Sunday, 22 September 2013

Singapore: post-race analysis



Rosberg got the lead before the first corner, but quick thinking enabled Vettel to almost immediately take it back.

Boringly, Vettel made a sizeable gap with relative ease, followed by Rosberg and then Alonso, who had a great start.

For a while Button, Hulkenberg, Perez and Raikkonen were 8-12, but, for reasons that radio coverage did not make apparent, Hulkenberg slipped down to around 14th. After others had made their first stop, and he had not, Di Resta was up to 3rd, which is rather impressive.

Must say that 23 laps or so in the race was not the most exciting.

About halfway through the safety car was deployed after Ricciardo crashed into the barriers. This cut the sizeable gaps between Vettel (leading), Rosberg and Alonso.

Just about everybody ended up pitting, which slightly surprised me, as the safety car was some laps after the first pit stop, and probably too early for a two stop strategy. Some cars (Button, I think) got really held up in the pits because it was so busy. Vettel, Rosberg, Webber and Hamilton (the leading four after the stops) all stayed out, as did Di Resta.

[You can tell the race is not great when the interruptions for football aren’t really annoying].

After the restart James Allen asserted this was arguably the most charismatic race in F1. Strange, especially given he sounded sober.

After the first lap after the restart Vettel was 3.2s ahead of Rosberg (in 2nd). Huzzah for the 2014 regulation changes. I really don’t see why everyone except Di Resta and the top 4 went for 2 stops. 3 were slightly faster, in theory, but only if there’s no safety car. Given there’s been at least one appearance of it at every race that seems a stupid approach to take.

Incidentally, earlier (mid-teen lap, I think) Perez was being a bit of a tosser, forced Hulkenberg (then ahead) off the track to avoid a collision, and then Hulkenberg had to yield the place (which confused and annoyed him). That’s why the German was behind the Mexican dodgems’ star.

On lap 39 Vettel had a 20 second lead.

At the second stops Webber pitted first to undercut and pass Rosberg.

With about 15 laps or so left Hulkenberg and Gutierrez were 6-7, (Perez ahead), on a two stop strategy, with three stopping Webber, Rosberg and Hamilton behind. They got past Gutierrez pretty easily with 12 laps or so left.

Vettel got warned about brake vibrations with circa 20 laps left, and again with 9 to go. His engineer said that they’d focus on that.

In the closing stages Raikkonen was immediately behind Button (3rd), and Webber was told he was just 8s off a podium (Webber being 7th behind Hulkenberg, Perez, Raikkonen and Button).

Merde. With just a few laps to go Webber passed Hulkenberg for 6th. Raikkonen passed Button more or less at the same time.

Hulkenberg radioed late on to tell his engineer he would be better off letting others past or he’d ‘be dead’ (due to massive tyre wear). Disappointing for him. Di Resta crashed with a few laps to go.

Webber suffered some sort of reliability failure on the final lap, and had to retire after fire erupted from the engine.

So, Vettel won, strategic cunning got Alonso 2nd and Raikkonen did well to climb to 3rd, especially given his back pain. Rosberg, after spending all but the final third of the race in second place, was 4th, with Hamilton 5th. Massa got 6th, with Button 7th, then came Perez, Hulkenberg and Sutil.

Pretty good showing for Alonso and Raikkonen given where they started. Mercedes will be the most gutted today. They were on for one, maybe two, podium places for much of the race but lost out on the undercut to Webber and their strategy proved inferior to that of Ferrari.

I’d need to watch the Perez-Hulkenberg moment, but given Perez’s other events this year (the Monaco one prompting Raikkonen to suggest someone needs to punch the Mexican in the face) I’m inclined to believe Hulkenberg’s right to feel aggrieved.

Not a Singapore fan, and this race sums up why.

It’s a fortnight to Korea (perhaps for the final time), and a week after that we’ll be in Japan.

The hedge on Gutierrez was not matched, but it was on Hulkenberg, so that was essentially flat (NB that counts as green). So, a bit of a nothing weekend, but given the 3.5 (which disappeared) on Grosjean to be top 3 in qualifying would’ve been right I feel a bit more at ease. Disappointed Hulkenberg couldn’t hold on for a top 6 place (even half a stake at 9.4 would’ve been nice) but that’s why I hedge bets.

Morris Dancer

Singapore: pre-race



Apologies for the slight delay to this article. It wasn’t planned to be later than usual.

Although Vettel got a rather boring pole there was more of interest than expected in Q3, and the grid is nicely setup. It’s worth considering that there’s a very small run (the shortest in F1, I think) to the first corner, which may hinder Alonso and other quick starters.

Q1 was a standard affair, with the pointless teams joined by Di Resta (who it seems is making a habit of this) and Maldonado. Di Resta, unusually, didn’t blame his team. I suspect this is because the driver market is in full swing and now is not the time to whine.

Q2 had an exciting climax, as the track rubbered in and got substantially faster (a factor we’d see heavily affect the end of Q3 as well). Raikkonen, injured with a bad back, left the stage here, and Hulkenberg was nudged down into eleventh when his teammate surprisingly got the seventh fastest time. Vergne, Perez, Sutil and Bottas also failed to make Q3.

Vettel had such an advantage (six tenths) in Q3 he didn’t bother doing a final run. The decision nearly backfired, as Rosberg got within a tenth of a second, but it wasn’t quite enough and we have a Teutonic front row. Grosjean had a fantastic (and slightly surprising given Q2 times) third, and Webber got a slightly disappointing fourth. Hamilton will be irked with fifth, not only because it’s a bit low but also because his team mate has looked better than him all weekend (reminiscent of Monaco, another very slow street circuit). Massa and Alonso come next, with Button, Ricciardo and Gutierrez (who did not set a time) rounding out the top 10.

There are small margins between the top 5, but the cumulative effect is to put Hamilton half a second off of Vettel. There’s also half a second from Hamilton to Massa (in short: the Ferraris are a second off the Red Bull).

Singapore is a circuit where passing is very hard, and safety cars are nigh on certain (7 in 5 races, with at least 1 appearance every race to date). There appears to be very little chance of rain.

The near certain safety car’s a bit of an odd one. Everyone knows it’s likely, so they’ll all have contingency plans, but you can’t hold off pitting forever and it seems likely one or more drivers will end up being compromised by its appearance. It’s also worth considering that the race is very long and that cars could break. We’ve seen Red Bull nurse gearboxes home and Rosberg’s suffered multiple DNFs due to his car breaking down earlier in the season.

I had an inkling of something and checked the last three races at the circuit. In two of the last three the chap starting 10th finished 6th or higher. I was unsure about backing Gutierrez or Hulkenberg (the former starts one place ahead, but on the ‘dirty’ side of the track) so I’ve backed both, splitting one stake evenly (so it counts as a single tip for my records). I’ve backed Gutierrez at 14 and Hulkenberg at 9.4, with hedges set up at 3 and 4 respectively. Both are able to use the medium (prime) tyre, and Gutierrez is all but certain to do so (he set no Q3 time). Plus, their pace is good enough not to be passed with ease, and with 29 seconds for a pit stop and traffic being hellish if an early one is needed (and potentially reliability issues for cars ahead) I think there’s a reasonable chance of one of them getting into the top 6.

Hopefully this’ll prove a cunning bet, rather than sleep-addled idiocy. Time will tell.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Singapore: pre-qualifying



The tyres will be supersoft and medium, and with the heat it’s possible that Lotus, being softer on tyres, will benefit (a pit stop is a very long 29 seconds, putting a premium on fewer stops). Cheers to https://twitter.com/theWPTformula for that thought.

However, there’s some very surprising news to discuss first. Namely that McLaren apparently want Alonso next year (replacing Perez). Alonso is contracted to Ferrari, but F1 contracts are like the rules of piracy; they’re more like guidelines than actual rules. It would be quite astonishing if next season saw Raikkonen rejoin Ferrari *and* Alonso leave that team to rejoin McLaren. I wonder if Perez would jump to Ferrari, or if Massa might get a reprieve. Hulkenberg and Di Resta haven’t signed anything yet either (Hulkenberg is thought likely to go to Lotus).


Since the story first broke it’s emerged that (at the time of writing, anyway) Whitmarsh isn’t actually speaking to Alonso. It’s still possible, but not a likelihood, right now.

P1 had Hamilton fastest, followed by Webber and Vettel. Rosberg was next, then Raikkonen, Grosjean, Alonso, Perez, Vergne and Gutierrez.

In P2 Vettel and Webber led the way, followed by Rosberg and Hamilton. Grosjean, Alonso and Button came next, with Raikkonen, Sutil and Perez rounding out the top 10.

At this stage it looks like Red Bull will, alas, retain their dominance, with Mercedes, Alonso and Grosjean behind them. McLaren look reasonably competitive without setting the world alight.

P3, rather predictably, had Vettel fastest, followed by Grosjean. Rosberg, Webber and Hamilton came next, followed by Alonso, Perez, Hulkenberg, Button and Massa.

Sadly I missed the qualifying simulation runs at the end of P3, so it’s hard to say if traffic played a role in any of the times.

Vettel’s only close rival was Grosjean, who was just two-tenths off. Then there’s about half a second to Rosberg et al. Rosberg, Webber and Hamilton have pretty close times, then there’s a gap to Alonso.

Barring rain (presently forecast as being very unlikely) or accident it’s hard to see anyone stopping Vettel getting pole. However, his odds are just 1.5, and given the serious possibility of a small touch on a wall costing time and my own dislike for such short odds I’ve decided not to bet on qualifying.

I was tempted by Hulkenberg to reach Q3 and Grosjean to be in the top 3, but Hulkenberg’s odds of evens are too short, and the 3.5 available for Grosjean disappeared, alas.

Anyway, let’s hope Vettel has a reliability issue. It’ll make the race and qualifying more interesting.

Morris Dancer

Monday, 16 September 2013

Singapore: early discussion



So, the big news is that Massa has left Ferrari and Raikkonen has returned to his old team. The move seems odd to me in several ways.

For a start, Ferrari has operated a number one driver system (whereby one driver is clearly the team leader to maximise the opportunity for winning the Drivers’ title) for as long as I can remember. Raikkonen is not a number two driver (he, along with Alonso, is one of the best drivers on the grid).

The contract is for a single year, with an option to extend it to 2015. Now, that could be so that any problems with Alonso can be axed after a single season, but why bother? Why not take on Hulkenberg or Di Resta, have them be a solid number two to Alonso, and when the Spaniard retires there’ll be a smoother transition. Besides which, even if it works out between Alonso and Raikkonen, they’ll retire at about the same time. Much easier to have a driver stay on when the number one leaves, I feel.

In 2012 there was much murmuring of a replacement for Massa which never came about. However, during it the claim was made and never refuted that Alonso had a veto over any potential team mate, which has clearly been removed since.

There’s a lengthy and interesting rundown of the history and possible future of the two chaps here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/formula1/24048992

In it, Eddie Jordan, who predicted Hamilton going to Mercedes, prophesies that Alonso will end up going to McLaren (presumably in 2015). A little bird has whispered similar things to me.

Looking ahead to 2014, there are some reports that the Mercedes engine will have an advantage, perhaps as much as 100bhp, over its rivals. That’s a hefty difference. It has long been thought that Mercedes would benefit most from regulation changes (especially regarding the engine), but, if there is an advantage, it remains to be seen just how large it is. It’s also worth recalling that in 2014 (I think) McLaren will still use the Mercedes engine, but will shift to Honda in 2015.

Aaaanyway.

Leaving aside next year, the forthcoming race will probably still see the top three teams tussling at the sharp end. On race day I expect the Red Bulls to retain their significant advantage. However, Singapore, being a rubbish processional street circuit, is hard to overtake on and Mercedes are pretty sharp in qualifying. Plus, Alonso has starts like Speedy Gonzales. If Vettel’s behind a few cars after the end of lap 1 then he may have a hard time cutting his way through the field. Reliability aside, that’s the likeliest way we’ll end up with a race that isn’t a tedious Vettel win.

I was pondering the odds on Mercedes to top score (I’d want something fairly long) with Ladbrokes but the slackers haven’t put the odds up yet. They did put the 2014 title odds up, but they were very tight-fisted.

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

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Italy: post-race analysis



Irony: getting a tip right (and even a green weekend) on the first race for ages you barely watch. First profitable weekend since Silverstone, and although (discounting the non-tipped Grosjean lay) the profit margin’s only 10% of one stake, I won’t complain. As Kermit the Frog once said, it’s not easy being green.

Been a shade off-colour/sleepy today. Nothing serious but I couldn’t really give the race my attention. However, both Red Bulls got on the podium, so that’s rather splendid.

Hulkenberg did well to retain fifth, ahead of Rosberg’s Mercedes. The Sauber driver is certainly doing his career prospects no harm at all with a performance like that, after a very solid qualifying. If/when the driver markets come up I might back him for the Ferrari seat, contingent upon the odds.

Ricciardo had a solid seventh, one place down on his starting slot, and Grosjean rose slightly from thirteenth to eighth.

Mercedes had a lacklustre result, with Rosberg sixth and Hamilton suffering radio breakdown and a slow puncture and managing only ninth. As a result Ferrari have narrowly moved into second in the Constructors’, but Red Bull are miles ahead.

Red Bull were the fastest yet again today, but Ferrari were pretty close. It was also surprising and impressive that Hulkenberg’s Sauber only slipped from third to fifth, and that happened before the first corner.

Force India had a terrible race. Di Resta failed to finish lap 1, and Sutil managed a feeble sixteenth.

On a sidenote I very much enjoyed the Predator-vision thermal camera, which showed nicely the temperature differences on tyres during the course of a lap.

The betting problem is largely due to qualifying. I’ve just had a quick look through and it seems that I’m mostly right when betting on pole, and mostly wrong when not. So, maybe the answer is to bet on pole position and nothing else.

Drivers:
Vettel 222
Alonso 169
Hamilton 141
Raikkonen 134

Well, it seems Vettel is destined for another title. Annoyingly, Alonso also seems likely to get a top 3 finish. I laid such a possibility when Ferrari seemed to have dropped off the pace, since when he’s had consecutive podium finishes. The cad.

Constructors:
Red Bull 352
Ferrari 248
Mercedes 245

Red Bull would need to break both of Vettel’s legs to somehow fail to get both titles. I expect Mercedes to beat Ferrari, though. Rosberg and Hamilton had a slightly poor qualifying at Monza, and they’ll probably be very competitive in Singapore (the Mercedes is better at such circuits, I believe).

The next race is in Singapore, in a fortnight.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Italy: pre-race



Well, that qualifying session was unpredictable, entertaining and, at times, dramatic. It was also yet another red tip, which is irksome. I’ll explain what surprised me (and what didn’t) below.

Q1 was pretty much standard fare. The four pointless cars went out, and Gutierrez and Bottas both failed to escape into Q2.

Q2 was as tight as I’d expected, but I got a few things wrong. For a start, Maldonado never seemed to have a realistic prospect of reaching Q3. I was also slightly surprised both Lotuses failed to make the top 10 (I’d taken the few pounds available for Grosjean to not make it at 1.4 so overall my qualifying result was flat, but I’m a bit irked with myself for not tipping it at 1.75). It was also very surprising that Hamilton’s run of pole positions came to an end with twelfth. One suspects he must’ve damaged the car when he went rallying at the Parabolica. Force India also had a bad performance, both cars leaving the stage in Q2 (I reckon Sutil’s impeding of Hamilton, who strongly blamed himself, will lead to a penalty).

Q3 was a bit weird. Not Vettel easily getting pole, but Hulkenberg storming to third. Even last year when the Sauber was pretty racy they never managed such a feat (though Perez did rise from twelfth to second). Ferrari buggered up their towing tactic, which saw Massa fourth and Alonso both fifth and irate on the radio (apparently telling the team they were all idiots). Toro Rosso had a great day to get both cars into Q3, though Vergne’s off-road rally action meant he could only get tenth, with Ricciardo (Italian for ‘always smiling’) nabbing seventh. Perez and Button were eighth and ninth respectively, which is a nice solid result for McLaren.

Sadly, I think Vettel’s just going to drive off into the sunset, and will spend most of the race all by himself. The Red Bull was fastest in qualifying and looked very strong on heavy fuel runs too. I have nothing against Vettel, but a new champion would be refreshing.

It’ll be interesting to see how Hulkenberg can do. I rate the German very highly, and if Ferrari weren’t thinking of him as a replacement for Massa before they certainly will be thinking of it now. His car will not be fast enough on race pace to match the likes of Alonso, but if it rains (more on that below) then it’s worth considering he’s extremely good in such wet-dry changeable conditions (cf his 2010 Interlagos pole position and the 2012 Interlagos race, where he was vying to win for Force India prior to a small collision with Hamilton).

Hamilton, speaking to lovely Lee McKenzie, entirely blamed himself for driving too badly. I do think it’s good when drivers take responsibility and don’t just blame the team *cough*DiResta*cough* but this was too far. It sounded like he was being too hard on himself, and I wonder if, psychologically, he’ll be there tomorrow. Then again, when his girlfriend broke up with him it prompted his first race win with Mercedes.

Alonso, however, did no media interviews (apparently). That after shouting at the team (reportedly calling them idiots, my Italian is non-existent so I cannot confirm or deny that).

Currently (as of 4pm UK time) the weather forecasts are that rain is unlikely, but possible, during the race.

The Red Bull looks very good indeed. So, boringly, I’ve backed them at 2.1 with Ladbrokes to both get a podium. Whilst a big Hulkenberg fan I don’t think his Sauber will have the pace to go much further and will probably drift backwards, and whilst Alonso could beat Webber, the Aussie will be glad to know that Hamilton and Raikkonen are some way down the field. Degradation is low, as is the difference between medium and hard compounds, and with one stop expected (barring rain) there’s limited scope for strategic shenanigans.

My suspicion is that Vettel will just drive off, and Webber will comfortably be on the podium. It’ll be interesting to see how Hulkenberg does. I was tempted to back him for a podium (10 or so on Betfair) as he did get the third on the grid in the dry (unlike Bottas at Canada or himself at Interlagos 2010). Fisichella had a similarly unexpectedly good qualifying at Spa for Force India a while ago, and competed for the win, so I might put a pound or two on Hulkenberg.

So, one tip: Red Bull to both get a podium at 2.1 with Ladbrokes.

Morris Dancer

Italy: pre-qualifying



As mentioned before, the tyres for this weekend are medium and hard

In P1 Hamilton topped the timesheets, ahead of Alonso, Rosberg and Vettel. Raikkonen was fifth, followed by Perez, Button, Webber, Maldonado and Vergne.

The times were pretty close together as is usual at Monza (as Gary Anderson said) because 70% of the lap is full throttle. In P1 commentary Alan McNish opined that Red Bull and Ferrari should be good around Monza. Di Resta and Anderson also reckoned that Force India should punch above their weight at the circuit.

P2 had Vettel fastest, followed by Webber. Raikkonen and Grosjean, with differing wheelbases, managed to set an identical time. Fifth was Alonso, then Hamilton, Rosberg, Massa, Button and Perez.

Vettel was half a second down the road in P2, but qualifying should be pretty close.

Lap times are about 0.4s faster on the medium compound, but the second lap can be faster than the first because a little bit less grip can increase speed on the many straights. It’s highly likely to be a one stop race, though a two stop is just 6-7s slower, so that’s not out of the question. Last year Perez started on the prime then switched to the option and rose from 12th to 2nd. I think there’s little chance of such a dramatic rise this year (sadly the teams in the midfield aren’t as competitive as they were in 2012) but a smaller improvement is possible, perhaps most likely for Force India.

On the long runs Vettel was about 0.5-1s faster than Alonso, but we don’t know the fuel loads or how much the wick was turned up on the engines (they’ll be slotting fresh ones in for tomorrow, I believe). Unexpectedly, Vettel seemed a bit unhappy, according to a tweet from the delightful Sarah Holt: “Oddly Vettel is not super happy after day one: "I would be lying to you if I said this was a disaster but as I said this was only a Friday."”

Vettel was fastest in P3, some three-tenths or so ahead of Alonso, whose Prancing Horse was galloping a little bit faster than yesterday. Webber and Hamilton were very close behind in third and fourth, followed by Perez, Ricciardo, Massa, Button, Maldonado and Raikkonen.

I suspect that we’ll end up with another Vettel-Hamilton duel for pole, but the battle to reach Q3 should be tight. Grosjean was complaining about lack of grip, and McNish observed that the Force India (which Di Resta crashed, probably due to something breaking) looked unstable. Rosberg suffered a gearbox problem which meant he never got to do qualifying simulation. I still expect he’ll easily make Q3, but it’ll be trickier for him to compete for pole.

There’s a low chance of rain, with a thunderstorm possible after the qualifying session is over. However, forecasts are not infallible, so we may see some rain. In addition, the second or even third lap on medium tyres can be the fastest.

The pole fight seems to be a Vettel-Hamilton duel, and the top 10 betting seemed more interesting to me. I was interested in Grosjean’s lay odds, but 1.75 is too long. Instead, I’ve backed Maldonado to reach Q3 at 3. He was inside the top 10 in both P1 and P3. It’s very close between him and about three others, and I think it’s 50/50 as to whether he’ll make it. I’ve hedged the bet at 1.5.

Morris Dancer

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Italy: early discussion



Apologies for this thread being a bit late (normally I try and put them up on Monday/Tuesday). Shockingly, this is because I was so busy concentrating on doing some actual work that I forgot.

Ahem.

The tyre compounds for Monza will be medium and hard, the same combination we saw at Spa. The tyres played relatively little role in differentiating the teams there.

Monza’s a very high speed circuit, with minimal downforce (teams with money often have a Monza-specific setup/rear wing). It’s comparable to Canada, or Spa if you go for the low downforce setup (you can go either way in Belgium due to the contrasting sector types). The circuit’s pretty much a collection of straights with tiny kinks masquerading as corners.

Traditionally, it hasn’t been a Red Bull-friendly circuit, but it would be an error of judgement to write off the processional victors of Spa. We can’t go by last year (they suffered a rare double retirement), but in 2011 Vettel won and in 2010 he got on the podium.

In off-track news, Ricciardo has been confirmed as Vettel’s team mate for next year. This leads me to think that Raikkonen said no (or terms offered and desired were mutually exclusive), as Ricciardo was clearly super-enthusiastic for the deal and would’ve said yes at any time. Horner has emphasised that he will not be a number two driver, and that Ben Affleck has been universally welcomed as the new Batman.

Early forecasts indicate a small chance of rain over the weekend, so it’s worth keeping an eye on that (although qualifying and the race are likely to be dry).

Whilst qualifying was close (largely due to the elements) in Belgium there was a rock solid dry-running pecking order of Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton. That was pretty tedious to watch, alas, but I’d be surprised if it’s changed that much from then to now.

I’m also wondering if I should offer my tennis tips here/on Twitter as well. They’d be very brief and rather haphazard (I bet only when I see value, as opposed to F1 where, so far at least, I try and bet each weekend).

If you have any insights, tips, questions, thoughts or cogitations do feel free to share them in the comments.

Morris Dancer