Saturday, 30 September 2017

Malaysia: pre-race 2017

Ahead of qualifying I offered no tip on it, but the ones I had a fuzzy idea about (before declining due to lack of certainty over weather and necessarily missing third practice) were the Ferraris. Vettel was just under 3 and Raikkonen was 13. As it turns out, they had quite contrasting results from qualification.

In the first session of qualifying there was a reliability failure. For the first time this year, it afflicted Ferrari. Vettel lost power and though he managed to limp back to the pits, his car could not be fixed in time. He will start last, likely changing everything he can to take the penalties, as it were, when they don’t alter his grid position. To Vettel’s credit, he was calm throughout, thanked the engineers and was very cool and relaxed when taking questions even whilst qualifying was ongoing.

Unsurprisingly, both Saubers exited at this stage, as did both Haas cars.

In the second session, the Toro Rossos were slowest, but Gasly got very close to Sainz and looked impressive throughout qualifying. Both Williams failed to progress, as did Palmer. This meant both McLarens got through on merit, as did both Force Indias and Hulkenberg. At this stage it was very close between Hamilton, Raikkonen and Verstappen for pole.

And so it remained. Hamilton did get the top slot on the grid, but only by half a tenth ahead of Raikkonen. Can’t help but feel Vettel would’ve nabbed pole, but there we are (had Hamilton’s engine not exploded last year at this circuit, he would’ve retained his title). The Red Bulls rather fell off, and though they have the second row to themselves (Verstappen half a tenth ahead) they were almost half a second off the first row.

Yet that isn’t as odd as Bottas’ performance, which was lacklustre throughout. He ended up 5th, seven-tenths off his team mate. Quite peculiar.

The rest of the top 10 was very tight, with places 6-10 covered by just three-tenths. Ocon did well to be top of this group, just ahead of Vandoorne. Hulkenberg was two-hundredths off the Dutchman, and five-hundredths ahead of Perez. Alonso was last, which is interesting as McLaren brought lots of chassis upgrades but only his car has them.

Heavy rain showers remain possible for the race.

I did tip Verstappen not to be classified yesterday at 3.75 (Ladbrokes, 3.8 with boost) which means I may not offer a new tip. However, based on the grid, ideas that sprung to mind were:
Lay Vettel podium
Ferrari top score (if that market reappears)
Massa points
Raikkonen win each way

Vettel has a lay value of 4.7 for a podium, which is so excessively long the 3.1 back for him to get it looks more appealing.

The top scoring team market again appears to be missing, alas.

Massa is evens for points. That seems so-so. He’s a reliable driver with a reliable car but this would depend, most likely, on some DNFs ahead and could be scuppered by inclement weather.

Raikkonen is 3.75 to win. Hmm. I’d hoped for something a bit longer.

No value jumping out, I perused the markets and saw:
Raikkonen, fastest lap, 11 (Betfair Sportsbook)
Vettel, not to be classified, 7 (Betfair Sportsbook)
Vettel, podium, 4.33 (Ladbrokes)

Raikkonen quite likes racking up fastest laps and he’s in the joint fastest car. He also doesn’t need to worry too much about thrashing the engine a bit (unlike Hamilton who won’t want to incur penalties later in the season).

I’m a bit surprised the odds have fallen (8 to 6 for both Hamilton and Vettel, 8 being usual but they’re 6 each for this race). Maybe due to the weather, otherwise it seems inexplicable, certainly for Hamilton. Vettel’s had reliability troubles and could get caught in congestion. Incidentally, if you believe he’ll fail to finish lap 1, Ladbrokes has a special for that at 21 (was 41 pre-weekend).

If Vettel does get around ok and his engine doesn’t explode, he’s got a very fast car, all the motivation in the world, and Malaysia is a wide circuit which should ease overtaking. Long way to climb, but he could do it. If it’s wet, that could help or hinder, but as he’s starting last anyway it’s likely to be on the upside.

Of the above bets, the most tempting is Raikkonen for fastest lap at 11 (Betfair Sportsbook). I was in two minds about tipping it, but 11 is excessive given Bottas is off the pace, Vettel will spend most of the race in traffic, and Hamilton will want to conserve his engine.

So, two tips:
Verstappen, not to be classified, 3.75 (Ladbrokes)
Raikkonen, fastest lap, 11 (Betfair Sportsbook), hedged at 3 (Betfair Exchange)

Race starts at 8am UK time. May be wet early on, likely dry towards the end.

Morris Dancer

Friday, 29 September 2017

Malaysia: pre-qualifying 2017

It’s the last race in Malaysia. A shame, as I rather like it. Of the new circuits, only the US track stands out as better. Unfortunately, it seems that the new owners (Liberty) want more street circuits. I saw a diagram of a proposed Danish track, a collection of straights and ninety degree corners. It did not make me tingle at the prospect.

There has been an unexpected minor churn in the driver lineup. Renault, it seems, failed in a bid to pay Palmer to sod off early to get Sainz in. So, Sainz stayed at Toro Rosso, but Kvyat has been shunted aside (unsure if it’s for the whole season but sounds like it might be) for Pierre Gasly. Next year, Gasly could well be joined by Japanese driver Nobuharu Matsushita. Whether there’s any place for Kvyat (or, indeed, Palmer) remains to be seen.

Whilst I’m wibbling about drivers, Williams are looking at options for Massa’s seat. They may retain the Brazilian, opt for Kubica (if he passes testing) or perhaps go for di Resta, who had an impressive showing earlier this year when thrust into the car at the last minute for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Throughout the weekend heavy showers are common, making things tricky.

In a wet first practice it was spring time for Red Bull with Verstappen and Ricciardo topping the time sheet. Alonso, Raikkonen and Vettel were next, with Hamilton, Bottas, Stroll, Gasly and Sirotkin (standing in for Hulkenberg) next.

Second practice was drier but had perils of its own. Grosjean was struck by a loose drain cover that ruined his tyre and thrust his car into the barrier. Thankfully, he was fine.

Vettel was fastest in second practice, ahead of his team mate, Ricciardo, and Verstappen. Alonso continued his impressive form in fifth, followed by Hamilton, Bottas, Perez, Hulkenberg and Ocon.

I wouldn’t read too much into Mercedes’ slightly weak performance so far. Alonso seems to be doing rather well (remains to be seen how long his engine will last, though. Luckily for him, for once, the one he was using in Singapore is fine so he doesn’t, yet, incur a grid penalty).

Because third practice is early (7-8am), I’ve put this pre-qualifying ramble up a day early.

The only bet that appeared remotely tempting was Verstappen not to be classified at 3.75 (Ladbrokes). He has a 50% DNF rate. However, Malaysia sees relatively few crashes (weather for the race is uncertain) and it’d probably have to be either reliability or a lap one incident.

In the end, I decided to back it. The retirement rate makes it 50/50, but the odds are far too long. Most of the time it’s reliability anyway. He should be 2 or 2.5.

Qualifying is at 10am UK time, and the race starts at 8am UK time.

The pre-race ramble will be up tomorrow, though I’ve already offered a tip and will only offer another if something looks rather tempting.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Singapore: post-race analysis 2017

Quite the result, both for the title and in the old betting stakes. Must admit to being a little frustrated that three out of four contingencies occurred for the 67 bet and Palmer’s team mate had a reliability failure, but he finished in the points. Also a bit irked at myself I didn’t back Mr. Sandpit’s suggestions of laying Vettel for the win at 1.7, or backing Hamilton (20ish, I think). However, this was a green weekend for me and I can’t be displeased about that. Worth noting the further ‘silly’ Alonso win suggestion at well into three figures actually was very credible and, but for misfortune, could have come off. These things sometimes are possible (Verstappen 251 in Spain 2016 did come off, Perez 201 in Azerbaijan this year should’ve but for Force India civil war).

Congratulations also to Mr. M, whose bet on a Bottas podium at 7 also came off. I think everybody ended up green, which is a rare event indeed.

It had rained heavily earlier, and was still drizzling at the start. Thankfully there was no nappy-wearing safety car start. The top six were all on intermediates, behind them it was a mix of full wets and intermediates.

The story of the race was largely the story of the start. As I suggested, Vettel started laggardly, with Raikkonen having a flyer and Verstappen a good start. To cover Verstappen, Vettel moved left, but this led to a three-way crash. Raikkonen and Verstappen were immediately out, Vettel suffered damage that caused his car to leak fluid, which then made him spin and crash.

Alonso had had a stunningly good start and was close to the lead when he was caught in the aftermath of the crash. Whilst he was able to continue, it eventually forced him to retire. That was a great shame because, on pace, he could’ve been there. A podium was eminently possible, a win not out of the question. Damned bad luck.

After all that shook out the safety car emerged and we had Hamilton and Ricciardo leading the way, then Hulkenberg. However, a failure to pit promptly during another safety car period (there were many) dropped Hulkenberg down to about 5th, behind Bottas and Sainz. Just an error by Renault. Not only that, the German, who’s a skilled driver but now holds the record for most races (129) without a podium, then had a reliability failure and didn’t score anything at all.

The track took a very long time to dry, which was a bit perplexing as it wasn’t totally soaked to start with. The race was a procession illuminated by sudden spikes of failure and crashing. Ricciardo was once again the filling in a Mercedes sandwich (as per last year) with Hamilton flawless throughout. Sainz scored a career best 4th, Palmer likewise for 6th.

Perez was 5th, excellent for Force India after they looked a bit rubbish in qualifying and practice, with Ocon 10th. Vandoorne also got a career best 7th for McLaren, Stroll was 8th and Grosjean 9th.

There were eight retirements, an even mix of crashes and reliability failures. Massa and Wehrlein were the only men to finish without points.

I know my run-down of the race is concise (it’s shorter than I expected) but the excitement really was at the start, with occasional crashing (Kvyat and Ericsson) the other entertainment. Hulkenberg was extremely unlucky to be taken out of the top 3 by a strategy failure by his team, and then to DNF due to reliability crumbling. Alas, had it been Palmer, my 67 bet would’ve come off. But there we are.

It’s been confirmed, as expected, Perez is staying at Force India next year.

Hamilton 263
Vettel 235
Bottas 212

The first DNF for Vettel of the season means a maximum swing against him in the title race. Bottas is now closer to Vettel than Vettel is to Hamilton. Worse still for Ferrari, this was very much a strong circuit for them and a weak one for Mercedes. The title isn’t over, but this is a very, very good result for the Silver Arrows.

Mercedes 475
Ferrari 373
Red Bull 230
Force India 124
Williams 59
Toro Rosso 52
Renault 42
Haas 37
McLaren 17
Sauber 5

Getting even tastier in the battle for 5th. Williams may end up losing that to Renault, I think. Top four are pretty much sorted now.

We’re off to Malaysia in a fortnight. The other races are Japan, US, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Vettel must start hauling in Hamilton, or the title race is over. It’s still possible for him to turn it around, even without a Hamilton DNF, but it’s got to start soon.

Morris Dancer

Singapore: pre-race

Qualifying was really rather enthralling, and produced a grid that might just tilt the title. Contrary to my expectations after Q2, Vettel produced a pair of stunning laps to grab pole position. Even better for him, he had both Red Bulls and his team mate ahead of Hamilton.

No surprise that the Saubers were slowest in qualifying, and Williams had an unsurprisingly poor day, also exiting at the first opportunity. Magnussen was the fastest of those departing in Q1.

In Q2, both Force Indias failed to progress. Grosjean was slowest, with Palmer the fastest not to advance and Kvyat middle of the pack.

At this stage, I thought a Red Bull front row was looking quite likely, and Hamilton was looking roughly on par with Vettel. However, the German had other ideas and stuck his Ferrari on pole (fastest on the first run and then improved on the second to extend his advantage). Verstappen and Ricciardo were very close and lined up behind, with Raikkonen 4th. So Hamilton starts only 5th, some way off his title rival. Bottas was 6th, with Hulkenberg doing well to beat both McLarens.

Alonso and Vandoorne start 8th and 9th (their pace is good but a question mark must remain over their reliability), and Sainz wasn’t able to rise higher than 10th.

That’s a tasty grid for the title fight.

The weather forecast during the day is for heavy rain showers, although it should be clear at night. It’s worth noting we’ve never had a wet race at this circuit so it’s unclear how good or bad drainage is, how much standing water there would be, and how bad the floodlights on water would be for drivers.

My initial betting thoughts were roughly:
Ferrari top score [if this market is up...]
Hulkenberg top 6

Sadly, the top score market was missing from Ladbrokes again. A shame, as I rather liked it.

Hulkenberg is just 2.37 to be top 6. I think he has a good chance but that’s a bit tight as it essentially relies upon helpful safety car timing or a breakdown ahead.

At this stage I’m rather regretting not backing the Ladbrokes Exchange Special of a double Red Bull podium at 5, but that ship has sailed…

Anyway, having exhausted my rather small list of initial thoughts, I perused the markets and found:
Vettel win *and* Hamilton not to get a podium, 2.4, Betfair Sportsbook
Ricciardo podium *and* Kvyat, Palmer, Verstappen all not classified, 67, Betfair Sportsbook
Verstappen, not to be classified, 4, Ladbrokes
Verstappen/Ricciardo, to lead lap 1, 5/14, Betfair Exchange

A fair spread of bets. One advantage to having little time yesterday was seeing the #Oddsonthat market on Betfair Sportsbook, which I don’t think is up when I bet on Saturday evenings.

Vettel has a great record of converting poles to victories and the Singapore Grand Prix is historically won (about 7/9 or suchlike) from pole. I also think Hamilton will struggle to get a podium given he’s got fast Red Bulls and Raikkonen ahead of him. However, and it’s a big however, the Red Bulls are very tasty and that doesn’t make this a dead cert for Vettel by any stretch. I do think this is a better bet than just backing him for the win at 1.6 or suchlike, though.

Palmer has a 5/13 DNF rate [38%], Kvyat has 4 DNFs [31%], Verstappen has 6 [46%]. The odds on all having a DNF, just based on past figures (which are not necessarily a guide to the future), is about 5.5%, about one in 18. For the bet to come off, Ricciardo also needs a podium. He’d be helped by Verstappen failing, but does have a 3/13 DNF rate himself. That’s still a 4.1% chance, about one in 24. Although it’s risky, the numbers do actually stack up.

The Verstappen not to be classified bet is pretty straightforward. He has an almost 50% chance of not being classified, but odds of 4.

The Ferraris have been somewhat tardy off the line relative to their immediate rivals at some races. Not far to the first corner, but the Red Bulls will be hungry for the lead. Quite difficult to guess whether such a bet is worthwhile or not.

Processional races (Singapore, Monaco etc) can be difficult to bet on. In this case, I’ve decided to back Verstappen not to be classified at 4, and the slightly unexpected Ricciardo podium and Kvyat, Palmer and Verstappen not to be classified bet at 67. [As usual with my records I’ll note the theoretical P&L for £10 stakes, but in reality I’ll be putting less on the latter bet, not least because my Betfair account is anaemic these days].

Two tips:
Verstappen, not to be classified, 4 (Ladbrokes)
Ricciardo to get a podium, Verstappen, Kvyat and Palmer not to be classified, 67 (Betfair Sportsbook)

Let’s hope Ricciardo wins and there are at least three early retirements. This race could be very significant for the title.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Singapore: pre-qualifying 2017

Bottas has signed a new deal with Mercedes and will drive for them next year. Not too surprising, to be honest. After a slightly iffy start, he’s been driving very well. That said, it sounds like a one year deal which is a bit shorter than I’d expected.

In more surprising news, an engine rumour is making the rounds. But not the Toro Rosso-Honda/McLaren-Renault one. It seems Renault may ditch Red Bull at the end of 2018, forcing Red Bull to take on Honda engines. A season or two ago, Red Bull were whining excessively about Renault. The engine then was a bit lacklustre, but nothing like the horror show of Honda (which McLaren have been extremely patient about). With the Renault-McLaren deal apparently already signed, Red Bull might just regret not exercising their veto over Renault taking on McLaren and opting for Honda engines for Toro Rosso. Not only that, unless Honda narrow the performance gap swiftly, Ricciardo and Verstappen will be looking for new teams. [The confirmation of this came on Friday].

This may explain the surprisingly short deal for Bottas. Mercedes may have an eye on the Red Bull drivers. Speaking of which, Sainz has moved to Renault, displacing Palmer.

The Singapore circuit has extended its agreement to be on the calendar until 2021. Not unexpected.

I offered three early tips on PB (all each way): Verstappen to ‘win’ FP1 at 7, Verstappen and Ricciardo to win the race at 8.5 and 8 respectively. The each way aspect of the practice bet came off, mildly. [Ricciardo’s got lay odds just under 4 on the exchanges. Personally, I’m not hedging just yet, but thought I’d flag it up for those interested].

In first practice Ricciardo was a tenth ahead of Vettel, with Verstappen close behind. Hamilton was fourth but some way back, then came Perez, Bottas, Raikkonen, Alonso, Hulkenberg and Kvyat.

Second practice was even better for Red Bull, with Ricciardo top and over half a second ahead of his team mate. Hamilton was third, with a large gap back to Bottas. Hulkenberg, Vandoorne, Alonso, Perez, Raikkonen and Ocon rounded out the top 10. It’s worth noting Vettel was on a very competitive lap but got held up severely by a Sauber, so his absence from the top half of the time sheet is not representative of his pace.

Right now it’s looking rather good for Red Bull. I think Vettel will be ahead of Verstappen and behind Ricciardo, if all goes smoothly in qualifying. McLaren’s looking good too.

In third practice it was ultra-tight, with Verstappen fastest, then Vettel and Hamilton, but the gaps under a tenth each. Alonso and Vandoorne were next, but Ricciardo’s 6th was not representative of his pace and he should be right there in qualifying. Hulkenberg was next, ahead of Bottas and Raikkonen, with Perez 10th.

Ricciardo’s failure to clock a proper lap is interesting because he was the class of the field in earlier practice. Hard to say if he would’ve retained that advantage.

It’s looking like a four horse race for qualifying.

Elsewhere, Mr. Sandpit tipped Hamilton on Betfair for pole at 20, but this has collapsed, at the time of writing, to 9 (still might be worth a look).

There’s no tip that’s outstanding for me, so I’m not betting on qualifying (beyond a tiny sum I put on Hamilton at Mr. Sandpit’s suggestion, but that’s not my own tip and won’t count in the records). The 3.7 on Ricciardo for pole was quite tempting, but it’s a four horse race, so I decided against it.

Incidentally, it’s just one week until Sir Edric’s Kingdom comes out. Pre-order here:

Due to time constraints I’m not sure if the pre-race ramble will be up this evening or tomorrow morning.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Italy: post-race analysis 2017

The weekend bet just about came off, making it the first green weekend since Spain, which was quite some time ago. My general prediction about this being great for Mercedes (both team and engine) was correct. The early bets were only one for three, down just under two stakes. But you can’t have everything. I also had a small sum, not tipped but mentioned early elsewhere, on both Force India to double top 6 (didn’t happen) and all Mercedes-powered cars to score, which did. Only had a little on, but it was 11 (and I’m a bit miffed I didn’t specifically tip it, but there we are).

Off the line Ocon made up a place on Stroll, but Hamilton retained the lead. The biggest gainer was Verstappen who had leapt up to 8th or so by the end of the first lap. However, the Dutchman then got a puncture and had to pit very early. Later this required a second stop, ruling out his participation at the sharp end.

Bottas picked off Stroll and then Ocon, and from then on the Mercedes cruised around Monza, lazily increasing their lead until the end.

Ocon and Stroll were subsequently passed by the Ferraris and a rather racy Ricciardo, settling in at the lower end of the points, just ahead of Massa and Perez. The white and pink cars were very evenly matched, circulating in a convoy that became very tasty (and tense, if you had money on them) on the final lap. But all managed to finish without terminal drama.

Verstappen, given he had a very slow lap on a puncture to pit and an extra stop, did well to carve his way through the field and claim the final point. He might also be relieved to have actually finished a race.

No such relief for Alonso, who was greatly aggrieved at Palmer going off-road and staying ahead of him. The Briton got a 5s time penalty, which the Spaniard described as ‘a joke’, but subsequently had to retire. In less justified bitching, Magnussen whined persistently that Verstappen had forced him off track. Nothing of the sort happened. Magnussen was clearly behind and needlessly left the circuit, then blamed Verstappen over the radio with all the melodrama of Rivaldo clutching his face at the 2002 World Cup. Increasingly unimpressed with Magnussen’s attitude.

Ericsson and Vandoorne, who had Honda’s newest power unit, also retired. Apparently, an announcement on whether McLaren will stick with Honda or switch (probably to Renault) is likely on Monday or Tuesday.

A perfect day for Hamilton, getting the win with his team mate 2nd. Vettel grabbed the final podium spot but his pace was nowhere near Mercedes’ today, and he loses the title lead for the first time this year (he trails by 3 points). Ricciardo was 4th, and Raikkonen 5th. Ocon was 6th and Perez 9th for a good Force India result, and after some weak races Williams must be happy Stroll was 7th and Massa 8th. As mentioned above, Verstappen was 10th, .

I did predict this would be a great circuit for Mercedes. A little surprised how good the Red Bull was, though. For Singapore, the next race a fortnight away, Ricciardo and Verstappen might fancy the win.

Anyway, here are the driver standings:
Hamilton 238
Vettel 235
Bottas 197

Realistically, Bottas needs both great performances and both title rivals to drop a race to have a credible shot. He’s pretty much out of it now. The three points is a minuscule gap, and I expect Vettel to retake the lead in Singapore. If Mercedes, in a dry race, can beat the Ferrari without luck playing a role then Vettel’s got little chance of contesting the title.

Mercedes 435
Ferrari 373
Red Bull 212
Force India 113
Williams 55
Toro Rosso 40
Haas 35
Renault 34
McLaren 11
Sauber 5

Williams pulled away from their many rivals for 5th, but Singapore could be a good opportunity for Toro Rosso, Haas and Renault to score. McLaren must be even more hopeful, as the slow speeds minimise the impact of their power deficit whilst playing to the strengths of a good chassis.

From a title perspective, I expect Ferrari to beat Mercedes in Singapore. The big question is how fast will Red Bull be. They were damned tasty today and may fancy their chances of upsetting the Prancing Horse. If that happens, it’ll aid Mercedes a lot, but if Red Bull are between a winning Vettel and Hamilton, that’ll only widen the points advantage for Ferrari. Of course, I could be wrong, but that’s how I see things playing out at this stage.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Italy: pre-race 2017

Both Renaults also have penalties (along with the Red Bulls, Alonso and Sainz).

After initially going out in wet conditions, and kudos to the decision-makers for not taking the easy option of delaying, the first session of qualifying was red-flagged after Grosjean crashed, and we endured about two and a half hours of delay.

In the latter part of Q1 Raikkonen was released in an unsafe manner, almost hitting Perez, so he may get a penalty for that. Magnussen, Palmer, Ericsson, Wehrlein and the crashed Grosjean left at this stage.

In Q2 cars went out on a mix of intermediates and wets. Perez was the fastest to be eliminated, followed by Hulkenberg, Alonso, Kvyat, and Sainz. Stroll and Vandoorne both were impressive, and reached Q3 (Stroll being fifth fastest in Q2).

Rain intensified in Q3, and again a mix of full wets and intermediates were used. Hamilton, Bottas and Vettel went for intermediates. Everyone else went full wet. Those three soon regretted it and immediately switched for the full wets. A critical mistake? Not for the Silver Arrows, but the Ferraris were bizarrely slow (having been competitive in previous sessions with slightly lighter rain).

Hamilton hos his 69th pole (a new record) ahead of Verstappen and Ricciardo. Stroll and Ocon were next up, having done absolutely fantastic jobs in the wet (I’m very surprised the Williams was so good in the wet). Bottas and Raikkonen were next, and Vettel, who had looked competitive earlier, could only manage 8th. Massa and Vandoorne round out the top 10.

Remember, both Renaults, both Red Bulls, Alonso and Sainz all have hefty grid penalties. So, Stroll and Ocon will start 2nd and 3rd.

Tomorrow is meant to be dry. With that in mind, bets that seemed worth a look included:
Williams to double score
Perez top 6
Vettel podium

Williams are 3.5 to double score. They’ll be starting 2nd and 7th, with a DNF rate of just under 33% (7/24). Worth considering.

Weirdly, despite waiting quite some time, there was no top 6 market on Ladbrokes. On Betfair, Perez had odds of just 2.14, and 3 on Betfair Sportsbook. Hmm. Not quite long enough, probably about right.

Vettel is just 1.33 for a podium. He starts 6th. Whilst it’s likely, it’s a bit too short to tempt.

In time-honoured tradition I embarked upon a general perusal to see what else leapt out, if anything.
Ocon, lead lap 1, 15 (Betfair Sportsbook)
Stroll, lead lap 1, 11 (Ladbrokes)
Ocon, podium, 12 (Betfair Sportsbook)
Verstappen, not to be classified, 3.25 (Betfair Sportsbook)

Ocon has a very good starting record. It’s not long to turn 1, but I could see him making up ground. Stroll’s a little harder to assess, but the odds are quite long for cars starting 2nd and 3rd, and both are quick in a straight line. However, Hamilton has been starting well all year.

Bottas starts 4th and seems nigh on certain to acquire a podium, Vettel starts 6th. In races so far the Force India has been better than the Williams (it wasn’t in the wet, it must be said, but a dry track is a different animal). Also, the Force India is very reliable, with only the organic component in the cockpit proving occasionally unstable. Could Ocon hold off Vettel? A one-stop seems likely, offering a single undercut possibility if the deed can’t be done on track.

Verstappen has a 50% DNF rate. However, it’s worth noting this is all car reliability, he hasn’t been screwing up. But he’ll also start well down the field, increasing the chances of getting caught in lap 1 carnage.

Looking at all the bets above, the ones that appeal most are Williams to double score (they start 2nd and 7th) at 3.5, and Verstappen not to be classified at 3.25 [NB this was an early tip].

No rain is expected for the race, apparently. But the forecast for qualifying and practice was wrong a few days away, so take with a pinch of salt.

The bet that I like most is Williams to double score. Looking at Q2 (least wet session) and the first two practices, I think they have the pace to retain points.

Tip: Williams, double score, 3.5 (Ladbrokes).

Let’s hope the race is entertaining and profitable. And on time.

Morris Dancer

Italy: pre-qualifying 2017

I offered, somewhat tentatively given every bet I’ve offered recently has either been ill-judged or damned by the gods, three early tips. These were Verstappen not to be classified at 3.25 (Betfair Sportsbook), and Bottas to ‘win’ qualifying at 6 each way, and to ‘win’ FP1 at 7.5 each way (the latter two are both Ladbrokes). My reasoning was pretty straightforward. For Verstappen, he has a 50% DNF rate. For Bottas, I believe (although others disagree) that Monza should be great for Mercedes. It’s clearly the best car in a straight line, and Monza is mostly straight lines.

Alonso has a 35 place grid penalty, at the time of writing. Both Red Bull drivers also have substantial penalties. I wonder if a Force India on the podium is a worthwhile bet... certainly to be top 6 is worth a look. Sainz also has a 10 place grid penalty.

Elsewhere, Mr. B wisely suggested that Alonso’s penalties are due to prioritising Singapore, and Red Bull might be doing something similar.

The result of first practice, which was curtailed by rain, was Hamilton fastest, then Bottas and Vettel, with hefty chunks of time between them. Raikkonen was next up, then Ricciardo and Verstappen. BFFs Perez and Ocon followed, then Vandoorne and Massa.

Second practice had Bottas a tiny bit faster than Hamilton, with Vettel very close behind and Raikkonen next up. Verstappen was over half a second back, and followed by Ricciardo, Vandoorne, Alonso, Ocon and Massa.

Third practice was delayed by 44 minutes due to rain. When the curtailed session finally started everybody went out on wet tyres, although most only did installation laps. For what it’s worth, Massa and Stroll were fastest, then came Hulkenberg, Sainz, Palmer, Ericsson, Kvyat, Ricciardo, Verstappen and Vettel.

With rain possible, I’m not tempted by the idea of a bet on qualifying. Could be entertaining, and highly unpredictable.

Morris Dancer