Sunday, 30 June 2019

Austria: post-race analysis 2019

Well, tickle my tangerines. That was quite the race. A classic, I dare say.

Off the line Verstappen left the handbrake on, entered anti-stall and got passed by half the grid (scarcely an exaggeration, he ended up behind his team mate). Vettel had a good start, Norris roared up to just behind Leclerc and Bottas (briefly).

Early on, Leclerc simply drove away from the Mercedes with little apparent effort. Hamilton got past Norris easily enough but wasn’t able to progress further. Vettel and Verstappen made slightly heavy weather advancing against Raikkonen and Norris (both of whom were driving very well) but eventually managed to effect passes.

The Ferraris, of course, were on the soft tyres, the Mercedes on the medium, but the Mercedes were struggling intensely with overheating, to the extent they had to lift and coast not for fuel preservation but to stop the car becoming molten.

The Mercedes weren’t so hot on their tyres so Bottas pitted at the same time as Vettel (clever by Ferrari as Bottas had to be held momentarily, but a radio failure meant that the tyres weren’t ready and they had a slow stop). Leclerc also pitted in and around the same time. Hamilton waited a bit longer and for a time had pace comparable to or even faster than Bottas (then on the hard tyres), but he had a front wing problem which started costing him significant time, and his tyres weren’t great, so he emerged behind his team mate once again.

Verstappen notionally led due to not having pitted when his rivals had. The Dutchman, whose pace was very tasty, stayed out about 10 laps longer than the rest of the frontrunners.

And he was very fast. He soon caught up to Vettel, and passed him. Bottas was just a few seconds down the road. About 12 laps left, and Verstappen passed the Finn as well. Leclerc had about 5s advantage with 11 laps to go.

Could Verstappen recover from his dreadful start to achieve an unlikely, thrilling victory?

He closed up. Leclerc was unlucky with traffic, one car costing him about a second. Verstappen was more fortunate (including when Gasly, whom he lapped despite being behind at the first corner of the first lap, moved over more helpfully than when Leclerc was going through). Verstappen was right there but only had a couple of laps.

He dove down the inside, but Leclerc drove a perfect defence, they were side by side, but the Monegasque managed to retain his position.

Verstappen had another go, feinting this way and that, Leclerc defending very well. Then the Dutchman had another dive, and this time left no room. He did take the racing line, and that left no room for Leclerc whose choices were to go wide (he did) or back out. The Ferrari driver was furious, asserting he was forced off track (there was wheel-banging contact). Verstappen was reassured by his team over the radio that there was nothing wrong with the pass.

The Dutchman duly won, and F1 duly announced a stewards’ inquiry into the overtake. Asked for his view, Vettel said: “We’re not racing for the kindergarten cup. We’re adults, some older than others, they should leave us alone.”

Bottas got a lacklustre 3rd, barely a whisker ahead of Vettel, who had pitted late on for soft tyres, come out behind Hamilton, passed the Briton with only a lap or two to spare and was breathing fire down the back of Bottas’ neck. Given he started 9th, a good result for the German, who would’ve challenged for the victory without his qualifying misfortune.,

Hamilton ended up 5th in his worst performance of the year, largely due to the car (although he was never in danger of passing his team mate, it must be said). He was also the last man not to be lapped.

Norris’ strong qualifying was backed up by a great race. He didn’t put a foot wrong and finished 6th, best of the rest. Gasly followed him, and it’s hard to imagine the Frenchman keeping his seat next year. Sainz had a cracking race, starting from the back and finishing 8th, making this a very strong result for McLaren in their tight midfield battle.

It was also a strong result for Raikkonen and Giovinazzi, who went backwards a bit from grid to flag, but still held on for 9th and 10th, getting the Italian his first point of the season and Alfa Romeo a valuable double points finish.

Perez finished just outside the points, ahead of Ricciardo and Hulkenberg (the Aussie passing his team mate late on). Not a great day for Renault, and frustrating for the Mexican. Stroll was 14th.

Not a single car retired, which is remarkable given the wind problems of second practice and the high temperatures throughout the race.

I think Verstappen also got the fastest lap.

I’m a bit tired so we’ll see if I cocked this up, but according to my calculations, the drivers stand thus:
Hamilton 197
Bottas 166
Verstappen 126 [assuming he keeps the win]
Vettel 123
Leclerc 105

Pretty tight for 3rd and Bottas closed the gap a bit on Hamilton but it’s still hard to see anything but Hamilton winning this and the Finn probably coming 2nd.

Mercedes 363
Ferrari 228
Red Bull 169
McLaren 52
Renault 32
Alfa Romeo 22
Racing Point 19
Toro Rosso 17
Haas 16
Williams 0

Still pretty big gaps at the top. McLaren have moved some distance ahead of Renault, who have looked a bit up and down this year. Alfa’s double finish puts them narrowly ahead of Racing Point, but those two, Toro Rosso, and Haas are covered by just six points. Very competitive midfield, just a shame Williams is so far back.

Does Verstappen deserve a penalty?

If he gets one then the last three races will see a boring French Grand Prix the filling in a Stewards’ Inquiry sandwich, with both the Canadian and Austrian races determined by stewards after the race, and two men who finished the race first demoted.

That’s not great for F1, and would be a bitter note to end a race weekend that saw a modern classic.

Oh, and the Verstappen bet came off, the Hulkenberg one did not. The greenness or redness of the race weekend depends on the stewards.

The next race is in the UK, in a fortnight.

Morris Dancer

Austria: pre-race 2019

Well, I’ve had a frustrating week so a frustrating bet fits in nicely. There’s a good chance the Vettel bet would’ve come off, likely with him starting 2nd, but his car developed some sort of problem and he wasn’t able to run in Q3. Still, that’s betting. Sometimes Lady Luck gives you a lapdance. Sometimes she defecates in your kettle.

In Q1 the Williams were, as usual, slowest, and both Racing Point drivers failed to progress. Kvyat, who was clearly blocked (see below), was unable to escape and qualified between the Williams and Racing Point teams.

In Q2 there was some interesting mixed strategy. The Mercedes used standard operating procedure and went out on the medium tyre, presumed better for starting the race due to better longevity compared to the faster soft tyre. Ferrari, however, who had looked tasty in Q1, leapt the other way and both Vettel and Leclerc set their times on the soft tyre. Red Bull further mixed things up by having Verstappen on the medium and Gasly (who’s looked a bit more competitive this weekend, generally) on the soft. It was a poor session for Renault, with both cars failing to progress, and Albon likewise left at this stage. Sainz didn’t go any further but that’s due to a very slow time in the full knowledge he’s starting at the back (see below). Grosjean was the fastest eliminated driver.

Q3 had the big six joined by both Alfas, Norris, and Magnussen. And by ‘big six’ I mean ‘big five’ because Vettel had some sort of problem (which turned out to be a weird new failure with a pneumatic connection) and couldn’t drive out of the garage. After the first runs, Leclerc was looking the man to beat, with Verstappen splitting the Mercedes and Bottas ahead of Hamilton.

In the end, the Monegasque was simply too fast, and on one of the shortest laps of the year was a quarter of a second ahead of Hamilton (but it’ll be Verstappen who starts alongside him due to Hamilton’s three place grid penalty). Bottas failed to improve on his second run and qualified right behind Verstappen, and the second row will be Bottas and Norris, who has a very high starting slot for his first ever Austrian Grand Prix. Keeping it will be tricky as Hamilton starts 5th, alongside Raikkonen (Magnussen qualified 5th but is demoted to 10th), with Giovinazzi and Gasly on the fourth row, Vettel and Magnussen being the fifth.
Edited extra bit: That’s weird. Hamilton’s now listed as starting 4th, with Norris 5th. Hmm. Apparently it’s because Magnussen was 5th and got demoted. It’s bizarre to qualify 2nd, get a three place grid penalty, and start 4th.

As Adam Cooper (worth following on Twitter) said, it’s remarkable that the only people starting where they qualified are Leclerc and Grosjean (1st and 11th respectively).

Very good result for Leclerc, Verstappen, Norris and Alfa. Very unlucky for Vettel, and rather lacklustre, in the end, from Gasly, who set the slowest Q3 time of the nine who completed a lap, seven-tenths off Verstappen.

Penalties aplenty. Sainz and Albon have major changes and start the back, Magnussen and Hulkenberg both have five place penalties for upgrades. Hamilton was investigated for blocking Raikkonen during qualifying and got a three place penalty, and Russell likewise blocked Kvyat (pretty blatant, though the Williams was backed into it by those ahead of him slowing down) and received a three place penalty.

My initial betting thoughts were:
Verstappen, win
Safety Car
Ferrari top score
Vettel, top six

Verstappen’s odds on winning are 5 on Ladbrokes (5.5 on the win-only market), and a hefty 7.8 on Betfair. The latter is pretty tempting, as a hedged bet. If the medium tyre approach is better, then the Dutchman is looking pretty tasty, splitting the Mercedes in qualifying and racing well all season. Quite tempting to back that at 7.8 and hedge at 3.

A safety car is 1.53 to appear. That might be value given wind and the rate of crashing earlier in the weekend.

Ferrari are 1.72 for most team points. If Vettel’s car is functioning that may be value. But it also means their contra-strategy on tyres needs to work. At those odds, not one I’ll be backing.

Vettel is 1.25 for a top 6 finish. Might be worth marrying that to a not to be classified bet (the odds of which are 8).

Right now the Verstappen bet is looking appealing but I checked the markets to see if anything else leapt out at me. Here’s what I saw:
Verstappen, lap 1 leader, 5
Hulkenberg to beat Perez, 2.75
Giovinazzi, winner without the big 6, 10
Grosjean, winner, without the big 6, 17
Hamilton, winner, 4.5

Pole-sitters have tended not to lead first laps this year, and Bottas has started a bit more clunkily than others. 5 is about average for the 2nd-placed chap to make the jump. I’d probably prefer the back-and-hedge approach to Verstappen winning, to be honest.

Hulkenberg starts 15th, Perez starts 13th. The Racing Point, however, was the second slowest car in qualifying and Hulkenberg has an upgraded engine (the ensuing penalty is why he’s starting behind rather than ahead of his old team mate). 2.75 is quite tempting.

Tyres may degrade less than last time, making strategy more flexible. How this plays out will affect who not only the winner is, but who is best of the midfield. Norris and Raikkonen start ahead of Giovinazzi, with odds (in grid order) of 1.66, 3, and 10 respectively. It’s worth noting Giovinazzi did go backwards in the last race, from a good qualifying position. If the soft tyre works, however, then he might be worth a look, each way.

If the medium tyre is the better, or fresh tyres at least, then Grosjean at 11th is quite appealing. The Haas seems more competitive here, with Magnussen’s pace putting him 5th (prior to the penalty), and 11th means Grosjean can pick and choose his rubber (but whatever he opts for will be fresh).

Hamilton to win only popped into my head last moment. Bit weird considering he’s had about three-quarters of the victories so far. The odds are 4.5, which are surprisingly long, though he does start 4th and both Leclerc and Verstappen are looking very competitive this weekend.

Of all the bets considered above, the most interesting are Verstappen to win (back and hedge), and Hulkenberg to beat Perez. I quite like Grosjean being best of the rest but he’s had poor results this year, scraping a couple of 10th places.

I’ve decided to back Hulkenberg to beat Perez at 2.75. His car is faster at this track, and the recent trajectory is opposite, with Perez scoring early in the season but not for a while (and his car’s relative performance declining) whereas Hulkenberg’s points have mostly come from recent races, and he has an upgraded engine.

I’ve also backed Verstappen at 7.8 (set up a hedge at 3) on Betfair for the win. Last year he went from 4th to 1st (admittedly aided by Bottas/Vettel saying hello early on). The Red Bull was competitive in qualifying and relatively faster on race pace, and he’s driving very well this year.

Anyway, we shall see how the race progresses. Let’s hope that it’s as entertaining as qualifying but rather more profitable.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Austria: pre-qualifying 2019

Paddy Lowe has officially left Williams after a period of leave. Given how dreadful the car is, and his job was improving performance (which went backwards), this is not hugely surprising.

Last year was interesting because both Mercedes suffered DNFs having qualified 1-2 (Bottas ahead). I think it was a rare double reliability failure. Verstappen went on to win with both Haas in the top 6.

In first practice, Hamilton was quickest, a tenth and a half ahead of Vettel. The German was a tiny margin ahead of Bottas, with Leclerc a tenth and a half off the Finn. Verstappen and Gasly were a short distance down the road, with Sainz within a tenth of the Frenchman. Ricciardo was four-tenths further back, narrowly ahead of Magnussen, with Norris next up.

However, it was odd to note that every Ferrari time was on the medium tyre and every Mercedes time on the soft.

Unusually, I caught some of second practice, and the wind was causing significant problems for many drivers. Verstappen introduced his car’s rear end to the barriers, and Bottas ploughed nose-first into a wall. Vettel also had an off-track excursion but was able to stop his car smashing into anything, and Sainz went rallying too.

Leclerc ended up top by three-tenths, Bottas following. Gasly and Hamilton were close behind, followed by Sainz, Grosjean, and Raikkonen, with Vettel, Verstappen, and Norris rounding out the top 10.

Leaving aside the wind, which could make qualifying a lottery and the race unpredictable if it keeps blowing so strongly, McLaren are looking in good shape once again, and Haas perhaps also seeming rather happier than last weekend.

In final practice, Leclerc was fastest, a tenth and a half ahead of Hamilton. Bottas was a tenth further back, with Vettel half a tenth off the Finn. Verstappen was two-tenths further back, and then there was half a second to Norris. Gasly, Sainz, Giovinazzi, and Kvyat rounded out the top 10.

Looks a bit tighter than I expected amongst the top four, though we’ll have to see how qualifying unfolds. Leclerc’s worth considering, I think, and perhaps Vettel too.

Checking the odds, which took a little while to appear, once again, Leclerc was just 2.75 for fastest qualifier, (a third the odds each way, so only really worth backing as a straight up winner). Bottas was 4, Hamilton 1.9, and Vettel 7.5. The Vettel odds might be the most wrong. He was three-hundredths behind Bottas and a tenth off Hamilton. Hmm.

Decided to back Vettel at 7.5 (8 with boost) each way for fastest qualifier. Whilst likelier to fail than win, the odds are too long.

Sainz is getting a grid penalty due to an engine change, so he’ll start at or near the back. Shame, as the McLaren has been looking good, and Sainz in particular. Hulkenberg has mixed fortunes, getting a change to an upgraded engine and a five place grid penalty.

The windy weather could make both qualifying and the race a little unpredictable.

Qualifying is at 2pm, UK time, the race tomorrow is at 2.10pm.

In line with recent habits, the pre-race ramble will be up tomorrow morning (allows the markets to wake up without faffing about waiting).

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 23 June 2019

France: post-race analysis 2019

Well, that wasn’t a classic. But it was green, ending the green-red alternating sequence of the first seven races. Only mildly green, but that’s still nice.

Off the line the McLarens had a flying start but got a bit squeezed and it was mostly in formation after the first few corners. However, Albon had a horrendous start, dropping half a dozen places and ruining his race.

Hamilton cruised off into the sunset. A dramatic spectacle this victory was not.

Further back, Vettel struggled more than expected to pass the quick McLarens, but nevertheless managed to do so, eventually. He was closing the gap to Verstappen (4th, behind Leclerc), but after the pit stops it was the same as before.

Although some way off the top five, the McLarens were retaining their best-of-the-rest position and looking quite handy, their only problem being Norris (behind Sainz, who had a better start) nagging to be let through or for the Spaniard to drive faster. The nagging stopped when it became apparent his car had a problem that was compromising various aspects, including making the steering heavy. The Briton, in his first season, we should remember, did well to keep more experienced drivers behind him until the last lap but was unable to stay in his position. He did, however, manage to claim 10th, with Sainz 6th, making it a very good result for the team and a creditable performance by Norris and Sainz.

Late on, Leclerc closed rapidly on Bottas and was within DRS range on the final lap. He wasn’t quite able to pass, and only had the one lap to try. Bit tantalising, but he’s driven well all weekend (Bottas got 2nd but has looked half a yard behind Hamilton at this event). Verstappen kept 4th and Vettel got 5th.

Behind Sainz and ahead of Norris we had Ricciardo, Raikkonen, and Hulkenberg. The Finn kept the German behind him for almost the whole race, with some good defensive driving. Had Albon, who started one place ahead of Raikkonen, not buggered up his start, he could easily had ended up in the points.

Gasly was only 11th. He qualified badly and went backwards in the race. Ok, he was on the soft tyre, but he’s also in the third fastest car. Vettel started two places higher and finished six places higher. I don’t know if it’ll be in-season but I can’t see Gasly staying at Red Bull next year.

Grosjean was the sole retirement, pitting to retire from his home race.

Vettel, having a huge gap to Sainz, pitted late on and duly got the fastest lap.

The Car Park de la France was not very exciting this year. The high point was a brief VSC that appeared to enable a marshal to clear a bollard from the track.

After the race there was the ancient F1 tradition of an investigation into a car apparently going off-track and gaining an advantage (Ricciardo). We’ll see if he’s penalised.

Hamilton 187
Bottas 151
Vettel 111
Verstappen 100
Leclerc 87

The contest for third would be even tighter if Leclerc hadn’t suffered woe in Bahrain, but there we are. I can see that going on all season long. At the sharp end, Bottas needs to put some extra sugar on his porridge if he’s going to stop this being a Hamilton procession.

Mercedes 338
Ferrari 198
Red Bull 136
McLaren 39
Renault 36
Racing Points 19
Alfa Romeo 17
Toro Rosso 17
Haas 16
Williams 0

If Red Bull had a faster second driver they might be causing Ferrari some problems. But they don’t. McLaren should’ve extended their advantage over Renault more but for Norris’ misfortune, with both teams breaking away from the very tight quartet behind them (covered by just three points). But the title race is over already. It’s just a matter of time.

The next race is in Austria, in just a week. Rain is possible. Let’s hope excitement is too.

Morris Dancer

France: pre-race 2019

Ahead of qualifying, Kvyat had a penalty so would start last (a shame as he looked pretty good in the little running he had), and Hulkenberg is on an inferior engine to Ricciardo, said to be worth a few tenths of a second.

Sadly, Q1 once again saw the Williams last by some way. Stroll also continued his run of poor qualifying results, and Grosjean failed to progress (not sure but I think Haas had some upgrades and Magnussen got them rather than him). Kvyat didn’t go any further but won’t really care, and perhaps wasn’t trying his best, as the aforementioned penalty means he starts last anyway.

A number of cars (most who progressed, including the Ferraris, Verstappen’s Red Bull, Mercedes, and I think McLarens) went out on the mid-pace medium tyre as the faster soft apparently only lasts half a dozen laps before disintegrating. Those who made it to Q3 with the soft tyres, including Gasly, might be in for a rougher race. Albon did well but not well enough, being the fastest chap to be eliminated. Raikkonen also failed to progress, with his team mate Giovinazzi reaching Q3. Hulkenberg could only manage 13th, and it can’t be blamed entirely on the engine difference as he buggered up his final lap. Perez and Magnussen were the slowest but both did outqualify their team mates.

Would it be yet another Silver Arrows front row lockout?


Things had looked tight but Hamilton was able to improve on his second run whereas Bottas could not, and the Briton’s advantage was stretched to nearly three-tenths of a second. Leclerc qualified 3rd but was over six-tenths off Hamilton’s pace. Verstappen got 4th, which will please him and the team but he was just nine-thousandths ahead of Norris, who’s looked tasty all weekend. Sainz was just a tenth off, making the third row McLaren territory, to the delight of the team (and rightly so).

Vettel had some errors and an upshift problem during his first run. And his second, frankly, was slow. He qualified 7th, eight-tenths off Leclerc. That’s a pretty sizeable gap, and even though he’s looked the slower Ferrari all weekend, the position and time difference is cause for concern. Ricciardo is just a tenth off his old Red Bull team mate, ahead of Gasly (9th) and Giovinazzi.

The front row is tediously familiar but the strong performance by McLaren, Vettel being out of position, and a second row that will be very keen to make a lightning start could make things interesting. Last year there was collision early on between Vettel and Bottas, which shook up the order quite a bit.

My first thoughts betting after qualifying were:
Vettel, not to be classified [check DNFs last year]
Verstappen, podium
Raikkonen points

Upon checking, last year there were just three DNFs, two of which were on the opening lap. I do wonder about backing Vettel not to be classified, though. He seems a bit off-kilter this weekend. Against that, his car is generally very reliable and the French circuit is mostly car park flat, with run-off for days. He’s 7 not to be classified, which isn’t bad.

Verstappen has been driving almost flawlessly this year, and usually makes up places. Given he starts 4th, that indicates he has a decent chance of getting on the podium. Against that, the Mercedes look out of reach and Leclerc has been competitive all weekend, so it’s far from a certainty. At 2.75, this is worth keeping in mind.

Raikkonen starts 12th and has choice of tyres. Although he hasn’t scored for a little while, he’s still fast and reliable, and his car is also one of the least likely to have a breakdown. 2.25 is a bit short, I think, though.

Mr. Sandpit suggested looking at Hulkenberg for points, and Kvyat likewise, with the question of the McLarens holding top 6 positions hanging in the air (5.5 together or 2.1 and 2.37 individually). Kvyat is 4.33 for points, and Hulkenberg is 1.61. Of those, I think I’d prefer Kvyat (small note: Russell also got demoted to the back, unsure if he starts behind Kvyat or not).

Anyway, having waited until the next day I then perused the markets to see if anything leapt out at me.

Verstappen, beat Leclerc, 2.75
McLaren, double points, 1.61

There’s also a really tasty 5.5 on Leclerc beating Verstappen, as match bet 3 (especially good as alternative match bet 1 has Verstappen at 2.75 to beat Leclerc). However, I’m certain it’s meant to say Gasly and that it’ll likely be changed when they realise the error. Might put down a pound or two just to find out.

The Verstappen odds on beating Leclerc are identical to the podium odds, which probably makes sense given the pace and reliability of the Mercedes.

McLaren had poor reliability earlier but have been a bit steadier of late. Both cars and drivers have been performing well all weekend, and if they stay out of trouble early on I think they’re highly likely to get points. The odds, however, are a bit tight.

Nothing really leaps out at me, to be honest. Verstappen should make gains, relatively, on Ferrari’s pace from qualifying but he’s been significantly slower all weekend.

Albon at 2.2 and Raikkonen at 2.25 for points seem good (Mr. Sandpit helpfully pointed out that pit stops cost a lot of time, and Ricciardo, Gasly, and Giovinazzi start on the soft tyres.

It’s not very heroic, but then, I’m not very confident, so my tip is to split one stake evenly between Albon and Raikkonen for points (2.2 and 2.25 respectively).

Start time is a little after 2pm (UK).

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 22 June 2019

France: pre-race 2019

Checking last year’s result, which has been a fairly good guide so far to this season, Mercedes started on the front row, followed by Vettel then the two Red Bulls with Raikkonen last of the top chaps. Come the chequered flag, things had changed quite a bit, with Hamilton retaining the top spot, but Verstappen 2nd, Raikkonen 3rd and then Ricciardo, Vettel, and Magnussen (Bottas was 7th due to a first lap collision with Vettel).

Also worth noting the race last year was dry and there was plenty of overtaking, so top 6 cars out of position should have little difficult carving their way through the field. It also means a fast-qualifying car that’s rubbish on it’s tyres will slide inexorably backwards in the race.

In first practice, astoundingly, Hamilton was fastest, half a tenth ahead of Bottas. A few tenths further back was Leclerc, but half a second more to Verstappen and Vettel slower still. Gasly was next, then Norris and Sainz, with Ricciardo and Albon rounding out the top 10.

Bottas topped P2, but given he was four-tenths ahead of Hamilton it’ll be due to complicating factors (fuel, engine mode, tyres) rather than pace. Behind the Mercedes was Leclerc, a tenth ahead of Vettel. Perhaps the Monegasque will be the faster Ferrari driver this weekend. Norris, Verstappen, Sainz, and Gasly were next (early signs for McLaren seem good, but it’s only practice), followed by Raikkonen and Magnussen.

Bottas was also fastest in third practice, but this time by just half a tenth. Qualifying could be tasty. Hamilton was next, of course, with Leclerc four-tenths off (and half a tenth ahead of Vettel). Verstappen was nearly a second down the road from the Ferraris, with Gasly just a tenth behind his talented team mate. Norris, Ricciardo, Sainz, and Raikkonen round out the top 10.

My thoughts were to check for Bottas’ odds. He was just 1.9 on Ladbrokes and 2.1 on Betfair for the fastest time, which doesn’t tempt me as it looks like a probable coin toss.

So, no qualifying tip. Intrigued to see how Renault and McLaren do.

The pre-race ramble will probably be up tomorrow, though there’s an off-chance it’ll be this evening.

Morris Dancer

Monday, 10 June 2019

Canada: post-race analysis 2019

Well, I had felt confident about the Verstappen bet and it ended up coming off. Huzzah! But the race was memorable for rather more contentious reasons.

Off the line it was largely formation flying. Early laps saw Vettel pull out a surprisingly lead quite swiftly on Hamilton. Both Bottas and Verstappen struggled to make much early progress, and when the Dutchman found himself behind the Finn he was clearly faster but unable to effect a pass (this harmed Verstappen because Bottas’ medium tyres meant his first stint was relatively long, and Verstappen was on the hard compound, hoping to go long himself). The Renaults, looking racy, had both pitted and were too quick for Verstappen to pit and pass, whilst Gasly had gotten himself stuck behind someone (Stroll, I think) and his inability to make headway meant he ended up behind the Renaults.

At the sharp end, Vettel led comfortably, though Hamilton wasn’t too far off, Leclerc was a lonely third and Bottas was quite some way further back.

Norris encountered a race ending problem of a weird nature. It appears his rear brake got so hot it melted his suspension and his car became a three-wheeler. He was able to park near the pit exit without necessitating a safety car, or even a virtual one.

When Verstappen pitted, he was behind the Renaults and, bearing in mind earlier passing difficulties, I imagined he’d struggle, but he actually cruised past both in a couple of laps and then strolled off into the sunset. So the bet came off. Huzzah!

Late on, Bottas had a pit stop in hand over Verstappen and the team wisely pitted him for fresh rubber, duly enabling him to get the fastest lap point.

After the pit stops Hamilton was about 5s behind Vettel but, on the hard compound tyres, catching very rapidly. The gap narrowed a lot, and soon the Briton was hot on his German rival’s heels. But passing, as we’ve seen, is tricky and the Ferrari was damned swift in a straight line.

Vettel made a small error and cut a corner, without full control, over a patch of grass. Hamilton sought to take advantage and pass but Vettel, returning to the track not entirely in control and seeking the racing line, prevented it. Hamilton was forced to back out (or collide with Vettel or the wall). He complained. The stewards gave Vettel a 5s time penalty, and destroyed the race.

Hamilton no longer needed to pass. Vettel was furious, and his radio outrage seemed to compromise his pace. But Hamilton’s tyres had lost their competitive edge and he wasn’t able to effect an on-track overtake. Vettel crossed the line in 1st, and was 2nd in the classification, behind Hamilton (Leclerc nearly nabbed a place too, but ended up 3rd).

The penalty, as well as, in my view, being wrong in itself also robbed us of a great on-track battle. It also means the most winning team and most winning driver ended up winning again, depriving us of a speck of variety, due to a stewards’ decision rather than because of who actually won the race on the track. If any team doesn’t need rulebook assistance, it’s Mercedes.

Hamilton ‘won’. Vettel was 2nd, Leclerc 3rd. Bottas was 4th and Verstappen 5th. Renault had a great day (Hulkenberg had a technical problem that appeared to resolve itself) with Ricciardo 6th, immediately ahead of his team mate. Gasly ended up 8th. Given where he and Verstappen started and finished, this isn’t going to enhance his prospects of a long term stay at Red Bull. Stroll had a strong race, rising from almost the back of the grid to finish 9th, and Kvyat nabbed the final point.

Very poor race for Alfa Romeo, who were 13th and 15th (Giovinazzi ahead of Raikkonen), and dire for Haas, Grosjean being 14th and Magnussen 17th, behind Russell’s Williams. The Dane bitched about it on the radio and was effectively told to shut up, nobody else was enjoying it either.

Albon failed to finish, boxing to retire late on.

Hamilton 162
Bottas 133
Vettel 100

Bottas might stage a comeback, otherwise this title seems to be done. Could be wrong. But I’m probably not.

Mercedes 295
Ferrari 172
Red Bull 124
McLaren 30
Renault 28
Racing Point 19
Toro Rosso 17
Haas 16
Alfa Romeo 13
Williams 0

Top three are a bit isolated but the midfield is very competitive. McLaren and Renault tight for best of the rest, whilst the four behind are separated by just half a dozen points. More woe for Williams, though they did outdo Magnussen, so that’s a consolation prize.

An intriguing and exciting race will now be remembered for a highly contentious decision. Betting-wise, the tip came off, which is nice (I’m rarely that confident of bets and for much of the race I’d thought it was going to fail).

Next race is France, in a fortnight.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Canada: pre-race 2019

I was tempted by Bottas and didn’t tip him. On pace, the bet could’ve come off but ill fortune cost Bottas dear.

In Q1 it was business as usual at the back, with the Williams slowest of all once more. Russell was a second and a half behind Stroll, who starts just ahead of him on the grid (terrible day for Racing Point, with Perez also eliminated in this session, and Raikkonen between the two Pink Panthers).

Q2 was rather more eventful. The top two teams went out on the medium tyre, trying to start on it. This worked out. It didn’t work out for Verstappen, whose pace was just a tenth or two off what it needed to be, and he slipped into the red zone. Red Bull dallied a bit bringing him in for the obviously necessary red soft tyres and when he went out his pace looked good. But then Magnussen touched the wall of champions, floored his throttle, and introduced his car to the pit wall, bringing out a red flag. Verstappen was unable to complete his lap and got eliminated, as did Magnussen’s team mate Grosjean. It was better news for the McLarens, both of whom might have been at risk of departing but made it through. Verstappen should be passing plenty early on in the race.

Q3 rolled around and it looked tight between Ferrari and Mercedes. On the first run, Botta screwed up. He spun, and a combination of skill and luck kept him from damaging his car but the tyres were buggered and the lap was lost. He came in but the team were a little slow putting him out which meant he was at the back of a traffic jam. At the sharp end, Hamilton put in a tasty lap, but Vettel pipped him at the post and partied like it was 2010, two-tenths ahead. Leclerc was some way off the pace but still qualified in 3rd.

Biggest surprise of the day was Ricciardo putting the Renault all the way up in 4th. He was just eight-thousandths of a second ahead of Gasly, with whom Red Bull might be displeased. Meanwhile, Bottas’ failed first run and compromised second saw him qualify just 6th. Hulkenberg was next, two-tenths and three places off his team mate, with Norris and Sainz next up (though the Spaniard has a penalty, see below). Magnussen ‘qualified’ 10th.

Pit lane start for Magnussen (new chassis). No penalty for Leclerc due to bollard naughtiness. Sainz gets a 3 place grid penalty for clearly impeding Albon during Q1 (especially impolite after Albon had stayed well clear to let the Spaniard finish his hot lap). Norris, Verstappen, and Kvyat start 1 place higher as a result (remembering that this is in addition to starting 1 place higher for everyone outside the top 10 due to Magnussen’s pit lane start).

Weather forecast is sunny throughout the race.

Early betting thoughts:
Verstappen podium
Hamilton win

Verstappen is 4 for a podium. I expect him to pass Gasly during the race, but starting further back than the Mercedes and Ferraris will make it tricky to get past a pair of those. Probably not worth backing.

Hamilton is 2.1 for the win. To be honest, I find that pretty tempting. He’s won a lot this year and Canada is amongst his favourite hunting grounds.

According to ancient and mystical tradition, I then perused the market (once advantage of writing this later than usual is that the markets are actually up). And saw the following:
Bottas, beat Gasly, 1.4
Verstappen, group 2 winner, 2.75

Bottas starts one place behind Gasly and his compromised lap was less than a tenth slower. I’d be significantly surprised if he finishes behind Gasly. That said, 1.4 aren’t very long odds. Probably value.

Verstappen’s group includes Ricciardo, Gasly, and Hulkenberg. Verstappen’s driving brilliantly, and Ricciardo’s qualifying time was just eight-thousandths ahead of Gasly. Plus the Renaults are not brimming with reliability and the Dutchman’s team mate is likely to be politely asked to get out of the way, and Verstappen’s the only one to start on fresh tyres. 2.75, when I think he should be favourite, looks good.

Tipping Verstappen to win his group at 2.75 (a whole 2.8 with boost). Not certain, but certainly value.

The race starts at 7.10pm UK time so the post-race ramble will hopefully be up on Monday.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Canada: pre-qualifying 2019

O Canada. Home of many great races, including the most satisfying victory and betting win of them all (Button winning in 2011, having been last more than halfway into the race). It was also where tyres crumbled unexpectedly, leading the dimwits in charge to command new tyre supplier Pirelli to make their tyres crumbly, in the mistaken belief that team principals were stupid and would fail to recognise the usually optimal approach would be to make the drivers trundle around more slowly (hence the current era).

Canada’s also notable for being one of Hamilton’s best tracks, having a couple of decent-sized straights, and a hairpin suitable for passing. It’s an actual race track rather than a nostalgia procession.

Worth noting that all six fastest lap points so far have been evenly spread across the top three teams.
Fastest lap positions:
2 wins
1 3rd
1 4th
2 5th

Leclerc and Gasly have two each, Hamilton and Bottas one each. Or, to rephrase, 33% have been winners showboating, and 67% have been comfortable no hopers (for the win) from the top six. So far weather hasn’t interfered with this.

Writing this on the 28th of May, and my current view is Hamilton should storm to victory. I think Haas might struggle due to tyres and overtaking opportunities. They could qualify well and drift backwards (although the weather could play a critical role). Ferrari have great straight line speed, though they’re a step behind Mercedes/Verstappen on slower stuff, so on a car basis the top three should be quite close.

Ahead of practice there were two markets, both Hamilton win specials, that intrigued me. 12 wins for the entire 2019 season was 4, which I was sorely tempted by, and the 19 for 14 wins was appealing for a small stake. Yet the markets appeared suspended over days when I tried to place a bet. Oh well.

It’s also worth stating there’s some electrical problems at my house, so if I’m suddenly absent it’s likely due to technical problems rather than unexpected baboon attack.

In first practice Hamilton was a tenth up on Bottas, but nearly a second ahead of the next man (Leclerc). Behind the Monegasque, but only just, was Verstappen, followed by Vettel, Raikkonen, Sainz, Ricciardo, Perez and Magnussen.

Second practice was rather different. Leclerc was fastest, less than a tenth ahead of Vettel. Bottas was a similar distance further back, with Sainz only a couple of tenths behind. Magnussen and Hamilton were next, both about four-tenths off the Spaniard, followed by Perez, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, and Stroll.

I’d considered, and decided against, a pre-practice bet on Leclerc for fastest qualifier. He was about 6 or 6.5. After first practice his odds went out to 7.5, and after second practice dropped back to 6. Unfortunately the each way aspect is only top 2, so it could just be down to the car.

Come third practice, I regretted not backing him. Vettel was fastest, a tenth ahead of Leclerc. Hamilton was two-tenths further back, with Bottas nearly three-tenths off his team mate. Verstappen and Gasly, unusually close to one another, were about a third of a second away from the Finn. Ricciardo, Perez, Norris, and Kvyat were next, and very close together.

After third practice, Leclerc’s odds were just 3. But Bottas had lengthened to 6. As well as a string of poles this year, Bottas actually beat Hamilton in Canadian qualifying in 2018. On the other hand, the Ferraris topped two out of three sessions and ‘won’ qualifying last year.

Knotty trying to decide but I’ve decided not to tip it. Too close to call.

The pre-race ramble will be up sometime tomorrow, electricity permitting.

Morris Dancer