Friday, 30 September 2016

Malaysia: pre-qualifying

This is up a day earlier than usual due to the early nature of the events this weekend (third practice is 7-8am and I’m not sure I’d be able to listen that. I’d be up, but have other things to do that early). Qualifying is at 10am, and I think the race starts at 8am.

Alonso has a 30 place grid penalty due to having a new engine.

There’s been confirmation that, after a safety car start in the wet, races in 2017 will be restarted off the line (ie they’ll line up on the grid then start). I think this is a backward step because the safety car will be forced to stay out for longer than is currently the case. The race organisers cannot risk heavy spray at the start because cars could easily be unsighted and ram into one another, causing carnage. So, a wet safety car at the start would see it out for longer.

If it’s too wet to race, don’t race. If it’s dry enough, let them race. The wet tyre is hardly ever used in race conditions nowadays.

Anyway, onto Malaysia. A race that has been set back in the calendar after a decade or so when the F1 bigwigs suddenly decided holding it in monsoon season might not be terribly clever. Wide track, run off, even with the monsoon-overlapping calendar slot of previous years it’s been very unlikely to see a safety car. The 2009 deluge looms large in public imagination and likely means No Safety Car is too long [weather forecast permitting -update, rain entirely possible, so no bet this year].

In first practice, Rosberg was half a second up on Hamilton, who was a similar margin ahead of Raikkonen. The Finn was a tiny margin faster than Vettel, who was followed by Alonso, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Perez and Button.

Second practice had Hamilton fastest by two-tenths over Rosberg, with Vettel half a second down the road (a quarter of a second up on Raikkonen). Behind the Ferraris came Verstappen, Perez, Alonso, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and Button.

Right now, McLaren are looking better than I expected, and Force India are also seeming to be in good shape. Ferrari out-pacing Red Bull was entirely expected, as was Mercedes dominance (after the closer-than-usual race in Singapore).

No bets on qualifying for me. Very close between the Mercedes and hard to see anyone else coming near. I did see Alonso at 5 to reach Q3, but there was only a tiny sum available, so can’t tip it [plus he has that grid penalty so won't put much effort into qualifying].

I did consider the pole margin market, which isn’t one of my usual ones, but the timing splits were a bit awkward.

Anyway, I anticipate a silver front row, scarlet second row, and a nice qualifying result for Force India and McLaren.

Rain is possible for both qualifying and the race.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Singapore: post-race analysis 2016

The race was a cracker from start to finish. So much happened I may struggle to mention everything of note. The bet didn’t come off, but I was a little surprised the hedge wasn’t matched, which is a shame. It was close enough to be considered value, but hats off to Mr. Sandpit for his 5.9 pre-weekend tip on Rosberg.

Before the start, Grosjean recorded a first DNS (did not start) in his career. The Frenchman is not a happy bunny at Haas.

Off the start, it was formation flying for the top three and Raikkonen, but Verstappen left his handbrake on and slid down the order like a dancer with a pole. This led to Hulkenberg, who had started well, going around the Dutchman only to be tagged by Sainz, leading to him crashing out on lap 1 (indeed, the opening straight) and the safety car coming out for a couple of laps.

Bottas suffered a puncture at this stage which meant a very slow lap, an early stop and woe. The misery continued later on when he stopped again, his seat belt came undone, and it took so long to refasten that the engine cooked. After another lap he had to retire the car.

The safety car came in, but one marshal stayed out and nearly discovered what happens when a front wing hits a human at 200mph. Thankfully, elevated heart rate aside, he was fine.

Alonso had clambered up the order and was, I think, 5th at this stage. Whilst Vettel hadn’t made much progress, he steadily rose throughout the entire race, although was never in touching distance of the top four.

Verstappen closed up behind Kvyat. The Russian drove fantastically to keep the younger man in the faster car (formerly his) behind him, to Verstappen’s consternation and the delight of neutral spectators. Later, with differing tyres, they were in a similar position but Verstappen was able to sweep past. Nice to see skilful driving from Kvyat again.

Rosberg maintained a few seconds’ gap to Ricciardo but wasn’t able to scamper off. Both he and Hamilton had to manage a brake issue, the Briton struggling more, perhaps due to lack of preparatory time when a hydraulics issue cut short his second practice. Towards the latter third of the race, Raikkonen, who has looked good all weekend, closed the gap to Hamilton and then pounced when the Briton made a mistake and ran wide.

At this stage, perhaps fifteen laps left, all the top four were on soft tyres. Mercedes then embarked on a strategy that came within half a lap of being Pyrrhic.

They told Hamilton they were switching to Plan B. Given Plan A was a two-stop, this meant he could give the engine full power, take the last life out of the tyres, close up to Raikkonen, then pit again. This he did, Raikkonen pitted the following lap but Hamilton had regained 3rd.

Then Ricciardo pitted. The two cars behind doing so gave him the opportunity, but Rosberg lacked the time due to the undercut, and alone of the top four had to stay out on the soft tyre he’d put on lap 32 or so (of 61).

The Aussie was consistently two and a half seconds a lap faster than Rosberg, and closing rapidly. Meanwhile, Hamilton was getting left behind, and Vettel had, very impressively, gotten himself all the way up to 5th. A fantastic recovery drive.

Traffic loomed. A couple of laps stole the best remaining life from Ricciardo’s tyres, and at the start of the final lap he was circa two seconds behind Rosberg. He closed up, and at the line was within half a second. One more lap would’ve done it.

But it’s a 61 lap race. And Rosberg drove perfectly throughout, despite substantial pressure and managing brakes constantly in danger of overheating.

Great performances from the top two. Hamilton will be somewhat pleased to regain 3rd but will not be happy to have been out-driven all weekend. Rosberg’s had three wins in a row now.

Raikkonen may be a bit miffed to finish 4th, but he and Vettel (5th) did score substantial points, losing 4 net to Red Bull on a circuit that could easily have seen two Red Bulls on the podium.

Verstappen ended up 6th, and Alonso 7th. Button retired, but to be best outside the top three teams is nothing to be sniffed at. Pretty good for McLaren.

Force India had an odd race. Hulkenberg’s race lasted about three seconds, but Perez rose from 18th to 8th. Strong drive from the Mexican. Kvyat was 9th. Good to see the Russian get some points, and Magnussen scored a rare point for Renault.

Gutierrez was 11th, yet again. Massa was 12th, so a pretty dreadful weekend for both Haas and Williams.

I have to admit to being a little surprised the evens hedge on Ricciardo was not matched, given there were two potential times his odds must have dived (when it was unclear if Rosberg would pit and, if he did, whether he would be ahead or behind; and when Ricciardo was catching him very rapidly). However, the closeness of the bet does at least mean it was reasonable.

Rosberg 273
Hamilton 265

With that result, Rosberg retakes the lead. Since the summer break, the German hasn’t really put a foot wrong. He had a very strong end to the last season, although that was with little pressure as Hamilton had a huge lead. If Rosberg performs similarly well this year, he’ll take the title. There are six races left.

This is going to be very close. Unless there’s a drastic change (DNFs for one and wins for the other) this may well go down to the final race.

Mercedes 538
Red Bull 316
Ferrari 301
Force India 112
Williams 111
McLaren 54
Toro Rosso 47
Haas 28
Renault 7
Manor 1
Sauber 0

Overall, Ferrari wouldn’t be displeased to lose just a few points to Red Bull, given the circuit’s nature. The Prancing Horse might yet return to 2nd. And it’s good to see Raikkonen racing well. As for Red Bull, they must be disappointed that a very strong race by Ricciardo didn’t end up with a last lap overtake, and that Verstappen’s bad start cost them quite a few points.

Force India retake 4th place from Williams. That’s a tasty battle. I suspect Force India will win it, but it’s very close.

Toro Rosso missed an opportunity to, if not reclaim 6th from McLaren, at least narrow the gap. Instead, Alonso’s result extended McLaren’s advantage.

Remember the start of the year? Grosjean finished 6th in Australia, I think. The Haas looks bloody awful. Hopefully they can improve it for next year.

In a fortnight, the F1 circus moves on to Malaysia (odd time of year, but apparently the bigwigs decided holding it in monsoon season wasn’t terribly clever). Keep an eye on the weather and No Safety Car odds (wide track, much run-off).

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Singapore: pre-race 2016

Qualifying was rather interesting. Resisting temptation proved wise, as Verstappen was nowhere near pole.

In the first session, Vettel had a serious problem, with suspension or a role bar or suchlike. The team tried to keep him out to squeeze into Q2 (there was likely insufficient time to mend it within Q1 because they’d sent him out relatively late). However, he was miles off the pace, brought the car in and ended up last. Both Renaults and both Manors exited at this stage, with Nasr also out.

The second session also had its moment(s) of high drama. At the end, when everyone was improving, Grosjean’s Haas slid like a giraffe on ice and struck a barrier. Double-waved yellows emerged, and, at the same time, Button (who appeared to have both a broken front left and a punctured rear left) left the circuit. This prevented any hope of the Williams getting up to the top 10, and Perez passed a car, going fast enough to make Q3, to the consternation of Massa. Both Williams, Button, both Haas cars and Ericsson (who did not trouble himself to set a lap time) left proceedings at this stage.

Rosberg set a stonking first lap in Q3, a full seven-tenths ahead of his team mate. Raikkonen was next, with the Red Bulls following [after the initial run]. The Red Bulls improved markedly, however, with Ricciardo out-pacing Hamilton and Verstappen doing likewise to Raikkonen. So, at a circuit where the pole-sitter wins around 75% and facing starting problems, Hamilton lines up only 3rd. Rather lovely for Rosberg, if he can get off the line well.

Sainz and Kvyat are next up, which is great for Toro Rosso and nice to see the Russian back on form. Not good for McLaren, who may be concerned about Toro Rosso getting a fistful of points. Hulkenberg, Alonso and Perez are next up.

Keep an eye on whether Perez gets a penalty for passing (and being swift) under double waved yellows. Also, the Red Bulls start on the supersoft tyre, those around them are on the ultrasofts (it’s a slightly ridiculous approach to naming,for those unaware the ultrasoft is softer than the supersoft).

The grid is intriguingly poised. There’s only a 4-5% chance of rain. Two stops seems eminently possible. A safety car is highly likely, so teams will definitely have that factored into race scenarios.

Mr. Sandpit’s 5.9 suggestion on Rosberg to win is currently looking tasty (for those who backed it, the hedge is available at evens).

My initial betting thoughts were:
Lay Vettel top 6
Verstappen podium
Ricciardo win
Red Bull top score
Sainz top 6
Bottas points

Vettel’s evens for top 6 but the lay is 3, which is pretty long. Hmm. There’s not enough money there for me to tip it, even if it’s value, though. Shame.

Verstappen is only 1.9 with Betfair for a podium, about the same with Ladbrokes.

Ricciardo is 3.5 to win (4.5 with Betfair). I think that’s pretty tempting, to be honest, given the Red Bull’s long run pace. The divergent strategy (starting on the soft) could go either way.

Red Bull are 3 to top score. That’s interesting.

Sainz is 1.9 to be top 6. Not quite enough. The five cars ahead of him are all much better on pace, and if he suffers unfortunate timing with a safety car or a slow pit stop, that’s the final top 6 spot gone.

Bottas is evens for points. Bit too short.

At this stage the Ricciardo (Betfair) and Red Bull top score bets are the most tempting, and both have some value. However, I thought it worthwhile having a quick perusal of the markets, just in case anything looked particularly appealing. There wasn’t.

So, which of the two potential bets to back. Ricciardo is a very impressive driver and has a point to prove after Monaco. If his tyre strategy isn’t a disadvantage, the Red Bull seems to have the pace to challenge Mercedes on long runs. Verstappen’s trickier to assess. He’s very skilled but does sometimes struggle at street circuits (Monaco, at least), and he has the moderately upgraded Renault engine (only worth 0.1s a lap, but if he gets ahead of Ricciardo at the start and there’s a 20 lap stint, that’s a 2s gap).

If Ricciardo wins, then Verstappen only needs 5th to guarantee outright top scoring, 6th for a potential tie (Mercedes 2-3). If Rosberg wins, the Red Bulls must be 2-3 with Hamilton 6th or lower.

On that basis, I think Ricciardo to win is the value bet.

Today’s tip: Ricciardo to win, 4.5. Hedged at evens.

Morris Dancer

Singapore: pre-qualifying 2016

Verstappen has the only upgraded Renault engine, said to be worth 0.1s a lap. I’m sure Ricciardo is thrilled.

In first practice Verstappen led Ricciardo by half a tenth, both Red Bulls a few tenths ahead of Vettel, with Hamilton and Rosberg following on. Raikkonen, Sainz and Kvyat were next, with Massa and Gutierrez.

Hamilton had a hydraulics problem in P2. It doesn’t appear to be serious but it did prevent him getting in long run practice.

Rosberg was fastest in P2, three-tenths ahead of Raikkonen. Verstappen and Ricciardo were a short distance back, again separated by less than a tenth. Vettel and Hulkenberg were next, the German pair followed by Hamilton, Sainz, Alonso and Kvyat.

At this stage, the Red Bull looks tasty and Toro Rosso may well return to the points.

In third practice, Hamilton didn’t get a proper run-in as his qualifying simulation was derailed when he made a mistake and went into a run-off area. Rosberg was fastest, half a tenth ahead of Verstappen. Raikkonen was third but four-tenths down the road. Then came Ricciardo, Vettel and Hulkenberg, Kvyat, Hamilton, Sainz and Bottas.

Bit surprised the McLaren isn’t looking better, to be honest.

Tempting to back Verstappen for pole (5.5 with Betfair) but I think any of the Red Bulls/Mercedes stands a chance and there’s the outside possibility of a Ferrari doing well (as well as the ever-present risk of introducing one’s car to the wall).

I still think Mercedes are likeliest to get pole.

So, no qualifying tip.

I’ll likely put the pre-race piece up this evening. Note that whilst qualifying starts at 2pm today, The race begins at 1pm tomorrow.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Italy: post-race analysis 2016

One bet came off, the other didn’t, but short odds meant the profit for both race and weekend was minimal. Bit frustrating as I’ve got two out of three right and much of it proceeded as I expected, but a lack of judgement (perhaps) with the lap 1 bet diluted any profits. Still, nice to finish ahead, even if only by a small sum.

Off the line, it was nearly glorious. Hamilton left the handbrake on and both Ferraris (and Bottas) got ahead of him. Vettel nearly pipped Rosberg to the first corner, but it wasn’t to be. Further down the grid. Verstappen, Gutierrez and Button all fell down the order (the Briton was forced wide on the first lap, I think).

Hamilton was bottled up behind Bottas for quite a few laps, but eventually managed to pass the Finn, who was driving rather well. The first pit stops were disappointing, however. Ferrari switched both cars to new supersoft tyres (having begun on that compound, it necessitated a second pit stop). The Mercedes, starting on the soft, switched to medium tyres. Why Ferrari didn’t try putting one car on medium tyres, to split the strategy and avoid giving away track position, I don’t know. Red Bull was behind them both on-track and on pace. But there we are.

Hamilton rose to 2nd, behind his team mate (whom he never threatened to catch), by virtue of the Ferraris pitting twice to his once.

It was more interesting behind him. Bottas was on soft tyres at the end, Ricciardo the supersoft, and a super late lunge into the first corner (and eminently sensible driving from the Finn) meant the Aussie got ahead without contact. Despite that, a great race for Williams, who also had Massa finish in 9th.

Verstappen, after his dreadful start, recovered well to 7th, and Force India double-scored with 8th and 10th for Perez and Hulkenberg respectively.

There was a bit of contact later in the race between Nasr and Palmer, which led to both retiring. The terminally unlucky Kvyat also retired, as did Wehrlein.

This unexpected victory for Rosberg means he’s just two points behind Hamilton with seven races left.

Red Bull 290
Ferrari 279
Williams 111
Force India 108

The gap between the bulls and horses has narrowed, but I expect it to lengthen again come Singapore. A street circuit will suit the superior downforce of the Red Bull, I feel. Similarly, Williams has leapfrogged Force India to regain 4th, but I think the Force India will be better next race (and overall in the course of the remaining races).

A quick check on the spread suggestions I offered (buying Verstappen and Bottas, selling Magnussen and Alonso) indicate things are largely going well, although I could do with Verstappen having some strong victories.

Believe it or not, this is the first time I’ve had a green result since Spain. Which was in May.

Why not celebrate this rare and magnificent event by purchasing the excellent Explorations:Through the Wormhole anthology, featuring the story Dead Weight, by me?

On a more serious note, this season has been pretty lacklustre at best. The pleasing Verstappen bet at Spain shouldn’t mask that my weekend bets have generally been poor.

The next race is Singapore in a fortnight. Expect Red Bull to do well, and McLaren likewise. Williams should have a poor race. That’s the circuit where Mercedes unexpectedly fell off a cliff last year. I don’t think that will happen again, but we’ll see.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Italy: pre-race 2016

To paraphrase Emperor Palpatine, everything is proceeding exactly as I have foreseen (with the exception of Bottas’ pace in the Williams). As expected, Mercedes dominated qualifying, Rosberg got 2nd on the grid, Ferrari form the second row. The tip came off with a tiny profit, but given the dominance of the Mercedes I think it was sensible.

In the first part of qualifying Ocon (his nickname may be Doc Oc, or Doctor Octagon, debate rages), peeled off the track when his car stopped working. The Renaults were next last, simply due to dire pace, with the two Saubers just ahead. Kvyat was the fastest of those eliminated here (I wouldn’t be surprised if half those out in this session lose their seats at the season’s end).

The second session was interesting because the Ferraris, having gone out in Q1 on soft tyres, then went out on supersofts (unlike the Mercedes). This may give the Prancing Horse the jump on the Silver Arrows come the start [word of warning, though, there’s near total dominance when it comes to converting front row starts to victories]. Anyway, both McLarens exited at this stage, as did Sainz (who was slowest). The Manor of Wehrlein split the McLarens. Massa was the fastest eliminated chap (long way off his team mate, though) with Grosjean behind him. Gutierrez got the Haas into Q3 for the first time.

In the end, the Mercedes was dominant but Hamilton was a street ahead of Rosberg. Behind them, the Ferraris were close (Raikkonen faster on the initial run before Vettel nabbed 3rd), a fair margin ahead of the surprise of the session. Bottas got 5th, a thousandth of a second ahead of Ricciardo. Then was Verstappen, the considerably slower Perez and Hulkenberg, with Gutierrez last of the top 10.

The Mercedes will start on the soft tyre, the rest of the top 10 [I think] on the supersoft. If one of the Mercedes starts badly, Ferrari could leap ahead like a kangaroo on crack.

Grosjean has a grid penalty for a gearbox change, I think. Unaware of any other penalties.

Initial betting ideas:
Vettel/Raikkonen to lead lap 1
Massa points
Perez top 6

Vettel and Raikkonen are 6 and 17 respectively to lead lap 1. That’s possibly value. Hmm. They start on supersoft tyres compared to the Mercedes, although the bad Mercedes starts haven’t happened for a little while.

Massa was just 1.33 for points. Much too short.

Perez is 2.5 for top 6, which probably reflects reality, and therefore isn’t value.

The lead lap 1 bet is interesting. Always a bit of a luck-based bet, though. As is traditional, I perused the markets, hunting for value like a pig snuffling for truffles. Here are the fungi thus gathered:
Betfair – Rosberg to be winner without Hamilton, 1.43
Betfair – Vettel/Raikkonen to be winner without big 2, 1.8 and 2.7 respectively
Ladbrokes – No Safety Car, 2.1

All those, obviously, are very short odds. I think Rosberg not finishing either top or 2nd behind Hamilton is very likely, but Monza does have gravel traps unlike some weak-kneed modern circuits, so if he makes a mistake it’s possible that’ll fail. Also possible the Ferraris will jump them at the start and that’ll screw things up.

On a similar note, I think Ferrari are very likely to beat Red Bull, but the odds are too short and there’s a risk of a tyre being run too long (I forget at which circuit, but Vettel suffered an exploding tyre earlier in the year which cost him many points).

I think there’s just been one safety car at Monza in the last five events. So, although no safety car is just 2.1, with the virtual safety car it would seem rather good value.

So, the two bets I’m considering are Vettel/Raikkonen to lead lap 1 at 6 and 17 respectively, and No Safety Car at 2.1. Hmm. I have no idea which makes more sense.

After contemplating it, I decided both were value. The tips for Italy are:
No Safety Car, 2.1
Vettel/Raikkonen to lead lap 1 (1 stake split evenly), at 6 and 17 respectively

Let’s hope the Mercedes leave their handbrakes on, and the race is a boring processional win for Vettel.

In news that broke post-qualifying, Button will not be on the grid next year. McLaren will have him as reserve driver in 2017, with an option in 2018. This is interesting, in itself but also because Force India have stated Perez has a contract with them. And Massa’s off, as it is believed will be Palmer and possibly Magnussen too. Button’s McLaren seat seems destined for Stoffel Vandoorne, but that still leaves probably two and maybe more seats to fill.

Morris Dancer

Italy: pre-qualifying 2016

Felipe Massa has announced he is retiring at the end of the season. Speculation had been rife about him going, whether of his own accord or due to being replaced by Williams. I think the stand-out moments from his career (the horrendous 2009 accident aside) will be Rob Smedley’s comedy radio transmission at the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix [Felipe, baby, stay cool!] and the great dignity with which he acted when he lost the 2008 title to Hamilton by the narrowest possible margin. He’s a very likeable chap, according to all accounts, but all things must end.

Button and Perez are those I’ve seen most commonly mentioned in the running for his seat, although it’s worth noting Bottas isn’t guaranteed to stay either. [During third practice commentary a Force India chap said Perez was under contract for them for 2017].

Monza, the circuit at which we are this weekend, has finally been given the go-ahead for next year, to the annoyance of Imola (who had been in the running to replace the circuit).

In first practice, Rosberg was two-tenths up on Hamilton, with Raikkonen a week and a half behind. Vettel, Perez and Grosjean were next, with Bottas, Verstappen, Gutierrez and Ricciardo rounding out the top 10.

Second practice saw Hamilton top, two-tenths up on Rosberg. Vettel was about three-tenths back, ahead of Raikkonen, who was also three-tenths up on Verstappen. Ricciardo, Alonso, Bottas, Grosjean and Button were following.

At this stage, I’m not surprised Mercedes are top, Ferrari next and then Red Bull. I’m astounded how well McLaren seem to be doing. Monza is all about horsepower and the Honda engine is the worst, yet they seem to be very competitive. Force India are a bit slower than expected, at this stage, and Haas are looking pretty good, although this is just practice.

In third practice, Grosjean went into the gravel trap and left the session early. Might be a gearbox failure, which could have implications for both a grid penalty and for future problems in the race.

Hamilton was a substantial four-tenths up on Rosberg in third practice, the Ferraris again 3-4, Vettel half a second off the Mercedes but Raikkonen three-tenths up on the Williams. Bottas and Massa were next, Red Bull relegated to 7th and 8th (Ricciardo the faster), Perez and Gutierrez rounding out the top 10.

Red Bull and Force India are looking a little ropier than expected.

Initial betting thoughts for qualifying were to check the Haas drivers for Q3, and Perez likewise. Just evens was available, which is too short to tempt, so no bet on qualifying. Or so I thought.

Then I saw an odd bet. Rosberg is 4.33 for pole, which you may think makes sense, but the odds each way are 1/3 that, for a top 2 finish. The Mercedes is ahead by miles. Unless mechanical failure or driver error happens then the two Silver Arrows are destined to be top 2. And there’s an off-chance he’ll get pole.

So, I’ve backed:
Rosberg, pole (each way), 4.33 [Ladbrokes]

Of course, gambling is very risky. However, if you want a sure thing, buy Explorations:Through the Wormhole, a new sci-fi anthology featuring the story Dead Weight, by me [under the name Thaddeus White, rather than Morris Dancer].

Morris Dancer