Friday, 24 March 2017

Australia: pre-qualifying 2017

Well, F1 is back. But the points spread markets are not, and neither were the practice results on the BBC (had to use the official site to find them). Bit lax.

After all the murmuring of Ferrari resurgence, Hamilton was fastest in the first practice session by half a second. Bottas was second, but under a tenth ahead of Ricciardo with Verstappen four-tenths further back. Raikkonen and Vettel were next, then Massa, Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Perez.

[Normally I’d stop there but as it’s the first race under new rules, the next 10 were: Sainz, Kvyat, Stroll, Alonso, Ericsson, Ocon, Magnussen, Wehrlein, Palmer and Vandoorne].

In second practice, Hamilton was against fastest by half a second, this time over Vettel. Bottas was a hundredth back, with Raikkonen four-tenths down the road. Ricciardo was close behind, with Verstappen again a surprisingly large margin further back (either here or in P1 the Dutchman lost his best time to an error so the true gap may be significantly smaller). Sainz, Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Kvyat finish the points positions.

Further back we had: Perez, Alonso, Ocon, Massa, Ericsson, Stroll, Vandoorne, Wehrlein, Magnussen and Palmer.

So, early on, some clear dynamics have emerged amongst new driver pairings. Obviously, Hamilton is a day and a half ahead of Bottas.

Perez is significantly faster than Ocon.

Grosjean is substantially quicker than Magnussen.

Hulkenberg was more than 2s faster than Palmer in both sessions.

Alonso is much faster than Vandoorne.

Massa is quicker than Stroll but by a smaller margin than some differences above.

Perhaps surprisingly, Ericsson is faster than Wehrlein.

This may mean that the car is actually a bit less important than usual in determining the race result. Still critical, but we’re seeing, in practice, admittedly, large gaps between team mates. This could have implications for some bets, but, even if not, it’s intriguing in itself.

Now, the cars. Still the dominant factor. Practice is not a perfect indicator, and that should be considered for both the driver observations above and the team observations below. As of now:
Mercedes look the fastest.
Ferrari appears to be second, very evenly matched with Bottas but some way behind Hamilton.
Red Bull in a comfortable third.

Haas, Renault and Force India look very close, with Williams probably in the mix too. Toro Rosso aren’t far off. In short, the midfield is clustered and that may well mean the top drivers in each team will be contesting for points, whilst the slower drivers languish further back.

As expected, Sauber and McLaren appear to be at the back of the grid.

Based on the current information, I’d predict Hamilton for pole, then a very close contest for the three spots behind him, a Red Bull third row, and then probably (not necessarily in this order) Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Perez and Massa [possibly Sainz].

In short, most of the top places to be team-by-team but the midfield to be more mixed.

It’s also worth contemplating the start (I’ll do this after qualifying in more detail, of course). The new systems mean that it will probably be easier to screw up the start, and this could be more painful than in previous years (unfortunately, I’ve forgotten why this is the case, but it is). There’s also reliability, who might break down (McLaren) and whether this will bring out a full safety car, or not. Crashing (Stroll) is another potential pitfall, especially off the line.

As far as pit stops go, there’s likely to be just the one, as the tyres are more durable. This should be the case for the first few races as Pirelli were understandably conservative before they knew for sure how enduring the compounds would be. That also decreases the chances of screwing up strategy.

Weather forecast is currently overcast, but dry.

Potential qualifying bets:
Hamilton, pole, 1.28
Raikkonen, top 3 qualifying, no price
Grosjean/Hulkenberg, top 10 qualifying, 1.01

Obviously the latter two have no odds to speak of. Hamilton is clear favourite for pole, but if he cocks up the critical lap or has a reliability problem then it’s lost. The odds are too poor for me to back.

Potential race bets:
Toro Rosso double points finish
Raikkonen, podium, 2.37
Vettel/Raikkonen, lead lap 1, 4.5/13
Alonso/Vandoorne, not to be classified, 1.66/1.57
Stroll, not to be classified, 2.62
No Safety Car, 3.25

Unfortunately, the double-points market wasn’t up. However, as the race is on Sunday there’s plenty of time. My reasoning behind thinking of it was that, unlikely most (outside the top three) teams, the Sainz/Kvyat pairing are pretty closely matched. There’s no vast yawning chasm between them, although Sainz does have a small edge.

Although the odds are short, Raikkonen for a podium may be worth considering. The odds on Alonso/Vandoorne are too low. It’s entirely possible they’ll both fail but still. Stroll’s odds are a little more tempting.

The lead lap 1 market is interesting. If all goes as expected then both Ferraris should be top four, possibly top three. Hamilton is sometimes ropey at starting and last year the Ferraris regularly bounded ahead. Worthy of consideration.

No Safety Car is an intriguing bet. Despite the VSC’s existence, there was a proper safety car last year. There’s also a danger of a car breaking down on-track (though I think it’d take a very bad location or a crash/bad start to bring out the safety car).

Browsing whilst waiting for the double-points market to appear, I also saw that Hulkenberg and Grosjean were 4.5 and 7 respectively to be top 6. Now, that does require one, or more, of the top chaps to crash or have some sort of problem, but may be value (Massa’s only evens, and Sainz is 3.5, both looking too short to me).

Also, there’s 1.61 for under 15.5 classified finishers (out of 20). In two out of the three most recent years, this would’ve happened despite having more cars, and if one looks at the retirements/crashes and subtracts that from the starting 20, it would’ve happened every year. Short, but probably value (requires five or more retirements/crashes).

Grosjean is 2.1 for points. Given he was comfortably in the top 10 in both practice sessions this looks rather good.

So, that’s a huge number of potential bets. Running through the list, the ones that seem to have the best chances of offering value are:
No Safety Car, 3.25 [Ladbrokes]
Under 15.5 classified finishers, 1.75 [Betfair]

At this stage I’ve decided to only back the No Safety Car and Classified Finisher bets. The Grosjean/Hulkenberg bets are tempting, but dependent on qualifying.

I may or may not add to these tips following qualifying, but will definitely write a pre-race article as usual. The points spread market suggestions will come just as soon as the market itself springs into life.

Qualifying starts at the unhelpful hour of 6am. I shall endeavour to wake up in time and listen to it on the wireless.

Morris Dancer

Friday, 10 March 2017

Testing times, part two

It must be said, testing has proved rather more interesting than it might have done. I should reiterate that the times must be taken with a boulder of salt, but the mood music can be a more reliable guide.

Before we get to potential pace, let’s examine the various gremlin infestations.

McLaren is the worst. This is down to the Honda engine, which, as well as being under-powered, seems to quite like going on strike. I’ll be checking the Not To Be Classified market for Australia, but I think the odds may be very short. Speaking of strikes, a Honda engineer, Gilles Simon, has left Honda, reportedly because he felt his ideas on the engine were not being implemented.

With intra-season development now possible, Honda could recover. But even if they did so and made an engine equal to the fastest, they would have lost so much ground it’s hard to see them in the mix this year.

Renault and Force India have both had some problems too. However, Renault sound confident they can fix things for Oz. Force India are also confident of mending the problems but think it’ll take a bit of time, so we could see a fairly rapid improvement in pace/reliability for Force India over the first few races.

Red Bull has had some reliability woe, largely on the turbo/MGU-K elements of the engine. An F1 car can run without all/part of the ERS system but it will cost seconds per laps, as well as buggering up the brake balance (kinetic energy from the brakes is recycled into horsepower).

Ferrari have also hit a few snags in the second test. I’d say more than Mercedes but fewer than Red Bull.

Haas is looking for a brake improvement (still having problems from last year), and has had a few wonky moments.

Meanwhile, Williams and Mercedes are looking pretty solid. Not sure I can remember much Sauber woe, either. Toro Rosso have had one or two problems but nothing too major, I think.

Now, onto pace. As mentioned previously, this is half-guesswork, half-Mystic Meg mumbo-jumbo. I’m focusing on mood music rather than times.

Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull seem quite similar. Right now, I think the first two are very close to one another (Mr. B’s bet on Ferrari for the Constructors’ title may be looking good, my each way on Bottas for the title looking a little ropey). My feeling is Red Bull are a small margin back but will be the team to beat at high downforce circuits (whilst being murdered at Monza).

Behind them, it could be pretty tasty between Williams, Renault and Force India. Haas might be up there, not sure. Toro Rosso are a bit difficult to tell, but Sainz is impressive and they had a pretty nice car (albeit underpowered) last year. The midfield could be tight indeed.

I think Sauber will score a few more points than last year, but I’m rather worried for McLaren. Right now they look like the slowest team on the grid.

If my vague musings are accurate, we could see things competitive at both the sharp end and in the midfield. However, a word of warning. Mercedes are the champion sandbaggers. Both they and other teams will probably have hidden some true pace. We’ll only know for sure when Australia’s done and dusted.

So, bets I will have an eye on for Australia (NB these are only things I’ll check/consider, not tips at this stage):
Alonso/Vandoorne, not to be classified
Ferrari, top score
Safety Car (due to possibility of some cars breaking down)
Raikkonen, podium
Hamilton, pole

There are no spread markets available yet. Although I’m not betting on them this year, I want to try and get my eye in for possible betting in 2018, so I will be offering some suggestions either in a stand-alone article or as part of the Australian race weekend articles. The first race of the year is in just over a fortnight.

It was announced today that the 1964 world champion John Surtees has died. RIP.

Morris Dancer

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Thoughts on the first pre-season test

There are just two tests ahead of the 2017 F1 season. The first has just finished, the second runs from 7-10 March.

I would strongly caution against paying attention to headline times. Back in 2009, with Bridgestone tyres and small fuel tanks, there was far less variability. In the modern era, with crumbly Pirellis (more on those later), massive fuel tanks and many engine modes, it’s very easy to sandbag.

However, mood music can be somewhat useful, and reliability can be assessed to at least some degree.

McLaren had a torrid first two days. Both Alonso and Vandoorne suffered engine failures which severely curtailed their running, though both got more time on the track in the latter half of the test. Even leaving aside the engine issues, there is a concern the car might be a bit slow. Australia, the first race, has historically been one at which the team has punched above its weight.

Mercedes, by contrast, had a very good test, laying down more laps than anyone else. The only reliability failure (Hamilton’s car, the day after Rosberg visited... [some are are suggesting that as a conspiracy theory. Don’t be silly]) was an electrical fault that was investigated early on the final day, which prevented Hamilton taking to the track. They’re looking very strong.

Ferrari also had very good reliability, with just a single failing, and a large number of laps put down. Hard to assess pace, but it’s looking better than expected for the Prancing Horse.

Red Bull had a couple of reliability failures but no catastrophes. Over the four days the murmuring seems a little bit less confident, perhaps, than I’d expected. Maybe I’m reading too much into it.

Of the other teams, Force India and Renault initially put down slightly fewer laps than I’d expected. Haas seemed more solid than I would’ve guessed. Lance Stroll, the new Williams driver, had a few offs, the last of which prevented Massa getting any running done on the final day. Maldonado comparisons have been drawn. Sauber are looking a bit better (and not just the livery).

Now, pre-test, my assumption had been that Mercedes would be dominant, with Red Bull the only genuine rival at certain races, with the rest bickering over third. That’s still possible, but I’d feel a bit more confident if I were Ferrari, and perhaps a bit less if I were Red Bull. But, as I said, don’t take the times too seriously.

Overtaking has seen some contrary murmurings. A few drivers have said they were able to run closely fairly easily, but Hamilton found the traffic more difficult. This may simple be a matter of the car itself, with the Mercedes historically ropey in traffic. At some circuits (those impossible like Monaco, and easy like Canada) this will make less difference, but at a circuit like Hungary it could make a significant difference, assuming the Mercedes aren’t just at the front.

The tyres seem more durable, and when they do go off they can be brought back. We’ll have to wait and see if this means we get one-stoppers throughout, and how easy/hard overtaking is.

Early thoughts on Australia (these aren’t tips, more of a note-to-self to check come the time) revolve around lack of reliability. The market would be Not To Be Classified, looking at the McLarens, and Stroll. Also, considering a Safety Car appearance (although the VSC does reduce the chances of that).

On the title, really need to see how the first race weekend goes, but if somebody forced a tenner upon me on condition I backed a driver, the chap likeliest to get it is Hamilton.

Morris Dancer

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A look back at 2016 and ahead to 2017

It was a bloody odd year.

From a betting perspective, it was my worst ever (been doing this since the latter half of 2009) if you count only the weekend tips included in these articles. If you count the fortuitous Verstappen tip (to win in Spain at 250/1) it’s the best ever. I got under a third of tips correct, but finished ahead by quite a long way.

Most of the weekend tips being wrong were due to misjudgement. I did have some bad luck too. The weather forecast I saw for Interlagos was 100% wrong and buggered both my bets there. Had they come off, the result would’ve meant a slightly red season rather than one redder than a baboon’s backside.

That said, at the six race weekends I offered three tips, one was properly green, one was essentially flat, and the other four were red. It’s not great when there’s an inversely proportional relationship between number of bets and sound judgement, and that’s almost entirely my fault.

I may try and make an effort to offer a few more Betfair/hedged tips. Unfortunately a few years ago I had a great run with Ladbrokes and terrible luck with Betfair, so the former account is in rude health and the latter is a bit anaemic (limiting my stakes quite a bit).

Four spread-betting suggestions were offered mid-season, as a first step towards potentially entering those choppy waters. My suggestions were (with confidence ratings):
Buy Bottas, low-medium, 93/99 (the price when I saw it/the price when I wrote the piece)
Sell Magnussen, medium, 11
Buy Verstappen, medium, 206
Sell Alonso, high, 53

Bottas I got entirely wrong. That was an 8 or 14 point loss. The others were all tight. Magnussen was 4 points to the good, Verstappen 2 points red and Alonso 1 point red. The main misjudgement was failing to recognise/recall Williams are often a bit pants at developing their car through the season. On the plus side, this was my first serious effort and most of the suggestions were very tight, with just one being rather wrong (and not by a calamitous amount).

I imagine such things will only be available after testing, but, for future reference, here’s the link:

In terms of racing, Mercedes were slightly reeled in by Red Bull over the course of the season. Red Bull developed well, whereas Ferrari were 2nd fastest (but unreliable) initially, and then fell to a distinct 3rd later on. Force India maintained their excellent in-season development, leapfrogging Williams to get 4th.

Development potential will be important when considering how things might go over the course of the next season.

Looking ahead to next year, I had planned on offering spread betting tips and dipping my toe into the waters. Not sure if I will do that, but, if not, I shall offer some suggestions as I did this year.

There are substantial technical changes to the regulations, meaning both aerodynamic changes and removing the restrictions on engine development. I think this stands to benefit Red Bull and McLaren disproportionately. The former has, I think, Adrian Newey returning from messing about on the river, and the latter has Prodromou[sp] (formerly Newey’s aerodynamic lieutenant) and the possibility of Honda delivering a great leap forward.

Renault should also improve, but I don’t believe they have the staff necessary, yet, to bounce all the way into podium-land. Hulkenberg’s reportedly very good at technical feedback, so that will aid their development, particularly for 2018.

I think Ferrari will go backwards. They’ve lost Allison, rumour has it Arrivabene may be tossed overboard, and whilst the engine is good, the aerodynamic performance this has year has been behind a few other teams.

Mercedes, obviously, have most to lose. When you have a dominant position any change represents a risk of losing that advantage. I don’t think they’ll fall off a cliff, but it is possible they’ll either be very closely matched to a rival team (or two) or clearly inferior. An intriguing possibility follows the well-sourced rumour Hamilton actually quit after Spain this year only to be persuaded to stay. It is possible he’ll go walkies sooner rather than later. (Maybe a 10% chance).

Williams have been a bit rubbish at aero recently. I think they recognise this, but would still expect them to be a bit too slippery.

Toro Rosso have been pretty impressive when it comes to aerodynamics. I don’t think they’ll challenge at the sharp end, but they could have a good season.

Haas are difficult to read. They had a stonking start to their d├ębut season, then fell off a performance cliff.

Manor and Sauber may struggle a bit due to lack of cash and starting from a low base.

At the moment, the most tempting bets for me revolve around Red Bull and McLaren (and their drivers). Very early to bet, however.

There are some Hamilton and Verstappen specials up on Ladbrokes, as well as early markets available for the two 2017 titles. Perhaps most intriguing is the 17 for Hamilton to not drive for Mercedes next year. He apparently quit after the Spanish Grand Prix, only to be persuaded to stay, and is very unhappy his mechanics were switched to Rosberg this year. I think Hamilton walking is likelier than the team axing him, and whilst it’s still odds against, 17 might be a little long.

The other bets for both chaps relate to long term things (mostly beating Schumacher’s title and race win tallies). None of those appeal, possibly excepting Verstappen to take next year’s title at 5.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Abu Dhabi: post-race analysis 2016

A tense race from start to finish, with the drama ramping up towards the end. Betting-wise, it was green, which is a nice way to end a very peculiar season (but I’ll blather about that in the season review). The race was characterised by three things: great drives from Verstappen and Vettel due to varying strategy, and Hamilton backing up Rosberg.

Off the line it was fairly straightforward, excepting that Raikkonen got the jump on Ricciardo. However, Verstappen had a slightly slow start (Red Bull perhaps compromised more than expected by starting on the supersoft when surrounded by ultrasoft-starters?) and was spun when he struck Hulkenberg slightly. At the end of lap 1, Verstappen was last.

Ahead, the Mercedes were a bit faster but not scampering away, and the Ferraris and Ricciardo were evenly matched. Verstappen set about cutting his way through the field.

After the first pit stops (two planned), Hamilton led, Verstappen (who alone had not pitted) was next, then Rosberg, who emerged just behind the Dutchman. Verstappen was going long on his supersofts, trying to eke out a single stop, contrary to all others. Rosberg struggled to pass him, particularly as the German could not afford to compromise his result.

Suddenly, Rosberg made a late lunge. Verstappen had left the door wide open then tried closing it. The two cars very nearly touched, but Rosberg got ahead with a daring overtake. Shortly thereafter, Verstappen pitted.

After the second (or only, in Verstappen’s case) round of pit stops Vettel, who was on a two stop but had yet to come in, led Hamilton, with Rosberg and Verstappen next. Ricciardo and Raikkonen were further back.

Vettel pitted and emerged with brand new supersoft tyres. He was over a second a lap faster than those around him, quickly catching and passing (with zero resistance) his team mate before reaching Ricciardo.

Mercedes were aware to the danger and alerted Hamilton, asking him to drive more quickly. The Briton developed selective deafness.

Hamilton was being deliberately slow in the twisting part of the circuit to back Rosberg towards Verstappen (and Vettel, who soon passed Ricciardo). He was given an instruction from Paddy Lowe (effectively co-team principal) to drive more quickly and refused.

Verstappen was being forced to up his pace to try and keep 3rd, but to no avail. Vettel pounced and snaffled the final podium spot, then close up on Rosberg. The top four were all covered by a few seconds.

Rosberg bore the stress. He kept 2nd, seeing off a final lap attempt by Vettel take the place, and winning his first constructor’s title. Hamilton won the race, and lost the title.

Verstappen and Ricciardo were 4th and 5th. After a strong early stint, poor strategy helped put Raikkonen down in 6th. Hulkenberg and Perez finished where they started, 7th and 8th respectively (having a bit of a mid-race ding dong, but it was all clean driving).

Massa scored in his last race, grabbing 2 points for 9th. Alonso got the last point. On this occasion, Massa was faster than him.

The two Haas cars just missed out on points, and just behind them were both Manors. Interestingly, the Saubers and Palmer’s Renault [Magnussen retired] were slower.

Button also had his last race and suffered a wishbone failure after a kerb took exception to being driven over, but he remained in good cheer. Both Toro Rossos and Bottas also retired.

So, by 5 points Rosberg is world champion. Within minutes of the result the BBC had a charming page up asking if he deserved it. Had Hamilton suffered a technical failure in 2014’s race instead of his team mate, Rosberg would’ve been world champion then. Didn’t see the same question being asked of Hamilton at the time…

Force India claimed 4th in the Constructors’, their best ever finish. The cash injection will be welcome for the team next year. They lose Hulkenberg and gain Ocon, retaining the services of Perez.

The No Safety Car bet came off. Short odds, but longer than they should’ve been. The advantage of varying strategy worked for both Vettel and Verstappen, so I wonder if we’ll see more of that next year rather than a two stop approach for the vast majority.

Will Hamilton’s behaviour has damaged his standing either with the team (for repeatedly refusing to obey an instruction) or with the public as a ‘racer’ who deliberately went slowly? His hero, Senna, rammed Prost off the track once to take a title (the reverse also occurring), and that’s clearly worse. Schumacher’s renowned for his on-track shenanigans.

Opinion is divided. Some online have criticised him for trying to make someone else lose, others saying it was fair enough trying to keep the title.

I’m glad Rosberg got the title. A bit of variety instead of the same chap always winning is a good thing.

Next year the regulations change a lot. The biggest potential beneficiaries are probably Red Bull and McLaren. The former will have (I think) Adrian Newey, back from his yachting adventures. The latter has Prodromou[sp], formerly Newey’s aerodynamics lieutenant, and with development restrictions lifted for engines Honda *may* be able to make a great leap forward.

I’ll witter more about such things nearer the time, and after testing. In a few days or a couple of weeks I’ll write the post-season review (which will be interesting as it’s both my best and worst ever season).

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Abu Dhabi: pre-race 2016

Well, qualifying ran pretty much to form with Hamilton easily on pole and Rosberg alongside him. The one real surprise was that the Red Bulls both went for the supersoft in Q2, which means they start on the slightly more durable tyre. The rest of the top 10 are on the ultrasofts.

Both Saubers and Toro Rossos (who are having a dreadful weekend so far) exited in Q1, as did Ocon and Magnussen.

Both Haas drivers failed to reach Q3, and were joined in the departure lounge of Q2 by Wehrlein (slowest in the session), Palmer, Button and Bottas (the last two behind ahead of the Haas).

Alas, Q3 was a bit predictable. Hamilton had daylight between him and Rosberg, a yawning three-tenth gap. That said, Rosberg was over half a second faster than Ricciardo. Raikkonen and Vettel split the Red Bulls (who, alone of the top 10, start on the supersoft rather than ultrasoft). After 6th-placed Verstappen, Hulkenberg leads Perez, and it turns out Alonso is faster than Massa, the pair making up row five.

It can be tricky to pass in Abu Dhabi. There’s a great big straight but that’s only an advantage if you’ve got roughly equal power and can get close enough. A car like the Red Bull will have great pace but it’s from the twisty bits so passing will be trickier.

It’s also worth considering how the supersoft gambit might play out. There are two potential advantages. Either one fewer pit stop is needed (giving Red Bull track position), or they might be able to go longer, enjoying a performance advantage whilst their rivals are on the soft tyre. Of course, neither may be true.

There tend not to be many retirements or a great shuffle from grid to flag, and there have been just two races from the seven to date which saw a safety car.

So, potential bets that sprung to mind:
Ricciardo win each way
Perez top 6
Few retirements
No Safety car
Ricciardo podium

Ricciardo is 15 to win each way (third the odds for top 2). That’s intriguing, especially if a bad start [though these haven’t happened for several races now], strategic woe or mechanical mishap occurs. Can he do it on pure pace, without relying on misfortune ahead of him? And are the Mercedes likely to collide? Difficult to say.

Perez is evens for top 6. Whilst he’s good at keeping the tyres going, and has a solid car, the odds are a little mean.

There’s 1.83 on Ladbrokes for over 18.5 drivers to finish. In the last two races at the circuit there have been 1 and 3 retirements. If either were matched, that would make the bet a winner. I’m pretty confident this will occur but the odds aren’t super.

No Safety Car is 1.8. Again, the odds look wrong to me. This is quite appealing. I think it’d take some misfortune for this to happen.

Ricciardo is 1.66 for a podium. Interesting to compare that against his win (each way) odds. Whilst eminently possible, I’d sooner go for the win bet, if I go for either (I think the No Safety Car and over 18.5 classified finisher bets are both likelier, as well as having slightly longer odds).

So a couple of low odds tempters and a slightly uncertain but interesting Ricciardo bet. I perused the markets to see if anything else appealed.

Verstappen win 23 – longer odds than Ricciardo but he starts 6th. He’s also been a bit clunky at Monaco (different circuit and he’s fine at Singapore, but it’s still a potential problem).

Raikkonen/Vettel, winner without Mercedes 5 each way – if the Red Bull gambit with tyres doesn’t work, Ferrari are next up. And if it does, one of them may still finish ahead of a Red Bull anyway. Odds aren’t enormous, however, and the gain off the start (according to Christian Horner) of the ultrasoft over supersoft is less than half a yard.

Rosberg win 5.9 (Betfair) – I do think Hamilton’s a hot favourite to win but there’s only two drivers in it, barring mishap. Is 5.9 too long for Rosberg? Hamilton’s had the beating of him for several races and has looked better this weekend. Plus, Rosberg knows a podium is enough. That said, 5.9 may be too long.

Of all those mentioned so far, the Ricciardo Win each way, Raikkonen/Vettel Winner Without Mercedes each way, No Safety Car and Over 18.5 Classified Finishers markets look most tempting to me.

That’s rather too many to bet on all at once.

The two short odds bet (No Safety Car and Over 18.5 Classified Finishers) seem quite closely related. Of those, No Safety Car is my preferred. Also, you have to go back to Italy (September) for the last time Ferrari beat Red Bull.

So, that leaves the potential for our old friend No Safety Car at 1.8 and Ricciardo at 15 to win (each way). I think the win unlikely but coming 2nd could happen. However, Abu Dhabi’s last two podium results were identical to the starting top 3. So, boring as it is, I’ve just gone for No Safety Car at 1.8.

Of course, if excitement, twists and turns and treacherous backstabbing is what you want, then check my new fantasy novel Kingdom Asunder, which came out two days ago.

My fear is, returning to F1, that the race may be a procession. Red Bull will probably be the most interesting team to watch.

Morris Dancer

Abu Dhabi: pre-qualifying 2016

Well, here we are. The final race of the season, the title decider, the last race before the rules change.

A brief look to 2017, as it’s been confirmed Germany will not have a race due to financial problems.

Rain, which plagued my Brazil bets, is unlikely to be a complicating factor in Abu Dhabi.

In first practice Hamilton was nearly half a second ahead of Rosberg, who was just half a tenth up on Verstappen with Ricciardo close behind. Vettel, Perez and Raikkonen were next, with Sainz, Massa and Ericsson rounding out the top 10.

In second practice the same two were at the top, but Hamilton was just a tenth up, and Rosberg was two-tenths ahead of Vettel. Verstappen and Ricciardo came next, then Raikkonen, Bottas, Perez, Hulkenberg and Massa.

Third practice had a rather different set of chaps at the top. Vettel was fastest, two-tenths up on Verstappen, who was within a tenth of the Dutch Wunderkind. Hamilton and Rosberg were next (a tenth between them). Ricciardo, Perez, Hulkenberg, Bottas and Gutierrez rounded out the top 10.

Incidentally, Hamilton reported a problem with his front right brake not working properly towards the end of third practice.

No bet on qualifying. I think a Hamilton-Rosberg front row very likely. Interested to see if Ferrari can maintain their relative pace but I suspect they’ll be behind Red Bull.

However, those wanting to lighten their wallets in return for a cracking medieval fantasy, brimming with ruthless she-wolves and scheming traitors, should check out Kingdom Asunder, my new novel:

Morris Dancer