Sunday, 31 July 2016

Germany: post-race analysis 2016

Fair to say a tip that was plain wrong (whilst Hulkenberg did receive a minor grid penalty after I bet, this did not affect things substantially) and a race that had some interesting moments but was not a classic.

The first lap was frantic and exciting. Rosberg had an atrocious start, slipping to 4th, and Verstappen had a tasty getaway, rising to 2nd behind Hamilton.

Hamilton spent the rest of the race cruising to victory and contemplating what to do on his summer holiday.

Gutierrez started 11th and was the only man on the soft (all others on supersoft). The potential strategic advantage was lost somewhat when he left the handbrake on at the start and fell down to around 16th.

As Rosberg fought back he passed Verstappen after a round of pit stops with an aggressive overtake, very late braking into the hairpin. This level of excitement was clearly contrary to the principles of modern F1 and the German was duly penalised with a 5s penalty [which he took at his next pit stop]. That’ll teach him to be interesting. (Also worth noting Verstappen’s late move in Hungary got no penalty).

Hamilton got the victory. Ricciardo appeared to find the tyres easier to handle than his team mate, and ended up 2nd with Verstappen having to settle for 3rd. In the final stint, Rosberg made up no time whatsoever on the Red Bulls. Not sure why, but it meant he finished a dreary 4th.

The Ferraris trundled about in a race of their own. Vettel was called into the pits and declined. The team radioed again saying they’d try an undercut and he, quite reasonably, pointed out the next car was miles ahead. Vettel was 5th, Raikkonen 6th.

It had been assumed everyone would try two stopping but three seemed to be the way to go. Bottas attempted a two stop but his tyres fell off the cliff. He was gobbled up by Hulkenberg and Button. Button and Alonso both appeared to have fuel-saving issues (the Honda is a thirsty beast) but it was worse for the Spaniard who slipped out of the points altogether (to the benefit of Perez).

Massa had to retire after an early contact with Palmer appeared to damage his car (pace was dire and he got passed left, right and centre).

A dreadful result for Rosberg. He’s had two poles in the last two races, and started abysmally. The mid-season break is an opportunity for him to pull himself together (and perhaps enjoy watching the Olympics). Hamilton must feel great, but if his reliability starts failing his lead could vanish overnight. That said, Hamilton is psychologically stronger than Rosberg. The Briton is in with a great chance of a third consecutive title.

Hamilton 217
Rosberg 198
Ricciardo 133
Raikkonen 122
Vettel 120
Verstappen 115
Bottas 58
Alonso 24
Magnussen 6

The title is, of course, a two horse race. Hamilton is favourite, and rightly so. He has the pace, track record (as it were) and mental strength. On Rosberg’s side is a summer break to pick himself up, historically performing well in the latter half of the season (particularly last year) and Hamilton’s impending penalties. If you believe Rosberg can do it, or get close, now is likely the optimum time to back him.

Also worth noting I mentioned in the mid-season review some thoughts on how I might spread-bet, hence the inclusion of the latter three drivers’ points. Buying Bottas at 93 and Verstappen at 206 are looking so-so and pretty good respectively, I think. Selling Magnussen at 11 and Alonso at 53 is looking promising.

Mercedes 415
Red Bull 256
Ferrari 242
Williams 96
Force India 81
Toro Rosso 45
McLaren 42
Haas 28
Renault 6
Manor 1
Sauber 0

Red Bull and Ferrari should have a good fight for 2nd, although the title is sewn up. Behind them, I think Force India may overtake Williams (it’ll be close). I think McLaren will pass Toro Rosso. Not only does the McLaren have a nice chassis, Kvyat seems mentally destroyed right now. The lower four will, I think, finish in their current order.

So, the bet didn’t come off. Not delighted, but it was one of those weekends when I didn’t have a clue what would happen. Kudos to Mr. Putney, who got his Hamilton-win bet right and was a shade unfortunate the time margin wasn’t a little larger.

As I said, there’s a four week break until Spa. Hamilton, I understand, will have a new engine for that so Rosberg should (indeed, must) claw back some relative points. A mere week after that is Monza (for the final time?). Ferrari must beat Red Bull at those types of circuits, especially Monza, if they want to finish 2nd.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Germany: pre-race 2016

In the first session of qualifying it was misery for Sauber, who were last. Wehrlein and Haryanto were 18th and 20th respectively (it may be the latter’s last race due to money issues. Potential replacements include McLaren future driver Stoffel Vandoorne and Renault chap Esteban Ocon). Kvyat was just 19th (and sounded quite lost during a rather sad interview afterwards). Magnussen was 17th.

Palmer made Q2, but made no further progress, starting just one place ahead of his team mate. Surprisingly, neither McLaren made Q3 (Button outqualifying his Spanish team mate, 12th to 14th). Grosjean was 15th, but has a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change, Gutierrez was 11th and Sainz 13th.

Throughout the weekend, Mercedes appeared to be in a league of one. During the first fast laps of Q3, Rosberg abruptly bailed on a good lap, and dove into the pits. It turned out to be an electronic problem, and whilst it was mended he meant he would get only one fast lap.

One was enough. He nailed his qualifying lap for pole, whereas Hamilton locked a wheel and will start 2nd (Rosberg also had more fuel on board in case he needed another lap). Ricciardo was a quarter of a second back and lines up alongside his team mate.

Raikkonen leads Vettel on the Ferrari third row. Row four is Hulkenberg and Bottas, row five is Perez and Massa. The latter quartet were very close together.

There’s a roughly 10-15% chance of rain. So, unlikely, but can’t be written off entirely. Ricciardo starts on tyres that have done a little more mileage than they should’ve. May necessitate an early stop and bugger things up for him.

Sainz has a three place grid penalty for impeding another driver.

Based on the grid, my initial betting thoughts were:
Rosberg win
Verstappen podium
Hulkenberg top 6

Rosberg is evens for a win. Entirely credible, as per pole, but not tempting. It’s almost a coin toss, and Hamilton had the better start last time.

Verstappen is 2.1 for a podium. If we assume Mercedes snaffle the first two places, that leaves a quartet of cars vying for the final place. In those circumstances, 2.1 is mean.

Hulkenberg is merely 2.2 for a top 6 place. Whilst he starts 7th, it’s very close between Force India and Williams, and the three teams ahead (all else being equal) are faster. So, again, not very appealing.

So, as is the standard operating procedure, I had a look at the markets to see if any value leapt out.

Things to consider:
Verstappen win, each way 17
Raikkonen win, each way 41
Grosjean, not to be classified, 4.33
Massa, not to be classified, 4.5
Button, not to be classified, 3.4
Raikkonen, podium, 4

The Verstappen bet is based on the Red Bull generally being closer in race trim than qualifying, as well as starting better. Ricciardo may well be hampered by the need for an earlier pit stop. Verstappen’s also proven himself to be very capable if it does happen to rain. However, he did have a battery issue in practice which would ruin his race and probably cause retirement if it recurred.

Raikkonen has been faster than Vettel in every qualifying session. The Ferrari is kinder to its tyres than the Red Bull and if Ricciardo does have to stop early and gets caught in traffic, that should make life easier for Raikkonen. Against that is the starting position of 5th and Ferrari’s recent run of bad/unlucky strategy calls.

Grosjean not to be qualified is based on his general unhappiness with car balance, coupled with the relatively narrow track meaning mistakes can lead to a DNF. There’s also the potential for a reliability failure, of course.

Massa and Button both have opportunity for lap 1 woe, the latter with additional reliability issues and the former with sometimes dodgy downforce (if it’s wet, that’ll be a problem).

Raikkonen has been quick all weekend. If we remove Ricciardo due to an early stop, and Raikkonen has the pace to pass Verstappen (overtaking is possible into the hairpin) he may be a good bet for a podium. Maybe.

It would be honest to say that, right now, I have no idea upon what to bet. Which is not tremendously helpful.

So, after much difficulty, I saw Hulkenberg is 3.05 to be top 6 on Betfair. And backed that.
Update 31 July 2016: after making this bet, it emerged Hulkenberg got a 1 place grid penalty for using tyres that should've been handed back after practice. Humbug.

Technically, that’s a tip, but it is of the pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey variety, so, more than usual, do at your own risk etc.

Morris Dancer

Germany: pre-qualifying 2016

Some off-track news for next year first. The halo won’t be included in 2017 but will be in the 2018 season. However, wet standing starts appear to be back for 2017. After the first crash, I imagine there’ll be instant calls for a return to the safe tedium of a safety car trundling around for 8 laps at the start, so we’ll see how long that lasts.

It also appears radio communication restrictions have been axed, with immediate effect. Perhaps Button getting a penalty for being told what to do when his brake pedal was broken prompted the change.

Sadly, that good news isn’t as good as it first appeared:
"Looking at 2017, two new rules will be introduced - there will be standing re-starts after a safety car start in wet conditions; and during a race stoppage, teams will no longer be able to change their cars or tyres."

In first practice Rosberg led the way, three-tenths up on Hamilton. Vettel was almost a second down the road, followed by Raikkonen, with Verstappen less than a tenth off the slower Ferrari. Ricciardo, Alonso, Button, Kvyat and Sainz rounded out the top ten (making it team-by-team all the way).

Second practice had Rosberg four-tenths up on his team mate. Vettel was third, with Verstappen, Ricciardo and Raikkonen a few-tenths back but very close to one another. Hulkenberg, Button, Perez and Alonso were next.

Right now, the Ferraris and Red Bulls seem very close, and Rosberg appears to have the upper hand on his team mate. McLaren also look well-placed.

In P3 Rosberg was again fastest, leading Hamilton by less than a tenth. Ricciardo was, surprisingly, a similar small margin behind the Briton, and likewise the following Raikkonen. Vettel was next, then Verstappen, Bottas, Massa, Alonso and Hulkenberg.

During third practice, Verstappen had a battery charging problem. If that recurs in the race, it’s enough to be crippling for an F1 car. In P3 commentary, Allan McNish stated that only once in the last 14 races has the race been won by someone outside the top two. Grosjean has a gearbox change, incurring a five place grid penalty.

At the moment, the only tempting bets would be looking at Hulkenberg or Alonso’s odds on making Q3. They’re just 1.6 and 1.4 respectively, which is too short to tempt.

I did check the pole odds. Rosberg and Hamilton are evens each, which is probably fair but doesn’t off any value.

So, no tip on qualifying.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Hungary: post-race analysis 2016

Must admit, I was unusually tense about the race. I tend not to make short odds bets, and tend not to be very confident about them (to the extent I was wondering if I’d missed something). However, it turned out the race track least likely to have a safety car was unlikely to have a safety car. The short odds bet came off, and there was much rejoicing.

The start was pretty much the race. Rosberg started badly, slipped to 3rd and quickly regained 2nd, and that was how the top three finished (Ricciardo next up).

Button had a brake problem (in that they didn’t work), got guidance from the team after he slipped to last, then got a drive-through penalty for the radio communication. He was, rightly, cheesed off with the powers that be and pointed out over the radio that brake failure was actually a safety issue. Later, his miserable race was capped by an oil leak which forced him to be the only retirement.

There were some tight battles (Hamilton and Rosberg, Riccardo and Vettel, Verstappen and Raikkonen) but all served to prove how very difficult it is to overtake at Hungary. Raikkonen almost passed Verstappen for 5th, but the Dutchman had (in Raikkonen’s and my view) a late move that saw some contact, and the Finn lost a little of his front wing.

Woe for Palmer who was running 10th and carelessly got out onto the marbles. He skidded off the track and resumed racing, but had lost places and what would’ve been his first point. Shame.

The two Mercedes were in a league of their own (at times the cars behind were faster but the Silver Arrows both finished with a pit stop in hand). The Red Bulls and Ferraris were quite closely matched (though the former finished ahead, the latter were faster at the end). Interesting to note Rosberg was able to stick closely to Hamilton. On a circuit where passing is rather more possible the result may have been different.

Alonso was 7th. More than a lap down on the winner but in the fourth fastest car, which bodes well for McLaren (at Singapore they may have a tasty result). Also exacerbates Button’s misery.

Sainz, Bottas and Hulkenberg got the last few points.

The result means the Mercedes drivers each have 5 wins.
Hamilton 192
Rosberg 186
Ricciardo 115
Raikkonen 114
Vettel 110
Verstappen 100

Title basically done? No. Rosberg was probably faster than Hamilton today, in my view. Now, that might be down to dodgy tyres or suchlike, but Hamilton was never able to pull a significant gap and it’s extremely hard to pass in Hungary. Furthermore, Hamilton will almost certainly have more penalties (I think they’d be of the back-of-the-grid variety) due to engine parts. In fact, now may be the perfect time to consider a Rosberg title bet (although I’d want tasty odds).

Mercedes 378
Ferrari 224
Red Bull 223
Williams 94
Force India 74

Title is essentially over, but it’s tight for the positions behind. Ferrari would be perhaps 50 points or so higher but for dreadful reliability earlier in the year. Who’ll finish on top? Hard to say right now. Williams very slightly (by one point) extended their advantage over Force India. The latter team may yet claim a best ever result of 4th, though. The Williams is weak aerodynamically and atrocious in the wet.

Perhaps surprisingly, this was only my third green weekend of the year. I’m perplexed but pleased the bookies mispriced the safety car odds.

The next race is a week away, in Germany. After that there’s a four week break to Belgium.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Hungary: pre-race 2016

Qualifying went on for bloody ages. It was very wet, so the start was delayed, and then there were three red flags in the first part of qualifying (which lasted about 75 minutes, including the delayed start).

It was properly pissing it down when the first part of qualifying was due to commence, so the prolonged delay was entirely justified. Indeed, drivers only got in a single, very wet, lap before the rain intensified and the first red flag was waved.

Eventually the rain clouds passed and the cars went out. Almost immediately Ericsson introduced his Sauber to the advertising hoardings. Red flag came out again. The car was cleared, and by this time the track was drying rapidly. A few risked intermediate tyres. Massa made a tiny mistake, his car aquaplaned and he struck a barrier, bringing out another flag. Towards the very end of the session, Haryanto repeated Ericsson’s accident, and there was such little time left the red flag was waved and the Q1 session was not restarted.

As well as the three crashers, both Renaults and Wehrlein failed to reach Q2.

After that mammoth session, Q2 and Q3 proceeded normally.

In Q2 Grosjean, Kvyat and Perez were the top three eliminated (Perez being a surprise as the Force India had been very competitive in the wetter conditions and pretty good in the dry. Probably misfortune due to the rapidly evolving track and being unlucky to be one of the first to see the chequered flag). Raikkonen, Gutierrez and Nasr were also out, the Finn also being very unlucky with timing. He went from fastest to 14th in the space of a lap.

Q3 had some final drama. All was progressing normally, the Red Bulls a shade closer to the Silver Arrows than expected, but then Alonso spun as others did their final laps. A yellow emerged and Hamilton, on a fast lap, had to slow. The yellow (probably, see below) was withdrawn but Rosberg was still on a quick lap. The German seized his chance and snatched pole from his team mate and title rival.

Red Bull took the second row, Ricciardo ahead of Verstappen, Vettel and Sainz were next up. Row four was McLaren’s, Alonso leading the way. Hulkenberg and Bottas round out the top 10.

Shortly after qualifying finished it was alleged that Rosberg’s pole lap should be invalidated because of yellow flags. I saw coverage and an electronic ‘flag’ behind Alonso’s car flicked from yellow to green, so I think Rosberg will be ok, and Mercedes indicate the German lifted for the yellow. However, it’s unresolved at the time of writing.

Initial bets that leapt to mind were:
Lay Raikkonen top 6
Raikkonen points
Red Bull top score
McLaren double points finish
Verstappen podium

The lay odds for Raikkonen to be top 6 (with little liquidity) are 4.1. Not quite value and not enough cash available to be worthwhile anyway.

Raikkonen is just 1.4 for points. Eminently possible, but too short to tempt.

Red Bull are just 4 to top score. Too mean to tempt. It requires [95%] either a Mercedes DNF or a Red Bull victory.

McLaren are 1.9 to have a double points finish. I think that’s well worth considering and, had I not made a bet already (see below) I’d probably go with this as it’s the clear best value of the quintet of original ideas I had.

Verstappen is 1.72 for a podium. Barring accident, it seems to be between the top four on the grid. Yet the rain will have washed away most of the rubber laid down over the weekend and the newly resurfaced track may chew up tyres, an issue that affects the Red Bull (which has also been much slower than the Mercedes on long runs).

Just saw the safety car is evens. Is rain forecast? No, I checked, so that’s an automatic tip (Ladbrokes). Hungary is the circuit least likely to see one (wide track, lots of run off areas). I’m perplexed by the long odds and can only assume people are over-reacting to the many red flags in a soaked qualifying.

So, just that one tip:
No Safety Car, evens, Ladbrokes

Morris Dancer

Hungary: pre-qualifying

A few snippets of news emerged recently. Rosberg has signed a new contract with Mercedes, so both he and Hamilton will be there until 2018.

There are also new rules on radio transmissions. Now, drivers being given advice (to fix a problem, improving performance is still banned) must return to the pits (not necessarily stop, they can just cruise through).

In addition, rain is possible for the race (which could see a rare Hungarian safety car appearance), and the track has been resurfaced, which is slightly chewing up tyres (that said, a two stop is likelier than a three stop, assuming it’s dry).

There’s been much mulling and murmuring about whether the Red Bulls might be able to take the fight to Mercedes here. Also worth remembering that it’s hard to overtake at the Hungaroring. The tyres, I think, are supersoft (1.5s faster than the next tyre), soft and medium.

In first practice, Hamilton was about a quarter of a second ahead of Rosberg, who was nearly a second and a half up on Vettel. The Germans were followed by Raikkonen and Ricciardo, Verstappen, Alonso and Button following on. Grosjean and Perez rounded out the top 10.

I saw much of second practice but missed the early part, during which Hamilton had a crash. Doesn’t appear to have affected him but did severely limit his running. As a result, he was only 5th. Rosberg was top, half a second up on Ricciardo. Vettel, Verstappen and the aforementioned Hamilton were next, with Raikkonen, Alonso, Button, Hulkenberg and Perez following.

At this stage, the Mercedes appears to be in a class of one. McLaren, surprisingly, seem to be the fastest after the Mercedes-Red Bull-Ferrari teams. Williams are off the pace.

The FIA reckons it’ll enforce track limits, so bear that in mind [not every corner, though, just 4 and 11].

In third practice, both Mercedes drivers made multiple mistakes and seemed to find the car a little bit of a handful. Rosberg was fastest by a mere two-thousandths over Verstappen, with Ricciardo half a second down the road. Hamilton was four-hundredths off the Aussie and a tenth ahead of Raikkonen (I think that reflects time lost through a mistake, and it’s worth noting Rosberg’s top lap time was also influenced by an error). Vettel, Alonso, Bottas, Perez and Palmer round out the top 10.

Do check the weather forecast before betting. At the moment, the race appears dry but qualifying may be rain-affected.

I’m trying to cut down slightly on the number of bets, given that in my mid-season review it seems to be races where I offer more that my results are worse.

Initial thoughts on qualifying betting are Alonso or Button to make Q3. Nothing else strikes my fancy, off the bat. However, the odds on Betfair are just 1.5 and 1.74 respectively, and that’s too short to tempt. I think the odds reflect reality, but the short odds coupled with potential for rain and lap times being erased doesn’t entice me.

So, no tip for qualifying.

Morris Dancer

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The 2016 Mid-season Review

From last race: Rosberg eventually got a 10s time penalty, which dropped him to 3rd.

It’s been a bit of a flat season so far, in betting terms. I’m in the red marginally with a hedged approach (just over 1 stake) and a bit more, without being catastrophic, on a bet-and-forget approach (just over 3 stakes).

I’ve got either 5 or 6 (the latter for hedged) of 22 tips offered in in pre-qualifying and pre-race pieces correct, which is a pretty low proportion.

After making losses at the first four races, I had a nice race in Spain, with a health profit of £60 (assuming £10 stakes). Since then things have been marginally red overall.

Although I’m not counting this in my records, I did offer a tip for Spain on Verstappen winning which, at the time, was 250/1. When the markets took notice he’d shifted to Red Bull, it fell to 40/1, which remains a pleasingly long odds winner. Because of the short-term nature of the bet (I knew the odds would tumble swiftly) I didn’t offer it here. If people think I should change that approach and put up such tips, which are strictly time limited as bookies hurry to change odds, do let me know.

So, why’s the year been a bit poor?

Partly, bad luck. Ferrari and McLaren have had bad reliability. The only thing worse has been that whenever I back either for not being classified, I get it wrong. That said, I did get flukey with the Perez podium in Azerbaijan, so it is a little swings and roundabouts.

On four occasions I’ve offered 3 tips (which is 1-2 more than standard) and on only one occasion was that profitable. Being a bit more selective, by itself, would’ve pushed me from red to green. That may be the key lesson.

How do I see the season ahead? There are still a stonking 11 races to go. I think most of the races will suit Ferrari more than Red Bull, so they may retain (or reclaim, I expect the next race, Hungary, to be good for Red Bull) 2nd in the Constructors’. I do wonder how Rosberg might do. Hamilton has all the momentum and is just 4 points behind. However, he’s also got some engine penalties likely to come and Rosberg had a very strong finish to the last quarter of the 2015 season. Overall, I think Hamilton is favourite, but Rosberg may be underestimated by those who think it’ll be straightforward. The next few races are critical. If Rosberg is still more or less level in five races, I think he can do it.

Incidentally, I mentioned a super secret extra thingummyjig might be included. Bearing in mind (even with a tiny stake) I made a bit on the Verstappen bet, I’m thinking of dipping my toe into spread-betting waters. In the past I’ve offered some suggestions to Mr. Putney ahead of a season kicking off, and familiarising myself with the market seems sensible. So, I’m going to offer some spread-betting suggestions [NB not proper tips as I’m not backing them myself] for the latter half of 2016.

buy Verstappen 206
buy Bottas 93 [this has since risen to 99]
Sell Magnussen 11

Sell Alonso 53

Unlike the normal tips, which I generalise a £10 stake so I can compare each year more easily, I’ll assume a £1 stake per point here.

Verstappen (weirdly only available over the electric telephone as I write this) is currently on 90 points after 10/21 races. He spent the first four or so at Toro Rosso. Excepting a second horror show at Monaco, he’s been adept at various circuits, and was very racy in the wet of Silverstone last weekend. The Red Bull tends to vary between being the second and third fastest car, and is more reliable than the Ferrari. The Mercedes also sometimes has reliability issues, which can push up a Red Bull for a few more points.

Verstappen has made 73 points in the last 6 races, including a DNF in Monaco. I think buying at 206 is definitely worth considering without being a total slam dunk. To counter the DNF, he had great luck in Spain with the Mercedes’ collision and also got a few more points in the last two races due to Rosberg’s time penalty and another Silver Arrow collision.

Bottas is currently on 54 points. The Williams is a little up and down, and has been a bit poor relative to competitors (especially Force India) recently, and nor was it helped by the rain in the UK. However, it is quick in a straight line and the only full-blown street circuit left on the calendar (after Monaco and Baku) is Singapore [Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina is also generally tight and slow, but does have a massive straight too]. Williams generally have slightly ropey strategy but good reliability. With Hamilton’s penalties ahead and the 11 remaining races perhaps more favourable than the first half, I’d say this is worth considering, but perhaps rank it below the Verstappen suggestion.

Magnussen drives a Renault. He currently has 6 points, and I’m tempted to suggest selling at 11. His car is one of the three worst on the grid, and he requires substantial luck, I’d suggest, to get a points finish. It’s a pretty narrow window, however.

Alonso is a fantastic driver, but his car is not wonderful. It is quick enough to nibble at the lower fringes of the points, but also worth pointing out of his 18 points (considering a sell at 53) a full 10 came at Monaco. From the other 9 races so far he has made 8 points. If that persists (and let’s say he gets 10 at Singapore), he’s on course for 36/37 points. The car also fails fairly often. This is the suggestion of which I’m most confident.

Anyway, I shall make a note of these four suggestions, including my confidence level, and we shall see how they progress.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 10 July 2016

United Kingdom: post-race analysis 2016

Must admit, I found the race a shade disappointing in betting terms and a bit so-so in terms of racing. Despite wet conditions and many skids, neither McLaren retired (Alonso, the bounder, skidded through the gravel, hit the barrier, and kept going. The fiend).

Off the line there was no excitement because it had rained fairly heavily and we had a safety car start.

As is now the modus operandi of F1, the safety car stayed out too bloody long and almost immediately some cars dove into the pits for the intermediates. The Red Bull was racier than a drunk stripper, and Verstappen passed Rosberg (who was relatively slow on the intermediates). It appeared the lead four (Mercedes and Red Bulls) had missed the boat with regards to the optimal strategy (intermediate whilst waiting for slicks). Perez had also stayed out and had therefore risen to 5th, at this early stage.

However, Wehrlein was the first (but certainly not the last) to skid on a damp patch at the first corner. His scenic trip through the gravel came to an abrupt end. His race was over, and the Virtual Safety Car made an appearance.

The top five all pitted for inters, and there was much rejoicing.

When they emerged, all on the medium compound, Hamilton had a healthy lead ahead of Verstappen, who was a few seconds ahead of Rosberg.

Further back, Vettel was still struggling to get into the points, in a Ferrari that was performing surprisingly poorly.

Rosberg’s car was clearly faster than the Red Bull, but Verstappen’s a talented defensive driver and the German could get close but was failing, lap after lap, to pass. Eventually, Rosberg did make the move, but at this stage there were perhaps a dozen laps left and eight seconds or so to make up if he wanted to reach Hamilton.

Further down the field, Perez had slid down a little but was still going well. Sainz had been going strongly but spinning at turn 1 (as many did) cost him a couple of places.

At the front (nearly), drama. Rosberg’s gearbox stopped playing. He was stuck in seventh, and the team radioed a fix and told him to shift through (ie avoid that gear). He’d lost time to Verstappen but retained 2nd.

However, Christian Horner, Red Bull’s team principal argued that it contravened a rule banning most communication (which is why Mercedes couldn’t tell Hamilton in Azerbaijan how to change his settings). Toto Wolff, one of Mercedes’ bosses, has said he’s confident the ensuing (currently ongoing) inquiry will find no wrongdoing as communications are permitted when the car’s about to fail or there’s another safety issue.

So, despite rain the race was a little bit dissatisfying. The safety car was out too long. There were many skids but few led to retirements (Wehrlein’s team mate Haryanto did much the same, both Renaults, Grosjean and Ericsson also retired).

Hamilton cruised to effortless triumph, Rosberg 2nd, for now at least, Verstappen got his second consecutive podium. Ricciardo and Raikkonen were next, with Perez and Hulkenberg getting a tasty finish for Force India. Sainz and Kvyat were 8th and 10th respectively, which is nice for Toro Rosso, and Vettel was a meagre 9th. This has been a dodgy weekend for Ferrari.

Assuming Rosberg retains his 2nd (and the 18 points that come with it) here are the standings for the drivers:
Rosberg 171
Hamilton 167
Raikkonen 106
Ricciardo 100
Vettel 98
Verstappen 87

Momentum has swung very much Hamilton’s way, ever since the collision in Spain took out both Mercedes and halted Rosberg’s run of about seven consecutive victories. So, is Hamilton home and hosed? No. He’s probably right to be favourite, but when penalties come into play (and they will) that could give Rosberg a significant advantage in latter races. I’d say a Hamilton title is perhaps 70% likely. Maybe 80%. But there’s a plausible way Rosberg can win this, though he needs to stop the rot. Excepting Baku (Rosberg victory), Hamilton’s won four of the last five races.

Mercedes 338
Ferrari 204
Red Bull 195
Williams 92
Force India 73
Toro Rosso 41
McLaren 32
Haas 28
Renault 6
Manor 1
Sauber 0

Mercedes would need to work hard to lose the title here. Red Bull are within one good race of overhauling Ferrari, thanks to a combination of inept strategy and poor reliability from the Prancing Horse. Force India are reeling in Williams, although 19 points when the two are usually scrapping to be fourth fastest is still a reasonable gap.

So, a bit of a flat weekend. At least my hesitancy over a race bet was justified, as nothing I thought would happen actually did. On the plus side, the 12 pence net loss (for £10 stakes) is rather better than the triple failure of Austria.

This is also the final race in (according to the way I do things) the first half of the season. The Hungarian Grand Prix is up in a fortnight, and before then I’ll endeavour to have a mid-season review up. Although most of the races have been good, my betting has not [discounting tips offered elsewhere], so I’ll have to see why that might be. Happens sometimes, although it’s disappointing.

Anyway, I’ll try and get that done before Hungary, which I suspect will be nice for Red Bull.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 9 July 2016

United Kingdom: pre-race 2016

Qualifying was dry, but quite interesting nevertheless (although I’d dispute the ‘zero tolerance’ of track limits). It was also mildly profitable, as Alonso kindly obliged by reaching the final part of the session. Bit relieved, as short odds bets aren’t really my cup of tea.

It was overcast and grey (it is the British summer, after all) but no rain fell. Marcus Ericsson, after a substantial crash in practice, did not compete (he may be permitted to race, or not).

The Sauber of Nasr and both Manors were at the back of the field, as is usually the case. Both Palmer and Magnussen suffered deleted times for crossing the white lines that denote the track and had to go again. Magnussen made it, Palmer did not. Button was a long way back from Alonso, because his rear end plate had become loose (costing him downforce) and mending it prevented him getting another fast lap in. Alas, this meant he exited at this stage.

Q2 saw Magnussen last, and both Haas drivers failed to progress. Kvyat had a disappointing qualifying (the Russian was 15th but his team mate made the top 10), as did Massa (12th, and over half a second behind Bottas). Perez just missed out on the top 10, qualifying 11th (he’ll start 10th, due to a Vettel gearbox penalty) but he may be sitting pretty for the race itself.

In the final part of qualifying it was clear the Mercedes were in a league of their own. Hamilton was faster on the initial run, only for his lap time to be deleted for exceeding track limits. However, the Briton went on to grab a comfortable pole ahead of Rosberg.

Behind them, Verstappen was over a second off the pace, with Ricciardo a few tenths off his team mate. Given their performance in Q2 I do wonder if the Red Bulls might have a decent race ahead of them.

Raikkonen and Vettel are next up, but the German has a five place grid penalty for yet another gearbox change. So, again, it’ll be a Finnish row as Bottas moves up.

Hulkenberg and Sainz are next, with Alonso and Perez on the fifth row. Vettel starts 11th.

The weather forecast for the race is largely dry but with heavy showers possible.

At first glance, bets that came to mind were:
Perez top 6
Verstappen podium
Verstappen/Ricciardo to lead lap 1

That’s not as much as usual, but, though the grid looks quite interesting, it’s hard for me to see much value. (I think Vettel may struggle to get on the podium, which would’ve been something I’d consider elsewhere).

Perez is 2.62 to be top 6. That’s borderline, for me. I think it’s a bit of an outside shot because of the cars ahead of him (and Vettel charging from right behind).

Verstappen is 1.83 for a podium. Not tempting. Mechanical failure, accident, bad pit stop etc could stop it, and the odds are too short to mitigate the risk.

Verstappen and Ricciardo are 7 and 15 respectively to lead lap 1. That’s worth considering, given how the starts have been this year. However, an unhelpfully timed shower could see a tedious safety car start.

Whilst the grid’s nicely set up for a race I am having some difficult coming up with a tip. So, as is often the case, I perused the market for inspiration.

There’s Raikkonen or Vettel not to be classified at 4.5/5. Ferrari has a pretty bad record this year due to misfortune and poor reliability, and I’m still surprised the odds are this long. However, I also have a bad record of predicting when the failures will come.

Red Bull are 5.5 to be highest scoring. However, this effectively requires either them to win (available at 11 or 13 for Verstappen and Ricciardo respectively) or a Mercedes to fail to finish (6.5 each). It’s possible one Mercedes could suffer a puncture and lose a minute or so getting back to the pits and continue, but the likelihood Red Bull only top score by winning, which I’m not sure they’ll be able to do (although they were pretty good in P2) or if a Mercedes falls off the track.

Force India are 2.1 for a double points finish, which may be worth considering. They had a terrible race last time due to reliability issues but that may have been circuit-specific. However, the odds are pretty tight.

At the moment, a single stake split between either the lead lap 1 or not to be classified bets look most appealing to me, although they’re both a bit guesswork. Hmm.

Ferrari have had 5 DNFs from 9 races, to date, although most of these were near the season’s start. Hamilton’s started badly at most races, but last time did pretty well. Hmm (again).

Took a break for some food, and when I returned decided I like none of these bets.

The McLarens are 3.4 each not to be classified [Ladbrokes], and I split one stake between them. In the last three races, only one McLaren has reached the end of the race. It is something of a guess rather than a cunning and calculated bet (and if the Ferraris don’t finish I reserve the right to be annoyed) but I think it’s the best value I can come up with.

Not been quite as stumped for a bet on a race as this for some time.

Anyway, let’s hope the race sees a double McLaren retirement on lap one, and many other exciting spectacles.

Morris Dancer

United Kingdom: pre-qualifying 2016

The Mercedes’ drivers have been told not to be naughty or they’ll be punished. If they collide again and it’s one driver’s fault rather than a racing incident that driver may miss the subsequent race. We’ll see (if they collide) whether that actually happens as it’d be a pretty severe sanction, albeit better than implementing team orders.

In more driver news, Raikkonen has, slightly surprisingly, got another year with Ferrari. Shortly after that news broke, Force India indicated it would retain its rather good driver lineup.

Two or three stops (likely soft-soft-soft-medium if the latter) are expected. I think the third compound is supersoft.

In first practice Hamilton was a full three-hundredths of a second up on Rosberg. Hulkenberg was nearly a second down the road, with Vettel close behind. Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Perez, Sainz and Alonso round out the top 10.

In second practice Rosberg ran no laps at all. Uncertain what the issue was at this stage. Hamilton was four-tenths up on Ricciardo, with Verstappen two-tenths further back. Vettel and Raikkonen were a few tenths down the road, with Alonso, Bottas, Grosjean, Button and Massa following.

I did actually catch a bit of second practice, and the Red Bulls seemed competitive on long runs. May be worth keeping an eye on for the race. Shade surprised the team seems to be ahead of Ferrari, but there we are.

At this stage the McLaren seems surprisingly swift.

Third practice started on intermediate tyres (excepting Alonso and Bottas who opted for the full wets to save them the inters for qualifying). Took half an hour for the track to dry enough for times to become representative.

Marcus Ericsson had a substantial crash in third practice which brought out a red flag. Uncertain if it’ll be ready for qualifying. The red flag meant there wasn’t only five minutes of actual practice at the end. At the very end, Vettel radioed that he thinks the gearbox failed (again, he lost another earlier, I think, but suffered no penalty).

In P3, Hamilton again led Rosberg by just half a tenth. Ricciardo was half a second back, leading Verstappen by a tenth. Vettel was half a second down the road but gearbox woe may make it a tricky weekend for the German. Bottas, Alonso, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen and Sainz.

Weather forecast for qualifying is to be overcast, but probably dry. Rain’s possible, though.

I hadn’t been planning on betting on qualifying, but then saw something which seems value to me.

I’ve backed Alonso, with Betfair, at 2.04 to reach Q3. He’s been 6th, 7th and 10th in the practice sessions so far. I think more or less evens is a bit long, given that.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Austria: post-race analysis 2016

The race was thrilling for the eyes and frustrating for the wallet. Of three tips offered this weekend, not one came off. One was definitely ill-judgement (Hamilton started well), one was possible but for misfortune (Vettel to get fastest qualifying time each way) and one really should’ve come off but every little thing seemed against it (Raikkonen each way for the win).

Off the line, Hamilton actually started well. So did Button. Raikkonen passed Hulkenberg, who slid down the order (through the race), but the Finn was unable to get closer because Button was, quite selfishly, in the way. [There was a blank space on the grid ahead of Wehrlein due to Massa starting, with Kvyat, in the pit lane. The German forgot about this, went one place too far on the grid and reversed into position but, oddly, there's no rule against reversing on the grid and he didn’t get a penalty for that].

Ricciardo had a poor start and Verstappen a flyer, so much so the Red Bulls ended up swapping places.

Rosberg was slicing through the field like Zorro through a cavalcade of corrupt noblemen, with Vettel doing a similar job right behind him.

Pit stops came earlier than expected, with Rosberg one of the leading cars to switch from ultrasoft to soft. The Ferraris and Hamilton (still leading, ahead of Raikkonen) stayed out longer.

Hamilton pitted perhaps a dozen laps after Rosberg, also to soft tyres, and Raikkonen came in a lap after. However, the Finn ended up behind both Red Bulls, way back in 6th. Dire strategic error from Ferrari, who appeared to forget that there were more than two teams in the race. The Prancing Horse needs to sort the strategy out, because they should’ve been competing for the win today.

Vettel stayed out longer on the supersoft tyre. Until around lap 26 or so, when his right rear tyre exploded on the start/finish straight. He, unsurprisingly, crashed and was out of the race. A safety car emerged for maybe half a dozen laps. Given it wasn’t the softest tyre compound available, an explosion after just 26 laps (of a 71 lap race) is a bit concerning, and it’s fortunate there wasn’t anyone right behind him [Rosberg was a little way back] or they could’ve been struck with a load of rubber flying at hundreds of miles per hour.

This closed the field up. Rosberg led, having undercut Hamilton in the pit stops, with Verstappen, Ricciardo and Raikkonen next. Bizarrely, Nasr (who had yet to stop) was 6th at this stage.

When the safety car trundled in, the top five started to spread out rather boringly, although further down the field the likes of Perez and Massa were cutting through the field with aplomb.

However, moves were afoot. Ricciardo was pitted, and Raikkonen started closing the gap on Verstappen. Both Mercedes pitted (Rosberg to supersoft, Hamilton to soft, which irked the Briton when he learnt his team mate had a softer compound).

Rosberg had a 2s gap he was managing nicely until he took a scenic approach to cornering and lost a second. Raikkonen was getting into DRS range of Verstappen.

Hamilton kept on getting closer as Rosberg’s tyres frayed (post-race, it was said by the team Rosberg had a brake issue). On the final lap, Hamilton moved to pass Rosberg, who didn’t turn into the corner and ran the Briton wide. They collided again when Hamilton returned to the circuit, and Rosberg’s damage (perhaps from the first contact) cost him significant time. Hamilton went on to win and Rosberg was passed by both Verstappen and Raikkonen.

In the end Raikkonen was 3rd, just a few tenths off of Verstappen. But for dire strategy he could’ve competed for victory. Bit galling, given my bet, but things turn out that way sometimes (and sometimes you fluke a long odds winner). Rosberg claimed 4th.

Ricciardo was 5th and Button got a fantastic 6th for McLaren. I did not see that coming, and it may indicate the Honda isn’t as appalling as I thought it was. Grosjean got 7th, benefiting from a free pit stop due to the safety car, and getting much needed points for Haas, who started the season very well but have been a bit lacklustre of late.

Sainz was 8th, which is pretty good for a chap whose engine exploded in qualifying. Bottas got 9th and kudos to Wehrlein for getting his first ever F1 point with 10th. That is, however, bad news for Sauber, who have 0 points still.

Perez crashed late on due to a car failure, and Hulkenberg was retired due to a substantial vibration (may sound like a rubbish excuse but that’s what caused suspension failures and could indicate significant problems). This was a race Force India must have hoped for a double points finish, so getting zero is pretty disappointing for them.

Massa was also on for points, but had to retire (Kvyat retired on the second lap).

Drivers’ standings:
Rosberg 153
Hamilton 142
Vettel 96
Raikkonen 96
Ricciardo 88
Verstappen 72

Rosberg’s daftness cost him 6 points (difference between 2nd and 4th) which may yet prove decisive at the season’s end. Are Ferrari out of this? So far, reliability is costing them more than anything else. Vettel has had about three DNFs. He’d be within a race victory or so of the lead but for that [NB another rare race when I don’t make the Ferrari not classified bet coincides with a Ferrari not being classified...]. The season’s halfway done. It is possible Vettel could yet win, though I think it unlikely.

Constructors’ standings:
Mercedes 295
Ferrari 192
Red Bull 168
Williams 92
Force India 59
Toro Rosso 36
McLaren 32
Haas 28
Renault 6
Manor 1
Sauber 0

With the result for Button and Grosjean, the battle for 6th between Toro Rosso, McLaren and Haas is suddenly looking very close. Manor nabbing a point means they’ll get several million next year in prize money. Sauber rooted to the foot of the table isn’t good news but apparently they do have a new sponsor lined up to inject much needed cash.

Whilst Red Bull have closed the gap a bit on Ferrari that’s due more to reliability failures than pace (Raikkonen should’ve finished ahead of Verstappen, and probably Hamilton too). In Constructor terms, the Red Bull may yet leapfrog the Prancing Horse, but the Ferrari is the faster car.

So, a very exciting race, and a really bad weekend for betting. Hopefully Silverstone, in just a week’s time, will be as exciting, and a good deal more profitable.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Austria: pre-race 2016

Qualifying was hugely entertaining, but not very profitable as the bet didn’t come off. It was misfortune that prevented Vettel having a decent crack at the fastest time, but whether he would’ve been fast enough for the front row remains uncertain. So, I’m attributing the failure to bad luck rather than ill-judgement.

Q1 will be remembered for the red flag that fluttered when Kvyat got onto the kerbs and his right rear suspension snapped. The ensuing crash was significant enough to delay the session for about 15-20 minutes, which would have a substantial effect on how things turned out at the sharp end.

The woe of Sauber continued, with their drivers slowest of all. Kvyat was just ahead of them, with Haryanto 19th and the two Renaults in front of him.

Perez also suffered a suspension failure, but had put in a fast enough lap to reach Q2 (so he starts 16th). On a similar note, Sainz went out after the red flag (as did many others) but his engine immediately blew up.

In happier news, Wehrlein forgot his Manor is a slow car and posted the 10th fastest time.

Q2 was peculiar because both Perez and Sainz were ‘in’ the session but their cars weren’t on-track. Gutierrez was the fastest chap not to escape, with Grosjean in 13th, the two Haas drivers split by the impressive Wehrlein. Alonso was a somewhat lacklustre 14th (perhaps because rain had started to fall and his initial lap wasn’t swift enough).

Also worth noting that the Ferraris set their times (and therefore start the race) on supersofts (rather than the faster ultrasofts). I think the Red Bulls managed to copy this, and Wehrlein did likewise [which may have stopped him reaching Q3] but the Mercedes did not.

By the time the session should’ve ended, it was showering a fair bit. Not buckets, but enough for intermediates. Had everything run on schedule Vettel would’ve had a shot at the fastest two times (in Q1 he split the two Mercdes).

Q3 was wet. Everyone went out on intermediates initially, but the rain stopped and the track dried very quickly. Everyone then dashed in for slick tyres, and the times were tumbling by seconds. It was a bit of a lottery according to when you crossed the line, which gave us an intriguing grid but also meant Vettel was ‘well off’ the pace.

In the end the grid [NB not the qualifying result] was:

*Hulkenberg is under investigation for failing to account for yellow flags but his team are confident they can show he lifted.

A word on the early Raikkonen bet: I mentioned him to win, each way, at 15 with Ladbrokes. He’s up there now at 13, (starts 4th, 3rd if Hulkenberg’s given a penalty) and I still think that’s value. Button, sadly, is near certain to go backwards in the dry. The Force India may prove trickier but DRS could prove effective.

Rain is unlikely. Showers could happen but the odds are against it, and heavy rain appears even less probable. I’m assuming the race be largely or wholly dry.

Bets that spring to mind:
Vettel podium
Hulkenberg podium
Rosberg win
Raikkonen lead lap 1 (maybe Hulkenberg too)
Lay Ricciardo podium
Lay Button top 6/points

Vettel is scarcely over evens for a podium, and Hulkenberg is 3.25. I think both are very short, especially Vettel (he stands a good chance, but he’s starting 9th, behind both Mercedes, and his own team mate). I also think the Hulkenberg odds seem a bit out of kilter with his win odds (17).

Rosberg is 5 to win. I’m not sure that’s value. Ferrari seem to have superior strategy with Vettel/Raikkonen (the supersoft can run twice as long as the ultrasoft and doesn’t seem to be miles slower). The Williams and Force Indias may be tricky to pass. I suspect Hamilton will scamper off into the distance, much as Rosberg did at Baku. [If you think Vettel/Rosberg collectively have a good chance of winning, there is a Winning Nationality market, with Germany at 2.87].

Raikkonen is 11 to lead lap 1, Hulkenberg 6. That’s actually pretty tempting. However, I had to delay for the stewards to decide whether Hulkenberg would get a penalty. [He did not get one in the end].

The run down to the start appears to be of average length, so plenty of scope for Hamilton to bugger up the start (although that shouldn’t be taken as read, it is likelier than a great getaway, given recent performances).

Ricciardo has lay odds of 10.5 for a podium. That’s just too long.

Button’s lay odds for top 6 and points are 8 and 4 respectively. Again, too long to tempt.

So, I backed with one stake split more or less for even profit Raikkonen and Hulkenberg to lead lap 1 at 11 and 6 respectively (Ladbrokes).

Morris Dancer

Austria: pre-qualifying 2016

Vettel has a gearbox change, which means he gets a five place grid penalty. His Ferrari should be competitive around the high speed Austrian circuit, but the Williams and Force Indias may prove tricky to pass.

Hamilton is now on the verge of grid penalties for changing bits of his engine, having lost multiple parts to sheer bad luck and reliability failures early on. I forget if it’s a 10 place penalty or starting at the back (suspect the latter) but either way it will make Rosberg’s life a little easier.

In practice 1, Rosberg was nearly half a second ahead of his team mate, with Vettel and Raikkonen following. Ricciardo, Sainz, Massa, Verstappen, Kvyat and Bottas round out the top 10.

Practice 2 was heavily rain-affected, so the times are perhaps a little less useful. Rosberg was quickest again, although just two-hundredths up on Hamilton this time. Hulkenberg and Vettel were more than half a second down the road. Ricciardo, Sainz, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Bottas and Button were next.

The circuit should be atrocious for McLaren (high speed does not lend itself to the underpowered Honda engine). The Williams-Force India battle could be close, and it’ll be interesting to see just how good the upgraded Ferrari engine is.

In P3 Rosberg had a left rear suspension failure which caused a substantial crash, and a red flag. Unclear if the car will be ready for qualifying, and If the gearbox is ok (if damaged, that’s a five place grid penalty).

In P3, Vettel was fastest, a little over a tenth ahead of Raikkonen. Hamilton was less than a tenth behind the Ferrari pair, with Ricciardo three-tenths off the Briton. Verstappen, Bottas, Massa, Hulkenberg, Button and Alonso finish the top 10.

Intriguing that two McLarens made the top 10.

It’s also worth noting there’s a serious risk of thunderstorms in qualifying. The race, at this stage, may see patchy rain but nothing too serious.

Hard to assess whether Ferrari are truly in the hunt. Their engine is reportedly on a par with Mercedes’, and they’ve used a development token (to improve it) for this race. Hmm. When considering the race, bear in mind Vettel has a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change.

Update: Rosberg has a gearbox change = 5 place penalty.

Very unusually, I offered an early race tip (on for Raikkonen to win each way (Ladbrokes), 15 (1/3 odds for top 2). With penalties for both Rosberg and Vettel and the Ferrari potentially being a match for the Mercedes, it seems value to me.

Back to qualifying, the circuit’s got delightful surroundings but is in the middle of nowhere, which makes getting a good idea of the forecast a bit tricky. Thunderstorms are eminently possible. That would help Red Bull (and Mercedes) relative to Ferrari. But in the dry Ferrari may be a match for Mercedes, and Red Bull will be some way back.

If you believe Red Bull has a chance, I’d go for Ricciardo each way at 34 (he’s been ahead of Verstappen throughout the weekend).

The weather makes this tighter than I’d like, but I think Vettel each way at 6 (Ladbrokes) for fastest Q3 time makes sense. If Rosberg’s car isn’t ready to go, Vettel has a very good chance. If it is, Vettel may still make the top 2. [Longer odds, but little liquidity, are available on Betfair].

So, one pre-qualifying tip: Vettel, fastest Q3 time (each way), 6, Ladbrokes

The pre-race piece will likely be up this afternoon/evening, as usual, but there is a chance I’ll leave it until the morning for a more up to date weather forecast.

Morris Dancer