Sunday, 28 July 2013

Hungary: post-race analysis



The race bet came off, although that may be due to luck, but if luck helps me out I won’t complain. Overall the weekend was very slightly red.

I’m writing this after listening to it on the radio, and plan on giving the highlights on TV a look later.

At the start it was largely formation flying at the sharp end. Further down the grid Webber had a good start, leaping to seventh (he started 10th) and Di Resta also made up some places.

The closest thing to a major incident at the start was Massa and Rosberg having contact, which slightly damaged Rosberg’s car and put him down quite a few places (helpfully). Late on Rosberg’s engine died on him, which was probably due to overheating from running in dirty air for the entire race.

Most of the frontrunners went for a three stop strategy, starting on softs. Raikkonen, although starting soft, went for a two stop, as did Webber and Button, both of whom started on the medium tyre.

Hamilton’s tyre wear seemed the same as everybody else’s, and after the first pit stops Vettel and Grosjean (in competitive terms second and third) were stuck behind Button (at that stage on slightly old medium tyres) whereas Hamilton was ahead. This enabled Hamilton to easily, gradually build up a nice gap of circa 10-12s on his main rivals.

Vettel passed Button eventually, but when Grosjean did the same thing there was contact, Grosjean was forced to cut the chicane and Button pitted shortly thereafter. For this, the Frenchman got a drive-through penalty, but the radio commentary team reckoned that it was harsh, and that Grosjean was ahead at the time of contact.

This effectively ended Grosjean’s hopes of a win, or even a podium.

At the sharp end Webber’s strategy and good start was looking to possibly put him in contention for a podium place, but Hamilton, after Vettel got stuck behind Button (albeit more briefly) after the second pit stop, was looking very good for the win. The Briton came out behind Webber after the Briton’s final stop, but managed to multi-21 past Webber with relative ease.

After the final stops Hamilton had a comfortable lead and, barring reliability problems, seemed destined to cruise to triumph (his fourth at the Hungaroring, a circuit where pole-sitters tend to lose. I believe he was circa 8-9 to win, or something like that). Raikkonen was second on old tyres and Vettel third on much fresher ones. The Finn and German tussled over second, but Vettel could not pass him.

Rosberg, with a few laps to go, retired. A shame for him but this did enable Maldonado to rise to 10th, and gain Williams their first point of the season.

Alonso finished fifth, with a lacklustre performance. Ferrari said pre-qualifying that they were compromising race pace for qualifying, and it showed (but didn’t get them a great qualifying position). They seem to be going backwards when Red Bull are resilient, Lotus are resurgent and Mercedes are fast.

Grosjean ended up sixth, which he must be disappointed with. That said, he’s been fast this weekend and it bodes well for his prospects. Button was seventh and Perez ninth, and McLaren also appear to have taken a step forward. They aren’t going to trouble the frontrunners, but regularly racking up points will help them. (Massa was eighth).

Here are the Drivers’ standings:
Vettel 172
Raikkonen 134
Alonso 133
Hamilton 124

Right now I see Alonso going down and Raikkonen/Hamilton potentially making up ground on Vettel. Mercedes are a bit up and down on race pace, but Ferrari now seems to have lost its edge in the races without gaining anything in qualifying. 38 points with 9 races left is a good but not insurmountable margin (I think Alonso had a similar margin over Vettel last year).

The Constructors’ are as follows:
Red Bull 277
Mercedes 208
Ferrari 194
Lotus 183

I think Red Bull are highly likely to get this. Their car is reliable, and their drivers likewise. Massa isn’t quite quick enough, Grosjean’s a bit up and down, and the Mercedes seems to be slightly unpredictable in terms of both reliability and race pace.

The next race is 4 weeks away, which is a shame. On the plus side, it’s the excellent Spa circuit in Belgium.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Hungary: pre-race



Well, that’ll teach me to be greedy. Grosjean was indeed top 3, but not pole. His pace was good but not quite good enough for the hedge to get matched.

In Q1 it was business as usual, with Gutierrez joining the pointless teams. However, Di Resta had a shocker and finished a measly 18th. No traffic issues, the car simply was not fast enough.

Q2 was more competitive, as might be expected. Both Williams, Vergne, Button, Hulkenberg and Sutil left at this stage.

Q3 was more interesting than has been the case of late because there were three cars with a chance of pole: Red Bull, Mercedes and Lotus. Mercedes had seemed off the pace, but a last gasp lap from Hamilton put him on pole, snatching it away from Vettel, who was second. However, it’s worth noting that pole-sitters tend not to win at the Hungaroring, which is a bit weird given how hard it is to overtake. Grosjean and Rosberg share the second row, with Alonso and Raikkonen, Vettel’s title rivals, behind them. Massa and Ricciardo are next, with Perez and Webber ninth and 10th. Perez trundled about on the medium tyre and Webber, after a KERS failure in Q2, suffered some other problem in Q3 and was unable to put in a fast lap.

So, how will the race pan out? I expect Hamilton’s tyres to suffer greatly. Ferrari also had issues on the soft tyre and may suffer poor pace early on. I expect the Red Bulls and Lotuses (Loti?) to be solid throughout. If I were Vettel I’d be more worried about Grosjean and Raikkonen than anyone else.

The bet on Grosjean was wrong, and my own fault for getting a bit carried away with the commentary. My earlier instinct was to back Vettel (he didn’t win but would’ve been hedgeable), but I did think Grosjean stood a good chance. Ah well.

I was tempted to back Lotus to top score, but I’m not sure I can see anyone beating Vettel (and if he wins Webber only needs 8 points [6th] to equal the best result Lotus could have, if they were 2nd and 3rd). That said, Grosjean starts on the clean side of the track, and whilst Raikkonen doesn’t I do expect him to be faster than Alonso (given Ferrari may have compromised race pace for qualifying). However, if you believe that to be a realistic chance then you’re far better backing Grosjean for the win than Lotus to top score (just 3.5 with Ladbrokes), as Grosjean’s about 8.4 or so.

The other bet that tempted me was laying Hamilton to finish on the podium, but the odds of about 3 were too long. So, I went for another bet I was considering, and think pretty likely, laying Rosberg to be top 6 at 2.3 Not great odds (even if it comes off the weekend will be red), but I suspect the Mercedes is going to devour its tyres again. In addition, he has Raikkonen and Alonso right behind him, and Webber further back who may be able to challenge with a cunning strategy. It’s forecast to be hot, and the Mercedes hates the heat more than any other car.

Morris Dancer

Hungary: pre-qualifying



Early weather forecasts suggested it could be 40C on race day. One imagines Mercedes were not pleased with such news.

Mr. Jessop, on politicalbetting.com, suggested that this could lead to top teams dialling down pace in an effort to allow brakes and engines to survive the race. Teams that don’t do this could be faster in qualifying, but that’s no use if the cars subsequently fail in the race.

Here’s what Paul Hembery of Pirelli had to say about the tyres (http://www.formula1.com/news/headlines/2013/7/14817.html):
“With levels of lateral energy relatively low, tyre performance rather than durability will be the limiting factor and this will form the basis of the strategy selected – with the teams aiming to keep the tyres within the peak window of operating performance for as long as possible. The design of our latest tyres should help them to do this.”

Speaking of Pirelli, they’ve announced their tyres for Spa, Monza and Singapore (I reckon Mercedes could do pretty well at the last circuit): http://www.espn.co.uk/f1/motorsport/story/117765.html

Anyway, to practice.

P1 had a Red Bull one-two at the top, with Vettel fastest. Raikkonen was third and Alonso fourth (that top 4 would make for an intriguing race). Grosjean, Button, Sutil, Rosberg, Perez and Maldonado rounded out the top 10.

In P2 Vettel and Webber again topped the timesheets, followed by Grosjean, Alonso, Massa, Hamilton, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Button and Sutil. I didn’t listen to much commentary for either session but I did hear that Ferrari were apparently suffering poor durability on the soft tyre.

During P3 commentary an interesting variance in strategy was reported. Ferrari are willing to compromise race pace for grid position because they’ve been starting too far back, whereas Red Bull are focusing entirely on the race. Williams were apparently quite upbeat, so hopefully they’ll have a more competitive weekend than his recently been the case. McLaren seem a little better too. Hamilton seemed happy, Rosberg less so, and both Webber and Raikkonen seemed worried about the rear of their cars (although Webber’s engineers seemed more confident). From Friday to Saturday Hamilton gained a huge chunk of speed, so perhaps they’ll do better than expected. However, the circuit’s rarely used so I expect much of that is due to the circuit improving as rubber gets laid down (Perez also gained much speed).

The qualifying simulation at the end of P3 was curtailed by a minute and a half when Perez introduced his car to the barriers at some speed. Grosjean was fastest, followed by Alonso, Perez, Vettel, Massa, Hamilton, Webber, Rosberg, Button and Sutil.

For the race, the pit lane speed limit has declined from 100kmh to 80kmh. Naturally, this will mean pit stops take a little longer, and give a small advantage to teams that need fewer stops.

Some do wonder how well the medium tyre will hold up, not regarding track degradation but thermal degradation. If they don’t last long there could be a huge number of pit stops. I suspect they’ll be more or less alright.

Anyway, qualifying should be interesting. As well as the Red Bull/Mercedes fight, we may see Ferrari being more competitive than usual and Lotus seem very good as well. Grosjean’s been good this weekend (the commentators were waxing lyrical about him) and although Raikkonen hasn’t really put a qualifying style lap together yet he is undoubtedly very fast. The Red Bulls were frankly slow in P3, but that was entirely sandbagging, in my view, making it hard to read how the qualifying will go.

I was hoping that Grosjean to be top 3 would have reasonable odds, but 2.5 is too short. So, the best value was for him to get pole at 10, hedged at 4. Whilst I do believe the Red Bulls were sandbagging in P3, Grosjean was a tenth and a half off in P2 and extended his lead (from P2 to P3) over Alonso from nine thousandths of a second to a tenth and a half.

Qualifying should be rather interesting. Let’s hope it’s rather profitable too.

Morris Dancer

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Hungary: early discussion



Feels like bloody ages since the last race, but it’s only been three weeks. Hungary’s effectively all by itself (not unlike Kim Jong-Il in Team America: World Police), because Spa follows it after a four week break.

Pirelli have changed the tyre compounds from medium-hard to soft-medium (originally they were soft-medium, I think, but got moved in the hard direction when tyre issues occurred and have been moved back due to the new construction).

In addition, it’s likely to be hot, which should help Lotus and Ferrari. Force India have typically done well in such conditions too, but their pace in Germany was unexpectedly poor and they (as well as Mercedes) appear to have been hit hard by the ban on swapping rear tyres.

Obviously, the Pirellis are now a new construction, designed not to explode. However, Vettel and Hulkenberg both reckon that, for the driver, there’s little difference to the old ones. So, I’d guess the Germany pecking order is more or less what we’ll get at Hungary.

Hungary’s a circuit all about front end grip, and it’s a rather rubbish track. Because of the layout, it’s very hard to overtake. Passes on track will be due to wildly differing pace (Red Bulls Vs Caterhams, for example, or tyres falling off the cliff), and the start, as well as pit stops, will be where we see most overtaking.

So, there’ll be a premium on qualifying and I’d guess the starting grid and final result will be fairly similar. That said, I do anticipate the Silver Arrows going backwards.

As always, comments, thoughts, tips and cunning insights are all welcome.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Mid-season review - racing



At this point we’re 10 races into the 19 race season, and the time has arrived for my traditional mid-season review of the racing. This is slightly later than usual, to allow the Young Driver (New Tyre) Test to take place first.

Early on the season looked extremely finely balanced, with Lotus and Ferrari easier on tyres but Red Bull faster in qualifying. Unfortunately a combination of bad luck/poor races for the first two teams and (excepting Silverstone) a very reliable performance from Vettel/Red Bull has meant that the season’s now in danger of being another Red Bull procession.

Mercedes began the season with good qualifying pace but eating tyres, seemed to get on top of the tyre wear, largely, to compete at the sharp end in the races, but appear to have been hit hard by the new ban on swapping rear tyres. It’s worth also saying that Force India’s performance in Germany was below par for what has otherwise been a very good season for them.

The ban on Mercedes for the Young Driver/New Tyre Test will hit them harder than they would’ve imagined when it was handed down, and I suspect any pretensions towards contesting the title have now disappeared. However, at slower circuits, such as Singapore, they may be able to have moments of success.

McLaren, Sauber and Williams are all having dodgy seasons, in very different ways. McLaren and Williams have simply designed cars that aren’t fast enough. The switch for McLaren to focus on the 2014 car is the right decision and will hopefully pay dividends next year. In addition, the low pressure on Perez given the car isn’t good enough may be a blessing in disguise and enable him to get to know the team without the pressure to win/score podiums every race.

It’s sad to see Williams tumble from a pretty good season last year (they would’ve scored far more points if Senna were fast or Maldonado reliable) to a shocker in 2013. Sauber seems to have significant money troubles, with slow payments to Hulkenberg and no title sponsor, though the team is working on that. In addition, their car’s a bit of a dog and Hulkenberg’s reportedly keen to leave.

Toro Rosso are having a pretty good season. Ricciardo’s qualified sixth in a couple of consecutive races, which is impressive.

Right now Mercedes and Red Bull are almost even on qualifying pace, though the Silver Arrows probably just have the edge. Judging by Germany, I’d say Red Bull and Lotus are fastest in the race, with Ferrari close behind and Mercedes hampered by very poor tyre wear.

The Young Driver Test ran from 17-19 July. All information regarding the new tyres was made available to all teams, including Mercedes (although as cars use tyres differently this still counts as a sizeable handicap for the team).

Some teams changed their minds about having race drivers do the testing because race drivers were subject to more constraints than test drivers. Vettel did test, Raikkonen did not.

It sounds like the new tyres will make little difference, if Vettel is to be believed: http://www.espn.co.uk/redbull/motorsport/story/117211.html

That view is also backed up by Hulkenberg: http://www.formula1.com/news/headlines/2013/7/14816.html

If that’s the case then the biggest difference with the tyres could be the ban on swapping rear tyres. Germany’s the only race we really have for a comparable pecking order, which had Red Bull and Lotus close on race pace (perhaps Lotus a shade faster) and Red Bull and Mercedes again vying for pole. McLaren, probably due to developments on the car, have improved, and Force India seemed to have gone backwards quite a bit.

On tyres: Pirelli have changed their Hungary tyres (medium-hard previously) to soft-medium, due to the change in construction. If it’s hot, which is entirely possible, that should play into the hands of Lotus/Ferrari. However, the circuit’s hard to overtake on, so good qualifying is critical (although tyre degradation should make it possible to make some progress during pit stops).

Looking to next year briefly (I’m mentioning it now because it’s a little-known but critical rule change): in 2014 gear ratios will have to be set for the entire year (hat tip to Will Tyson of https://twitter.com/theWPTformula for raising this). Now, that sounds rather dry, but it’s actually crucial.

My knowledge of gear ratios is slightly ropey, but here’s the gist: if you have short gears then on the straights you have a lower top speed. But, through the corners you’ll be faster. Red Bull is a typical short gear team, preferring to optimise overall lap time, qualify near the sharp end and then race off into the sunset before DRS comes into effect (NB DRS flap size will be increased from 50mm to 65mm next year) so lower straight line speed doesn’t compromise them and allow them to be passed on the straights.

Now, think of Monaco or Singapore and then, say, Monza or Montreal. The circuits are entirely different. The first two are tight, slow circuits with barely a straight between them. Monza and Montreal are basically straights connected by little kinks masquerading as corners. One set of gear ratios for every circuit will mean there isn’t a set pecking order. It also means that midfield teams could optimise one way or the other so that they’ll be dire at 80% of circuits but very competitive at the other 20%. This could make races very variable regarding frontrunners and, hopefully, open up significant betting opportunities before first practice.

Morris Dancer



Sunday, 14 July 2013

Mid-season review - betting

I’m posting this on both http://enormo-haddock.blogspot.co.uk/, the new home of my F1 articles/tips this season, and http://politicalbetting.blogspot.co.uk/, the old one, so that people who frequented the old site and may’ve missed the move are made aware.

The mid-season review for betting will be shorter than usual because I’ve covered much of it previously.

Normally, my season would involve a slow start, a strong end to the first half, a second half slump and a slight pick up at the end. This season has been weird. I had a great start, and a slump for almost all the rest of the first half of the season.

In addition, I’ve always made smaller bets (often early on), and not tipped them on the basis of either buyer’s remorse, lack of liquidity or because I’m trying something new and cunning. Typically, these have made me losses, but this season I’ve had two winners at 8 (Rosberg to win Monaco and Lotus to top score in Germany).

In short, this is Bizarro-season.

However, I think I’ve identified some of the reasons I’ve been screwing up. Ironically, my assessment of pace before the first qualifying occurred was actually spot on, but since then it’s strayed. I was too slow to recognise the Mercedes-Red Bull hegemony in qualifying and to realise that Ferrari and Lotus were drifting back on race pace.

It’s also important to consider that the first half of the season may be of less use than usual for predicting the second half, perhaps excepting Germany. That’s because the tyres are going to change in-season for safety reasons, and the practice of swapping rear tyres has been banned. This appears to have returned Mercedes to their tyre-chewing ways (and Mercedes alone will lack the opportunity to test the new tyres before Hungary) and has also hampered Force India. Ferrari’s pace seems somewhat diminished, whereas Lotus is both fast and kind on its tyres. Red Bull probably remains top dog overall.

Hopefully the season will continue its Bizarro form, and instead of a latter-season slump I’ll enjoy some great success. At the moment the results are red for both hedged and non-hedged, although the hedged loss is less than half the non-hedged loss.

The racing review will be up after the Young Driver Test, which may afford an opportunity to assess the tyres and their impact upon the forthcoming races.

Morris Dancer

Monday, 8 July 2013

Germany: post-race analysis



A day late, but thankfully not a dollar short. In terms of tips, I got my race one right, which was nice. Non-tipped bets (following one of Mr. Putney’s and a small sum at 8 on Lotus to top score) also both came off. So, the race was green, the record shows the weekend was red (by less than one stake) but my actual result was a solidly green weekend [although once again my Ladbrokes bets outshone the Betfair ones].

Special praise must go to Mr. Putney, who got a fantastic 5/6 bets right (engage smug mode: I did pick out the only one he’d get wrong and said I wouldn’t back it). For the record:
“Button - top 10 finish ............... WON
Vettel - outright win ................ WON
Grosjean - top 6 finish .............. WON
Webber - LAY Podium finish ........... WON
Safety Car Deployment ................ WON
Rosberg - podium finish .............. LOST”

A fantastic result, Mr. Putney.

Anyway, to the race mini-report:

The start was unusual because Hamilton had a slightly slow start, both Red Bulls far better, and Vettel ended up first after lap 1. Alonso also had a uncharacteristically poor start and I think Rosberg managed to go backwards as well. Massa and the McLarens had a nice start.

Early on it became apparent that the Mercedes abused the tyres rather horrendously, and so began Hamilton’s slow regression down the field. Massa’s gearbox went on strike and caused him to spin out, making him the first of very few retirements.

At the first round of pit stops Webber, unusually for Red Bull, had a serious problem. His right rear tyre was not attached and came off very shortly after he left the box (prior to leaving the pit lane). It bounced and rolled at speed and struck a cameraman, who I believe is ok. Red Bull were able to get Webber back into the pits but he emerged last and more than a minute behind the second-to-last car.

At the front a strange and mysterious thing was happening. Grosjean was not only first, he was fast, and his soft tyres were lasting a long time (longer than Alonso’s medium tyres, I think). This put him in genuine contention for the race victory.

Jules Bianchi had a rather poor race. His Marussia burst into flames, which is hardly his fault, but he leapt out so quickly the unmanned car began rolling backwards, across the track. The safety car was deployed, which was understandable, but by the time it came out the car had rolled all the way across the track and back off of it again.

The safety car, as well as being financially helpful, meant that Vettel’s slight lead over Grosjean and Raikkonen was reduced. It also meant that Webber could close right up on the field.

In the latter stages Grosjean pitted, forcing Vettel, a second or two ahead, to do likewise. But Raikkonen didn’t. He was on the medium tyres and for a while it looked like he’d try to do an enormous stint on them. Alonso also pitted, necessary because he had yet to use the soft compound, and on that lap Raikkonen, slightly surprisingly, came in for some soft tyres of his own.

This put Vettel first, Grosjean a second or two behind and Raikkonen right behind him. Alonso was very close behind Raikkonen too.

Lotus wisely told Grosjean to let Raikkonen through, and the Finn closed the gap with few laps remaining. Vettel was only in DRS range on the final lap and ended up winning his home race, for the first time, by a second. Grosjean held on for a very strong third and Alonso got fourth.

Further down the field Hamilton had managed to pass some cars late on and finished fifth, with Button a relatively strong sixth. McLaren’s pace seems to have improved somewhat this weekend. Webber rose to seventh, passing Perez, eighth, on the final lap. Rosberg could manage only ninth, and Hulkenberg did well to get tenth with the struggling Sauber.

After Germany, here are the Drivers’ standings:
Vettel 157
Alonso 123
Raikkonen 116

A 34 point lead is hefty, but not unassailable. For someone to beat Vettel he may need one or two DNFs or for a sea-change in the performance of his car or those of his rivals. He’s a clear favourite, but the season is not over yet. Indeed, the tyres are likely to significantly change for the Hungarian Grand Prix in three weeks’ time, which could shuffle the pecking order. The field is close enough that a few tenths here or there could make all the difference.

In the Constructor’ here are the standings:
Red Bull 250
Mercedes 183
Ferrari 180
Lotus 157

I think Red Bull are near certain of this title. Ferrari right now seem better than Mercedes, but we’ll need to see how the new tyre changes things. Lotus are probably too far back to hope to win, but they could yet overhaul Ferrari and Mercedes if Grosjean starts performing like he did yesterday on a regular basis.

It was a nice, exciting, and profitable race. Huzzah!

I’ll do my mid-season reviews (betting and racing) shortly. I’ll put them up on both this blog and pb2, so that people who visited pb2 but missed the arrival of this blog are made aware of its existence.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Germany: pre-race



Well, in betting terms that could not have gone any worse. Exciting qualifying session, but both my bets look rather moronic.

The first session of qualifying saw the usual pointless teams depart, and so did both Williams. Not the best way to celebrate their 600th race.

In Q2 Mercedes made a serious cock-up. By leaving Rosberg in the pits the faster track meant everyone else posted better times and Rosberg was unable to respond and got shunted out in 11th. As one of the men likeliest to get pole that is a shocking error of judgement by the Silver Arrows. Toro Rosso, Sauber and McLaren had a mixed result, with Vergne 16th, Gutierrez 14th, Perez 13th. Force India had a poor (for this year) result with Di Resta 12th and Sutil 15th.

The third session saw several drivers, including the Ferraris and Button, opt for a cunning plan. The soft tyre degrades after about 8-10 laps, but the medium is a second a lap slower. So, the above drivers went for the medium in Q3, hoping the loss in qualifying pace would be offset by the advantage in race strategy.

Annoyingly, Vettel was just a tenth behind Hamilton, who got pole. Although the Vettel-pole bet didn’t come off it was at least reasonable, whereas Hamilton, who went from constant complaining and seventh in P3 to pole position, to finish outside the top 3 looks rather silly. Webber got third.

Interestingly Raikkonen and Grosjean got fourth and fifth, rather better than Lotus often do, and the Lotus looks rather competitive. It’ll be intriguing to see how their pace in the race matches up to those who start ahead of them on the grid.

Ricciardo continued to help his efforts to get Webber’s seat with sixth, and was followed by Massa, Alonso, Button and Hulkenberg.

Must admit to being rather dismayed by the betting. My judgement was severely lacking, and not for the first time this season.

The track is not the easiest to overtake on, so changes in position may largely be due to strategy. It’s not entirely clear, but 3 or 4 of the last races held at the circuit (Nurburgring) have seen safety cars appear.

I was tempted by Rosberg to be top 6, but the odds of 1.74 are not good enough. We can’t be sure how tyre degradation, higher temperatures and so forth will affect the Mercedes, and even if he gets the jump on Button, Hulkenberg and (more difficult) the Ferraris this is a little too uncertain for less than evens.

I’ve backed Raikkonen at 2.42 for a podium, hedged at 1.1 (very short hedge odds but that’s just in case tyres or similar reliability issues arise). He starts fourth, he’s got the record (and still going) for consecutive points finishes and he’s one of the very best drivers on the grid. Plus, he’s right behind Webber, who tends to start poorly.

Another intriguing bet is Lotus to top score at 8 (Ladbrokes). Mercedes may struggle to do this due to Rosberg’s low starting position, which means the top scoring team is probably between Red Bull, Lotus and Ferrari.

Ferrari need their strategic gamble to qualify on medium tyres to pay off. I forget which race this happened, but earlier in the season Red Bull tried a similar ploy, and it really didn’t work. Red Bull are deservedly favourites for this market, but Lotus are right behind them and Webber typically starts badly (there’s also a minor chance of reliability affecting things, as per Vettel’s retirement from Silverstone).

If both Lotuses passed Webber off the line (very possible) that’d make it Hamilton 25, Vettel 18, Raikkonen 15, Grosjean 12 and Webber 10. That’d still give Red Bull the edge, but only by a single point. Given my poor record both this season and this weekend, I’m not tipping the bet, but I have put a few pounds on Lotus to top score at 8. I do not think it the likeliest result, but I do think they have a solid chance and are being underestimated.

So, just one tip: Raikkonen for a podium at 2.42, hedged at 1.1.

Morris Dancer

Germany: pre-qualifying



Much work has been done on the tyres, so credit to Pirelli given the short time window they had to play with. Drivers had threatened to boycott the German Grand Prix but the action (assuming it works) appears to have prevented such a PR catastrophe.

The tyres are medium and soft.

I only caught the back end of P1. Hamilton was fastest, followed by Rosberg, Webber, Sutil, Raikkonen, Massa, Button, Vettel, Grosjean and Perez. The Silver Arrows were a second ahead of the competition. I suspect some of that may be fuel, but unless the other teams had a fat passenger in their cars that’s ominous for the others.

In P2 Vettel was fastest, followed by Rosberg, Webber, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Alonso, Massa, Hamilton, Button and Di Resta.

An interesting comment was made by Rosberg about the new tyres. He reckons that although Mercedes isn’t helped by default, if the team can understand them more rapidly than others then that could make a few tenths of a second difference, enough to really help them. The same, of course, is true of other teams, so the tyres could slightly alter the pecking order. In addition, the tyres are apparently going to be significantly altered after this weekend, when Pirelli have rather more time for development.

McNish reckoned that higher temperature were better for Ferrari and especially the Lotus. Anderson reckoned the tyre change would help some teams including Ferrari and Lotus.

During P3 Hamilton was warned to be wary of the kerb on turn 4 because of damage, which the commentators speculated referred to damage to the kerb itself rather than a risk of a repeat of Silverstone tyre-shredding. Hamilton later said (in a depressed voice) that he could not drive the car anymore it was so bad. Interestingly, Pastor Maldonado also said he could not drive the car. Pit stops costs about 17 seconds, which is not too bad, and the softer tyre is a second or so faster, but degrades around lap 8-10.

P3 had Vettel fastest by a sizeable margin, followed by Rosberg, Webber and then Alonso and Massa. Raikkonen was next, then Hamilton was a lacklustre seventh, Grosjean eighth, then Hulkenberg and Sutil.

Because Vettel put in not one but two laps half a second ahead of Rosberg I think he’s adapted best to the new tyres and have backed him, without a hedge, at 2.03 for pole (Betfair).

I’ve also laid Hamilton at 1.64 to be in the top 3 of qualifying, hedged at 5 (in this case, of course, a hedge is a back rather than a lay). My reasoning is that he complained numerous times about serious problems driving the car during P3, his time was some way off his team mate and he was behind Raikkonen and both Ferraris. Even if he improves both Red Bulls and Rosberg could beat him.

For reasons which are annoying and beyond my control I may well be unable to listen to qualifying live. Assuming that’s the case, I might well leave it and watch the highlights, and then make the pre-race post.

Morris Dancer

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Germany: early discussion



Despite financial difficulties at one of the two German host circuits (I forget if it’s this one or Hockenheim, with which the Nurburgring alternates) we’re back to the Nurburgring this year. It seems mad to me that events like the Belgian or German Grand Prix can be in jeopardy due to financial reasons but tedious Monaco doesn’t even pay a race fee.

Anyway, there are a few big issues to discuss ahead of P1. Before we get to the problems men face when rubber bursts just as they’re getting into things, let’s talk Vettel.

Specifically, two weird stats. He’s never won the German Grand Prix. He’s never won a race in July. Even in his ultra-dominant 2011 season he only managed fourth at the Nurburgring. That’s something well worth keeping in mind when it comes to race betting. I also think that Mercedes could be set pretty fair. They’re the best qualifying team on the grid and showed very good race pace in Britain. I suspect Hamilton would’ve won the race, had he and Vettel not suffered car problems.

Speaking of Hamilton, he’s broken up with his long term girlfriend, Nicole Scherzinger. The last time the couple had some issues (late 2011) Hamilton’s on-track form disintegrated. Hopefully that won’t happen this time.

And, as McLaren have decided trying to make their dog of a car any better this year is nigh on impossible, they’ve already shifted focus to the 2014 car (though they’ll continue to develop the 2013 one in ways that can be transferred to next year’s car).

So, tyres. Pirelli will now actually get to do some testing, and have race drivers do it (at the Young Driver Test). There may also be other tests before that, but there’s just not enough time to do any before Germany. At this stage it’s unclear precisely what they’ll do for the Nurburgring. Changes to the tyre are likely to make it harder (if any changes of soft/hardness occur), which would help Red Bull and Mercedes.

We could see a return to 2012 tyres or the updated 2013 tyres which some teams vetoed (those teams have since said that they would not oppose the tyre change on safety grounds).

Early forecasts are for the race weekend to be dry.

As always, your comments, insights, tips, witticisms and haikus are welcome.

Morris Dancer