Sunday, 28 August 2016

Belgium: post-race analysis 2016

To paraphrase Sir Edric, the race was a feast for the eyes and a famine for the purse.

Ericsson started from the pit lane, but Alonso and Hamilton elected to start from the back of the grid, on medium tyres. Verstappen was on the supersoft (as were those behind Ricciardo, even in the top 10, contrary to my belief), but Ricciardo, Rosberg and the Ferraris started on the soft.

Vettel got a good start and Ricciardo a poor one (Rosberg cruising off the line and easily retaining the lead). The German turned in, cutting across his team mate, who had nowhere to go because Verstappen was tight on the inside, forcing a Raikkonen-Verstappen collision. This effectively ended the hopes of all three men as far as the podium went.

Hulkenberg, meanwhile, had had a super start and was running either just ahead or just behind Ricciardo (they were 2nd and 3rd here, though I can’t recall the order). Wehrlein, sadly, rammed into Button’s rear, which was painful for both chaps and meant a double retirement. Shame, as Manor and McLaren had both looked relatively good here.

As if that weren’t enough excitement, a few laps (maybe 8) in Magnussen lost the rear at the top of Eau Rouge, spun around and slammed into the barrier. This gave him a limp and the race a VSC, then an actual safety car, then a red flag due to the damage done to the barrier.

Upon returning to the pits cars that hadn’t already stopped were relatively advantaged by the free tyre change available to everyone (weirdly not undertaken by Verstappen). This had the net effect of Rosberg, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Alonso and Hamilton being the top five.

After that, whilst there was much on-track passing it was mostly straightforward DRS nonsense after Eau Rouge with the natural order reasserting itself to considerable extent. Worthy of mention was another close Verstappen-Raikkonen contest, and the Finn was rightly angered by the transgressions of the Dutchman [unpunished, I believe], making a late move at high speed. Not as bad as Hungary, for my money, but borderline for a penalty.

Rosberg enjoyed his first win since Azerbaijan. Ricciardo got a solid 2nd, although I do believe Red Bull and Ferrari had good pace and my tip had bad luck rather than bad judgement. Hamilton got 3rd, which is very good considering his starting position but did require much luck in various cars removing themselves from podium contention.

Hulkenberg’s wait for a first podium goes on, but he did get an impressive 4th, ahead of Perez. Vettel eventually rose to 6th, but his driving was poor today, most notably with the first corner mistake that buggered numerous drivers (including himself) but also locking up and losing [temporarily] a recently acquire place back to Massa.

Alonso slid down the order but will probably be pleased with 7th. The McLaren was still outclassed on the straight but tasty in the twisty bits, so it may be looking good come Singapore.

Bottas was 8th, Massa in 10th. So-so for Williams in itself but they lost a chunk of points to Constructors’ rival Force India.

Raikkonen was 9th. He drove pretty well after his race was ruined at the first corner, and Verstappen came 11th.

As well as those already mentioned, Sainz retired after a tyre came to pieces and ended up destroying his rear wing, and Ericsson retired too (reliability, I think).

So, much drama, misfortune for the bet, and a lovely day for Force India. Hamilton will also be pleased to have lost fewer points, relative to Rosberg, than seemed likely at the start.

Hamilton 232
Rosberg 223
Ricciardo 151
Vettel 128
Raikkonen 124
Verstappen 115

Both Red Bull and Mercedes have the same integers for each driver. On a less coincidental note, the gap is now 9 points in Hamilton’s favour. Due to the F1 rules being written by a bureaucratic jester, Hamilton actually has more free engines than Rosberg now. However, only Rosberg will have the opportunity to freely take the rumoured Japanese Grand Prix engine upgrade. The Briton is in the best place, I think. Since Spain (when they collided and ended a strong run for Rosberg) it’s been a strong trend of improvement for Hamilton.

Mercedes 455
Red Bull 274
Ferrari 252
Force India 103
Williams 101
McLaren 48
Toro Rosso 45
Haas 28
Renault 6
Manor 1
Sauber 0

Red Bull have tightened their grip on 2nd. Ferrari should’ve got a stack more points (perhaps 50) earlier in the year but lost out due to bad reliability. I think that will be how the top 3 finish. Force India overtake Williams for 4th. Right now, it does look like that will be how the end up as well. Great for Force India, and perhaps indicative of both a great pair of drivers and a very solid team.

Also worth noting McLaren have passed Toro Rosso. A significant morale (and helpful financial) boost for a team that really should be at the sharp end. With Kvyat off the boil, and Williams far off, McLaren’s realistic hope must be to retain 6th.

Must admit to being a little irked by a bet that seemed pretty good but misfortune (or fortune) can strike at any time, and I have benefited earlier in the year from an improbable lap 1 crash, so can’t complain too much.

The next race is Italy, in just a week.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Belgium: pre-race 2016

Qualifying was quite interesting. The grid is intriguingly poised. Incidentally, Gutierrez got a 5 place grid penalty for impeding Wehrlein in practice (the Mexican’s also been criticised for being slow to move for blue flags in previous races).

In Q1 a few predictable things, and one surprise, occurred. Hamilton trundled around on a set of supersoft tyres, coming last but curing them (so they’ll last long if he bolts them on during the race). Both Saubers failed to escape. Alonso went out for a run, after a delay, and his car managed about a third of a lap before it decided not to bother working anymore. The surprise? Wehrlein was impressively fast, getting a comfortably quick enough time for Q2 (and looking possible for Q3). His new team mate, Ocon, was half a second down the road. As well as Ocon, the Saubers, Hamilton and Alonso, Kvyat failed to reach the next phase of qualifying.

Sadly, Wehrlein didn’t progress much further. His initial Q2 run was aborted due to a wheel feeling wobbly, and his second run, for whatever reason, was disappointingly slow. He qualified 16th, but will start higher due to Gutierrez’s penalty. The Mexican was 13th, his Haas team mate Grosjean 11th. Magnussen and Palmer were 12th and 14th respectively with Sainz just 15th. Not a Toro Rosso track, it would seem.

However, it’s worth noting Verstappen’s qualifying lap was on the supersoft, whereas all his rivals set theirs on the soft. That may be critical for the race (if it’s mostly dry, and dry at the start).

In Q3, Rosberg duly got pole, but by only a tenth on Verstappen (youngest chap and first Dutchman ever to start on the front row). Raikkonen was 3rd, only a small distance behind, with Vettel 4th. Ricciardo and Perez share the next row, then Hulkenberg and Bottas, and Button and Massa (Massa must be disappointed after a quick lap in Q2).

Cars are out of position, Verstappen’s on an alternative strategy, Wehrlein may have the pace for a point, and rain is possible.

The supersoft-soft approach of Verstappen and Ricciardo respectively is a potentially substantial difference to the soft-soft of Ferrari. If the soft is significantly better, Red Bull cannot top score, Verstappen will go backwards (all else being equal) and Ferrari could get a double podium and top score. If the supersoft is better, Verstappen could win. Outside shot. But credible.

Based on the grid, potential bets that spring to mind were:
Ferrari top score
Red Bull top score
Force India double score
Hulkenberg top 6
Wehrlein to get a point
Verstappen win
Verstappen/Raikkonen to lead lap 1

Ferrari are 4.5 to top score, Red Bull are 3.75. Mercedes are 1.57, which I think is too short, suggesting there’s value with one or both the other teams. If Rosberg wins, Hamilton needs to be 6th to equal another team getting 2nd and 3rd (33). For 3rd and 4th, it’s 27, for 2nd and 5th, it’s 28 (Ferrari and Red Bull’s starting positions respectively). This is a bugger to call. May well be value on both of them.

Force India are 1.5 to top score. Too short.

Hulkenberg is 1.9 to be top 6. Whilst eminently possible, the odds are too short.

Wehrlein is 11 for a point. He starts 15th, and his Q1 pace was good enough to be somewhere like 8th-10th. I think that’s well worth considering.

Verstappen is 6 to win. If the supersoft is the better tyre to start, that’s value (probably each way). If not, it isn’t. Hmm.

To lead lap 1, Verstappen is an astoundingly short 2.75, and Raikkonen a more sensible 9. I think the theory is the fast bit after turn 1 is perfect for a slipstream, but even so, that’s damned short for Verstappen (Rosberg’s 1.61).

After perusing the markets (might seem odd given I have a lot to choose from, but if something leaps out it’d resolve that conundrum for me), I saw:
Raikkonen to win 12.5/10 (Betfair/Ladbrokes). He’s been quick all weekend and has a great record here.

Alonso not to be classified at 3.5. His car’s broken down twice already.

Not betting on this, but if you think Verstappen might win, he’s 6 on Ladbrokes, but 7 if you back a Dutchman to win in the Nationality market instead.

Both cars to have a podium finish: Ferrari are 5, Red Bull 3.25. (Mercedes 3.5, which I think is far too short). Ferrari are value there. If soft tyres pave the way to victory, Verstappen falls back, and it’s advantage Ferrari, both of which start on the soft tyres, ahead of Ricciardo.

So, that’s a thousand damned things that tempt me, but I’m not making that many bets. The short list is:
Top score, Ferrari, 4.5/Red Bull, 3.75
Wehrlein, score, 11
Verstappen, win each way 6 [go for A Dutchman if you want win only, at 7]

I was sorely tempted by Wehrlein, but 15th to 10th is a fair shift, especially as Hamilton may well end up ahead of him. I’m also wondering if a grid penalty, albeit harsh, might occur due to a reportedly loose wheel in qualifying (not heard anything about that as yet). Agonised for a long time over the Wehrlein bet. Eventually decided against it.

Just the one tip:
Decided to split one stake between Red Bull and Ferrari to top score, at 3.75 and 4.5 respectively. It’s not impossible Hamilton will make it to 6th (or both those teams might lose a car) but I think it’s less likely than the market suggests.

Anyway, agony of choice over, the grid’s very nicely stacked up for a cracking race. If Rosberg would be so kind as to have a DNS, that would work splendidly, for both the race and the wallet.

Morris Dancer

Belgium: pre-qualifying 2016

There’s been much chatter over the four week break of who might go where, but little in the way of hard facts. Whilst Button remains likely to lose his McLaren seat to promising youngster Stoffel Vandoorne, most of the rumour mill has focused on Williams, where neither Massa nor Bottas are 100% safe (though the Brazilian is likeliest to go). Renault’s also still likely to drop Palmer, and Magnussen may not remain either.

Rio Haryanto, who was more impressive than many thought he would be, has been financially embarrassed from his Manor seat and gives way to the bank manager-pleasing Esteban Ocon. To be fair, Ocon’s tipped as a pretty racy fellow, but it is lack of funding that’s seen Haryanto go into the background. That said, Haryanto is, I think, the team’s third driver, an indication they rate his abilities, if not his finances.

Speaking of ludicrous numbers, grid penalties abound like fairy dust in pixieland. Hamilton has a 55 place grid penalty (the sharp-eyed will have noticed there are 22 cars on the grid this year) due to numerous new engine parts. However, assuming he doesn't start from the pit lane, he shall be joined by Alonso, who takes a 35 place grid penalty (Honda brought a new, faster engine. Unfortunately, it is not more reliable). Ericsson is in line for a 10 place grid penalty for a new turbo. That said, the Sauber does appear to be improved, for the first time in a while, itself a sign of the better finances the team enjoys.

From, posted by MaxPB (info from Autosport):
For F1 fans out there. This weekend could be quite tasty excluding Mercedes. McLaren have spent 7 tokens on their PU, 3 on the ICE, 2 on the turbo and 2 on the compressor. They are also bringing a fuel and lubricant upgrade courtesy of Exxon. Rumours say that the fuel is worth 20hp and the PU upgrade is worth ~35hp, at Spa 7hp is worth a tenth of a second. The PU upgrade so far have brought 20hp worth of performance gains plus additional hybrid deployment. If these upgrades turn out to be genuine then it puts the Honda PU level with Renault and not too far behind Ferrari.

Hopefully it means Alonso and Button will be up near the top fighting with the Ferraris and Red Bulls rather than trying to hold off Force India and Williams.”

The same fellow suggested Newey might take a leading role designing the 2017 Red Bull, which, of course, is rather intriguing. That and Prodromou at McLaren mean that Ferrari may end up going backwards, again. If I do dip my toe into spread betting, the areas I’ll be looking at are backing McLaren to do well, and betting against Ferrari. But, we’ll see.

Before I get to practice, the assumptions Hamilton will tear through the field like a baboon through a birthday party may not necessarily be accurate. Firstly, the results of Russia, China and Azerbaijan [linked below]. In Russia, he started 10th and finished 2nd (six seconds ahead of 3rd-placed Raikkonen). In China, he started 22nd and finished 7th. In Azerbaijan, he started 22nd and finished 5th (albeit with less power than he should’ve had for most of the race).

Secondly, since then some other teams have improved. I’m not saying they’re the equal of Mercedes, but that they’re going to be harder to pass. Force India and Williams have always had good top speeds, but now Red Bull’s looking very racy, and McLaren have also improved.

Results from Russia, China and Azerbaijan:

In first practice, Rosberg was a surprising seven-tenths up on Hamilton. Raikkonen and Perez were close behind, with Vettel a bit further back. Ricciardo, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Bottas and Gutierrez round out the top 10.

In second practice, Mercedes didn’t really come out to play. Verstappen was fastest, a quarter of a second ahead of his team mate (good on long runs too). Hulkenberg, Vettel and Perez were next, with Rosberg, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Button and Gutierrez finishing the theoretical points positions.

At this stage, Red Bull and Force India look quite tasty (I’d guess Hulkenberg will outdo Perez. The Mexican’s better at twisty circuits, the German excels on old school fast circuits [cf Interlagos]). Williams look a bit poor. If they’re not careful they’ll lose a stack of points to Constructors’ rival Force India.

In third practice Verstappen had an engine issue, turned out to be the gearbox. Shade concerning. Unsure if he'll have a penalty.

Raikkonen was quickest in P3, with Ricciardo two-tenths back, and Vettel a tenth off the Aussie. Bottas, Hamilton and Hulkenberg were next, with Rosberg, Massa, Perez and Grosjean rounding off the top 10.

Hamilton is perhaps going to just appear in Q1 to get inside the 107% limit readily, and then take no further part in qualifying (Alonso/Ericsson may do likewise).

Somewhat infuriatingly, after tipping elsewhere No Safety Car at 2.62, the forecast has changed (from dry) and there’s a reasonably high chance of a safety car due to wet weather and the wet pants of the race director. So, if asked now, I would not bet either way on a safety car. [This won’t count in the records, in the same way the 251 tip on Verstappen winning in Spain did not count].

No bet on qualifying. Did consider Ricciardo each way for pole (top 2) but it could be Verstappen or even a Ferrari and the odds didn’t look good enough.

Morris Dancer