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

Monday, 21 September 2015

Singapore: post-race analysis

A somewhat frustrating race, and very much so from a betting perspective. Not only did the main bet not come off (more below on whether that was ill-judged or unfortunate) but the 3.75 dead cert on Merhi not to be classified was actually settled as a loss. I immediately sent off an e-mail to Ladbrokes about this and will report back on the result.

Off the line it was formation flying at the front. Verstappen, starting 8th, found his car wouldn’t start. He was pushed back to the pit lane and managed to get going but was a full lap down on everybody else.

Vettel immediately pulled out a massive gap (about 3s after lap 1). He probably overcooked it, because later on he was a bit more delicate with the tyres. Ricciardo could outpace Raikkonen, but found it difficult to match Vettel’s times. However, the Red Bull was easier on its tyres, which raised the prospect of Ferrari either shifting to a 3 stop (and gifting victory to Ricciardo) or seeing if they could make 2 work and risking the tyres degrading, or even falling off the cliff.

There were two safety cars. The first was due to debris on the track (I forget whose) near the end of the first stint. This harmed Kvyat, who had pitted just before and slumped from 4th to 6th, where he remained. The top three all pitted at once.

The second occasion was due to some fool sauntering on the track, and meant degradation and strategy didn’t play a role whatsoever in the race. This was Red Bull’s best hope (they were easier on the tyres than the Ferraris). So, the bet might have come off had the two safety cars, one of which only occurred due to an idiot, made an appearance. That said, F1 is a sport where this kind of thing happens. Sometimes it’s helpful. Today it was not.

Anyway, the top three trundled to the podium, with Rosberg claiming 4th, Bottas 5th and Kvyat a lacklustre 6th (though he was very unlucky with the first safety car). Perez scored a good 7th for Force India, and was followed by Verstappen and Sainz. Nasr got the last point.

Late on, Verstappen was ordered to let Sainz past (his team mate had, it seems, let him through earlier). The young Dutchman refused, twice, and finished 8th, Sainz 9th. A proper bollocking is in order. We’ll see whether the Toro Rosso boss (Franz Tost, I think) is more Ross Brawn or Christian Horner when it comes to laying down the law.

Alonso was in the points when his car stopped working. Dire for McLaren, who also retired Button.

Hamilton had to retire for the first time since Belgium last year when his engine lost massive power. Others suffered engines shifting to neutral (possibly due to electronic/metro interference).

On the Merhi bet: I’d imagined this would be voided, but, if not, it was a dead cert winner. As you can imagine I was not pleased when it was counted as a loss by Ladbrokes, and sent the firm an e-mail. Didn’t get a reply but the next day it seems to have been voided. Pleased by the prompt action, displeased the bet counted when it meant me losing out but got voided rather than counted as a win. However, I did always think it would be made void [so, a shot to nothing], so I’m not too irked.

Mercedes’ form falling off a cliff is quite perplexing. This didn’t happen at the very similar circuit of Monaco. Conspiracy theorists are talking about them being given duff tyres, but I think that a bit much.

Anyway, Hamilton’s retirement means things have tightened up a little, but he still has a comfortable cushion.

Hamilton 252
Rosberg 211
Vettel 203

If Hamilton doesn’t turn up to the next two races (and there’s only six left) and Vettel wins both, the German will have a lead of 1 point. The concern for Hamilton will be that the engine problem he suffered was not the weird neutral issue which seems confined to Singapore, but a proper problem with the engine. He should still walk to the title, though.

The good result for Red Bull also means that the Constructors (3rd and 4th) had tightened a bit:
Williams 198
Red Bull 139

Williams need to have some good races or that gap could yet be closed.

The next race is this coming weekend, in Japan, on a proper circuit.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Singapore: pre-race

Qualifying was green, which is nice. Couldn’t quite believe that the Mercedes were quite so (relatively) slow. Some wags are claiming it’s because they’re having to use the right pressure, but giving the weaker performances of all teams with the Mercedes engine, I reckon that’s the cause.

In Q1 we said goodbye to the Manors (including Rossi, who made his debut, replacing Merhi), Maldonado and both Saubers.

Q2 was competitive but the final run, which might have seen Alonso scrape into the final session for the first time this year, was aborted when Sainz collided with the barriers and debris was strewn across the track towards the end. As a result, both Force Indias, both McLarens and Sainz departed at this stage.

Q3 had a rather different script. Mercedes’ pace struggle was genuine, and it soon became apparent the battle for pole would be between Red Bull and Ferrari (or, Ricciardo and Vettel, erstwhile team mates). Vettel was never truly troubled and ended up partying like it was 2011, claiming the first (dry) Ferrari pole for five years by more than half a second ahead of the Aussie. Raikkonen got 3rd, and will line up next to Kvyat.

And whence the all-conquering Mercedes? The Silver Arrows fell short, and must make do with the third row.

Williams had a so-so result, with Bottas 7th and Massa 9th, Verstappen between them and Grosjean bringing up the rear.

Incidentally, it’s been confirmed the terrible Monza start was entirely down to Raikkonen buggering it up. He’s been practising to try and prevent a recurrence.

Overtaking around Singapore is nigh on impossible, but with 2 or possibly 3 stops there may be potential for cunning (or daft) strategic decisions to make the difference. A safety car is highly likely but the odds are atrocious. That said, its potential arrival is something all teams will be very aware of.

Bets that came to mind:
Ferrari top score
Red Bull top score
Kvyat podium
Alonso points
Maldonado not to be classified
Bottas top 6

In the last 7 races, pole has delivered victory 5 times. That would make Ferrari favourite to top score, but if Raikkonen screws up the start then that would become almost impossible (very hard to pass at the circuit). Of course, there’s always the potential for Vettel, Ricciardo or Kvyat to have bad or good starts too.

Ferrari are just 1.33 to top score. That surprises me. Red Bull are 3.5. If Ricciardo starts well or Raikkonen has a shocker, that could instantly turn things around. That’s intriguing. Could perhaps marry that to laying Raikkonen at 1.4 to be top 6.

Kvyat at 2.37 for a podium is tight. Not tempted.

Alonso is evens for points. I think he has a good chance, but the car’s reliability is a cause for concern.

Maldonado is 1.83 not to be classified. Hmm.

Bottas is 2.5 for a top 6 finish. Again, too short to tempt. It’s almost as if the bookie doesn’t want me to win…

Happened to see Williams are 2.1 to have a double points finish, which seems a bit generous.

Annoyingly, the race seems poised to be quite interesting, but finding value is proving difficult. There’s a sea of reasonable possibilities but all the odds are depressingly short. Humbug!

Rossi is 3.4 not to be classified. Hmm.

I slept on this, and came to the conclusion I don’t know what to bet on. By process of elimination (considering everything else worse value) I finally came up with a bet, though I must stress I’m not brimming with confidence. It’s one of those situations where I might sit it out if I hadn’t offered a tip on every race since 2009.

Merhi, not to be classified, 3.75 [NB Ladbrokes and not counting this if it gets made void, as I suspect it will]
Red Bull, top score, 3.5 [Ladbrokes]

I think the grid is intriguingly poised, but am rather less confident on the betting front. I also think it may be worth laying Rosberg to finish in the top 6, but there isn't enough liquidity there for me to tip it. Was very tempted by the Williams to double score bet, but decided against it (potential for bad starts, strategic cock-ups or accident is doubled because both cars need a good start and finish).

Although qualifying was at 2pm, it’s my understanding the race start is at the usual 1pm.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Singapore: pre-qualifying

NB articles may be more concise or released at odd times this race weekend, and next, because I’m pressed for time.

Singapore’s a tedious processional low-speed street circuit. Nice for Red Bull, bad for Williams, engine grunt matters far less here than at the last couple of tracks.

As you would expect, tyres are soft and supersoft. Rain is forecast for both Saturday and Sunday, but too early to affect either qualifying or the race, although paying attention to that is clearly wise.

Off-track, Volkswagen may buy Red Bull. The team has indicated they’ll scweam and scweam and quit the sport if they don’t have a competitive engine next year. Unsure what’ll happen to Toro Rosso [under the VW deal, Red Bull would use a VW engine, though it’s unclear whether that’d be from day one or if they’d use Ferrari engines in the intervening period].

Rosberg was fastest in P1, four-tenths up on Hamilton, unsurprisingly. Ricciardo was less than a tenth back, followed by Vettel, Raikkonen and Bottas. Verstappen came next, with Hulkenberg, Sainz and Maldonado rounding out the top 10.

Quite surprisingly, Kvyat was fastest in P2, less than a tenth ahead of Raikkonen. Ricciardo was less than a tenth further back, followed by Hamilton (one gets the feeling Mercedes weren’t really trying). Vettel and Perez were next, with Rosberg only 7th. Alonso, Hulkenberg and Verstappen finish off the top 10.

Somewhat surprisingly, Eddie Jordan (speaking on Inside F1) suggested Mercedes were ‘floundering’. I still think they’ll get pole but it might be rather tighter than I’d anticipated.

The increase in speed from supersoft to soft appears to be less for Mercedes than Ferrari and Red Bull (which has implications not only for qualifying but also for the race). Also highly likely there’s some Silver Arrow sandbagging, so how real the gap is remains open to question.

In P3 Vettel was half a second ahead of his team mate, with Raikkonen less than a tenth ahead of Kvyat. Ricciardo was two-tenths further back, with Hamilton nearly half a second down the road. Rosberg was four-tenths down on his team mate and less than a tenth ahead of Alonso. Sainz, Verstappen and Ericsson followed close behind.

However, it’s worth noting Vettel was fastest in P3 ahead of Monaco qualifying by a large distance, and still failed to get pole. On the other hand, the Ferrari engine appears to have a better qualifying mode now than then, and the time gap in P3 was even larger than in Monaco.

Bets for qualifying that spring to mind:
Vettel pole
Alonso Q3
Red Bull top score [for the race]
Verstappen Q3
Raikkonen top 3 [qualifying]
Kvyat top 3 [qualifying]

Vettel was just 2.6 for pole, which is mean given Mercedes has had every pole since Austria last year. Weirdly, Hamilton was all the way out to 3. Hmm.

Kvyat being 3.35 for top 3 is interesting. Raikkonen at 2.6 for the same market is too short.

Alonso evens for Q3 is too short to tempt. Verstappen at 1.5 is even less alluring.

On consideration, I’ve gone for two bets (both Betfair):
Vettel, pole, 2.56 (hedged 1.1)
Hamilton, pole, 3.55 (hedged 1.1)

In my view, only one of those two are likely to take pole. The bet and short odds hedging should mean if either do, qualifying will be green, and if form varies wildly from Q2 to Q3, which is possible, then it could improve things.

As an aside, Maldonado is 1.83 not to be classified.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Italy: post-race analysis

A disappointing race from both a spectator’s and a bettor’s perspective. Not dire, just a bit ho-hum. Raikkonen had a horrendous start. If he’d started as well as Vettel, who nearly passed Hamilton before the first corner, or if Hamilton had had such a bad start it would’ve been green. Or, to rephrase, if I were better at betting, I’d win more often. Vettel did get 2nd but the way the numbers stacked up that meant that particular bet was only slightly red (however, I counted it as ‘right’ in the records on the basis a part of a split bet came back green).

At the start the Williams leapt ahead of Rosberg and Raikkonen. The Finn had the worst start I think I’ve seen (without crash or technical woe), dropping from 2nd to 20th (last). Perez also managed to pass Rosberg, although the German soon passed the Mexican to reclaim the position.

Neither Lotus lasted through lap 1. Maldonado retired with a broken floor. Unsure of Grosjean’s woe, I think it was a technical failure. More bad news for the beleaguered team, and a far cry from the Belgian podium they enjoyed.

Raikkonen soon dispatched the backmarkers and set about climbing through the field. Interestingly, Ericsson’s Sauber was tricky to catch (at other power circuits that may be a car to watch for points).

The undercut worked splendidly for Rosberg, who leapfrogged both Williams. Once Raikkonen finally pitted, Rosberg started hunting down Vettel.

Alas, it was not to be. Rosberg’s car burst into flames and he was forced to retire, just as he was about to get within a second of Vettel. I suspect he would’ve passed the Ferrari, but we’ll never know.

Hamilton, meanwhile, spent most of the race cruising about, filling in a crossword and completing his tax returns. A few laps from the end he was suddenly told not to ask questions and to start driving very quickly. The rumour moments after the race was that they needed a 25 second gap in case they got a 25s time penalty for failing to implement minimum tyre pressures (a new rule after the tyre woe at Spa last race). He finished 25.042s ahead of Vettel. In 2014, Ricciardo was disqualified from Australia (he finished 2nd) for a technical infringement (breaking the fuel-flow limits).

Bottas was very very close to Massa at the end, but the wily Brazilian held back the Finn to claim his first (I think) podium of the year. Lots of juicy points for Williams, after a few tricky races.

After being 20th, Raikkonen did well to get 5th. That also means Ferrari top scored (so, if I’d gone for that instead of the winner each way bets, the race would’ve been green).

Force India also had another strong race. Perez finished 6th, and Hulkenberg 7th. That said, the Mexican was a cut above his team mate today, with the German struggling on tyres at times (but still doing well to keep his place). With both Lotuses failing to finish this also means the team returns to 5th in the title race.

After starting at the back, Ricciardo’s 8th and Kvyat’s 10th will be a small consolation for Red Bull, perhaps especially given Monza was never going to be a strong circuit for them.

Last but not least, Ericsson finished 9th, after qualifying in that position and subsequently being demoted 3 places for impeding Hulkenberg. A good solid weekend by the Swede, outpacing his team mate on Saturday and Sunday and picking up a few more points to provide a bit of a cushion to McLaren.

Speaking of them, Alonso had to retire as his car broke. Bloody dire season, and it continues. The car’s reportedly 160-180bhp off the Mercedes. And it’s unreliable.

The Toro Rossos were 11th and 12th, Sainz ahead, with Nasr unlucky in 13th.

After the race Hamilton (and, reportedly, the Ferraris) was under investigation by the stewards for reportedly failing to have correctly pressurised tyres. We’ll see if anything happens there.

Otherwise, a lovely day for Hamilton, decent for Ferrari and very nice for Williams and Force India, both of whom bolster their positions in the Constructors’ title race.

Force India are now on 63 points, with Lotus on 50. Toro Rosso are on 35, and Sauber on 25.

Next up, in a fortnight, is Singapore. Japan follows just a week later.

If Hamilton (or others) gets a penalty, I’ll add a comment to this piece to that effect, as it would substantially alter the green/red situation.

Whilst it would be very nice, assuming Vettel wins, for the balance sheet, the avalanche of qualifying penalties and having a race decided on a technicality is perhaps not the best image for the sport.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Italy: pre-race

Qualifying was half as expected. Hamilton got pole for the seventh race in a row (one off of Senna’s record), but Rosberg had to have his upgraded engine replaced with an older one, which has both less power and far more mileage (it’s suggested his new engine was showing signs of failing if it ran into the race). This helps explain why Rosberg finished behind both Ferraris.

There are many penalties and the odd investigation, which may make sorting out the grid something of a lengthy affair.

In Q1 a few cars struggled to set a time. Ricciardo just about squeezed in a flying lap, but Verstappen could only manage a few sectors. Even doing that was a bit hairy, as his car’s bodywork wasn’t in place properly and most of the rear flew away during the lap. So, Verstappen was officially last, with both Marussias and both McLarens also leaving at this stage, as expected.

Q1 also saw Ericsson blatantly impede Hulkenberg, so we’ll see if the Swede gets a penalty.

Ricciardo did not run at all in Q2 (it was only due to a very rapid engine change that he made Q1), and Kvyat also got knocked out at this stage. Maldonado, Nasr and Sainz failed to progress.

In Q3 it was plain sailing for Hamilton, but, surprisingly, Raikkonen was just behind him, half a second ahead of Vettel (who shares the second row with Rosberg). Massa was two-tenths up on his team mate, with row three entirely Williams. Perez was a solid 7th, a few tenths up on Grosjean. After a fairly slow first lap, Hulkenberg lost power and was unable to run any further. It’s unclear if he’ll get a penalty. Despite that, he starts ahead (so it seems) of Ericsson, both of those chaps may get penalties.

So, there are definite penalties for Ricciardo, Kvyat, Verstappen, Sainz, Button and Alonso, and possible penalties for Ericsson and Hulkenberg.

After some waiting (for the markets to get going) it emerged that Ericsson has been slapped with a three place grid penalty for impeding Hulkenberg.

Possible bets:
Lay Hamilton lead lap 1
Ferrari top score
Ferrari double podium
Perez top 6
Safety car
Lotus double score
Lay Ricciardo points
Lay Kvyat points

Hamilton has a lay value to lead lap 1 of 1.5. That may be worthwhile, especially given the Ferraris could co-operate or, at least, will be very keen not to get in one another’s way.

Ferrari are 4.5 to top score. Hmm. There are two ways the Prancing Horse could [likely] do so. The first is to have both cars finish, with one car winning. The premium on winning means 1st and 4th gets more points than 2nd and 3rd. Then there’s one of the Silver Arrows failing to finish (perhaps Rosberg, which his high mileage engine). If the reds get ahead off the start, which is a credible possibility, it is realistic to think they could top score. On the other hand, Vettel’s 8 and Raikkonen 10 to win, with Rosberg 8.5 not to be classified, so that might be a more prudent approach (if Hamilton fails to be classified, then it’s likely Vettel or Raikkonen will win, though not certain). Hmm.

Ferrari were just 3 for a double podium finish. Not tempted by that. Credible, but if that happens I suspect better bets are available.

Perez was barely over evens for a top 6 finish, which seems too tight to me.

A safety car was just 1.66. Could happen, but bit short for me.

Lotus, I think, have the pace and both cars start in the top 10. The problem is reliability (as much technical as Maldonado’s dodgems approach to driving). The odds are a mere 2.1, and given the potential for crashing and car failure, that doesn’t tempt me.

Ricciardo and Kvyat had lay odds of just over 3, which is too long to tempt (given potential attrition ahead of them).

So, of those the laying of Hamilton to lead lap 1 at 1.5 and Vettel/Raikkonen to win each way (top 2, ¼ odds, or hedged at slightly longer odds but just for the win with Betfair) were the most appealing. Annoyingly, Vettel’s odds had shortened a little. Anyway, I backed both, splitting a single stake so it counts as one bet.

Lay Hamilton lead lap 1, 1.5 [Betfair]

Vettel to win 7 each way, Raikkonen to win 10 each way [Ladbrokes, using one split stake, so it’s a single bet/tip]

Let’s hope Hamilton leaves the handbrake on at the start.

Morris Dancer

Italy: pre-qualifying

Back at Monza, for perhaps the final time. The excellent Italian circuit is the fastest on the calendar. Lots of straights, full throttle areas and minimal cornering, it’s all about top speed.

Because of that both Red Bull and McLaren are taking penalties as they think (Red Bull at least) it’ll put them in better stead for subsequent races, and they stand sod all chance at Monza anyway.

The race should be good if you have a Mercedes engine in the back, and less so if you don’t. Speaking of which, the Mercedes engine has been upgraded, but only for the two works cars. So, expect the race at the sharp end to be as one-sided as a fight between a puppy and a dalek.

It’s rather sad that after getting on the podium last race, Lotus struggled to make this one. Let’s hope Renault (or someone else, but it’s probably going to be Renault) buy the team and relieve its financial suffering.

The tyres are medium and soft.

In P1 Hamilton was half a second up on Rosberg, who was over a second ahead of Vettel. Hulkenberg was a way further back, followed by Perez, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Massa, Bottas and Maldonado.

In P2 Hamilton was again fastest, but his lead over Rosberg was a less mighty 21 thousandths of a second. Rosberg was ‘only’ seven-tenths up on Vettel, with Perez less than a tenth ahead of Hulkenberg. After the Force Indias was Raikkonen (again), Grosjean, Maldonado, Bottas and Massa.

I think Williams might be keeping their powder dry but otherwise I think that might be a decent indication of speed. Force India might have an outside shot at a podium. I wonder how quick Lotus will be.

The third practice session is of limited value as far as determining pace is concerned, because it was rather soggy. Ricciardo failed to even attempt a qualification run as his car broke down due to a hydraulics problem. He’s likely to start last due to penalties (I think he already had a substantial grid penalty).

With that caveat in mind, Hamilton was again fastest, a quarter of a second ahead of Vettel. Rosberg was within a tenth of his compatriot, with Bottas a tenth further back, a small way ahead of Massa. Maldonado was next, followed by Raikkonen, Perez, Ericsson and Grosjean.

It seems rain is entirely possible for qualifying, just to complicate things.

Potential qualifying bets:
Lotus/Force India to reach Q3
Ricciardo/Kvyat to fail to reach Q3

Perez and Hulkenberg were 1.34 each to make Q3, Maldonado and Grosjean very similar.

The odds on Red Bull failing to reach Q3 were comically long, and I don’t lay at those kind of odds.

So, nothing tempting. I had a quick look and Vettel was 2.5 to be top 3. That’s more intriguing, though with the uncertain weather the odds aren’t long enough for me.

So, no tip for qualifying, alas.

Morris Dancer