Sunday, 29 November 2015

Abu Dhabi: post-race analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We shall see.

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

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Abu Dhabi: pre-race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Button was 3 for points, which is too short.

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

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

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

Morris Dancer

Abu Dhabi: pre-qualifying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early betting ideas:
Perez Q3
Lay Bottas Q3
Rosberg pole

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

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

So, no bet in qualifying.

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

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Brazil: post-race analysis

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

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

Sainz’s engine then conked out on lap one.

And it pretty much stayed that way throughout.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Brazil: pre-race

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rain seems unlikely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morris Dancer

Brazil: pre-qualifying

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

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

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

Tyres are soft and medium.

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

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

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

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

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

Early betting thoughts I had were:
Grosjean to reach Q3

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

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

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

Morris Dancer

Monday, 2 November 2015

Mexico: post-race analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The penultimate race, Brazil, is in a fortnight.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Mexico: pre-race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race start is 7pm, UK time.

Morris Dancer