Sunday, 1 December 2019

Abu Dhabi: post-race analysis 2019


Not the most thrilling race, for the most part, but it was green, which is nice.

Off the line the Ferraris started well, and got very close to Verstappen. Leclerc managed to get past the Dutchman, who found himself fending off Vettel.

Further down the field Gasly got tagged by someone (perhaps Stroll) and had to immediately pit and get a fresh nose. This took an age, and he was last by a country mile after the first lap.

At the sharp end Hamilton cruised off into the distance, where his own trouble was deciding at which restaurant he would celebrate his latest triumph (as an aside, I expect my bet on him to beat Schumacher’s win total to come off next season).

Bottas quickly got up to about 15th or so, having started dead last, but mysterious reasons meant nobody could use DRS for the first quarter of the race, and he got bottled up for a while behind a Racing Point. He eventually made headway and the miraculous reappearance of DRS then helped him out for the rest of the race.

The soft tyres on Vettel’s car actually held up surprisingly well, meaning that Ferrari didn’t make a needless strategy blunder after all. Gosh.

Nevertheless, the two Ferraris pitted earliest of the frontrunners. Hamilton and Verstappen stayed out for quite a while, as did some cars further down the order (particularly Perez).

Bottas continued to gain, and when both Ferraris had a second pit stop this allowed him to reach striking range on Leclerc, but only on the final lap. The Finn ran out of time, but the Monegasque faces investigation for his team misreporting the fuel in his car during qualifying, so Bottas may yet be promoted to the podium.

Behind him was Vettel and Albon, the German passing (having had an extra pit stop) the Thai late on. And leading the way serenely was Hamilton. Verstappen got 2nd, in a bit of a No Man’s Land, unable to challenge the Mercedes but clearly faster than the Ferraris. I really hope Red Bull can give him a car that can have a tilt at the title next year. A Hamilton-Verstappen duel would be great for the sport.

Further back, Perez’s long initial stint allowed him to benefit from fresh rubber late on and he passed Norris to be best of the rest. The Briton was right behind, though, and has done well in his first season. Kvyat and Sainz rounded out the points positions and it currently appears (may change if Leclerc is penalised) that the Spaniard will be sixth in the Drivers’ table, the best of the rest. He’s driven well all year and McLaren are finally bouncing back from their prolonged sojourn in the wilderness.

The bet was not very exciting, but it did come off, with the only retirement being Lance Stroll (he boxed and retired, unsure why).

In green/red terms, this season has been a welcome change, with both halves of 2019 profitable. I didn’t hedge much but that approach was less profitable (but still green). It’s been a pretty good year, the French car park aside, with one or two good bets and the odd fluke (Perez a couple of races to be best of the rest was sheer luck).

Looking forward, only two teams change drivers, and just one at each. Renault says goodbye to Hulkenberg, who may or may not return (again), and takes on Ocon. Williams parts ways with Kubica, and brings in Latifi. Hope they have a better season in 2020.

Not sure whether I’ll put up a post-season review, or whether I’ll be writing these again next year. I imagine I’ll still offer tips, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Nice to end the year with a green race, though.

Morris Dancer

Abu Dhabi: pre-race 2019


Unfortunately it was the same old story in Q1, with Kubica slowest of all and Russell just ahead of him. Worth noting the actual back of the grid will see Bottas starting last due to his new engine. Both Alfas also failed to progress, as did Grosjean.

In Q2, Magnussen was slowest, meaning he starts just ahead of his team mate. Both Racing Points and Toro Rossos also failed to progress (Renault will be pleased to get both their cars into the top 10, which may help them in their inter-team battle). I believe that Ferrari did something interesting, with Vettel starting on the soft and Leclerc possibly starting on the medium tyre (unsure if he qualified on that or the soft). Given how crumbly the soft is, especially on the Ferrari, that’s a very counter-intuitive choice.

Hamilton seemed faster on the first run in Q3, and so it proved. Bottas will start last but qualified with a time second only to his team mate. Verstappen will line up alongside Hamilton on the grid, which could make it a tasty start.

Then we have the two Ferraris on the second row, which might see sparks, followed by Albon and Norris, who’s had a rather good first season (slightly harder to assess Albon given he’s a long way off Verstappen, but has also been promoted to race against one of the best drivers in just his first season). Ricciardo and Sainz are next, with Hulkenberg last of the top 10/9.

Just on Ferrari: they cocked up. Yeah, shocking, I know. Leclerc didn’t get in a final lap because he lacked the time. He blamed Vettel (ahead on-track) for backing up too much, though others were doing that too. It was a strategic mistake but indicative of the team’s current state that his first reaction was to blame his fellow driver.

I believe the only penalty is Bottas’ (back of the grid). The weather, shockingly, is expected to be dry.

Early betting thoughts:
Bottas podium [as suggested earlier by Mr. Sandpit]
Albon podium
Vettel/Leclerc DNF

Bottas is 3.75 for a podium, which is a bit tight given that he starts last and has his team mate, two Ferraris, and Verstappen in the way (as well as perhaps Albon). That said, the new engine will serve him well come the race.

Albon is 4. This is almost certainly not value. I’d prefer to back the Ferraris DNFing. The drivers ahead of him are all faster, or in faster cars, and the most obvious way for this to come off is some more red-on-red daftness.

Vettel and Leclerc are both 7 to DNF. Got to say, I’m wondering about this. Last race of the season, already some grumpiness (see above), they’re fighting to be the top dog in the team.

As usual, I perused the market to see what leapt out.
Special, 2.2, all Mercedes/Red Bull top 6, both Williams classified
Leclerc, winner, each way, 11 (third the odds, top 2) [or hedge and back on Betfair]
Norris, winner without the big 6, each way 5.5 (third the odds top 2)
McLaren, 1.83, double points

Barring accidents etc I fully expect both Mercedes and Red Bulls to be top 6, and Williams have a very good finishing record. It might actually be best or just behind Mercedes. So although 2.2 aren’t huge odds, it’s well worth considering.

It’s interesting that Leclerc (and Vettel, who’s 15 and definitely starts on the soft tyre) has such long odds to win given the Monegasque is just 1.53 for a podium. Breakdown/accident is always possible and Verstappen’s had some very iffy starts this year, although he’s also tended to recover very well. Against that is that when Leclerc was grumpy at Monaco he promptly introduced his car to the wall.

Norris starts 7th, best of the rest. So winner without the big 6 is 5.5 on him holding station. He’s a good driver but has also had a fair share of bad luck this year and the crumbly red tyres might lead to complications for those who made the lower part of the top 10.

McLaren have generally had the best car outside the top 3 all year, and have two good drivers. Misfortune and the odd spot of poor reliability has cost them here and there, though, so 1.83 is good on pace but I do wonder about their reliability.

At the moment the bets I like the look for most are Ferrari DNFs at 7, and the special at 2.2.

In the end, I think the special at 2.2 makes more sense, tempting as a Ferrari implosion is.

And that’s my final tip of this season.

The race starts at 1.10pm.

Morris Dancer