Sunday, 27 November 2016

Abu Dhabi: post-race analysis 2016

A tense race from start to finish, with the drama ramping up towards the end. Betting-wise, it was green, which is a nice way to end a very peculiar season (but I’ll blather about that in the season review). The race was characterised by three things: great drives from Verstappen and Vettel due to varying strategy, and Hamilton backing up Rosberg.

Off the line it was fairly straightforward, excepting that Raikkonen got the jump on Ricciardo. However, Verstappen had a slightly slow start (Red Bull perhaps compromised more than expected by starting on the supersoft when surrounded by ultrasoft-starters?) and was spun when he struck Hulkenberg slightly. At the end of lap 1, Verstappen was last.

Ahead, the Mercedes were a bit faster but not scampering away, and the Ferraris and Ricciardo were evenly matched. Verstappen set about cutting his way through the field.

After the first pit stops (two planned), Hamilton led, Verstappen (who alone had not pitted) was next, then Rosberg, who emerged just behind the Dutchman. Verstappen was going long on his supersofts, trying to eke out a single stop, contrary to all others. Rosberg struggled to pass him, particularly as the German could not afford to compromise his result.

Suddenly, Rosberg made a late lunge. Verstappen had left the door wide open then tried closing it. The two cars very nearly touched, but Rosberg got ahead with a daring overtake. Shortly thereafter, Verstappen pitted.

After the second (or only, in Verstappen’s case) round of pit stops Vettel, who was on a two stop but had yet to come in, led Hamilton, with Rosberg and Verstappen next. Ricciardo and Raikkonen were further back.

Vettel pitted and emerged with brand new supersoft tyres. He was over a second a lap faster than those around him, quickly catching and passing (with zero resistance) his team mate before reaching Ricciardo.

Mercedes were aware to the danger and alerted Hamilton, asking him to drive more quickly. The Briton developed selective deafness.

Hamilton was being deliberately slow in the twisting part of the circuit to back Rosberg towards Verstappen (and Vettel, who soon passed Ricciardo). He was given an instruction from Paddy Lowe (effectively co-team principal) to drive more quickly and refused.

Verstappen was being forced to up his pace to try and keep 3rd, but to no avail. Vettel pounced and snaffled the final podium spot, then close up on Rosberg. The top four were all covered by a few seconds.

Rosberg bore the stress. He kept 2nd, seeing off a final lap attempt by Vettel take the place, and winning his first constructor’s title. Hamilton won the race, and lost the title.

Verstappen and Ricciardo were 4th and 5th. After a strong early stint, poor strategy helped put Raikkonen down in 6th. Hulkenberg and Perez finished where they started, 7th and 8th respectively (having a bit of a mid-race ding dong, but it was all clean driving).

Massa scored in his last race, grabbing 2 points for 9th. Alonso got the last point. On this occasion, Massa was faster than him.

The two Haas cars just missed out on points, and just behind them were both Manors. Interestingly, the Saubers and Palmer’s Renault [Magnussen retired] were slower.

Button also had his last race and suffered a wishbone failure after a kerb took exception to being driven over, but he remained in good cheer. Both Toro Rossos and Bottas also retired.

So, by 5 points Rosberg is world champion. Within minutes of the result the BBC had a charming page up asking if he deserved it. Had Hamilton suffered a technical failure in 2014’s race instead of his team mate, Rosberg would’ve been world champion then. Didn’t see the same question being asked of Hamilton at the time…

Force India claimed 4th in the Constructors’, their best ever finish. The cash injection will be welcome for the team next year. They lose Hulkenberg and gain Ocon, retaining the services of Perez.

The No Safety Car bet came off. Short odds, but longer than they should’ve been. The advantage of varying strategy worked for both Vettel and Verstappen, so I wonder if we’ll see more of that next year rather than a two stop approach for the vast majority.

Will Hamilton’s behaviour has damaged his standing either with the team (for repeatedly refusing to obey an instruction) or with the public as a ‘racer’ who deliberately went slowly? His hero, Senna, rammed Prost off the track once to take a title (the reverse also occurring), and that’s clearly worse. Schumacher’s renowned for his on-track shenanigans.

Opinion is divided. Some online have criticised him for trying to make someone else lose, others saying it was fair enough trying to keep the title.

I’m glad Rosberg got the title. A bit of variety instead of the same chap always winning is a good thing.

Next year the regulations change a lot. The biggest potential beneficiaries are probably Red Bull and McLaren. The former will have (I think) Adrian Newey, back from his yachting adventures. The latter has Prodromou[sp], formerly Newey’s aerodynamics lieutenant, and with development restrictions lifted for engines Honda *may* be able to make a great leap forward.

I’ll witter more about such things nearer the time, and after testing. In a few days or a couple of weeks I’ll write the post-season review (which will be interesting as it’s both my best and worst ever season).

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Abu Dhabi: pre-race 2016

Well, qualifying ran pretty much to form with Hamilton easily on pole and Rosberg alongside him. The one real surprise was that the Red Bulls both went for the supersoft in Q2, which means they start on the slightly more durable tyre. The rest of the top 10 are on the ultrasofts.

Both Saubers and Toro Rossos (who are having a dreadful weekend so far) exited in Q1, as did Ocon and Magnussen.

Both Haas drivers failed to reach Q3, and were joined in the departure lounge of Q2 by Wehrlein (slowest in the session), Palmer, Button and Bottas (the last two behind ahead of the Haas).

Alas, Q3 was a bit predictable. Hamilton had daylight between him and Rosberg, a yawning three-tenth gap. That said, Rosberg was over half a second faster than Ricciardo. Raikkonen and Vettel split the Red Bulls (who, alone of the top 10, start on the supersoft rather than ultrasoft). After 6th-placed Verstappen, Hulkenberg leads Perez, and it turns out Alonso is faster than Massa, the pair making up row five.

It can be tricky to pass in Abu Dhabi. There’s a great big straight but that’s only an advantage if you’ve got roughly equal power and can get close enough. A car like the Red Bull will have great pace but it’s from the twisty bits so passing will be trickier.

It’s also worth considering how the supersoft gambit might play out. There are two potential advantages. Either one fewer pit stop is needed (giving Red Bull track position), or they might be able to go longer, enjoying a performance advantage whilst their rivals are on the soft tyre. Of course, neither may be true.

There tend not to be many retirements or a great shuffle from grid to flag, and there have been just two races from the seven to date which saw a safety car.

So, potential bets that sprung to mind:
Ricciardo win each way
Perez top 6
Few retirements
No Safety car
Ricciardo podium

Ricciardo is 15 to win each way (third the odds for top 2). That’s intriguing, especially if a bad start [though these haven’t happened for several races now], strategic woe or mechanical mishap occurs. Can he do it on pure pace, without relying on misfortune ahead of him? And are the Mercedes likely to collide? Difficult to say.

Perez is evens for top 6. Whilst he’s good at keeping the tyres going, and has a solid car, the odds are a little mean.

There’s 1.83 on Ladbrokes for over 18.5 drivers to finish. In the last two races at the circuit there have been 1 and 3 retirements. If either were matched, that would make the bet a winner. I’m pretty confident this will occur but the odds aren’t super.

No Safety Car is 1.8. Again, the odds look wrong to me. This is quite appealing. I think it’d take some misfortune for this to happen.

Ricciardo is 1.66 for a podium. Interesting to compare that against his win (each way) odds. Whilst eminently possible, I’d sooner go for the win bet, if I go for either (I think the No Safety Car and over 18.5 classified finisher bets are both likelier, as well as having slightly longer odds).

So a couple of low odds tempters and a slightly uncertain but interesting Ricciardo bet. I perused the markets to see if anything else appealed.

Verstappen win 23 – longer odds than Ricciardo but he starts 6th. He’s also been a bit clunky at Monaco (different circuit and he’s fine at Singapore, but it’s still a potential problem).

Raikkonen/Vettel, winner without Mercedes 5 each way – if the Red Bull gambit with tyres doesn’t work, Ferrari are next up. And if it does, one of them may still finish ahead of a Red Bull anyway. Odds aren’t enormous, however, and the gain off the start (according to Christian Horner) of the ultrasoft over supersoft is less than half a yard.

Rosberg win 5.9 (Betfair) – I do think Hamilton’s a hot favourite to win but there’s only two drivers in it, barring mishap. Is 5.9 too long for Rosberg? Hamilton’s had the beating of him for several races and has looked better this weekend. Plus, Rosberg knows a podium is enough. That said, 5.9 may be too long.

Of all those mentioned so far, the Ricciardo Win each way, Raikkonen/Vettel Winner Without Mercedes each way, No Safety Car and Over 18.5 Classified Finishers markets look most tempting to me.

That’s rather too many to bet on all at once.

The two short odds bet (No Safety Car and Over 18.5 Classified Finishers) seem quite closely related. Of those, No Safety Car is my preferred. Also, you have to go back to Italy (September) for the last time Ferrari beat Red Bull.

So, that leaves the potential for our old friend No Safety Car at 1.8 and Ricciardo at 15 to win (each way). I think the win unlikely but coming 2nd could happen. However, Abu Dhabi’s last two podium results were identical to the starting top 3. So, boring as it is, I’ve just gone for No Safety Car at 1.8.

Of course, if excitement, twists and turns and treacherous backstabbing is what you want, then check my new fantasy novel Kingdom Asunder, which came out two days ago.

My fear is, returning to F1, that the race may be a procession. Red Bull will probably be the most interesting team to watch.

Morris Dancer

Abu Dhabi: pre-qualifying 2016

Well, here we are. The final race of the season, the title decider, the last race before the rules change.

A brief look to 2017, as it’s been confirmed Germany will not have a race due to financial problems.

Rain, which plagued my Brazil bets, is unlikely to be a complicating factor in Abu Dhabi.

In first practice Hamilton was nearly half a second ahead of Rosberg, who was just half a tenth up on Verstappen with Ricciardo close behind. Vettel, Perez and Raikkonen were next, with Sainz, Massa and Ericsson rounding out the top 10.

In second practice the same two were at the top, but Hamilton was just a tenth up, and Rosberg was two-tenths ahead of Vettel. Verstappen and Ricciardo came next, then Raikkonen, Bottas, Perez, Hulkenberg and Massa.

Third practice had a rather different set of chaps at the top. Vettel was fastest, two-tenths up on Verstappen, who was within a tenth of the Dutch Wunderkind. Hamilton and Rosberg were next (a tenth between them). Ricciardo, Perez, Hulkenberg, Bottas and Gutierrez rounded out the top 10.

Incidentally, Hamilton reported a problem with his front right brake not working properly towards the end of third practice.

No bet on qualifying. I think a Hamilton-Rosberg front row very likely. Interested to see if Ferrari can maintain their relative pace but I suspect they’ll be behind Red Bull.

However, those wanting to lighten their wallets in return for a cracking medieval fantasy, brimming with ruthless she-wolves and scheming traitors, should check out Kingdom Asunder, my new novel:

Morris Dancer  

Monday, 14 November 2016

Brazil: post-race analysis 2016

Neither bet was anywhere near coming off because the forecast I saw was the most wrong of any forecast I’ve seen since 2009, when I started regularly tipping on F1. Had it been more accurate, the bets I would’ve looked at would’ve involved Red Bull, Hulkenberg, Verstappen, Ricciardo and Button [Verstappen did well, the rest did not]. So, all red, but if the weather and the forecast are radically different it’s hard to feel I misjudged things because my own tips were based on flawed information.

Anyway. It was very wet before and at the start. So wet, in fact, that Grosjean lost control on his way to the grid.

The start was under the safety car. At the time, I thought this was typically limp-wristed weak-kneed nonsense, but in hindsight it was probably the right call (the start was delayed by 10 minutes but this appeared to make the conditions slightly worse). After trundling around behind the safety car for a few laps, the race began.

Verstappen pounced on Raikkonen like a mongoose tackling a scorpion. Hamilton pulled away from Rosberg with ease, and, though for a moment it seemed the young Dutchman would claim 2nd, the German managed to keep him behind and the top three settled down.

Ericsson crashed on the main straight, littering it with debris and his car coming to a rest in the pit lane entry. The safety was out and the pit lane closed (Verstappen was already committed to a tyre change, but Ricciardo came in late and got a 5s penalty).

Several cars had come in for intermediates, to the bafflement of both the Mercedes drivers.

The safety car came in, and shortly thereafter Raikkonen had a large crash (similar to Ericsson’s) and the race was red flagged. Hulkenberg was fortunate to avoid colliding with the Ferrari, and Ocon showed great reactions to avoid it too (also worth noting Ocon was wiping the floor with Wehrlein on wet weather pace, something worth considering for next year when Ocon’s at Force India).

The race restarted some time later under the safety car, and Hulkenberg (who was running around 4th at this stage) picked up a puncture, had to pit and came out around 15th. Rotten luck for the German, who’s a very talented chap yet has never had an F1 podium.

Another red flag, due to the weather, came out a few laps later, provoking Colosseum-style thumbs downs and boos from the crowd.

A short time later the race once again restarted under the safety car. When the safety car came in, Verstappen leapt upon the opportunity and passed Rosberg for 2nd. The Dutchman pulled away, creating a sufficient gap that he retained the position even after suffering a significant wobble (and making a fantastic save) on the main straight.

Massa crashed on the main straight, his car stopping in front of the pit lane (which was closed again). The safety emerged, and the tearful Massa, Brazilian flag in his hands, walked down the pit lane to the applause of teams and into the embrace of his wife and son.

This created a slight dilemma for Mercedes, who had only changed their tyres (to more full wets) at the red flag stoppages. They couldn’t pit, but if they did when the safety car came in (having closed up the field), they’d emerge probably behind Verstappen.

However, fortune smiled on them. Verstappen’s inters were failing to grip in the worsening conditions and he had to pit for wets. The Mercedes stayed out, and kept a 1-2 finish.

With about a third of the laps left, Nasr was in a position to get sufficient points not merely for Sauber to pass Manor, but Renault too. Perez was on for a podium. Sainz was in 4th, a career best.

Unfortunately for them, (and Vettel, Hulkenberg, Ocon and Kvyat), Verstappen was out there on new wet tyres, and really rather fast. He passed all of them to claim the final podium position. Had Red Bull not (unusually for them) cocked up on strategy, the win was possible and 2nd all but certain. Likewise, Ricciardo could’ve finished rather higher than the 8th he ended up with.

At the sharp end, it had looked like Hamilton’s win all day, and Rosberg will have to be happy with 2nd. If he’s on the podium in Abu Dhabi, he takes the title.

Perez got an impressive 4th, and even with his atrocious luck Hulkenberg still got 7th. With Bottas 11th and Massa DNF, that’s incredibly useful for Force India in their battle with Williams.

Vettel got 5th, which isn’t bad considering he was very far down the order at one point. Sainz’s 6th is another advert for the Spaniard’s skill. Hopefully when he leaves Toro Rosso it’s for another team rather than to leave the sport.

Nasr ended up 9th, enough for Sauber to leapfrog Manor. I imagine the team will be rather pleased with him. Alonso got 10th.

Rosberg has a 12 point lead over Hamilton. If Hamilton wins in Abu Dhabi, Rosberg needs only to be on the podium to take the title. Hamilton 2nd, and 6th would do it for Rosberg.

All else being equal, Rosberg should take the title. Rain had the potential to be a massive spanner in the works at the race, but the German remains in the best place for the title.

In the Constructors’, Force India now have a whopping 27 point lead over Williams. It’s very hard to see that being overturned.

McLaren are on 75, and Toro Rosso 63. That’s likely to remain as is, but it’s possible it could be rather close.

Renault, Sauber and Manor have 8, 2 and 1 points respectively. It’d probably take a lot of DNFs for that order to change.

So, my bets were utterly wrong, but my judgements were based on a totally inaccurate forecast. Obviously not pleased, but there’s not much that can be done about that. Rather sums up most of the season, to be honest (Spain aside), and is why only betting what you can afford to lose is The Golden Rule of betting.

The 2016 season has one more race. In a fortnight, we’re off to Abu Dhabi.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Brazil: pre-race 2016

In Q1 the Saubers were slowest, and right ahead of them were the Manors. Magnussen was 18th and the slight surprise departure was Button in 17th. He’d looked good in the hot/dry on Friday, but the colder conditions didn’t suit him at all.

In Q2, Palmer was slowest, with the Toro Rossos (suffering a bit with the 2015 Ferrari engine) just ahead. Gutierrez qualified 12th, the meat in a Williams sandwich (bit surprised both Williams left at this stage).

The final session was close. Initially, Hamilton was 0.16s ahead of Rosberg, but both men improved on the final run. Hamilton ended up one-tenth ahead of his rival, for yet another Mercedes front row.

Raikkonen was over half a second behind them, and less than a tenth ahead of Verstappen. Vettel was a hundred off the Dutchman, and Ricciardo half a tenth off Vettel. Rather close between Ferrari and Red Bull. In the dry, better tyre wear may help Ferrari, although bad luck and poor strategy could prove a problem.

Grosjean got a very impressive 7th for Haas. Coupled with Gutierrez’s 12th, it’s a good qualifying performance for the team. Whether it can be repeated in the race remains to be seen.

Hulkenberg and Perez were next up, both men ahead of both Williams, which is critical in determining who gets 4th in the Constructors’ title (worth $35m more than 5th). Alonso was 10th, a strong performance given where his team mate was.

The weather forecast is for it to be dry throughout the race. This is good for Rosberg, bad for Red Bull, Button and Hulkenberg. Helps Williams too.

Looking at the grid, my initial thoughts were:
Vettel/Raikkonen podium
Hulkenberg top 6
Lay Gutierrez points

Vettel is 3 and Raikkonen 2.62 for the podium. Of those, Vettel probably tempts me more (although Raikkonen has been driving well of late). Hmm.

Hulkenberg is 2.2 for top 6. Eminently possible but a bit short.

Gutierrez is only layable for points at 6.2. That may actually be value but there’s only a tiny sum available, so can’t be tipped.

As is traditional, I then perused the markets (mostly Ladbrokes) to see if anything leapt out at me. [NB I checked and the last two races only had two chaps fail to be classified each, so I’d avoid the Not To Be Classified market. It also makes it less likely someone down the field will rise up much].

Vettel is 26 (each way 1/3 the odds for 2nd) to win. I do think Ferrari will be better than Red Bull in the race, but this also requires him to beat his team mate and for a Mercedes to either get a DNF or have some sort of mishap.

There’s 15 at Ladbrokes for 0 retirements. At the Chinese and Japanese Grands Prix, there were no retirements. Not sure how a DNS would fit in. The last two races at Interlagos have had just two non-finishes, and last year one of those was a disqualification.

On a related note, there’s 2.2 for there to be over 18.5 finishers in the race. Barring a lap 1 disaster or comparable unpredictable woe, that looks very tempting.

On Betfair, there’s 3.15 for No Safety Car. In the last five races, I think there’s only been one safety car appearance and we now have the VSC (and it’s forecast to be dry).

Two tips:
Over 18.5 classified finishers, Ladbrokes 2.2
No Safety Car, Betfair, 3.15.

Tempted by the 15 for 0 retirements, but it’s a bit iffy (and I didn’t want to offer 3 tips, especially when they’re somewhat related).

The race starts at 4pm. The post-race piece will be tomorrow morning. And, after that, we have just one more race. The question is, will the title already have been decided?

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Brazil: pre-qualifying 2016

Off-track news first. To my surprise, Palmer has been confirmed as Hulkenberg’s team mate at Renault. I really did think he was a goner. Magnussen has jumped ship to Haas, so presumably Gutierrez will be off (perhaps to Sauber, if Nasr gets the vacant Force India seat).

Lance Stroll, the Canadian teenager, has been confirmed as Bottas’ team mate at Williams for next year (as widely expected).

Meanwhile, Esteban Ocon, who replaced Rio Haryanto at Manor halfway through the season, joins Force India as Perez’s team mate.

Do not underestimate the importance of the weather in determining both this race and the title. In the dry, Rosberg is looking good. If it’s very wet, Hamilton could be favourite for both.

In first practice Hamilton was fastest, a tenth ahead of Verstappen, and three-tenths up on Rosberg. Ricciardo, Bottas, Perez and Hulkenberg were next, with Massa, Vettel and Raikkonen round out the top 10.

In second practice Hamilton was a mere three-hundredths up on Rosberg, with Bottas nearly half a second down the road. Massa was next, then Ricciardo, Verstappen, Vettel, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg and Button.

Third practice was initially drizzly (and a little later), unlike hot and dry P1 and P2. So, lap times may not be wholly representative.

In third practice, Rosberg was fastest, a tenth ahead of Hamilton (NB the second flying lap was slightly faster so you may prefer to set up a hedge if you bet on pole). Vettel was a tenth further back, with Raikkonen, Verstappen and Ricciardo close behind. Bottas, Palmer, Massa and Alonso rounded out the top 10.

It probably isn’t going to rain in qualifying. I’ll check the race forecast later.

If dry, it’s likely a Mercedes duel for pole. Hulkenberg and Bottas are potential bets for Q3, odds permitting.

The odds on all that are terrible. However, something did raise my eyebrow: 2.25 for the winning margin being under 0.15s. In three of the last five years, that’s been the case. It’s also been the case with every practice session. The downside is we’re likely looking at a Mercedes duel so it only takes one of Hamilton/Rosberg to have a phenomenal/atrocious lap to screw the bet [and it relies on it being dry, but that’s quite likely].

In the end, I decided against it as the odds are too short, although I did contemplate it for a while.

My guess is it’ll be Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, Force India and Williams, but we’ll see.

The pre-race piece will probably be up tomorrow morning, rather than this evening.

Morris Dancer