th). Hamilton, on pole by two-tenths having trailed Rosberg throughout, spun and ruined his last lap. Rosberg then obligingly forgot what corners are for and slammed on the brakes after missing a turn, gifting his team mate a comedy pole.

The gap of fifteen-hundreds to Vettel in 3rd is flattery for Ferrari, the real pace gap was larger. Massa was a few tenths further back, and Hulkenberg did extremely well to drag Force India (by rights perhaps the fifth fastest car) up to 5th. Bottas could only manage 6th, and was followed by Verstappen, Kvyat (who also has a grid penalty) and Nasr. The Brazilian’s performance was also impressive.

Alonso and Button both have 25 place grid penalties, Kvyat has a 10 place penalty, as does Ricciardo. The Aussie will get a 5 second penalty during his pit stop in the race, as he cannot serve the grid penalty in full. Alonso gets an early drive-through penalty, Button gets a 10 second stop-and-go penalty. It’s crackers, but there we are.

Potential bets:
Raikkonen top 6
Perez points
Grosjean points/top 6
Maldonado points/top 6
Lotus/Force India/Ferrari to double score

Raikkonen was 1.44 to be top 6. The car’s definitely got the pace, although there’s the potential for a mid-field collision, especially early on.

Perez was 1.83 for points. That’s reasonably tempting. He qualified 16th, but will start 13th due to penalties for Alonso, Ricciardo and Kvyat (Button qualified 17th).

Maldonado is 1.53 for points and 3.25 for top 6. Grosjean is 1.4 and 2.75 respectively. I do think the Lotus has the pace, my concern would be its reliability. Worth considering.

Lotus are evens to double score. Force India are 2.37, and Ferrari are just 1.2, which is too short given the potential for reliability issues as well as Austria being a proper circuit with closer barriers and gravel traps instead of acres of run-off. Given I feel Lotus has solid pace and less solid reliability, I’d be more inclined to back one or both drivers to be top 6 instead of to double score. Unsure about whether the Force India bet would make more sense than backing Perez.

Perusing the markets, the following leapt out at me:
Alonso/Button not to be classified, 2.5

I checked races to date, and McLaren retirements are as follows:
Australia – 1
Malaysia – 2
China – 0
Bahrain – 1
Spain – 1
Monaco – 1
Canada – 2

Based on that, I’ve got to tip Alonso/Button not to be classified.

The other bets that I’m still thinking about are Perez to score at 1.83, and Maldonado/Grosjean to be top 6 at 3.25 and 2.75 respectively. Worth noting Maldonado’s been driving well this year, although he has had rotten luck with reliability. Of those, Perez would tempt me the most. Last year he started 16th and finished 6th. Hmm. Very hard to decide, so, I’ll look at it numerically.

Hamilton, Rosberg, Vettel, Massa and Bottas should be over the hills and far away. I also think Raikkonen will roar past Perez. That’s six of the 10 available slots over with. Then there’s Lotus (equal or perhaps faster, although maybe unreliable) and Hulkenberg. Which leaves one place, assuming nobody has a reliability failure/crash, and Perez can get past the Toro Rossos and Saubers. That’s pretty tight. I do think Perez has a good chance, but not enough to put money on it at 1.83.

So, today’s tips (all Ladbrokes):
Alonso, not to be classified, 2.5
Button, not to be classified, 2.5

Having a few cars out of place (Red Bull with penalties, and Raikkonen/Perez also) will hopefully make the race quite entertaining. I also wonder how well Hulkenberg will do given his fantastic starting position, and whether the Saubers/Toro Rossos can have a good day.

Morris Dancer

Austria: pre-qualifying

Tyres for this weekend are supersoft and soft. Austria’s all about straight line speed, so I imagine it’ll be very similar to Canada. Lotus in particular may be a team to watch.

Alonso gets a 20 place grid penalty due to replacing so much of his engine, and Ricciardo gets a 10 place penalty.

Button has a 25 place grid penalty. The grid has 20 cars.

In first practice Rosberg was three-tenths ahead of Hamilton, followed by the Finns Raikkonen and Bottas. Nasr and Kvyat were next, with Ricciardo, Verstappen, Massa and Perez rounding out the top 10.

Second practice was led by Vettel, who was a hundredth ahead of Rosberg. Raikkonen was two-tenths down the road, with Maldonado just a tenth back. Hamilton was next, but didn’t get a clean lap (on pace he would’ve been a few tenths ahead of the field). Hulkenberg and Grosjean followed, with Verstappen, Nasr and Perez finishing off the top 10.

Ferrari are reportedly looking really rather racy. However, that’s been said before, only for Mercedes to be dominant in the race. I still expect the running order to be Mercedes-Ferrari-Williams. Lotus and Force India should punch above their weight, with Red Bull and Toro Rosso doing poorly, as per Canada.

Not representative of qualifying for reasons outlined below, but in P3 Vettel was fastest, two-hundredths up on Hamilton, who was a tenth ahead of Raikkonen. Perez was next (on supersoft, unlike most of those around him), then Rosberg, Massa and Bottas. Verstappen, Maldonado and Grosjean come next.

Third practice was disrupted by a red flag 30 minutes in, when Alonso’s McLaren failed, again. Rain came at more or less the same time. Drivers tried to put in qualifying simulations after that, but the track was too wet. Most drivers did head out (mostly wet tyres, but Vettel opted for intermediates and was quick), though Hamilton stayed in the pits.

It’s possible that conditions will also be wet in qualifying. Could be good for Toro Rosso, who appeared quick in the wet at the end of P3. On the other hand, it makes trying to predict qualifying trickier than would otherwise be the case.

Potential bets:
Lay Ricciardo Q3
Maldonado Q3
Hulkenberg Q3
Lay Hamilton pole
Lay Massa/Bottas Q3 [if it looks like being wet]

Ricciardo’s got a lay value of 2.8, which is rubbish.

Maldonado was a tight 1.33 to reach Q3. Given potential rain/crashing/reliability, that did not tempt me at all.

Hulkenberg was 1.66. For similar reasons, that’s not long enough.

I was a bit surprised Hamilton was over evens for pole, I was expecting something more like 1.5 or less.

The potential laying of Williams’ drivers is solely due to the prospect of rain. The Williams suffers in the wet, and one or both could easily miss Q3 if it’s soggy. There was very little available for either (some for Bottas at 1.14, but it’s worth noting he’s been very good in the wet in the past, so Massa would be the better lay). Whilst I think there’s merit in laying them to reach Q3, the lack of money available means I can’t tip it [I did lay them both, but there was only a few pounds up].

So, no tip for qualifying.

Morris Dancer

Monday, 8 June 2015

Canada: post-race analysis

Well, the race didn’t go to plan, but it was plain misjudgement on my part. The Force India was fast enough to keep the Lotus behind it but a strategic cock-up allowed Maldonado to pass. I also over-estimated the chances of technical woe at the sharper end (nothing really happened there). It would’ve been interesting to know how I might’ve bet on double score for a team (again, would’ve likely looked at Force India/Lotus, the former losing, the latter winning) but I’m not unhappy with the first green weekend of the year [the hedge was unmatched, incidentally].

Off the line it was more or less formation flying. Over the course of the first lap Hulkenberg managed to pass Maldonado and Sainz slid down a few places, but otherwise it was largely as you were.

Within the first two laps Hamilton had broken DRS range, and retained that gap or more throughout the whole race, so, at the sharp end, it was not a thriller.

The top four were all spread, especially the two Finns, and Raikkonen seemed destined for the final podium place. However, during his second stint an unexpected lump of Kinetic power kicked him into a spin at the hairpin. This allowed Bottas to pass and appears to have damaged Raikkonen’s tyres, as he was one of the relatively few cars to have another stop. Congratulations to Mr. Sandpit for his 5 bet on Bottas to get on the podium (I considered this but then thought it’d never happen. Ahem).

Hulkenberg was not fast enough to pull away from Maldonado but he was swift enough to keep the Venezuelan behind. However, Lotus performed the undercut well and Force India ran maybe 10 laps deeper (which seems very odd, though perhaps they believed Maldonado would need a second stop).

Vettel and Massa were cutting their way through the field, and Grosjean was doing nicely when he passed Will Stevens’ Manor Marussia then cut across him, wrecking the Briton’s front wing and giving himself a puncture. Both men had to pit, and this shoved Grosjean further down the order (it would’ve been interesting to see whether the Frenchman could’ve kept 5th or 6th from Vettel/Massa had he not made the extra stop).

When passing Hulkenberg, Vettel and he collided in the final chicane. Hulkenberg was spun and had to (briefly) go against the direction of traffic [albeit on an empty track] to rejoin. No action was taken and Hulkenberg said ‘it was racing’. Whilst it allowed Massa to also pass him easily, it didn’t really affect much in the end.

Hamilton got the win, Rosberg 2nd and Bottas 3rd. Raikkonen will be unhappy with 4th but there was little he could do about it, and his team mate nabbed 5th. Massa got 6th, more solid points for Williams (clearly the third best car on this sort of circuit). Maldonado will be delighted with 7th, which may be his first finish and is his first points of the year.

Then we have Hulkenberg, Kvyat and Grosjean (who got a 5s time penalty for the Stevens collision but he retains 10th).

Neither Toro Rosso ever looked like scoring and Ricciardo likewise failed. The Saubers were also lacklustre, and both McLarens were slow before retiring. Worth noting ahead of circuits like Austria and Monza.

I do think that the Lotus is slower than the Williams/Ferrari, but it remains to be seen whether they could’ve kept the faster cars behind them (as Hulkenberg managed with Maldonado on-track). Despite multiple problems in qualifying, the Ferraris and Williams were fine in the race, with only McLaren suffering technical woe (with a double retirement).

The lack of rain, crashing and safety car coupled with a very dominant win by Hamilton meant the race was less exciting than might’ve been hoped for. Still far better than Monaco, of course.

Hamilton 158
Rosberg 134
Vettel 108

It’s not all over for Vettel, but he needs to start winning regularly. Without that, he doesn’t stand a chance. Rosberg could yet close the gap, but he also needs to start winning again.

Constructors’ (from 4th down):
Red Bull 54
Lotus 23
Sauber/Force India 21
Toro Rosso 15

I think Red Bull’s almost nailed on for 4th. The Lotus has been unreliable, but if they sort their technical gremlins they could yet snatch 4th, though it'll be tricky. Sauber will fall behind Force India, I think (they’re tied, Sauber technically ahead, but the Force India hasn’t been upgraded all year).

Toro Rosso are interesting. They could finish ahead of Sauber and maybe Force India.

In betting terms, I’m delighted to finally get a green result. It was fortunate, frankly, (Hulkenberg in qualifying was good judgement, Perez was fluky and I was just plain wrong about the race) but I’ve also had bad luck this year so it’s swings and roundabouts.

The next race is in Austria, in a fortnight. Last year Williams arguably should’ve won. They won’t this year, I think, but straight line speed will be critical, so expect a comparable result to Canada. Also, after that race Force India should get their B-spec car (and therefore start getting upgrades).

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Canada: pre-race

A mixed bag from the tips. Both came off, which is nice. The Hulkenberg tip was good judgement, the Perez tip good fortune (if both Massa and Vettel not suffered technical trouble then it’s near certain the Mexican would’ve failed to reach Q3). On a £10 stake basis, the difference is a £7.50 profit against a £35 profit, which goes to show just how much difference luck, good or ill, makes.

The first session of qualifying was notable for technical trouble striking two leading drivers. Massa’s Williams suffered some sort of power problem, and Vettel likewise suffered a shortfall (uncertain if it was due to a similar issue as afflicted him in practice). As is traditional, both Manor Marussias exited at this stage, as did Button, who didn’t even start qualifying due to yet more technical woe.

The second session saw the predictable departure of the under-powered McLaren of Alonso, as well as the anonymous [silly crash aside] Saubers. Neither Toro Rosso managed to make Q3, perhaps unsurprising as straight line speed is not their strong point.

Q3 was less competitive than might have been the case, as Rosberg appeared to bugger his laps up and had to settle for a relatively distant 2nd to his team mate, with Hamilton getting another pole. Worth noting pole is also handy, but Canada is not Monaco and this is a racetrack, not a processional way. Raikkonen managed to achieve 3rd, but was only narrowly ahead of Bottas and the two Lotus (who locked out row three, with Grosjean ahead of Maldonado). Hulkenberg outpaced Kvyat and Ricciardo, with Perez bringing up the rear of the top 10.

Although he qualified 12th, Verstappen’s 15 grid penalty means he starts 20th and will have a 10s penalty (I believe this will be applied during one of his pit stops).

In the second practice session the Ferraris were clearly faster than the Mercedes on race runs, but the question is how much fuel the two teams had laden their cars with. Other questionable areas are whether or not the Williams can hang with the Ferrari in the race (at both the sharp end and the back of the grid), and how the Lotus will fare. On pace, Lotus should have far more points, but reliability has cost them quite a bit.

I’d expect Vettel and, to a lesser extent, Massa to cut their way through the field fairly easily.

Post-qualifying it emerged Vettel gets a 5 place grid penalty for passing Merhi under a red flag in practice (the same penalty Verstappen got for crashing into Grosjean in Monaco, incidentally). Because of Verstappen’s penalty and Button’s failure to enter qualifying, the back of the grid (I think) is:
Vettel 18th
Verstappen 19th
Button starting from the pit lane

At the sharp end, I think it’s quite hard to call. I’d be unsurprised if any of the top three ended up winning. Raikkonen or Bottas I can see on the podium. Lotus has good pace but its reliability has been shoddy, making it difficult to predict. I think Toro Rosso will struggle to advance due to its weakness on the straights (last year Vettel got stuck behind Hulkenberg’s Force India because his Red Bull could match his compatriot for pace on the twisty bits but couldn’t get near him on the straight). Massa’s near certain to get points, if his engine works (also a potential problem for Button, Vettel and others), but I’d be a little surprised if he could make top 6.

Potential bets:
Lotus double score
Force India double score
Grosjean top 6
Vettel top 6
Hulkenberg top 6
Raikkonen podium
Bottas podium

Numbers are Ladbrokes, numbers in brackets are Betfair.

Despite checking at 8.40am the day after qualifying, Ladbrokes didn’t have its double score market up, which is a bit surprising, and quite rubbish.

For top 6, Grosjean was 1.33 (1.55), Vettel 1.3 (1.69) and Hulkenberg 3.5 (3.6). Neither Vettel nor Grosjean tempt. Hulkenberg... maybe. It’s a question of how Lotus does, I think.

Raikkonen was 1.3 (1.41) for a podium, Bottas 4.5 (5). Not sure I can see the Williams doing it, though.

Decided to wait a bit and see how the markets look in a couple of hours.

After which the double-score market still wasn’t up. So, I decided to have a look through all the markets and see if anything appeared value. And there wasn’t.

So, I went for the only bet that tempted me before.

Backed Hulkenberg at 3.6 (Betfair) to be top 6, hedged at 1.8.

I think the car and driver are both solid. Maldonado could easily crash, and the Lotus has had dodgy reliability (so have Ferrari and Williams, and both also have a car each ahead of Hulkenberg). It’s also possible that Hulkenberg could just pass Maldonado off the line and retain the position through the race.

Very hard to find a bet for the race, so hopefully he’ll get up to 4th off the line, the hedge will be matched and I’ll be green either way. The race start is 7pm UK time.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Canada: pre-qualifying

The tyres for this weekend are soft and supersoft. It’s possible rain will affect things, although right now a dry qualifying/race appears more probable.

The circuit is mostly straights and slow corners, so aerodynamics matter less and straight line speed is handy. Honda and Ferrari have both used some engine tokens to improve their power, though it remains it be seen just what impact the improvements will have made to performance.

In P1 Hamilton was four-tenths up on Rosberg, who was over a second ahead of Grosjean. Hulkenberg and Vettel were next, followed by Massa, Kvyat, Maldonado, Alonso and Verstappen.

The second practice session had Hamilton up on Vettel by four-tenths, with Raikkonen and Rosberg next. Maldonado, Bottas, Grosjean, Massa, Kvyat and Ricciardo round out the top 10.

P2 was disrupted by rain, which saw Hamilton introduce his front wing to the barriers in a relatively low speed crash (no damage beyond the front wing).

It was remarked in P2 that the Ferrari’s long runs were faster than the Mercedes, although McNish wisely reminded us that we don’t know what fuel loads were being run. It certainly appears that the prancing horse is in the running, on pace, for a race win, although I’d still expect them to be behind when it comes to qualifying.

At this stage, things look quite good for Lotus, who may be best of the rest after the Mercedes-Ferrari tussle for dominance. Whilst the Lotus looks fast, McNish reckoned they were a bit of a handful, which might see them qualify well but struggle a little over a race distance. During P3 Vettel lost some electrical energy (kinetic). If that happens in the race/qualifying he’ll struggle to make the top 10.

Verstappen has a 15 place grid penalty (5 for the Monaco incident and 10 for changing to engine number five).

P3 was notable for Nasr weaving to warm his tyres, losing control and hitting the barriers [bit of a schoolboy error], which brought out a red flag. A second red flag emerged when Button’s McLaren broke down late on.

Because of this, the session was about as representative of true pace as Sepp Blatter is of the average football fan. Nevertheless, Rosberg was fastest ahead of Raikkonen and Grosjean. Bottas, Perez and Kvyat were next, followed by Massa, Vettel, Sainz and Maldonado.

Lotus drivers Q3
Force India drivers Q3

The Mercedes engine appears a tasty advantage, with only the Ferrari team itself seeming able to challenge the Mercedes dominance.

The Lotus drivers were both under 1.5. The Force India drivers, by contrast, were both 2.75, so I’ve backed both Hulkenberg and Perez at 2.75 to make Q3 [that’s with Ladbrokes].

The circuit isn’t big on aerodynamics, which is the Force India’s key weakness. Both drivers are good, and the Mercedes engine is the one to have. It’s not a certainty, but I think they both have a decent shot of making it and would be surprised if neither achieved a top 10 place.

That said, my results this year have been incredibly red, so do at your own risk.

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

Morris Dancer