Sunday, 28 May 2017

Monaco: post-race analysis 2017

Must confess to being livid at Button’s stupidity. Last year’s tip by Mr. Sandpit on No Safety Car was very good, and it should’ve come off this year but for a returning veteran forgetting how the laws of physics work. Wehrlein was fine, but the bet was not. A clear case of bad luck rather than ill-judgement (on the bet), and these things happen, but I’m not best pleased about it.

Before that, the race had been largely a procession. It was pretty much formation flying off the line. Raikkonen was looking quick and the two Ferraris were cruising away from the field. Then came the pit stops. Verstappen and Bottas ended up in traffic, and the Dutchman’s attempt to undercut the Finn failed. Worse still, clear air enabled Ricciardo to make up time and he emerged ahead of the pair of them.

There’s an interesting discussion to have about Ferrari’s timing. Raikkonen was boxed before Vettel (and Ricciardo) and emerged in traffic. This helped Vettel to make up the small gap and the German claimed position on the track after the pit stop.

Misfortune, or Ferrari ‘accidentally’ pitting Raikkonen into traffic so their title contender could get the full 25 points?

The Finn was well off the pace on the supersoft tyres of his second stint. Psychological disinterest, or struggling with the new rubber?

Anyway, whilst not thrilling, the race was looking nice and green until Button stupidly, unnecessarily and not even for points tried a pass always destined to fail on Wehrlein. The German’s car was pushed onto its side just before the tunnel (he was ok, thankfully) and the safety car emerged.

Verstappen and Perez pitted for fresh ultrasofts, the Dutchman in particular keen to have another crack at Bottas. Worth noting that upon the restart cold tyres meant that the times were miles off the real pace, and the Ferraris recovered best. The following Red Bulls and Bottas were not quick.

Perez made a similarly stupid overtaking attempt on Kvyat, which put the Russian out of the race and (thanks to a pit stop) the Mexican out of the points.

There were, at least, some close contests near the end of the race but precious little overtaking. Said it before, but Monaco is a dog of a track. Slow, and hard to overtake.

Not very happy about the safety car, but these sorts of things do happen. Just a shame when a driver does something stupid that both affects the race and ruins a bet.

Vettel claimed the win, Raikkonen got 2nd. A great day for Ferrari, but I do wonder how Raikkonen’s feeling. Ricciardo had a great drive for 3rd, and was followed by Bottas and Verstappen, both of whose races were compromised by traffic after pitting.

Sainz might be driver of the day. Performed very well in his Toro Rosso and kept Hamilton behind him for many laps (ok, Monaco is the easiest place to do it, but a single mistake and he would’ve lost the place).

Hamilton’s 7th is a pretty good recovery but Vettel still took a chunk of points out of him that could prove critical in the title battle. As the Briton said over the radio, the battle’s not over.

Haas got their first double points finish, with Grosjean 8th and Magnussen 10th. Nice day for the new team, who are performing pretty well in their second season. Massa grabbed 9th for Williams. Not bad given they tend to really struggle in Monaco.

Retirements also include Ericsson, who introduced his Sauber to the barrier whilst trying to overtake the safety car.

Vettel 129
Hamilton 104
Bottas 75
Raikkonen 67

Vettel is exactly one race win ahead of Hamilton. However, the Ferrari is a little less reliable and some parts have been changed. Later in the season this will likely see them suffer some penalties whilst the Mercedes stays at the front. Given how close it is, I’d say Vettel remains favourite.

Ferrari 196
Mercedes 179

I said, elsewhere, pre-race that Ferrari at 2.7 was worth a look. They’re down (on Betfair) to 2.36, but given the dominance at a tight circuit that seems still a little generous [if you've yet to dip your toe into the market, I've put a tiny sum on them at 4.5]. Also, importantly, Red Bull were able to get ahead of Hamilton. If that’s repeated at Baku and Singapore it’ll lose him (together with Ferrari being fast) perhaps 20-40 points.

This is the last Grand Prix before the General Election. The next race is in a fortnight, at Canada. It’s one of my favourite circuits and will, I think, be quite interesting. The twisty bits will help Ferrari but the Mercedes will be a beast on the straights. The race weekend begins the day after polling day.

In other news, the second episode in my new serial, Wandering Phoenix and Roaming Tiger, has come out. If you haven’t checked out the first (which is free) please do so as every download helps, and if you like it you can get the rest. The series’ page is here:

Secondly, I was thinking that guest blogs might be a good idea. These could be on a range of sporting matters, or non-sporting events. The only proviso I’d have is that they aren’t political, as that’s better suited for If anyone wanted to write on F1, that would be entirely ok (although I should stress I’m still going to be writing my race weekend articles). So, if you’re interested, give me a bell via Vanilla and we’ll work something out.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Monaco: pre-race 2017

Well, I said Hamilton’s odds were too short and Raikkonen’s/Bottas’ too long but I didn’t expect qualifying to be quite so dramatic.

There had been whispers that the Red Bulls might actually be dark horses, and in the first session Verstappen was fastest, narrowly ahead of both Ferraris. Force India worked very hard to get Ocon’s car ready in time, but, alas, it wasn’t to be. He was the fastest man to depart Q1, ahead of Palmer, Stroll and the two Saubers.

Q2 was far more dramatic. Hamilton was really struggling for pace, had traffic, rescued a squirm that threatened to plunge his car into the barriers and went into the pits. He came out, hit traffic, backed off and was probably going to edge (and only edge) into Q3 when Vandoorne crashed and Hamilton’s lap was over. Joining the Briton were Kvyat, Hulkenberg, Magnussen and Massa.

The third session of qualifying was very tight. The Red Bulls suddenly lost pace, and the tussle for the top time was between the Ferraris and Bottas. It was immensely close, with under half a tenth of a second covering the top 3, but Raikkonen partied like it was 2008 (when he got his last pole, at the French Grand Prix), just ahead of Vettel. Bottas had to make do with starting on the second row.

Then come Verstappen and Ricciardo. Sainz qualified in a great 6th, ahead of Grosjean (who spun twice in qualifying but recovered very well), then Perez, Button and Vandoorne filled out the top 10.

However, Button has a 15 place grid penalty for power unit changes and I think Vandoorne has a 3 place grid penalty for hitting the barriers.

So, a nightmare for Hamilton, a dream for Raikkonen, a pretty good day for Vettel and Bottas, and opportunity missed for Red Bull, who really looked like they could challenge for pole in Q1 and Q2 but fell away when the matter was decided.

I’ve already tipped No Safety Car at 6.5, so I’ll only offer another tip (or tips) if something leaps out at me.

My initial thoughts were:
Red Bull top score
Ocon points
Verstappen podium
Hamilton not to be classified
Bottas win

Red Bull to top score would be a pretty interesting bet, but even at 5.50pm it wasn’t up.

Ocon is 2.75 for points. Given he starts 16th on a circuit where overtaking is very difficult, this is tight. There’s only going to be a single pit stop, and he is unlikely to make up that much.

Verstappen is 2.4 for a podium. Bit mean, was hoping for 3 or so. He’s been very quick, only losing pace due to some sort of tyre problem in Q3 (could’ve been on the front row). Against that is his record of crashing at this circuit, and the slightly ropey reliability of the Red Bull.

Hamilton, as expected, is 6 not to be classified. My thinking is only that he starts in the middle of the pack on the tightest circuit of the year, so if he’s going to get a knock, it’ll be here.

Bottas is 11 to win. The advantages he has are being very quick off the line, and being first in the queue if Ferrari cock things up. Against this is that the Mercedes has been struggling a bit with the tyres. That shouldn’t lose him places but could put him off the pace at a critical time. As we know, passing on-track is very difficult. This is eminently possible but requires a good start and/or some good luck. Hmm. His Betfair price is 16, however. That’s rather more tempting, especially with a hedge.

Of those bets, only Bottas to win seems tempting. However, there’s only £10 of liquidity, so it’s not something I can tip.

Therefore, just the one tip: No Safety Car, 6.5, Ladbrokes

In other news, the second episode in my new serial, Wandering Phoenix and Roaming Tiger, has come out. If you haven’t checked out the first (which is free) please do so as every download helps, and if you like it you can get the rest. The series’ page is here:

Secondly, I was thinking that guest blogs might be a good idea. These could be on a range of sporting matters, or non-sporting events. The only proviso I’d have is that they aren’t political, as that’s better suited for If anyone wanted to write on F1, that would be entirely ok (although I should stress I’m still going to be writing my race weekend articles). So, if you’re interested, give me a bell via Vanilla and we’ll work something out.

Morris Dancer

Monaco: pre-qualifying 2017

Ah, Monaco. King of processions. However, last year there was a very good tip from Mr. Sandpit which only failed to come off due to bad luck. At 8, he suggested backing No Safety Car. It emerged but only due to rain at the start. After that there were four VSC periods but no new safety car. So, I’ve backed No Safety Car at 6.5 (weather forecast is sunny all weekend).

My feeling heading into this was that the Ferrari would have the whip hand. This was based on Spain, where pace was broadly similar but the Mercedes had a clear edge on the straight (therefore the Prancing Horse must have had an advantage in the twisty bits).

We should also note that Alonso is off in Indyland, and Button has returned, for a one-off appearance, to the McLaren team.

One-stop is eminently likely, because position is critical.

In first practice, Hamilton was fastest, two-tenths up on Vettel, who was closely followed by Verstappen, Bottas and Ricciardo. Kvyat was next, then Raikkonen, half a second down on his team mate, with Perez, Sainz and Ocon rounding out the top 10.

In second practice, Vettel was half a second ahead of Ricciardo. Raikkonen, Kvyat, Sainz and Verstappen followed closely, then came Perez, Hamilton, Magnussen and Bottas.

It looked very good for Ferrari, but it’s worth noting that Mercedes didn’t really show their hand. Nevertheless, there are some who believe Red Bull might be ahead of Mercedes. That would be interesting.

Button has a 15 place grid penalty due to power unit changes.

In third practice, Vettel was in a league of his own, over a third of a second ahead of Raikkonen, who was a tenth up on Bottas. Verstappen was next, three-tenths ahead of Hamilton, who hasn’t looked so sharp recently. Ricciardo was next, followed very closely by Sainz, with Kvyat and Magnussen close behind, with Vandoorne rounding out the top 10.

After practice finished, Ricciardo had a brake by wire problem. I guess it’ll be ok for qualifying but if you’re thinking of betting on him, keep an eye on that. Red Bull has had slightly wonky reliability this season.

I agree with the market consensus that Vettel’s very much odds on for pole. But I think the odds around Hamilton are too short, and Raikkonen too long. Bottas might also be of interest. The problem is Red Bull. They could well be in the mix, and that makes it hard to pick who will be fastest after Vettel (and maybe Raikkonen).

Also worth knowing that the ultra-soft will effectively do a full race distance, so expect long early stints as teams try not to get caught out by a safety car or VSC.

Anyway, I’ve decided not to bet on qualifying. Vettel is very likely to get pole but if something goes wrong it’s hard to predict who’ll get it instead.

I have backed No Safety Car at 6.5, as mentioned above, which is an early race tip. (When the market comes back the odds might have changed. I’d probably take 5.5 or higher).

Two other things to note, and I’ll add these at the end of the other articles this race weekend. Firstly, the second episode in my new serial, Wandering Phoenix and Roaming Tiger, has come out. If you haven’t checked out the first (which is free) please do so as every download helps, and if you like it you can get the rest. The series’ page is here.

Secondly, I was thinking that guest blogs might be a good idea. These could be on a range of sporting matters, or non-sporting events. The only proviso I’d have is that they aren’t political, as that’s better suited for If anyone wanted to write on F1, that would be entirely ok (although I should stress I’m still going to be writing my race weekend articles). So, if you’re interested, give me a bell via Vanilla and we’ll work something out.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Spain: post-race analysis 2017

A very entertaining race, a mixed bag from a betting perspective. To commemorate the luckiest of all tips (Verstappen last year) I offered some frivolous suggestions on PB and one of them (Perez podium at 41) very nearly came off. On the ‘proper’ tips, one green, one red, green overall for both race and weekend. Not huge numbers but still good given, as Kermit the frog taught us, it’s not easy being green.

Off the line, it seemed all square but the Ferrari of Vettel flew into the second phase and the lead, and Bottas had a good start. However, he connected with Raikkonen, who hit Verstappen, and the latter two were both out of the race.

Alonso was knocked wide by Massa, who was taking evasive action, went into a gravel trap and lost a dozen places or so.

Bottas appeared to have taken some damage because although he was much faster than Ricciardo he was rapidly being left behind by Vettel and Hamilton.

Further back, the big winners from the first lap shenanigans were the Force Indias and Hulkenberg.

Vettel pitted first, soft for soft, and Hamilton went for mediums a few laps later. However, Vettel was caught behind Bottas and it took him a few laps to pass (the Mercedes was clearly superior in a straight line, even with DRS for Vettel [as an aside, the DRS zones were extended at the last minute]).

This eroded Vettel’s lead by several seconds, after which Bottas pitted, also for the medium.

Vettel had a gap of about 8s over Hamilton when Vandoorne stupidly drove into the side of Massa, who was right alongside him, breaking the Belgian’s suspension, landing him in a gravel trap and bringing out a Virtual Safety Car.

After some prevarication, Hamilton pitted for softs, with nearly half the race (30 odd laps) to go. Vettel came in the next lap but the VSC had ended, he put on medium tyres and emerged barely ahead of Hamilton.

For a few laps he managed, impressively, to keep the Mercedes behind him, but with faster tyres and superior straight line speed the Silver Arrow steamed past the Prancing Horse (cue grumbling about DRS zones). Worth remembering for later races the top speed advantage Mercedes still has.

And that was almost that. Bottas’ engine blew up late on, catapulting Ricciardo to the podium. Perez was just behind him, and Ocon got 5th for yet another double points finish for Force India (now the only team to boast that record at every race this year).

Hulkenberg got a very tasty 6th, having started 13th and with his team mate languishing in penultimate (15th) place.

Sainz was next, then Wehrlein (who suffered a 5s time penalty for incorrectly entering the pits), with Kvyat and Grosjean next up. Good result for Toro Rosso, first points for Sauber and not a bad result for Haas, all told.

Williams had a shocker. Massa had an extra pit stop but still finished ahead of last-placed Stroll. Alonso recovered fairly well but could only manage 12th. However, the McLaren chassis looked good. Worth considering them for Monaco.

In betting terms, all was luck. Bottas suffering damage then failing to finish was luck, and Verstappen’s failure was the 4th DNF for Red Bull but the first due to misfortune on-track rather than reliability. Given that, pleased to be ahead. Probably an error in judgement to back Bottas, but betting with hindsight is rather easy.

Interestingly, strategy did play a role, and this time around it was Ferrari who screwed up by being slow with the second pit stop. If they’d done it earlier they would’ve maintained the gap to Hamilton, and by the time he caught up, Vettel would’ve had an easier time defending. Whether it would've kept the victory for Ferrari, we'll never know.

Vettel 104
Hamilton 98
Bottas 63
Raikkonen 49

Mercedes 161
Ferrari 153
Red Bull 72
Force India 53

Force India are really putting in a great season so far. They’ve replaced the very good Hulkenberg with the newcomer of the year. Ocon’s driving quickly and without a hint of recklessness; he’s really hit the ground running. If Red Bull keep breaking down, Force India will be there to pick up the points.

Monaco is the next race, in a fortnight. I think Ferrari may have the edge there, also watch out for Perez. It will be interesting to see if Verstappen crashes again.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Spain: pre-race 2017

Obviously, Raikkonen didn’t get pole, but the tip was green or not depending on whether you hedged. As an experiment, for the first time I put a little on the Ladbrokes exchange (identical set-up) but the hedge was not matched.

In the first part of qualifying, all the cars to depart were from different teams. From fastest to slowest, Ericsson, Palmer, Stroll, Vandoorne and Kvyat failed to progress. Quite surprised that Stroll and Kvyat were so slow.

Q2 was rather competitive, with just a tenth covering the fastest three to leave at this stage. Magnussen, Sainz and Hulkenberg were the fastest three, with Grosjean and Wehrlein bringing up the rear. The Renault has not performed well so far, and Grosjean struggled to keep his Haas on the road at times. However, Q2 was remarkable for the Spaniard who escaped it. Alonso reached Q3 for the first time this year.

In Q2, things had seemed very close at the sharp end, with Mercedes better able to preserve their tyre life for the final sector. And so it proved in Q3. Hamilton got pole, half a tenth ahead of Vettel. Bottas was next, with Raikkonen quick for the first two sectors but dropping half a second in the last and ending up 4th on the grid.

Verstappen and Ricciardo, unsurprisingly, got the third row, and Alonso did fantastically well to get 7th. The McLaren chassis seems pretty good, so this may be worth considering ahead of Monaco and Singapore.

Perez, Massa and Ocon finish off the top 10.

A two stop (soft, soft, medium) is predicted for the race, with the hard compound being of use only as a foot stool in the garage. With passing difficult and a safety car possible but not certain, there is scope for tactical shenanigans, and if a car comes out in traffic it’ll find it hard to get past.

The soft is substantially faster, something daft like two and a half seconds, so tiny stints on the medium may be what we see.

Just glancing at the grid, the first bet ideas that spring to mind were:
Bottas, win, each way
Alonso, top 6
Force India, double score

I was mildly disconcerted to see Bottas is out at 8 for the win, each way. I think he stands a pretty good chance, having started well in the races so far, of leapfrogging one or both of the cars ahead of him (and Vettel’s had some reliability problems this weekend). This looks quite tempting, to be honest.

Alonso is 4.33 to get top 6. Now, I think he has the pace to be there if someone ahead of him screws up or breaks down. My concern is his 100% DNF (well, DNF/DNS) record this year due to his car failing. For points, he’s 1.83, although the top 6 seems more tempting to me given Vettel’s reliability problems and Red Bull having a few DNFs themselves. But can he actually finish the race?

Force India are 2.1 for a double points finish. Not long odds, but they both start top 10 and have a perfect record of finishing in the points so far, and excellent reliability. Like Kylie Minogue, the odds are short but nevertheless appealing.

Oddly, quite tempted by all of those. When the markets woke up I had a quick perusal to see if anything leapt out at me.

Verstappen/Ricciardo, not to be classified, 5/6

The Red Bulls have a 3/8 DNF rate, due entirely to reliability. Given that, splitting one stake to back both drivers not to finish seems value to me (also, Spain is quite tight so if they make a mistake or get a knock that could easily do for them).

So, I’m in the peculiar position of having a small number of bets, all of which seem quite interesting.

Whilst I think Force India have a good shot at double points, the potential for traffic problems and short odds put me off.

I quite like Alonso to be top 6, but I just can’t trust his car to make it.

Prevaricated for a long while on the Bottas bet. In the end, I decided to back it (each way, Ladbrokes, 8). His pace in qualifying was very very close to both Vettel and Hamilton and he’s started just about every race well. Plus, Vettel's reliability seems a bit dubious.

I’ve decided to back Verstappen and Ricciardo not to be classified, at 5 and 6 respectively (Ladbrokes, half-stake each). Let’s hope they collide on lap one and the rest of the race is a tight Ferrari-Mercedes battle with a Bottas win.

Morris Dancer

Spain: pre-qualifying 2017

As is usual, the first European race of the year sees oodles of upgrades. Annoyingly for those of us who enjoy variety of winners, Mercedes seem to have taken a big step. Red Bull have also narrowed the gap to the front. So, the order may be shuffled a little.

This race sees the three hardest compounds available for the first time this year (soft, medium and hard). Early forecasts indicate that showers or even thunderstorms are possible for qualifying and the race is likely dry.

In P1 Hamilton was fastest, but not even half a tenth ahead of Bottas. Raikkonen was next, but nearly a second down the road, with Vettel a tenth back. Verstappen was just a tenth off Vettel, followed by Ricciardo, Magnussen, Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Sainz.

Same two chaps at the top in P2 and the gap remained under a tenth. The gap to Raikkonen was just over two-tenths, with Vettel again a tenth off his team mate. Verstappen was a couple of tenths back, Ricciardo close behind, with Hulkenberg, Palmer, Massa and Sainz rounding out the top 10.

At this stage, Mercedes seem to have the advantage, although the size of it is open to question. Red Bull are looking a lot racier and McLaren remain unreliable (Alonso’s car did a total of three corners in first practice).

P3 was quite different. Raikkonen was fastest, a quarter-second ahead of Vettel, who was a tenth up on Hamilton. Bottas had limited running due to an engine problem, and was a few tenths down on his team mate. Verstappen and Ricciardo were next, with Hulkenberg, Massa, Sainz and Alonso (who had a surprisingly problem-free session) rounded out the top 10.

The weather forecast has changed from showers/storms to sunny, for qualifying. Race still predicted to be dry too.

Quite hard to call qualifying. But then I saw some odds that just looked wrong.

Raikkonen is 9.6 to win qualifying on Betfair. I’ve backed that, and set up a hedge at 3.

He’s been faster than Vettel all weekend, and Bottas had limited running in third practice, plus the Ferrari Finn was fastest in the final session. I still believe Hamilton is favourite but Raikkonen should, I think, be second favourite, not fourth.

Anyway, I think the odds are far too long, should be 3 or 4, I think.

It’ll be interesting to see whether the much-lauded ‘turning up the engine’ works for Mercedes in qualifying. It didn’t last race. If it does this time, we can write off Russia as a one-off. If it doesn’t, we might be able to say that the Mercedes qualifying advantage has gone.

Morris Dancer