Sunday, 19 June 2016

Azerbaijan: post-race analysis 2016

That really didn’t go to script. Just four retirements meant a short odds bet (which I’m generally reluctant to make) didn’t come off, and both Ferraris finished. However, if one bet of three comes in, you want it to be the longest and Perez for a podium at 6 was just that. Some fortune involved, but if luck plays a role I shan’t complain if it’s good.

Off the line it was pretty boring, with minor contact near the back, Hamilton dropping one spot and Perez rising to 5th. Surprisingly, there was no serious contact.

Rosberg rode off into the sunset, enjoying the most trouble-free of strolls to victory.

Ricciardo began to inexorably slide down the order as his Red Bull was simply murdered on the straights. This wasn’t helped by him two-stopping, ending, like his team mate, on the medium tyre (not sure anybody else bothered with that).

Hamilton charged through the field, dispatching other cars with ease on the monstrous straight. He reported a vibration problem but new tyres resolved it. However, he then had a wrong setting on his car which cost him significant lap time. He was unable to close on the driver ahead (Perez, at this stage) but wasn’t losing time to the chasing Bottas. Eventually he figured out the problem was, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the radio, but by then it was too late and he appears to have cruised to the flag to prevent wearing various components down.

Vettel had good pace but stopped much later than Raikkonen, who was ahead of him late on. The Finn obligingly moved over, but then developed a problem. A radio call to his team ensued, with his race engineer saying he couldn’t say what the problem was.

Raikkonen moved over because he had a 5s penalty for crossing the pit lane entry line (just a moment of carelessness). His problem was that Perez, who had had a trouble-free race and had a rather fast car, was within that window. When Raikkonen’s technical issue developed, Perez closed up and passed him to secure 3rd on the road.

Hamilton got 5th but he must have hoped for more until a wrong setting sunk his podium prospects. Behind him was Bottas, Ricciardo and Verstappen.

Hulkenberg had been in 7th but got passed by the two Red Bull fairly late on (he was on the supersoft and had been for a while, which may have compromised his pace). Massa nabbed the final point.

There were no major collisions and no safety car (the odds on it were just 1.11). The only retirements were Alonso, Kvyat (these two in the pits) and Wehrlein, Sainz (who both went straight on at the first corner). Very surprised at the low attrition rate.

The race, it must be said, wasn’t great. Passing was impossible in the twisty bits, and boringly easy on the long straight. After, pre-weekend, thinking it’d be tedious and then thinking it’d be exciting after the practice and qualifying sessions, it seems my first guess was correct.

Anyway, it was a green weekend, which is nice. The next race is in a fortnight, in Austria. I expect Williams to do rather well there. McLaren will not.

Drivers’ standings:
Rosberg 141
Hamilton 117

Gap is back up to 24 points. However, recent events have shown us large gaps can be narrowed rapidly. Hamilton’s problems this weekend were a combination of him cocking up qualifying and a gremlin in the race (reportedly Rosberg had a similar issue but managed to fix it more quickly). In terms of actual mistakes, both drivers have made very few this year. Also bear in mind that Hamilton will likely incur more penalties late on due to replacing bits and pieces, after losing so many early on.

Mercedes 258
Ferrari 177
Red Bull 140
Williams 90
Force India 59
Toro Rosso 32
McLaren 24
Haas 22
Sauber 6

The race served to bolster practically every team’s position in the Constructors’ table. Force India are looking good for another 5th place, which is impressive.

Austria’s nice and fast, so let’s hope the race is even greener, and rather more exciting.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Azerbaijan: pre-race 2016

Well, qualifying was rather interesting. My prediction of Hamilton being dominant was utterly wrong, but then, betting’s always easier when you know the result.

In Q1 the Renaults were dire, coming last, with Ericsson directly ahead of them. Next was Button, disappointingly (he may have had traffic issues but the McLaren still isn’t great). The two Manors, in a relatively good position, were ahead, with Haryanto just beating his much-fancied team mate Wehrlein.

In Q2 we lost both Haas (Grosjean 11th, Gutierrrez 15th). Nasr was slowest in this session, with Spaniards Sainz and Alonso 13th and 14th respectively. Hulkenberg should’ve qualified easily, but was only 12th. His fast lap was screwed up when he made a mistake, and I believe his second run was compromised by yellow flags. There were minor handbags over the radio with his team. A shame, as Force India is very tasty on this track.

Q3 was rather intriguing. Hamilton was out ahead of Rosberg and both initially did slow warm-up laps, as is their wont. Then Hamilton, who had locked up a few times, drove into a wall and broke his suspension, bringing out a red flag. Rosberg, by this time, had passed Hamilton (when the Briton had locked up earlier and gone exploring run-off), and Hamilton was 9th (Verstappen had yet to set a time). Perez was 2nd, then Vettel 3rd (the Mexican, alas, has a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change due to a crash in practice).

However, though a red flag emerged there was a final opportunity for all save Hamilton to try and set a better time. Rosberg, with a stonking margin over Perez, decided to relax in the pits instead.

Bottas tried to pass Verstappen, which buggered up both their laps and led to the Dutchman being quite irate on the radio. Ricciardo and Vettel set identical times, but as the Aussie set his earlier he gets to go ahead (Perez remained 2nd but starts 7th due to the penalty). Raikkonen and Massa are next, followed by Kvyat, Bottas, Verstappen and Hamilton.

At the time of writing it’s unclear if Hamilton will be allowed to change any of his Q2 qualifying tyres for the race start. He probably wants to, as they’ve been flat-spotted and it’s a probable one-stop strategy for the race.

I’m also going to keep my eyes open for penalties for others for blocking which could shake things up.

Slightly odd circuit. Lots of it is tight and twisty and tedious, as I expected, but the straight is very open and there could be a lot of passing there. I also expect many crashes.

According to commentary the 2nd place grid slot has the inside line going into the first corner, so Ricciardo for leading lap 1 may be a bet worth taking, although the line is at the end of an enormous straight which will definitely suit the Mercedes engine over the Renault.

Initial bets that sprang to mind:
Hamilton podium
Low number of classified finishers
Safety Car
Hulkenberg points
Perez top 6
Ricciardo lead lap 1
Raikkonen/Vettel not to be classified
Manors for a point

Hamilton is 1.28 for a podium. Hmm. No. Likely to happen. But not that likely.

There’s 1.57 on Ladbrokes for under 17.5 classified finishers. Despite the short odds I think that’s value. There are reliability question marks, especially over the Ferraris, and the circuit is phenomenally tight in places. Only five retirements are needed for this to come off and only 10/22 GP2 drivers finished.

Safety Car is 1.11. Now, I’m not sure about this. It’s very likely there’ll be one, but if there’s a red flag that might happen before the safety car is deployed. That’s my only concern (that and a burning hatred of such short odds). I think it’s value but that measly 1.11 is too short to tempt me.

Hulkenberg is 1.4 for points. I’m very confident he has the pace, but the potential for crashing does put me off a bit.

Perez is 1.61 to be top 6. Like Kylie Minogue, short, but tempting. He’s also 6 for a podium, which is also of interest.

Ricciardo is 4.5 to lead lap 1. Interesting. I think he has a good shot at the first corner but my concerns would be Vettel can also have lightning starts, and the Red Bull may not be able to hold off the cars behind (which are faster in a straight line) to the line. Vettel is 5.5 to lead lap 1.

Raikkonen is 4.5 and Vettel 5.5 not to be classified. I’m a bit conflicted on this as I think both are value (both had KERS issues in practice and Raikkonen had power loss in P3, not to mention the narrow circuit) but I’m also aware this has been a bit of a go-to bet for me and I don’t want to just do things on auto-pilot (as well as having a knack for picking only races when they finish to back this).

The Manors are only 13 and 15 for points. Given that requires them to finish and for many others to retire, it seems a bit tight-fisted.

So, few finishers, Perez and the Ferraris to fail are all tempting. A quick perusal of the markets didn’t throw up anything else of great interest.

Number of classified finishers under 17.5, at 1.57, Ladbrokes
Perez podium, 6, Ladbrokes (I would’ve preferred a back-and-hedge on Betfair but the odds were just 4.5)
Vettel/Raikkonen, not to be classified, 5.5/4.5 respectively, Ladbrokes (single stake split in half, counts as one tip)

Three tips is more than usual, and it’s worth noting the last time I offered three they all, er, failed. But there’s plenty of opportunity for crashing in Baku, the more the better.

Race start time is 2pm. Could be good.

Morris Dancer

Azerbaijan: pre-qualifying 2016

Our first race at Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. It looks like a tedious street circuit, with one surprisingly fast bit and a collection of right angle corners for maximum boredom. But is it dangerous? Mood music suggests it might be a race of red flags and safety cars.

In P1 Hamilton led his team mate by four-tenths, with Bottas a couple of tenths back, followed by Alonso. Vettel, Button and Perez were next, with Massa, Sainz and Hulkenberg rounding out the top 10.

P2 had Hamilton seven-tenths up on Rosberg, with Perez and Bottas behind. Hulkenberg, Sainz, Verstappen, Vettel, Button and Ricciardo complete the top 10 lineup.

At the moment, Ferrari and Red Bull look lacklustre, Perez and Bottas look pretty comfortable. Could be good for McLaren as well.

In final practice a drain cover came loose and damaged Bottas’ Williams. Bit worrying. Ferrari also had reliability issues, notably KERS in P2 and loss of power for Raikkonen in P3. Perez crashed into the wall in final practice.

In P3 Hamilton was a quarter of a second ahead of Rosberg, with Hulkenberg in 3rd (albeit a second off the top slot). Ricciardo, Vettel and Perez were close behind, with Verstappen, Button, Kvyat and Raikkonen rounding out the top 10.

Looks very tight between Red Bull, Williams (Bottas has been quick all weekend but the drain cover meant he didn’t set a P3 lap time), Ferrari and Force India. Perez might’ve finished higher up the order but for his late collision with the wall.

In GP2 only 10/22 cars finished, which tallies with my thinking on betting on a low number to be classified.

I didn’t see any value bets (tempting to repeat the Rosberg pole [each way] bet but I really do think it’s Hamilton’s), so no qualifying tip.

There may be many crashes in the race. If we get some in qualifying, that could mix up the grid a fair bit.

Morris Dancer

Monday, 13 June 2016

Canada: post-race analysis 2016

Got to say I found the race slightly underwhelming from both a betting and watching perspective. Raikkonen finished so the weekend was red, alas.

Before the start, Sainz got a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change necessitated by the crash he had in qualifying.

Off the line, Hamilton was sluggish and Vettel had rocket boosters. The German was into the lead almost immediately and Rosberg was alongside Hamilton. However, Rosberg made a mistake and got pushed to the grass which saw him drop to about 10th.

Vettel and Hamilton scampered off, and Verstappen had passed Ricciardo. Rosberg languished in the midfield.

Surprisingly, Vettel was able to pull a gap and escape the DRS zone. He and Hamilton were some way ahead of the chasing pack, and Rosberg was making heavy weather of getting back to the sharp end.

The Virtual Safety Car was deployed due to Button’s car pulling over (his engine was on fire). Ferrari took the opportunity to pit Vettel and put on supersoft tyres. I must’ve missed a rule change, because this forced him into a two stop strategy as the soft tyre was ‘mandated’ and had to be run during the race (this year three compounds have been available at every race).

The VSC came in quickly, as usual. And then the disappointingly obvious occurred. Hamilton pitted. Vettel pitted. The Ferrari wasn’t fast enough even with fresher rubber to close the gap. Hamilton won, Vettel was a few seconds down the road but never again challenged for the victory. Ferrari’s strategy (which they also ran for Raikkonen) was rather disappointing.

Late on, Rosberg clambered through the ranks. A podium (Bottas in 3rd at this stage) was possible, but first he had to pass Verstappen, who had earlier ignored a team request to get out of Ricciardo’s way (his team mate did appear faster but was unable to pass in the first half of the race).

Rosberg was clearly faster than Verstappen, but the Dutchman positioned his car perfectly, and Rosberg couldn't get past. The German had another crack on the penultimate lap, but lost the rear and was lucky he had run-off rather than a wall to go into. It didn’t cost Rosberg a place, but it was another very strong showing from Verstappen.

This also enabled Bottas to breathe a sigh of relief and retain 3rd, the first podium Williams have enjoyed this year.

Raikkonen was an anonymous 6th, Ricciardo a disappointing 7th, Hulkenberg got 8th, Sainz did well to climb to 9th, and Perez nabbed the final point.

There was no rain at all, alas.

Drivers’ standings:
Rosberg 116
Hamilton 107
Vettel 78
Ricciardo 72
Raikkonen 69
Verstappen 50

After four races, Hamilton was on 57 points, Rosberg on 100. Never expected that gap to tumble so quickly. After the much commented upon bad luck Hamilton had early on, Rosberg has since had a DNF due to his team mate’s error, and a brake issue at Monaco (the Canada result was due to Rosberg screwing up, rather than misfortune). Is it an inevitable Hamilton victory this year?

No. Whilst highly probable Hamilton will claim his fourth title, remember Rosberg had a seven race winning streak at the back end of last year and start of this. His mistakes total buggering up the first corner of Canada, and that’s about it. If (and it’s a very big if) Rosberg can keep his head, he can beat his team mate.

Further down the field, the battle for 3rd spot is quite intriguing. The Ferrari was clearly faster, due to the engine upgrade. Its chassis remains inferior to the Mercedes and Red Bull. So, the Prancing Horse may enjoy fast circuits like Austria, but not slow ones (such as Azerbaijan, where we go next weekend).

Constructors’ standings:
Mercedes 223
Ferrari 147
Red Bull 130
Williams 81
Force India 42
Toro Rosso 32
McLaren 24
Haas 22
Renault 6

Mercedes seem destined for victory here as well. Could be tight for 2nd, however. Williams look nailed on for 4th (they may be a shade disappointed, but remember it’s only a few years ago that they were backmarkers). Force India, after a lacklustre start, got another double points finish in Canada and must be hopeful of getting 5th again.

Although the points are tight between Toro Rosso, McLaren and Haas, the teams are in a bit of a weird position. McLaren will struggle to advance further, Haas had a lightning start and has been a bit rubbish since, and Toro Rosso have been reliably racking up small points tallies just about everywhere.

Sauber are flat on their back, and Renault are barely better, but will be glad of their six points.

The next race, as I mentioned, is in Azerbaijan this coming weekend. The circuit is a collection of tedious right angles around the streets of Baku. Bring caffeine.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Canada: pre-race 2016

Rosberg got very close to poll, but you don’t win bets by nearly being right. On the plus side, the each way element came off so there was neither a loss nor a gain.

In the first part of qualifying, Magnussen was unable to put in a time due to crashing. Both Saubers and both Manors also failed to escape (Wehrlein top of that quartet in 18th) and Palmer, the other Renault driver, also did not progress.

It was pretty competitive at the sharp end of Q2. Button locked a brake which may have cost him progression, but his team mate did get through. Likewise, Perez did not advance, Hulkenberg did. Both Toro Rossos and both Haas cars [which have been odd this year, starting spectacularly and then falling off a cliff] exited at this stage.

In Q3 there were only two chaps competing for pole. Hamilton got it by less than a tenth over his team mate. Obviously disappointing the full bet didn’t come off, but the each way aspect meant it was neutral (for the record, that counts as a win). For a long time it was a class of two, but Vettel got surprisingly close, just a tenth off Rosberg’s time. With tyre degradation a potential factor, the gentler Ferrari might yet spring a surprise.

Ricciardo was next, a quarter of a second ahead of his team mate. At the moment, I do think the Aussie is top dog in Red Bull. Raikkonen had a lacklustre 6th. Bottas and Massa were next, which is a bit better than I’d expected (the Williams is tasty in a straight line but a bit rubbish at slow corners, of which Canada has many). Hulkenberg and Alonso were next up.

There’s a 40% chance of rain in the first hour, 20% in the second. So, rain must be considered, but not assumed.

Without checking the markets, bets that sprung to mind were:
Raikkonen not to be classified
Alonso/Button points
Ricciardo podium

Raikkonen is 4.33 not to be classified. I find that quite tempting. The Ferrari has slightly suspect reliability, rain may help increase the odds of failing to finish and starting 6th means there’s plenty of scope for a lap 1 crash.

Alonso and Button are about 1.8 and evens for points. I think that’s about right, and, hence, not value.

Ricciardo’s 2.25 for a podium. Again, I think that’s fair and, therefore, not value. Was hoping he’d be a shade longer.

The Raikkonen bet is quite appealing, but I thought I’d peruse the markets anyway to see if anything leapt out like a panther on an unwary dentist from Minnesota.

Vettel is 9 to lead lap 1. That’s slightly tempting as the Mercedes, especially Hamilton, have had some dodgy starts this year. My issue with this market is it’s almost entirely random.

In the end, I just went for the Raikkonen bet. So, the tip is:
Raikkonen, Not To Be Classified, 4.33 (Ladbrokes)

Race start is 7pm UK time (that always throws me off-kilter). Let’s hope it’s another Canadian classic.

The post-race analysis will be done tomorrow.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Canada: pre-qualifying 2016

The first of a back-to-back pair of races (Azerbaijan is next weekend), we’re in Canada this time. I like Canada’s circuit a lot, although it’s always worth checking the weather forecast.

In the first practice session, Hamilton was three tenths up on Rosberg, with Vettel and Verstappen following. Raikkonen and Bottas were next, with Hulkenberg, Sainz, Perez and Alonso rounding out the top 10.

In the second practice session, Hamilton was two-tenths up on Vettel, with Rosberg three-tenths further down the road. Verstappen, Ricciardo and Bottas followed, with Button, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg and Sainz next up.

A red flag caused by a large Magnussen crash meant there was no real qualifying simulation in the third practice session, although it did seem fairly close at the sharp end.

Because of that, Vettel was fastest, two-tenths up on Verstappen. Rosberg and Raikkonen were next (on almost identical times), followed by Hamilton and Ricciardo. Sainz, Alonso, Perez and Massa round out the top 10.

Checking Wunderground, there’s a slightly better than evens chance of rain for qualifying (and a strong minority (30-40% chance) of rain during the race. If there is rain that relatively advantages Red Bull over Ferrari, and won’t help Williams.

Pole seems very hard to call.

Bets I had in mind at this stage:
Alonso for Q3
Lay Massa Q3

Alonso was only evens, so that doesn’t tempt. Massa’s lay odds were 1.95, which is too long.

I was surprised to see Hamilton was 1.61 and Rosberg 4 to take pole. Each way the odds are a a third, so that’s evens for Rosberg to be top two. He’s been top two in qualifying at every race this year.

So, a tip, surprisingly:
Rosberg, pole (each way), 4 (Ladbrokes).

Morris Dancer