Saturday, 28 May 2016

Monaco: pre-race 2016

Well, qualifying was a cracker. The hedge for Rosberg got matched, so the tip’s green or redness depends on whether you hedged or not. Whilst I thought (and, indeed, said) Ricciardo had a chance of pole I didn’t expect the confident dominance in Q3. Clever tactics in Q2 as well.

Q1 wasn’t two minutes old when Nasr’s engine started smoking like Cruella de Vil. Once the Sauber was winched away, the session restarted. Verstappen introduced his front right to the wall, which broke the suspension and meant he had no choice but to collide head-on with barriers, littering the track with carbon fibre and bringing out a second red flag. After that was tidied away, the two Manors were slowest (Haryanto ahead of Wehrlein), under pressure Palmer was 18th and Ericsson was 17th.

Q2 saw cunning tactical shenanigans from Ricciardo. The Aussie set a perfectly fast lap on the purple ultrasofts, but then went out on supersofts and set a faster time. This means he starts the race on the more durable supersoft, so (if it’s dry, which is a big if) he can go longer before his first pit stop and suffer, presumably, fewer traffic issues.

Magnussen, despite having the new Renault engine [Ricciardo also has one], was slowest in this session, with a lacklustre Grosjean and Massa right ahead of him. Bottas just missed out on Q3, ahead of Gutierrez, who outqualifies his team mate for the first time this year, and Button.

Q3 saw drama. Hamilton peeled off to the side of the pit lane before leaving it. Later it emerged he had high fuel temperature (Rosberg had likewise but it delayed rather than prevented his initial exit from the pits). Hamilton was wheeled back to the pits and was able to get going later.

Meanwhile, Ricciardo had put in a fantastic lap, and Rosberg was about three-tenths behind. It seemed Hamilton had terminal speed issues, but at last he put together a flyer. The lap was only enough for 3rd, but given how it could’ve gone, I imagine he’ll take that. Ricciardo got his first pole, and mightily deserved it was too. Rosberg lines up alongside him.

Hamilton and Vettel (who was grumpy, again, on the radio) form row two. Hulkenberg and Raikkonen were next fastest but the Finn has a five place grid penalty, so row three will be Hulkenberg and Sainz. Perez and Kvyat are next, then Alonso and Bottas.

Impressive speed from Hulkenberg given Force India have been generally underwhelming this year (shade surprised he’s ahead of Perez on a street circuit). Sainz and Kvyat also looking tasty.

With Ricciardo on pole and Verstappen almost dead last, the grid looks very appetising. But there’s a potential fly in the Aussie’s ointment. Rain seems eminently possible. Likely, even.

Now, Red Bull’s downforce (and Mercedes’, for that matter) means they’ll still have an edge in the wet, but on a circuit with as much room for error as keyhole surgery on an ant, slippery conditions could make for mayhem.

Initial betting thoughts were:
Safety Car
Verstappen top 6
Force India/Toro Rosso to double score
Gutierrez not to be classified
Alonso points
Ricciardo/Hamilton win

Safety Car is 1.06. It is near certain. But I’m not risking money for a 6% gain. It’s just too feeble.

Verstappen is 4 for a top 6 finish. That seems about right to me, so it might be something I go for if nothing else pops up (that said, he does have a [small] history of crashing at the circuit).

Weirdly, Force India are second favourites (1.66) after Mercedes to have a double points finish. Toro Rosso are next at 1.8.

Gutierrez is just 2.37 not to be classified. Too short. Last year only about three cars failed to finish and there’s been one race this year where everyone reached the end.

Alonso is 1.61 for points. Given reliability issues for McLaren, potential rain and the track’s tightness, this does not tempt me.

Ricciardo was just 1.72 to win. With weather, traffic and ease of crashing, that’s not remotely appealing. Hamilton’s 4.33. Bit more tempting.

So, one or two things worthy of consideration, but nothing that leapt out at me. As is unfortunately common, I decided to peruse the markets and see if anything seemed like value.

Rosberg, win, 3.75 (perhaps each way, or 4.3 hedged on Betfair). He’s on great form, and has a good record at Monaco.

Hulkenberg podium, 9. (Betfair 10, could hedge). The Force India is surprisingly quick, and probably has the edge, just, on the Toro Rosso. There seem to be reliability question marks over the Mercedes and Vettel, as well as the potential for new engine gremlins for Ricciardo.

According to Wunderground, there’s a 60-70% chance or so of rain in the first hour, and a solid chance of it persisting throughout the race. Monaco’s got a bit of a weird micro-climate so precise forecasts can be tricky, but rain seems very probable (at some point). That does raise the first lap leader market (if it’s a safety car start, Ricciardo’s guaranteed to get it). Just 1.2, however.

After a very quick qualifying bet, I’m a bit more hesitant about the race. Right now the ones I’m looking at are:
Hamilton, win, 4.33
Rosberg, win, 4.4 (hedged)
Hulkenberg, podium, 10 (hedged)

I decided to back Rosberg for the win on Betfair at 4.4, with a hedge set up at evens. Whilst I think the grid’s pretty interesting, no value leapt out at me.

Anyway, let’s hope the race is thrilling and the bet is green.

Morris Dancer

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