Sunday, 27 August 2017

Belgium: post-race analysis/mortem 2017

This morning I mentioned elsewhere the Ladbrokes (exchange) odds of 2.2 on both Force Indias to score. Naturally, this led the gods to show ill-favour to them, causing a collision and preventing an otherwise certain win. As for the Vettel bet, he came close, but no cigar. I’m a little surprised the hedge at evens wasn’t matched, to be honest.

Off the line it was formation flying at the sharp end. Alonso made many passes (a feat not to be repeated due to a farcical power difference between the McLaren and every other car) and the Force Indias slid back a little. Ocon also made contact with Perez here, in the chaos and tumult of the start, just before Eau Rouge.

The top two appeared to be in a league of their own, and the Force Indias started making up a little ground. Verstappen was going well, and then his engine conked out.

All the top chaps changed to soft tyres for the second stint, and about two-thirds into the race commentary suggested Hamilton’s rear right tyre had a blister, which sounded ominous. Meanwhile, Perez, who had passed Grosjean and someone else on the straight but then failed to make the corner and rejoined ahead, was given a 5s penalty. When the Force Indias (on supersofts, unlike most others) came in for their second pit stops, Perez was brought in first despite being behind Ocon. This brought them together on the track, and the two stupidly collided again just before Eau Rouge. It was a low odds chance by Ocon (then behind) and Perez closed the door with his team mate facing a concrete barrier. Dumb, and dangerous.

It also gave Perez a puncture, knocked off part of Ocon’s front wing, scattered debris across the track and brought out a safety car.

Ricciardo and the Ferraris switched to fresh ultrasofts, the Mercedes going for softs, and practically everyone pitted. On the restart Vettel got very close, but perhaps exited the slipstream a little too early. I am mildly surprised the hedge at evens wasn’t matched at this point. Behind, Ricciardo brilliantly passed both Bottas and Raikkonen on the straight, and Raikkonen (at the same time) passed Bottas.

Perez did manage to emerge having crawled back to the pits with a rubber flail for a tyre but had to retire (presume the lashing of his shredded rubber buggered the suspension). Alonso and Wehrlein also retired (the Spaniard fairly late on, the German early after detecting some sort of problem).

Intriguing to consider what would’ve happened had the safety car not emerged. If Hamilton had had to pit then it could’ve been rather good for Vettel. Interesting that the Mercedes was showing worse tyre wear on the soft when, on the supersoft, it was Ferrari that suffered woe at Silverstone.

Hamilton got the win, Vettel right behind him and an impressive podium for Ricciardo in 3rd. Raikkonen and Bottas were next, with a good 6th for Hulkenberg.

Grosjean and Massa were next, benefiting from the civil war in Force India, then came Ocon and Sainz.

Vettel 220
Hamilton 213
Bottas 179

I expect Mercedes to do best at Monza, but the race after that is Singapore where Ferrari should be strong and there may be a danger for the Silver Arrows of being behind the Red Bulls as well. Finishing 5th today hasn’t ended Bottas’ hopes but has reduced them drastically.

Mercedes 392
Ferrari 348
Red Bull 199
Force India 103
Williams 45
Toro Rosso 40
Haas 35
Renault 34
McLaren 11
Sauber 5

I think the top four are sorted but it’s very tight from 5th to 8th, who are covered by just 11 points. I think Renault will climb up, the question is how far.

An utterly red weekend. The Vettel bet was ill-judged, the others were struck down by misfortune. Perhaps I’ll manage to appease the gods for the Italian Grand Prix, but I’ll have to sacrifice to them during a weekday, because we’re off to Monza in just a week.

I do like Monza. A proper, old school, fast circuit.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Belgium: pre-race 2017

I’m beginning to get quite aggravated. Last race a rare safety car (first on a first lap in Hungary in over three decades) and an inexplicably lenient call on Sainz meant some tips didn’t come off, here Raikkonen was plagued by a serious vibration throughout qualifying and made a mistake on his final lap (the other three drivers all improved markedly on their last lap).

He’d been faster than Vettel all weekend and, if not better than Hamilton (the final distance between Hamilton and Vettel was not insurmountable) certainly in with a good chance of being best of the rest. Good and bad luck interferes a lot with F1, and whilst I had some good a few races ago, the last two or three have been plagued with misfortune.

Raikkonen really should’ve been 2nd, with an outside shot of pole.

Rant over, qualifying threw up some surprises.

Williams were dire. Whilst most expected Sauber to be slowest (and they were), both Williams left in Q1 (Stroll was unable to do a second run due to a problem with his car). That’s pretty poor. Kvyat also failed to reach Q2.

In the second session it was tight between those who were booted out and those who sneaked through. Ultimately, both Renaults (Palmer driving very well) and both Force Indias got through, with Alonso (angrily lamenting loss of power), Grosjean, Magnussen, Sainz and 65 grid penalty-laden Vandoorne progressing no further.

On the initial run in Q3, Hamilton was ahead of Raikkonen by over three-tenths, with Raikkonen ahead slightly of Bottas, and Vettel close behind. Palmer, having driven very well, unfortunately suffered a car failure that meant he didn’t post a time. On the final runs, everyone improved dramatically except Raikkonen (damn it), who screwed up and ended up 4th, when he really should’ve been 2nd. Vettel, however, set up a very tasty front row, just behind Hamilton, and Bottas is 3rd.

For the record, Hamilton has equalled Schumacher’s 68 pole positions.

Behind the quartet at the front Red Bull are again on the third row, Verstappen fastest, Hulkenberg starts off 7th, Perez and Ocon are next, and Palmer should be 10th (unsure if he’ll have any penalties, though).

As an aside, an early bet I considered but didn’t back was Hulkenberg top 6 at 3.5, so it’ll be interesting to see how much those odds have changed. Also worth noting that the Ferrari, in practice, appeared faster on the long runs.

My first thoughts on potential bets were:
Ferrari top score
Ferrari double podium
Raikkonen fastest lap
Hulkenberg top 6 [maybe match with LadEx all top six drivers to score points]
Force India double score

Ferrari are just 2.5 for a double podium. Too tight for me.

Raikkonen is 6 for fastest lap. That’s somewhat interesting. The Ferrari looked good on long runs and he has a great record at Spa.

Force India are 1.53 for a double points finish. Very likely, but the odds aren’t great.

Hulkenberg is 3.75 to be top 6 (up from 3.5 pre-weekend). I don’t get that. He’s qualified as high as he could expect to (7th), and his odds are longer than both Force Indias. Whilst true the Renault has worse reliability, he’s a good driver, has a good record at the circuit and is first in line if anyone ahead of him breaks down or crashes.

Annoyingly, there doesn’t appear to be a top score market (or they’re taking a while to make it up).

Of these, Hulkenberg looks somewhat tempting, likewise Raikkonen, but neither are clear shots.

After perusing the markets to see if anything leapt out like an outraged baboon, I found:
Vettel, win, 5.2 (Betfair)

The Ferrari looked tasty on long runs and the team will obviously favour Vettel if it comes down to that. Against this is the generally poor starts the Ferraris have had relative to the Mercedes and a short run to the first corner (that mitigates the risk to Vettel but also reduces his opportunity).

In short, there is nothing that particularly appeals.

That said, the Vettel bet coupled with (Ladbrokes) Hamilton to beat Vettel at 1.57 looks like an interesting possibility. All else being equal one of those two should win.

Note: Ladbrokes has reverted to ‘classified’ rather than ‘finish’.

The odds slipped a bit but I backed Vettel at 4.9 (Betfair) for the win, hedged at evens. To be honest, it’s one of those races I’d probably sit out if I didn’t tip every race.

Morris Dancer

Belgium: pre-qualifying 2017

A minor piece of housekeeping, but with offering more tips ahead of race weekends I’m going to start recording them. My focus will still be on the weekend tips, but given the last two race weekends have seen very green early bets but very red weekend bets, it’s producing a rather misleading picture and I want to correct that. I’ll continue to always offer at least one race bet per weekend in a pre-race article, and early bets will continue to be subject to value (I won’t always offer them).

During the break it was announced that Perez will continue driving for Force India in 2018 and Raikkonen likewise for Ferrari. Not hugely surprised and expect Bottas to get a multi-year deal at Mercedes. The most interesting question right now is whether or not Kubica will come back. My own guess is he’ll replace Palmer (and that Leclerc will join Sauber). More interesting is whether Alonso will leave the sport (I’d guess that he will if McLaren stick with Honda).

Vandoorne has also been confirmed to be staying at McLaren. In less welcome news, the Honda upgrade this weekend means he gets a grid penalty too. At the current time of writing he’s got a 40 place grid penalty. On a 20 car grid. I like F1 but certain aspects are rather silly. [Edited extra bit: this then rose to 65].

Just before qualifying it emerged Vettel has signed a new three year deal at Ferrari. Not too surprising, but significant nevertheless.

My only early tip (I may start writing concise early articles here) was for Raikkonen each way at 17 to ‘win’ qualifying. Some good news also emerged with the minor but helpful change to Ladbrokes’ markets, whereby ‘classified’ (or not) has been replaced by ‘finish’. This is useful as it’s possible for a driver to be classified even if they don’t finish the race, so it adds clarity.

First corner can create some carnage, but that also means opportunity for those who avoid it.

In first practice the headline times are a shade misleading because the Mercedes were on the soft (other tyres being supersoft and ultrasoft). Raikkonen was fastest, a tiny margin ahead of Hamilton, who was a tenth up on Vettel. Verstappen, Ricciardo and Bottas followed, with Sainz, Ocon, Kvyat and Vandoorne rounding out the top 10.

Second practice was curtailed by rain, and Massa was unable to run following a chassis change from an early crash in first practice. However, everyone had time for qualifying simulation and between half and one dozen ultrasoft/high fuel early race simulation laps.

Hamilton topped the time sheets, a quarter of a second ahead of Raikkonen, who was almost two-tenths up on Bottas. Verstappen and Vettel followed close behind, then came Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Ocon, Sainz and Palmer.

My own feeling right now, assuming it’s dry for qualifying (I’ll check nearer the time) is that Hamilton is very likely to get pole but behind him it’ll be close and any of the other three could line up alongside him. Obviously if it’s wet that helps Red Bull, and if it’s very wet or changeable the ultimate grid could be a lottery.

In third practice, Raikkonen was fastest, just shy of two-tenths up on his team mate. Vettel was 0.001s ahead of Hamilton. However, there was nearly a second between the Briton and Verstappen, with Bottas, Ricciardo, Palmer, Perez, Sainz and Alonso rounding out the top 10.

Tricky to decide whether laying Hamilton at about 1.5 (looks like a three horse race and he’s only one of them) or backing Vettel and Raikkonen at around 6-7 makes more sense. Also got to consider how to marry a tip here with the early Raikkonen tip (not a dead cert but content with third practice).

Also worth noting Bottas was miles off the pace in third practice. Unsure if that was due to a mistake, so it’s possible he might yet be in the mix (though I suspect not).

In the end, I laid Hamilton at 1.54. He’s certainly a credible pole contender but things were very tight amongst three drivers in third practice.

If you did back the early Raikkonen bet, you may want to set up a hedge. I went for a small one at 1.4 (on the short side, but there we are). Let’s hope the Iceman can stay cool in qualifying.

Morris Dancer