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