Sunday, 17 September 2017

Singapore: post-race analysis 2017

Quite the result, both for the title and in the old betting stakes. Must admit to being a little frustrated that three out of four contingencies occurred for the 67 bet and Palmer’s team mate had a reliability failure, but he finished in the points. Also a bit irked at myself I didn’t back Mr. Sandpit’s suggestions of laying Vettel for the win at 1.7, or backing Hamilton (20ish, I think). However, this was a green weekend for me and I can’t be displeased about that. Worth noting the further ‘silly’ Alonso win suggestion at well into three figures actually was very credible and, but for misfortune, could have come off. These things sometimes are possible (Verstappen 251 in Spain 2016 did come off, Perez 201 in Azerbaijan this year should’ve but for Force India civil war).

Congratulations also to Mr. M, whose bet on a Bottas podium at 7 also came off. I think everybody ended up green, which is a rare event indeed.

It had rained heavily earlier, and was still drizzling at the start. Thankfully there was no nappy-wearing safety car start. The top six were all on intermediates, behind them it was a mix of full wets and intermediates.

The story of the race was largely the story of the start. As I suggested, Vettel started laggardly, with Raikkonen having a flyer and Verstappen a good start. To cover Verstappen, Vettel moved left, but this led to a three-way crash. Raikkonen and Verstappen were immediately out, Vettel suffered damage that caused his car to leak fluid, which then made him spin and crash.

Alonso had had a stunningly good start and was close to the lead when he was caught in the aftermath of the crash. Whilst he was able to continue, it eventually forced him to retire. That was a great shame because, on pace, he could’ve been there. A podium was eminently possible, a win not out of the question. Damned bad luck.

After all that shook out the safety car emerged and we had Hamilton and Ricciardo leading the way, then Hulkenberg. However, a failure to pit promptly during another safety car period (there were many) dropped Hulkenberg down to about 5th, behind Bottas and Sainz. Just an error by Renault. Not only that, the German, who’s a skilled driver but now holds the record for most races (129) without a podium, then had a reliability failure and didn’t score anything at all.

The track took a very long time to dry, which was a bit perplexing as it wasn’t totally soaked to start with. The race was a procession illuminated by sudden spikes of failure and crashing. Ricciardo was once again the filling in a Mercedes sandwich (as per last year) with Hamilton flawless throughout. Sainz scored a career best 4th, Palmer likewise for 6th.

Perez was 5th, excellent for Force India after they looked a bit rubbish in qualifying and practice, with Ocon 10th. Vandoorne also got a career best 7th for McLaren, Stroll was 8th and Grosjean 9th.

There were eight retirements, an even mix of crashes and reliability failures. Massa and Wehrlein were the only men to finish without points.

I know my run-down of the race is concise (it’s shorter than I expected) but the excitement really was at the start, with occasional crashing (Kvyat and Ericsson) the other entertainment. Hulkenberg was extremely unlucky to be taken out of the top 3 by a strategy failure by his team, and then to DNF due to reliability crumbling. Alas, had it been Palmer, my 67 bet would’ve come off. But there we are.

It’s been confirmed, as expected, Perez is staying at Force India next year.

Hamilton 263
Vettel 235
Bottas 212

The first DNF for Vettel of the season means a maximum swing against him in the title race. Bottas is now closer to Vettel than Vettel is to Hamilton. Worse still for Ferrari, this was very much a strong circuit for them and a weak one for Mercedes. The title isn’t over, but this is a very, very good result for the Silver Arrows.

Mercedes 475
Ferrari 373
Red Bull 230
Force India 124
Williams 59
Toro Rosso 52
Renault 42
Haas 37
McLaren 17
Sauber 5

Getting even tastier in the battle for 5th. Williams may end up losing that to Renault, I think. Top four are pretty much sorted now.

We’re off to Malaysia in a fortnight. The other races are Japan, US, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Vettel must start hauling in Hamilton, or the title race is over. It’s still possible for him to turn it around, even without a Hamilton DNF, but it’s got to start soon.

Morris Dancer

Singapore: pre-race

Qualifying was really rather enthralling, and produced a grid that might just tilt the title. Contrary to my expectations after Q2, Vettel produced a pair of stunning laps to grab pole position. Even better for him, he had both Red Bulls and his team mate ahead of Hamilton.

No surprise that the Saubers were slowest in qualifying, and Williams had an unsurprisingly poor day, also exiting at the first opportunity. Magnussen was the fastest of those departing in Q1.

In Q2, both Force Indias failed to progress. Grosjean was slowest, with Palmer the fastest not to advance and Kvyat middle of the pack.

At this stage, I thought a Red Bull front row was looking quite likely, and Hamilton was looking roughly on par with Vettel. However, the German had other ideas and stuck his Ferrari on pole (fastest on the first run and then improved on the second to extend his advantage). Verstappen and Ricciardo were very close and lined up behind, with Raikkonen 4th. So Hamilton starts only 5th, some way off his title rival. Bottas was 6th, with Hulkenberg doing well to beat both McLarens.

Alonso and Vandoorne start 8th and 9th (their pace is good but a question mark must remain over their reliability), and Sainz wasn’t able to rise higher than 10th.

That’s a tasty grid for the title fight.

The weather forecast during the day is for heavy rain showers, although it should be clear at night. It’s worth noting we’ve never had a wet race at this circuit so it’s unclear how good or bad drainage is, how much standing water there would be, and how bad the floodlights on water would be for drivers.

My initial betting thoughts were roughly:
Ferrari top score [if this market is up...]
Hulkenberg top 6

Sadly, the top score market was missing from Ladbrokes again. A shame, as I rather liked it.

Hulkenberg is just 2.37 to be top 6. I think he has a good chance but that’s a bit tight as it essentially relies upon helpful safety car timing or a breakdown ahead.

At this stage I’m rather regretting not backing the Ladbrokes Exchange Special of a double Red Bull podium at 5, but that ship has sailed…

Anyway, having exhausted my rather small list of initial thoughts, I perused the markets and found:
Vettel win *and* Hamilton not to get a podium, 2.4, Betfair Sportsbook
Ricciardo podium *and* Kvyat, Palmer, Verstappen all not classified, 67, Betfair Sportsbook
Verstappen, not to be classified, 4, Ladbrokes
Verstappen/Ricciardo, to lead lap 1, 5/14, Betfair Exchange

A fair spread of bets. One advantage to having little time yesterday was seeing the #Oddsonthat market on Betfair Sportsbook, which I don’t think is up when I bet on Saturday evenings.

Vettel has a great record of converting poles to victories and the Singapore Grand Prix is historically won (about 7/9 or suchlike) from pole. I also think Hamilton will struggle to get a podium given he’s got fast Red Bulls and Raikkonen ahead of him. However, and it’s a big however, the Red Bulls are very tasty and that doesn’t make this a dead cert for Vettel by any stretch. I do think this is a better bet than just backing him for the win at 1.6 or suchlike, though.

Palmer has a 5/13 DNF rate [38%], Kvyat has 4 DNFs [31%], Verstappen has 6 [46%]. The odds on all having a DNF, just based on past figures (which are not necessarily a guide to the future), is about 5.5%, about one in 18. For the bet to come off, Ricciardo also needs a podium. He’d be helped by Verstappen failing, but does have a 3/13 DNF rate himself. That’s still a 4.1% chance, about one in 24. Although it’s risky, the numbers do actually stack up.

The Verstappen not to be classified bet is pretty straightforward. He has an almost 50% chance of not being classified, but odds of 4.

The Ferraris have been somewhat tardy off the line relative to their immediate rivals at some races. Not far to the first corner, but the Red Bulls will be hungry for the lead. Quite difficult to guess whether such a bet is worthwhile or not.

Processional races (Singapore, Monaco etc) can be difficult to bet on. In this case, I’ve decided to back Verstappen not to be classified at 4, and the slightly unexpected Ricciardo podium and Kvyat, Palmer and Verstappen not to be classified bet at 67. [As usual with my records I’ll note the theoretical P&L for £10 stakes, but in reality I’ll be putting less on the latter bet, not least because my Betfair account is anaemic these days].

Two tips:
Verstappen, not to be classified, 4 (Ladbrokes)
Ricciardo to get a podium, Verstappen, Kvyat and Palmer not to be classified, 67 (Betfair Sportsbook)

Let’s hope Ricciardo wins and there are at least three early retirements. This race could be very significant for the title.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Singapore: pre-qualifying 2017

Bottas has signed a new deal with Mercedes and will drive for them next year. Not too surprising, to be honest. After a slightly iffy start, he’s been driving very well. That said, it sounds like a one year deal which is a bit shorter than I’d expected.

In more surprising news, an engine rumour is making the rounds. But not the Toro Rosso-Honda/McLaren-Renault one. It seems Renault may ditch Red Bull at the end of 2018, forcing Red Bull to take on Honda engines. A season or two ago, Red Bull were whining excessively about Renault. The engine then was a bit lacklustre, but nothing like the horror show of Honda (which McLaren have been extremely patient about). With the Renault-McLaren deal apparently already signed, Red Bull might just regret not exercising their veto over Renault taking on McLaren and opting for Honda engines for Toro Rosso. Not only that, unless Honda narrow the performance gap swiftly, Ricciardo and Verstappen will be looking for new teams. [The confirmation of this came on Friday].

This may explain the surprisingly short deal for Bottas. Mercedes may have an eye on the Red Bull drivers. Speaking of which, Sainz has moved to Renault, displacing Palmer.

The Singapore circuit has extended its agreement to be on the calendar until 2021. Not unexpected.

I offered three early tips on PB (all each way): Verstappen to ‘win’ FP1 at 7, Verstappen and Ricciardo to win the race at 8.5 and 8 respectively. The each way aspect of the practice bet came off, mildly. [Ricciardo’s got lay odds just under 4 on the exchanges. Personally, I’m not hedging just yet, but thought I’d flag it up for those interested].

In first practice Ricciardo was a tenth ahead of Vettel, with Verstappen close behind. Hamilton was fourth but some way back, then came Perez, Bottas, Raikkonen, Alonso, Hulkenberg and Kvyat.

Second practice was even better for Red Bull, with Ricciardo top and over half a second ahead of his team mate. Hamilton was third, with a large gap back to Bottas. Hulkenberg, Vandoorne, Alonso, Perez, Raikkonen and Ocon rounded out the top 10. It’s worth noting Vettel was on a very competitive lap but got held up severely by a Sauber, so his absence from the top half of the time sheet is not representative of his pace.

Right now it’s looking rather good for Red Bull. I think Vettel will be ahead of Verstappen and behind Ricciardo, if all goes smoothly in qualifying. McLaren’s looking good too.

In third practice it was ultra-tight, with Verstappen fastest, then Vettel and Hamilton, but the gaps under a tenth each. Alonso and Vandoorne were next, but Ricciardo’s 6th was not representative of his pace and he should be right there in qualifying. Hulkenberg was next, ahead of Bottas and Raikkonen, with Perez 10th.

Ricciardo’s failure to clock a proper lap is interesting because he was the class of the field in earlier practice. Hard to say if he would’ve retained that advantage.

It’s looking like a four horse race for qualifying.

Elsewhere, Mr. Sandpit tipped Hamilton on Betfair for pole at 20, but this has collapsed, at the time of writing, to 9 (still might be worth a look).

There’s no tip that’s outstanding for me, so I’m not betting on qualifying (beyond a tiny sum I put on Hamilton at Mr. Sandpit’s suggestion, but that’s not my own tip and won’t count in the records). The 3.7 on Ricciardo for pole was quite tempting, but it’s a four horse race, so I decided against it.

Incidentally, it’s just one week until Sir Edric’s Kingdom comes out. Pre-order here:

Due to time constraints I’m not sure if the pre-race ramble will be up this evening or tomorrow morning.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Italy: post-race analysis 2017

The weekend bet just about came off, making it the first green weekend since Spain, which was quite some time ago. My general prediction about this being great for Mercedes (both team and engine) was correct. The early bets were only one for three, down just under two stakes. But you can’t have everything. I also had a small sum, not tipped but mentioned early elsewhere, on both Force India to double top 6 (didn’t happen) and all Mercedes-powered cars to score, which did. Only had a little on, but it was 11 (and I’m a bit miffed I didn’t specifically tip it, but there we are).

Off the line Ocon made up a place on Stroll, but Hamilton retained the lead. The biggest gainer was Verstappen who had leapt up to 8th or so by the end of the first lap. However, the Dutchman then got a puncture and had to pit very early. Later this required a second stop, ruling out his participation at the sharp end.

Bottas picked off Stroll and then Ocon, and from then on the Mercedes cruised around Monza, lazily increasing their lead until the end.

Ocon and Stroll were subsequently passed by the Ferraris and a rather racy Ricciardo, settling in at the lower end of the points, just ahead of Massa and Perez. The white and pink cars were very evenly matched, circulating in a convoy that became very tasty (and tense, if you had money on them) on the final lap. But all managed to finish without terminal drama.

Verstappen, given he had a very slow lap on a puncture to pit and an extra stop, did well to carve his way through the field and claim the final point. He might also be relieved to have actually finished a race.

No such relief for Alonso, who was greatly aggrieved at Palmer going off-road and staying ahead of him. The Briton got a 5s time penalty, which the Spaniard described as ‘a joke’, but subsequently had to retire. In less justified bitching, Magnussen whined persistently that Verstappen had forced him off track. Nothing of the sort happened. Magnussen was clearly behind and needlessly left the circuit, then blamed Verstappen over the radio with all the melodrama of Rivaldo clutching his face at the 2002 World Cup. Increasingly unimpressed with Magnussen’s attitude.

Ericsson and Vandoorne, who had Honda’s newest power unit, also retired. Apparently, an announcement on whether McLaren will stick with Honda or switch (probably to Renault) is likely on Monday or Tuesday.

A perfect day for Hamilton, getting the win with his team mate 2nd. Vettel grabbed the final podium spot but his pace was nowhere near Mercedes’ today, and he loses the title lead for the first time this year (he trails by 3 points). Ricciardo was 4th, and Raikkonen 5th. Ocon was 6th and Perez 9th for a good Force India result, and after some weak races Williams must be happy Stroll was 7th and Massa 8th. As mentioned above, Verstappen was 10th, .

I did predict this would be a great circuit for Mercedes. A little surprised how good the Red Bull was, though. For Singapore, the next race a fortnight away, Ricciardo and Verstappen might fancy the win.

Anyway, here are the driver standings:
Hamilton 238
Vettel 235
Bottas 197

Realistically, Bottas needs both great performances and both title rivals to drop a race to have a credible shot. He’s pretty much out of it now. The three points is a minuscule gap, and I expect Vettel to retake the lead in Singapore. If Mercedes, in a dry race, can beat the Ferrari without luck playing a role then Vettel’s got little chance of contesting the title.

Mercedes 435
Ferrari 373
Red Bull 212
Force India 113
Williams 55
Toro Rosso 40
Haas 35
Renault 34
McLaren 11
Sauber 5

Williams pulled away from their many rivals for 5th, but Singapore could be a good opportunity for Toro Rosso, Haas and Renault to score. McLaren must be even more hopeful, as the slow speeds minimise the impact of their power deficit whilst playing to the strengths of a good chassis.

From a title perspective, I expect Ferrari to beat Mercedes in Singapore. The big question is how fast will Red Bull be. They were damned tasty today and may fancy their chances of upsetting the Prancing Horse. If that happens, it’ll aid Mercedes a lot, but if Red Bull are between a winning Vettel and Hamilton, that’ll only widen the points advantage for Ferrari. Of course, I could be wrong, but that’s how I see things playing out at this stage.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Italy: pre-race 2017

Both Renaults also have penalties (along with the Red Bulls, Alonso and Sainz).

After initially going out in wet conditions, and kudos to the decision-makers for not taking the easy option of delaying, the first session of qualifying was red-flagged after Grosjean crashed, and we endured about two and a half hours of delay.

In the latter part of Q1 Raikkonen was released in an unsafe manner, almost hitting Perez, so he may get a penalty for that. Magnussen, Palmer, Ericsson, Wehrlein and the crashed Grosjean left at this stage.

In Q2 cars went out on a mix of intermediates and wets. Perez was the fastest to be eliminated, followed by Hulkenberg, Alonso, Kvyat, and Sainz. Stroll and Vandoorne both were impressive, and reached Q3 (Stroll being fifth fastest in Q2).

Rain intensified in Q3, and again a mix of full wets and intermediates were used. Hamilton, Bottas and Vettel went for intermediates. Everyone else went full wet. Those three soon regretted it and immediately switched for the full wets. A critical mistake? Not for the Silver Arrows, but the Ferraris were bizarrely slow (having been competitive in previous sessions with slightly lighter rain).

Hamilton hos his 69th pole (a new record) ahead of Verstappen and Ricciardo. Stroll and Ocon were next up, having done absolutely fantastic jobs in the wet (I’m very surprised the Williams was so good in the wet). Bottas and Raikkonen were next, and Vettel, who had looked competitive earlier, could only manage 8th. Massa and Vandoorne round out the top 10.

Remember, both Renaults, both Red Bulls, Alonso and Sainz all have hefty grid penalties. So, Stroll and Ocon will start 2nd and 3rd.

Tomorrow is meant to be dry. With that in mind, bets that seemed worth a look included:
Williams to double score
Perez top 6
Vettel podium

Williams are 3.5 to double score. They’ll be starting 2nd and 7th, with a DNF rate of just under 33% (7/24). Worth considering.

Weirdly, despite waiting quite some time, there was no top 6 market on Ladbrokes. On Betfair, Perez had odds of just 2.14, and 3 on Betfair Sportsbook. Hmm. Not quite long enough, probably about right.

Vettel is just 1.33 for a podium. He starts 6th. Whilst it’s likely, it’s a bit too short to tempt.

In time-honoured tradition I embarked upon a general perusal to see what else leapt out, if anything.
Ocon, lead lap 1, 15 (Betfair Sportsbook)
Stroll, lead lap 1, 11 (Ladbrokes)
Ocon, podium, 12 (Betfair Sportsbook)
Verstappen, not to be classified, 3.25 (Betfair Sportsbook)

Ocon has a very good starting record. It’s not long to turn 1, but I could see him making up ground. Stroll’s a little harder to assess, but the odds are quite long for cars starting 2nd and 3rd, and both are quick in a straight line. However, Hamilton has been starting well all year.

Bottas starts 4th and seems nigh on certain to acquire a podium, Vettel starts 6th. In races so far the Force India has been better than the Williams (it wasn’t in the wet, it must be said, but a dry track is a different animal). Also, the Force India is very reliable, with only the organic component in the cockpit proving occasionally unstable. Could Ocon hold off Vettel? A one-stop seems likely, offering a single undercut possibility if the deed can’t be done on track.

Verstappen has a 50% DNF rate. However, it’s worth noting this is all car reliability, he hasn’t been screwing up. But he’ll also start well down the field, increasing the chances of getting caught in lap 1 carnage.

Looking at all the bets above, the ones that appeal most are Williams to double score (they start 2nd and 7th) at 3.5, and Verstappen not to be classified at 3.25 [NB this was an early tip].

No rain is expected for the race, apparently. But the forecast for qualifying and practice was wrong a few days away, so take with a pinch of salt.

The bet that I like most is Williams to double score. Looking at Q2 (least wet session) and the first two practices, I think they have the pace to retain points.

Tip: Williams, double score, 3.5 (Ladbrokes).

Let’s hope the race is entertaining and profitable. And on time.

Morris Dancer

Italy: pre-qualifying 2017

I offered, somewhat tentatively given every bet I’ve offered recently has either been ill-judged or damned by the gods, three early tips. These were Verstappen not to be classified at 3.25 (Betfair Sportsbook), and Bottas to ‘win’ qualifying at 6 each way, and to ‘win’ FP1 at 7.5 each way (the latter two are both Ladbrokes). My reasoning was pretty straightforward. For Verstappen, he has a 50% DNF rate. For Bottas, I believe (although others disagree) that Monza should be great for Mercedes. It’s clearly the best car in a straight line, and Monza is mostly straight lines.

Alonso has a 35 place grid penalty, at the time of writing. Both Red Bull drivers also have substantial penalties. I wonder if a Force India on the podium is a worthwhile bet... certainly to be top 6 is worth a look. Sainz also has a 10 place grid penalty.

Elsewhere, Mr. B wisely suggested that Alonso’s penalties are due to prioritising Singapore, and Red Bull might be doing something similar.

The result of first practice, which was curtailed by rain, was Hamilton fastest, then Bottas and Vettel, with hefty chunks of time between them. Raikkonen was next up, then Ricciardo and Verstappen. BFFs Perez and Ocon followed, then Vandoorne and Massa.

Second practice had Bottas a tiny bit faster than Hamilton, with Vettel very close behind and Raikkonen next up. Verstappen was over half a second back, and followed by Ricciardo, Vandoorne, Alonso, Ocon and Massa.

Third practice was delayed by 44 minutes due to rain. When the curtailed session finally started everybody went out on wet tyres, although most only did installation laps. For what it’s worth, Massa and Stroll were fastest, then came Hulkenberg, Sainz, Palmer, Ericsson, Kvyat, Ricciardo, Verstappen and Vettel.

With rain possible, I’m not tempted by the idea of a bet on qualifying. Could be entertaining, and highly unpredictable.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Belgium: post-race analysis/mortem 2017

This morning I mentioned elsewhere the Ladbrokes (exchange) odds of 2.2 on both Force Indias to score. Naturally, this led the gods to show ill-favour to them, causing a collision and preventing an otherwise certain win. As for the Vettel bet, he came close, but no cigar. I’m a little surprised the hedge at evens wasn’t matched, to be honest.

Off the line it was formation flying at the sharp end. Alonso made many passes (a feat not to be repeated due to a farcical power difference between the McLaren and every other car) and the Force Indias slid back a little. Ocon also made contact with Perez here, in the chaos and tumult of the start, just before Eau Rouge.

The top two appeared to be in a league of their own, and the Force Indias started making up a little ground. Verstappen was going well, and then his engine conked out.

All the top chaps changed to soft tyres for the second stint, and about two-thirds into the race commentary suggested Hamilton’s rear right tyre had a blister, which sounded ominous. Meanwhile, Perez, who had passed Grosjean and someone else on the straight but then failed to make the corner and rejoined ahead, was given a 5s penalty. When the Force Indias (on supersofts, unlike most others) came in for their second pit stops, Perez was brought in first despite being behind Ocon. This brought them together on the track, and the two stupidly collided again just before Eau Rouge. It was a low odds chance by Ocon (then behind) and Perez closed the door with his team mate facing a concrete barrier. Dumb, and dangerous.

It also gave Perez a puncture, knocked off part of Ocon’s front wing, scattered debris across the track and brought out a safety car.

Ricciardo and the Ferraris switched to fresh ultrasofts, the Mercedes going for softs, and practically everyone pitted. On the restart Vettel got very close, but perhaps exited the slipstream a little too early. I am mildly surprised the hedge at evens wasn’t matched at this point. Behind, Ricciardo brilliantly passed both Bottas and Raikkonen on the straight, and Raikkonen (at the same time) passed Bottas.

Perez did manage to emerge having crawled back to the pits with a rubber flail for a tyre but had to retire (presume the lashing of his shredded rubber buggered the suspension). Alonso and Wehrlein also retired (the Spaniard fairly late on, the German early after detecting some sort of problem).

Intriguing to consider what would’ve happened had the safety car not emerged. If Hamilton had had to pit then it could’ve been rather good for Vettel. Interesting that the Mercedes was showing worse tyre wear on the soft when, on the supersoft, it was Ferrari that suffered woe at Silverstone.

Hamilton got the win, Vettel right behind him and an impressive podium for Ricciardo in 3rd. Raikkonen and Bottas were next, with a good 6th for Hulkenberg.

Grosjean and Massa were next, benefiting from the civil war in Force India, then came Ocon and Sainz.

Vettel 220
Hamilton 213
Bottas 179

I expect Mercedes to do best at Monza, but the race after that is Singapore where Ferrari should be strong and there may be a danger for the Silver Arrows of being behind the Red Bulls as well. Finishing 5th today hasn’t ended Bottas’ hopes but has reduced them drastically.

Mercedes 392
Ferrari 348
Red Bull 199
Force India 103
Williams 45
Toro Rosso 40
Haas 35
Renault 34
McLaren 11
Sauber 5

I think the top four are sorted but it’s very tight from 5th to 8th, who are covered by just 11 points. I think Renault will climb up, the question is how far.

An utterly red weekend. The Vettel bet was ill-judged, the others were struck down by misfortune. Perhaps I’ll manage to appease the gods for the Italian Grand Prix, but I’ll have to sacrifice to them during a weekday, because we’re off to Monza in just a week.

I do like Monza. A proper, old school, fast circuit.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Belgium: pre-race 2017

I’m beginning to get quite aggravated. Last race a rare safety car (first on a first lap in Hungary in over three decades) and an inexplicably lenient call on Sainz meant some tips didn’t come off, here Raikkonen was plagued by a serious vibration throughout qualifying and made a mistake on his final lap (the other three drivers all improved markedly on their last lap).

He’d been faster than Vettel all weekend and, if not better than Hamilton (the final distance between Hamilton and Vettel was not insurmountable) certainly in with a good chance of being best of the rest. Good and bad luck interferes a lot with F1, and whilst I had some good a few races ago, the last two or three have been plagued with misfortune.

Raikkonen really should’ve been 2nd, with an outside shot of pole.

Rant over, qualifying threw up some surprises.

Williams were dire. Whilst most expected Sauber to be slowest (and they were), both Williams left in Q1 (Stroll was unable to do a second run due to a problem with his car). That’s pretty poor. Kvyat also failed to reach Q2.

In the second session it was tight between those who were booted out and those who sneaked through. Ultimately, both Renaults (Palmer driving very well) and both Force Indias got through, with Alonso (angrily lamenting loss of power), Grosjean, Magnussen, Sainz and 65 grid penalty-laden Vandoorne progressing no further.

On the initial run in Q3, Hamilton was ahead of Raikkonen by over three-tenths, with Raikkonen ahead slightly of Bottas, and Vettel close behind. Palmer, having driven very well, unfortunately suffered a car failure that meant he didn’t post a time. On the final runs, everyone improved dramatically except Raikkonen (damn it), who screwed up and ended up 4th, when he really should’ve been 2nd. Vettel, however, set up a very tasty front row, just behind Hamilton, and Bottas is 3rd.

For the record, Hamilton has equalled Schumacher’s 68 pole positions.

Behind the quartet at the front Red Bull are again on the third row, Verstappen fastest, Hulkenberg starts off 7th, Perez and Ocon are next, and Palmer should be 10th (unsure if he’ll have any penalties, though).

As an aside, an early bet I considered but didn’t back was Hulkenberg top 6 at 3.5, so it’ll be interesting to see how much those odds have changed. Also worth noting that the Ferrari, in practice, appeared faster on the long runs.

My first thoughts on potential bets were:
Ferrari top score
Ferrari double podium
Raikkonen fastest lap
Hulkenberg top 6 [maybe match with LadEx all top six drivers to score points]
Force India double score

Ferrari are just 2.5 for a double podium. Too tight for me.

Raikkonen is 6 for fastest lap. That’s somewhat interesting. The Ferrari looked good on long runs and he has a great record at Spa.

Force India are 1.53 for a double points finish. Very likely, but the odds aren’t great.

Hulkenberg is 3.75 to be top 6 (up from 3.5 pre-weekend). I don’t get that. He’s qualified as high as he could expect to (7th), and his odds are longer than both Force Indias. Whilst true the Renault has worse reliability, he’s a good driver, has a good record at the circuit and is first in line if anyone ahead of him breaks down or crashes.

Annoyingly, there doesn’t appear to be a top score market (or they’re taking a while to make it up).

Of these, Hulkenberg looks somewhat tempting, likewise Raikkonen, but neither are clear shots.

After perusing the markets to see if anything leapt out like an outraged baboon, I found:
Vettel, win, 5.2 (Betfair)

The Ferrari looked tasty on long runs and the team will obviously favour Vettel if it comes down to that. Against this is the generally poor starts the Ferraris have had relative to the Mercedes and a short run to the first corner (that mitigates the risk to Vettel but also reduces his opportunity).

In short, there is nothing that particularly appeals.

That said, the Vettel bet coupled with (Ladbrokes) Hamilton to beat Vettel at 1.57 looks like an interesting possibility. All else being equal one of those two should win.

Note: Ladbrokes has reverted to ‘classified’ rather than ‘finish’.

The odds slipped a bit but I backed Vettel at 4.9 (Betfair) for the win, hedged at evens. To be honest, it’s one of those races I’d probably sit out if I didn’t tip every race.

Morris Dancer

Belgium: pre-qualifying 2017

A minor piece of housekeeping, but with offering more tips ahead of race weekends I’m going to start recording them. My focus will still be on the weekend tips, but given the last two race weekends have seen very green early bets but very red weekend bets, it’s producing a rather misleading picture and I want to correct that. I’ll continue to always offer at least one race bet per weekend in a pre-race article, and early bets will continue to be subject to value (I won’t always offer them).

During the break it was announced that Perez will continue driving for Force India in 2018 and Raikkonen likewise for Ferrari. Not hugely surprised and expect Bottas to get a multi-year deal at Mercedes. The most interesting question right now is whether or not Kubica will come back. My own guess is he’ll replace Palmer (and that Leclerc will join Sauber). More interesting is whether Alonso will leave the sport (I’d guess that he will if McLaren stick with Honda).

Vandoorne has also been confirmed to be staying at McLaren. In less welcome news, the Honda upgrade this weekend means he gets a grid penalty too. At the current time of writing he’s got a 40 place grid penalty. On a 20 car grid. I like F1 but certain aspects are rather silly. [Edited extra bit: this then rose to 65].

Just before qualifying it emerged Vettel has signed a new three year deal at Ferrari. Not too surprising, but significant nevertheless.

My only early tip (I may start writing concise early articles here) was for Raikkonen each way at 17 to ‘win’ qualifying. Some good news also emerged with the minor but helpful change to Ladbrokes’ markets, whereby ‘classified’ (or not) has been replaced by ‘finish’. This is useful as it’s possible for a driver to be classified even if they don’t finish the race, so it adds clarity.

First corner can create some carnage, but that also means opportunity for those who avoid it.

In first practice the headline times are a shade misleading because the Mercedes were on the soft (other tyres being supersoft and ultrasoft). Raikkonen was fastest, a tiny margin ahead of Hamilton, who was a tenth up on Vettel. Verstappen, Ricciardo and Bottas followed, with Sainz, Ocon, Kvyat and Vandoorne rounding out the top 10.

Second practice was curtailed by rain, and Massa was unable to run following a chassis change from an early crash in first practice. However, everyone had time for qualifying simulation and between half and one dozen ultrasoft/high fuel early race simulation laps.

Hamilton topped the time sheets, a quarter of a second ahead of Raikkonen, who was almost two-tenths up on Bottas. Verstappen and Vettel followed close behind, then came Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Ocon, Sainz and Palmer.

My own feeling right now, assuming it’s dry for qualifying (I’ll check nearer the time) is that Hamilton is very likely to get pole but behind him it’ll be close and any of the other three could line up alongside him. Obviously if it’s wet that helps Red Bull, and if it’s very wet or changeable the ultimate grid could be a lottery.

In third practice, Raikkonen was fastest, just shy of two-tenths up on his team mate. Vettel was 0.001s ahead of Hamilton. However, there was nearly a second between the Briton and Verstappen, with Bottas, Ricciardo, Palmer, Perez, Sainz and Alonso rounding out the top 10.

Tricky to decide whether laying Hamilton at about 1.5 (looks like a three horse race and he’s only one of them) or backing Vettel and Raikkonen at around 6-7 makes more sense. Also got to consider how to marry a tip here with the early Raikkonen tip (not a dead cert but content with third practice).

Also worth noting Bottas was miles off the pace in third practice. Unsure if that was due to a mistake, so it’s possible he might yet be in the mix (though I suspect not).

In the end, I laid Hamilton at 1.54. He’s certainly a credible pole contender but things were very tight amongst three drivers in third practice.

If you did back the early Raikkonen bet, you may want to set up a hedge. I went for a small one at 1.4 (on the short side, but there we are). Let’s hope the Iceman can stay cool in qualifying.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Hungary: post-race analysis 2017

Overnight a thought struck me: what if Kvyat and Vandoorne’s odds were the wrong way round. This morning the group C market had been taken down by Ladbrokes. I checked the bet and, as of 7.30am (give or take) the bet remained open, at the odds I’d tipped.

The race had little passing but a lot of tension and was eminently enjoyable, as a spectator, for that reason. The bets were dire, as I’ll discuss below. One-third foolish misjudgement, two-thirds terrible luck.

Off the line it was formation flying at the sharp end. Then Verstappen cocked up and went wide, Ricciardo passed him, the Dutchman locked a brake and struck his team mate, putting the Aussie out of the race, bringing out a safety car, and (after an investigation) getting Verstappen a 10s time penalty, which he served at his pit stop.

First time there’s ever been a safety car on lap one.

Sainz had made an annoyingly good start and was ahead of Vandoorne by a couple of places.

When the safety car buggered off the Ferraris scampered into the distance, clearly faster than Mercedes and with Raikkonen sticking with Vettel very nicely.

There was only one pit stop each, almost everyone going from supersoft to soft. However, late into the first stint Vettel had steering problems (he had to steer to the left to go in a straight line). Raikkonen was catching him. After the first round of pit stops the German narrowly retained the lead over his team mate, but with the two Mercedes catching up.

Raikkonen clearly wanted to be let past (and was obviously faster). Ferrari prioritised the title over the race and kept them as they are. It was to prove a canny (or cynical, as you like) call. Meanwhile, Mercedes yielded to Hamilton’s pleas and let him past Bottas to have a crack at Raikkonen, on condition that he swapped back if he couldn’t pass the Ferrari.

But it's very hard to pass at Hungary due to the nature of the circuit (turbulent air). Hamilton was faster than bottled-up Raikkonen (in turn, faster than Vettel but forbidden to try passing him), but the Briton couldn't effect a pass.

Verstappen, in 5th, was catching Bottas at a rate of knots, but the Mercedes drivers skilfully managed to swap positions just before the line. Interesting contrast of team styles, and to note that Bottas is held in more equal esteem at Mercedes than Raikkonen at Ferrari (although the points situation is drastically different).

Vettel got the win, Raikkonen 2nd, then Bottas. Hamilton and Verstappen were 4th and 5th. Hamilton swapping back lost him 3 more points to Vettel. Alonso was 6th, a great result for McLaren who have looked strong all weekend (Vandoorne finished 10th for their first double points finish of the year).

Sainz was 7th, the rotter, Perez and Ocon 8th and 9th despite their poor qualifying. Grosjean, Di Resta and Hulkenberg all retired, Grosjean due to a cross-threaded wheel nut in his pit stop (which was itself early because of a slow puncture).

Got to say I’m pretty aggravated by the Vandoorne tip. Losing out at the start was unfortunate, but these things happen. But for Sainz not to get a penalty [for driving Alonso wide, though I haven’t seen the incident with my own eyes] when Magnussen and Verstappen did (particularly the latter, who collided with his team mate on the first lap) sticks in my craw. It was a good value bet, and it should’ve come off. Maybe it’s my own fault. I did consider backing Sainz as well. But Vandoorne should’ve won. …

The Bottas bet was a clear misjudgement. As for No Safety Car, it was the first time there’s ever been one on lap one. Another significant stroke of bad luck.

All in all, a pretty bloody horrendous race. I screwed up on Bottas (my own fault, especially given I knew it’d be a better circuit for the other top teams), but the two other bets were damned unlucky.

I did enjoy the race in sheer sporting terms and it’s set up the rest of the season (after a long break) nicely, but, from a betting perspective, almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong. These things do happen (and other days I’ve had flukes) but it’s never pleasant.

On a less grumbly note, Mr. M suggested a midfielder for fastest lap, and, whilst I disagreed with Perez, Alonso did get it. Not sure what the odds were on that but 50/1 or longer seems eminently possible. I didn’t back it myself, alas, but a clever thought nevertheless. (He also picked Ricciardo as both a DNF and first DNF. I was tempted by the former but considered it too much of a pot luck bet, but that shows what I know).

Anyway, to the title standings:
Vettel 202
Hamilton 188
Bottas 169

Still a three horse race. Bottas needs to close the gap or he’ll be have to become a rear gunner and abandon his title hopes. The next two races (Belgium and Italy) will suit Mercedes, especially the latter. After that is Singapore, which will be more difficult for them.

Mercedes 357
Ferrari 318
Red Bull 184
Force India 101
Williams 41
Toro Rosso 39
Haas 29
Renault 26
McLaren 11
Sauber 5

Ferrari take a chunk out of Mercedes’ lead but I think the top four are likely to finish in that order. Meanwhile, tighter in the midfield. McLaren have leapt off the bottom sport and consigned Sauber to the foot of the table.

Sometimes you win undeservedly due to good luck (once I backed Perez to be top 6 without realising his good odds were due to a penalty, and then he actually achieved it), and sometimes Satan urinates in your kettle. Today was an example of the latter, but I’ve had some good fortune in the past and there are nine races left, so hopefully there’ll be some better results ahead.

It’s four weeks until the Belgian Grand Prix.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Hungary: pre-race 2017

An intriguing session of qualifying. Mildly miffed by not backing/tipping Raikkonen for pole each way at 6.5, but these things happen. If anybody did back the early Vettel tips but held their nerve better than me ahead of qualifying, the lay value on Betfair is now 1.6 (his back odds had been 5 to 6 or so earlier in the week).

Di Resta was thrown into the deep end, climbing into a car he’d never driven and getting to learn it in qualifying. Given that, he did extremely well to qualify 19th, just 0.7s off Stroll’s time. Both Williams failed to escape the first part of qualifying, as did both Saubers. Magnussen was fastest of those ejected at this stage.

It was tight to get the last place in Q1, but Sainz just edged out Palmer (whose days increasingly appear to be numbered). In a poor show for perhaps the best midfield team, both Force Indias failed to progress, Ocon qualifying 12th and Perez 14th. Kvyat and Grosjean also left in Q2.

At the sharp end, it was looking like Red Bull might be able to challenge, certainly for the second row, and that Hamilton might be pretty similar to Vettel. In the end, it was not so, and the first three rows are Noah’s Ark style. Vettel got pole and Raikkonen 2nd, then came Bottas and Hamilton. Verstappen and Ricciardo are next up.

Hulkenberg qualified 7th but due to angering the gods of Olympus his gearbox broke earlier in the week, meaning he has a 5 place grid penalty. Great qualifying for McLaren, with Alonso and Vandoorne next (I shall be keeping a beady eye on Alonso’s 2018 title odds if McLaren returns to Mercedes). Sainz was last of the top 10, though, of course, he’ll start 9th due to the Hulkenberg penalty.

A few notes before contemplating the race. The forecast remains 100% dry, and I’m still relatively comfortable with the early no safety car bet. It’s very hard to overtake in Hungary. Not impossible, but not easy. Everyone knows this, so strategic options are limited. The start is critical but if it’s formation flying then I’d expect the grid and the final result to bear close resemblance to one another. Contact is not common, and the first lap is the only time it seems likely (possibly a safety car restart too, although this is the circuit least likely to see one).

Also, given I already offered the No Safety Car tip, I might not have another.

Also also, just learnt Kvyat has a 3 place grid penalty for impeding someone or other. He also gets another penalty point, bringing him to 10 (hit 12 and it’s a one race ban).

With that in mind, here are my early betting thoughts:
Ocon points
Alonso top 6
Hulkenberg points
Verstappen podium

Ocon is 1.66 for points, Hulkenberg 1.53. Whilst quite possible, the odds are tight (especially on Hulkenberg given Renault’s patchy reliability).

Alonso is just evens for a top 6 finish. Bearing in mind his DNF rate is 78% those odds are not appealing. It is plausible, hence my considering it, but those odds are just too tight.

Verstappen is 3.5 for a podium. That’s interesting. I think he stands a decent chance of a good start and benefiting from strategy (because the two teams ahead of him may run into one another a little in that regard, and there’s a decent chance Raikkonen’s race will be compromised to use him as a rear gunner for Vettel).

Of my initial thoughts, only Verstappen has odds that appeal. The downside to that bet is that, leaving aside his car being only third fastest, he’s got a pretty rubbish DNF rate himself.

Browsing the markets, some things I saw of potential interest were:
Bottas, win each way, 11
Alonso, win each way, 501
Verstappen/Ricciardo, not to be classified, 3.75/4
Hulkenberg to win group B, 4
Vandoorne/Sainz to win group C, 10/2.25

The Bottas win idea is simply based on the fact he usually starts well and is a good, solid driver. He also, surprisingly, has the longest odds of the top four to win. His odds are probably too long.

The Alonso win each way bet is a silly idea, but bear with me. Usually there are a few 50/1 or 200/1 type odds between the frontrunners and lower midfield. But there’s a vast yawning chasm from 26 to 501. I’m not tipping this seriously, but might be worth flinging 50p on it. [I reserve the right to cite this in future if it happens].

Red Bull have had wonky reliability all year, and Ricciardo suffered a breakdown in practice. Little bit of a shot in the dark, but worth considering.

Group B includes, besides Hulkenberg, Alonso, Ocon and Perez. Hulkenberg has been substantially faster than all of them. Due to his penalty he’ll start behind Alonso and one place behind Ocon, but ahead of Perez. On the downside, passing is hard and his car can be a little unreliable. I think this is interesting but perhaps not quite long enough.

Group C includes Vandoorne, Sainz, Kvyat (who is demoted three places) and Grosjean. Vandoorne starts first of this group, albeit with Sainz right behind him, and has been the fastest of them all weekend. But his car is a bit fragile. If it holds, then 10 is far too long. Betting on him to DNF could be a way to hedge, albeit an imperfect one. On the other hand, if he doesn’t win it, Sainz looks very likely, so you could just back both. However, they both have a 40% DNF rate, so…

This is a bit weirdly aggravating, because I was quite ready to simply sit on the No Safety Car bet (and the early Vettel win tip). But both the Bottas and Vandoorne odds just look wrong to me.

In the end, I decided to back Bottas at 11 each way for the win.

And Vandoorne at 10 to win group C. If everyone finishes then he and Sainz should be a long way up the road from Grosjean and Kvyat (whose odds of 2.1 are frankly silly). But Sainz’s odds are barely above evens whereas Vandoorne’s look too long (they have the same DNF rate). In my view they should both be about evens.

I do habitually peruse the markets to see if anything jumps out at me, but it’s quite rare (and disconcerting) when it actually happens. Anyway, let’s hope the race is greener than a jealous Kermit the Frog.

Morris Dancer

PS For those wondering, I put a tiny sum on Alonso.

Hungary: pre-qualifying 2017


Sauber’s confirmed a deal for Ferrari engines next year, having axed a planned move to Honda. This may be good news for McLaren, as Mercedes can only supply one more time and there was a suggestion they might go for Sauber. If McLaren ditch Honda, they can (if Mercedes agree…) get the best engine. Keep an eye on Alonso and Vandoorne’s odds on the title next year.

Also, the halo has been confirmed for next year. This has been largely derided by fans and is opposed by 9/10 teams. I’m largely neutral, although the revelation this ‘safety’ feature will see cockpit evacuation times increased from 5s to 8-10s hasn’t exactly persuaded me it’s a great idea. And the fact it’s coming in for F1 but not other categories is a bit weird, if it’s a supremely safe and important addition.

Before the weekend commenced, on, I tipped Vettel for the win each way (odds varied a bit, but it was 4 when I mentioned it, later 5.5), and No Safety Car at 1.61 (1.79 was briefly available). Hungary is the circuit least likely to see one, and the weather forecast is 100% dry.

In first practice there was a surprise. Ricciardo was fastest, nearly three-tenths up on Raikkonen, who was a small way ahead of Hamilton. Verstappen was next, seven-tenths off his team mate, then Bottas and Vettel some way off the pace (he reportedly had oversteer problems). Alonso and Vandoorne were next, then Hulkenberg and Palmer.

First practice also had Ricciardo topping the timesheet, with Vettel a couple of tenths back. Bottas, Raikkonen and Hamilton were all within a tenth or so of the German, Verstappen a small way down the road. Hulkenberg, Alonso, Sainz and Vandoorne rounded out the top 10.

At this stage, McLaren are looking good, as are Red Bull. I am perplexed, though, by the odds. Hamilton’s scarcely over evens whereas Vettel’s over 6 on Betfair, last I checked. This is only practice, but if it’s moving the markets then it should be tightening them, not making Vettel’s odds longer. (NB Mr. G mentioned that Hamilton was compromised by red flags in second practice and otherwise would’ve been faster).

Hulkenberg’s also looking quite good. Renault’s new floor is worth 0.2s and Palmer having a few offs may have damaged his (last race only Hulkenberg had it). So far, Force India and Williams are looking a little ordinary.

Hulkenberg’s got a 5 place grid penalty for a gearbox change. Damned shame.

In third practice Vettel was fastest, nearly half a second ahead of his team mate. Bottas was a similar distance further back, likewise Verstappen then Hamilton (scrappy lap, he was 1.4s off his German rival). Then came Vandoorne, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Alonso and Palmer (NB Palmer does have the new floor).

Red Bull’s aero upgrades seem to be working nicely. They’ll prove effective at slower circuits, but at Monza they’ll still, probably, have a rough time. Just after writing this Ricciardo suffered a reliability failure in P3. A pity, he’d looked rather good this weekend.

Massa was unwell after second practice but was given the all-clear (Di Resta was ready to step in).Still possible that switch might happen. Tricky for Di Resta to jump in for qualifying having had zero practice.

As an aside, there’s an unusually enormous jump in odds from sixth favourite to win (Verstappen, 13) to seventh (Alonso, 501).

As mentioned, I tipped Vettel at 4 before (also 5.2/5.5 depending on timing), he now has a lay value of 2.32 which I’ve taken to be flat/a smidge green. Won’t count in the records but if you backed that then the opportunity for guaranteed greenness is available.

Incidentally, for the record, I am tipping No Safety Car (currently 1.98 on Betfair).

Raikkonen at 6.5 (each way) for pole is tempting. He was four-tenths off Vettel but ahead of Bottas in third practice, and pretty good in both prior sessions (available at 8.6 on Betfair but obviously that’s just for pole). In the end, I decided against it. Very tempting, but Hamilton had a problem on his lap so we don’t know his true pace. I’m also very pushed for time so can’t spend as long thinking about it as I’d like.

That third practice session has set up qualifying very nicely indeed.

Morris Dancer

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Mid-season review 2017

In betting terms, this season started brilliantly, and then gradually declined. At the moment, you’re up a whole tenth of a stake on a hedged basis, and down just over three stakes on a bet-and-forget basis. However, that’s only counting the weekend tips, not early ones (last race had a 3 and 8 winner, as well as an early loser).

Some of this was just misjudgement by me. Some of it was misfortune (Button’s needless idiocy in Monaco cost me a lovely 6.5 winner). So, not thrilled, but it could be worse. I’ve also, on the winning side, had some good judgement but also some fluky moments (particularly with early bets, not all of which I mention due to lack of liquidity or instant buyer’s remorse). My own current result is a little better than the official record. As usual, the graph indicates the results based on a standard £10 stake on every tip offered in the weekend articles.

This year, as I mentioned earlier, I’m collecting more data on race-by-race points tallies and a breakdown of finishes by points, pointless and DNS/DNF categories. I think this is useful information.

As might be expected, Mercedes and Ferrari are very solid, with strong reliability and a very high points finishing tally.

We can see from the bar chart that as well as the big two, the other team that’s very reliable is Force India. Red Bull do have clearly better pace but much worse reliability.

Perhaps surprisingly, Williams have slightly under a 50% points finishing record. That’s mostly down to poor luck/reliability early on for Stroll. The car is behind the Force India and, as most years, lacks aerodynamic grip. I expect it to be tasty in Italy (that said, I expected the same in Austria).

Sauber aren’t too bad on reliability but the top pointless finishers. Haas and Toro Rosso are quite evenly split, Renault too (although Hulkenberg and Sainz have quite a large points gap, whereas Grosjean and Magnussen are a bit closer).

McLaren’s obviously least reliable. Alonso has an atrocious 7/9 DNF rate (I think one of these was a first lap crash that wasn’t his fault, but even so, a two-thirds reliability DNF rate is appalling).

Moving to the points tally at the sharp end, this graph shows how things have shaped up over the first 10 races. Vettel currently has a 1 point lead over Hamilton (after two races they were equal).

It’s also worth noting neither of the top two has had a DNF yet. If they each had one and Bottas stays on one, then he’d be right in the mix. Further down, Verstappen’s been hamstrung by his 50% DNF rate. Ricciardo’s only had two (one at the first race, hence only one flat part of his line). Raikkonen’s also had a couple of DNFs. He’s not driving terribly but I do think he’ll be replaced.

There are two key questions on the title front. Is Bottas a title contender? How will Mercedes approach this?

At the moment, it is a three horse race, and I’m surprised the odds (around 16 or so) remain so long on Bottas. Yes, Hamilton is favourite, and Bottas deserves to be longer odds than his team mate or Vettel, but he’s within a win of taking the lead, and has one DNF to zero for the other two drivers.

Mercedes are in a slightly tricky position. Closer to the time, if Bottas is edged out, he’ll help Hamilton. But if he’s in credible contention, would he give up perhaps his only chance at a title? The team has him on a one year contract and staying is a pretty big carrot.

My guess is things will stay close but that when there are only a few races left the team will offer him a three year contract on condition he help out Hamilton. If Bottas is level or ahead, that may make things a bit more difficult for both Bottas and Mercedes.

More broadly, how will the season develop? Mercedes and Ferrari’s development war is critical. Historically, Ferrari have developed in a slightly clunkier way. That doesn’t make it certain it’ll happen this time, and their car appears more flexible than their rival’s, but it’s a possible factor.

Looking down the order, Force India and Red Bull are both strong developers (although not quite in the same league). Red Bull are out of the title races but it’ll be interesting to see how much, if at all, they can narrow the gap to the top two. Force India will remain in a similar league of one, but the interest there shall be whether the two drivers collide again. Ocon’s doing rather well in his first full season in the sport.

After a brief resurgence around 2014, Williams have settled back into the midfield (although well above the nadir of preceding years). Massa and Stroll are a reasonable pairing but the car has the same fundamental problem – not enough aerodynamic grip. Could be tasty in Italy, but will struggle on street circuits like Singapore (NB Azerbaijan was a bit of a dodgems race and, weirdly for a street circuit, has an enormo-straight).

The Toro Rosso looks quite good on pace but has some reliability issues and the Torpedo needs to calm down. Haas is essentially quite fast but a car with serial brake issues does need some mending.

Renault are interesting. Their upgrades last race seemed to work (only available to Hulkenberg, their de facto number one) although reliability, especially for Palmer, remains a bit dubious. Undoubtedly this is a rebuilding year and it’s not clear how good/bad they’ll be when it comes to developing. If they want to return to winning ways they need to be able to improve strongly.

Sauber are cash-strapped and have a year old Ferrari engine. If they can retain 9th the extra cash will help them next year, but I suspect treading water is the most they can hope for.

McLaren’s tasty aerodynamically but has all the power of a maimed gnat. Not only that, the engine is as reliable as a promise from Honorius. The development that counts here isn’t of the car but the engine. Sadly, I don’t think they’ll make any progress. Honda has been varying shades of dire since its return and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if this were the last year it’s in the sport.

Anyway, the next race is Hungary. As always, check the weather forecast, and, if dry, do consider backing No Safety Car. Importantly, my new book, Traitor’s Prize, is out on 28 July. And you should buy it, because it’s entertaining and marvellous and I’d like to be able to afford little luxuries. Like food.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 16 July 2017

United Kingdom: post-race analysis 2017

Well, that was a race. The bet was red and fundamentally misjudged by me, (early tips were rather nicer), but the race itself had an interesting end and a final few laps that turned everything on its head.

On the formation lap Palmer’s brake-by-wire (BBW) system broke, and then his hydraulics went too. This prevented him from even reaching the pits/grid. Whilst he is being outdriven by his team mate, Palmer can’t really fight back when his car breaks down.

Off the line Vettel started poorly and was passed by Verstappen. He wrestled the place back only to lose it again (Raikkonen, who retained 2nd, preventing both drivers behind him from taking ideal lines at different times).

This would prove race-defining.

Further down, Bottas made a great start, and Perez had an oddly poor one, dropping a few places. Kvyat reminded everyone of his new nickname (the Torpedo) by clumsily side-swiping and wiping out his team mate Sainz.

This brought out the safety car for a few laps.

After it left and racing resumed, Ricciardo, who had been slicing his way through the field, left the track and much ground, and had to do it all over again.

Vettel was clearly faster than Verstappen but couldn’t make it past the wily Dutchman. The highlight of the racing was their multi-lap battle, neither one giving an inch. In the end, Vettel pitted early (lap 15 of 51, or so) to change from supersoft to soft (save Bottas, all the top 10 started on the supersoft).

Verstappen pitted one lap later but emerged behind Vettel, the undercut working well.

Meanwhile, Hamilton had finished the Financial Times crossword and moved onto the Telegraph’s, pausing occasionally to check he was still 1st and to wave to the crowd. Behind him, Raikkonen was also pulling away from the field but wasn’t in a position to challenge for the lead.

A big surprise was Hulkenberg, who was in 6th and had kept the place on pace. He was aided by the Force Indias becoming stuck behind Magnussen (the Haas going on a very long first stint) but still drove perfectly, and the Renault seems to have much better pace than anticipated.

In news that shouldn’t be surprising, Alonso had to retire with a car failure (in retrospect, if I was going for a bland bet I should’ve gone for this).

Late on, the order was Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vettel and Bottas. Bottas being so close to Vettel meant that Ferrari couldn’t swap their cars even if they wanted to. The Mercedes has looked a bit faster all weekend, and on supersofts against old softs, the Finn passed the German. It seemed that would be that. Bottas was a second a lap faster than Raikkonen, but with an 8s gap and about 6 laps left, it wasn’t enough.

Then, with two laps to go, Raikkonen’s left front tyre went. He managed to return to the pits for fresh rubber but had dropped to 4th, a cruel fate after driving a very good race.

But, to quote Khan Noonien Singh, the game isn’t over yet.

Vettel’s front left also had a puncture, and practically came apart. He also had time to pit, just, but dropped all the way down to 7th. Raikkonen was restored, albeit in 3rd, to the podium, in a final late twist of Ferrari torment and Mercedes delight.

Hamilton had the victory and Bottas a very impressive 2nd. Verstappen (who was pitted late on before a puncture happened) was 4th, ahead of Ricciardo.

Hulkenberg ended up 6th, and scooped up a bevy of points for Renault. Ocon and Perez were a lacklustre 8th and 9th, unable to pass Magnussen for half the race or to close on Hulkenberg when the Dane wasn’t there. The final point was Massa’s, although Williams looked a bit slow all weekend.

Vandoorne finished 11th, alas.

An interesting note is that the Ferrari has typically been better on its tyres than the Mercedes, but here the reverse was true.

Vettel’s poor start and losing a place to Verstappen cost him time early on and a strategy that ultimately pushed him down to 7th. Had it been Raikkonen who had started poorly, a Hamilton-Vettel 1-2 seems eminently possible. But, it didn’t work out that way. Bottas also had a great race and I’m confounded by the length of his odds now. For the title he’s still available at 17 on Betfair. He’s 23 points off the lead in a three horse race. I’m not saying he should be anything other than third-placed in the odds, but I do think he’s being underestimated.

Vettel 177
Hamilton 176
Bottas 154
Ricciardo 117

Ricciardo’s too far back. If Bottas won the next event and the other contenders had a DNF each, he’d lead the title race. He’s also the only one of the top three to have a DNF. I still think Vettel is likeliest to win, but a major factor is the behaviour of Mercedes. Do they stick to their no team orders approach, or throw their weight behind Hamilton?

Mercedes 330
Ferrari 275
Red Bull 174
Force India 95
Williams 41
Toro Rosso 33
Haas 29
Renault 26
Sauber 5
McLaren 2

I think this is effectively done and dusted now (top four slots, at least). Raikkonen being 4th of the top four has cost the Prancing Horse this title. The 8 points Hulkenberg bagged today have dragged Renault into contention with the tightly fought ground from 5th to 8th.

The next race is in a fortnight, and between now and then I’ll probably put up a mid-season review to look at the rather rubbish trend of recent bets following a great first race, and to assess how the racing is going and might continue to develop. Is Bottas really a contender? How will Mercedes handle the situation? Will Kubica make a return?

A weird race weekend. I finished ahead, but as only the article tips count, it was technically red. Hungary is in a fortnight (check the weather, if dry back No Safety Car), but, as I said, the mid-season review will likely emerge before then.

Morris Dancer