In betting terms, this season started brilliantly, and then gradually declined. At the moment, you’re up a whole tenth of a stake on a hedged basis, and down just over three stakes on a bet-and-forget basis. However, that’s only counting the weekend tips, not early ones (last race had a 3 and 8 winner, as well as an early loser).
Some of this was just misjudgement by me. Some of it was misfortune (Button’s needless idiocy in Monaco cost me a lovely 6.5 winner). So, not thrilled, but it could be worse. I’ve also, on the winning side, had some good judgement but also some fluky moments (particularly with early bets, not all of which I mention due to lack of liquidity or instant buyer’s remorse). My own current result is a little better than the official record. As usual, the graph indicates the results based on a standard £10 stake on every tip offered in the weekend articles.
This year, as I mentioned earlier, I’m collecting more data on race-by-race points tallies and a breakdown of finishes by points, pointless and DNS/DNF categories. I think this is useful information.
As might be expected, Mercedes and Ferrari are very solid, with strong reliability and a very high points finishing tally.
We can see from the bar chart that as well as the big two, the other team that’s very reliable is Force India. Red Bull do have clearly better pace but much worse reliability.
Perhaps surprisingly, Williams have slightly under a 50% points finishing record. That’s mostly down to poor luck/reliability early on for Stroll. The car is behind the Force India and, as most years, lacks aerodynamic grip. I expect it to be tasty in Italy (that said, I expected the same in Austria).
Sauber aren’t too bad on reliability but the top pointless finishers. Haas and Toro Rosso are quite evenly split, Renault too (although Hulkenberg and Sainz have quite a large points gap, whereas Grosjean and Magnussen are a bit closer).
McLaren’s obviously least reliable. Alonso has an atrocious 7/9 DNF rate (I think one of these was a first lap crash that wasn’t his fault, but even so, a two-thirds reliability DNF rate is appalling).
Moving to the points tally at the sharp end, this graph shows how things have shaped up over the first 10 races. Vettel currently has a 1 point lead over Hamilton (after two races they were equal).
It’s also worth noting neither of the top two has had a DNF yet. If they each had one and Bottas stays on one, then he’d be right in the mix. Further down, Verstappen’s been hamstrung by his 50% DNF rate. Ricciardo’s only had two (one at the first race, hence only one flat part of his line). Raikkonen’s also had a couple of DNFs. He’s not driving terribly but I do think he’ll be replaced.
There are two key questions on the title front. Is Bottas a title contender? How will Mercedes approach this?
At the moment, it is a three horse race, and I’m surprised the odds (around 16 or so) remain so long on Bottas. Yes, Hamilton is favourite, and Bottas deserves to be longer odds than his team mate or Vettel, but he’s within a win of taking the lead, and has one DNF to zero for the other two drivers.
Mercedes are in a slightly tricky position. Closer to the time, if Bottas is edged out, he’ll help Hamilton. But if he’s in credible contention, would he give up perhaps his only chance at a title? The team has him on a one year contract and staying is a pretty big carrot.
My guess is things will stay close but that when there are only a few races left the team will offer him a three year contract on condition he help out Hamilton. If Bottas is level or ahead, that may make things a bit more difficult for both Bottas and Mercedes.
More broadly, how will the season develop? Mercedes and Ferrari’s development war is critical. Historically, Ferrari have developed in a slightly clunkier way. That doesn’t make it certain it’ll happen this time, and their car appears more flexible than their rival’s, but it’s a possible factor.
Looking down the order, Force India and Red Bull are both strong developers (although not quite in the same league). Red Bull are out of the title races but it’ll be interesting to see how much, if at all, they can narrow the gap to the top two. Force India will remain in a similar league of one, but the interest there shall be whether the two drivers collide again. Ocon’s doing rather well in his first full season in the sport.
After a brief resurgence around 2014, Williams have settled back into the midfield (although well above the nadir of preceding years). Massa and Stroll are a reasonable pairing but the car has the same fundamental problem – not enough aerodynamic grip. Could be tasty in Italy, but will struggle on street circuits like Singapore (NB Azerbaijan was a bit of a dodgems race and, weirdly for a street circuit, has an enormo-straight).
The Toro Rosso looks quite good on pace but has some reliability issues and the Torpedo needs to calm down. Haas is essentially quite fast but a car with serial brake issues does need some mending.
Renault are interesting. Their upgrades last race seemed to work (only available to Hulkenberg, their de facto number one) although reliability, especially for Palmer, remains a bit dubious. Undoubtedly this is a rebuilding year and it’s not clear how good/bad they’ll be when it comes to developing. If they want to return to winning ways they need to be able to improve strongly.
Sauber are cash-strapped and have a year old Ferrari engine. If they can retain 9th the extra cash will help them next year, but I suspect treading water is the most they can hope for.
McLaren’s tasty aerodynamically but has all the power of a maimed gnat. Not only that, the engine is as reliable as a promise from Honorius. The development that counts here isn’t of the car but the engine. Sadly, I don’t think they’ll make any progress. Honda has been varying shades of dire since its return and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if this were the last year it’s in the sport.
Anyway, the next race is Hungary. As always, check the weather forecast, and, if dry, do consider backing No Safety Car. Importantly, my new book, Traitor’s Prize, is out on 28 July. And you should buy it, because it’s entertaining and marvellous and I’d like to be able to afford little luxuries. Like food.