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. As with the betting review I'm posting it here as well as at

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:

That view is also backed up by Hulkenberg:

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 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, the new home of my F1 articles/tips this season, and, 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

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Canada: early discussion

Some tyre news: whilst Pirelli will be updating their tyres they won’t be used for qualifying or the race in Montreal, but will be used in practice. So, bear this in mind both when considering how the teams will go this weekend and how they might at Silverstone.

I think the tyres used will be medium and supersoft. Not certain, though.

In addition, Hankook have ruled out replacing Pirelli in 2014, suggesting that either someone else will do it or F1 should hurry up and sign Pirelli up again or they won’t have time to make the 2014 tyre.

Canada’s often a fantastic race, and should be several thousand times more entertaining than Monaco. Just a reminder that the timezone means everything will be relatively later (P3 ends at about 3pm, I think).

As always, your insights, tips, comments and general musings are welcome.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Monaco: post-race analysis

Red race, and one that sounded criminally boring.

The start was textbook. In fact, the first seven held their positions. Sutil lost his nose and Button correspondingly got promoted to eighth. Perez cut the chicane to keep his position, and was told by the team to give it up (perhaps pre-empting a penalty), which put Button up to seventh.

Di Resta was pitted early when Pic’s car stopped (and then burst into flames) near the pit entry, but no safety car came out, and he was dropped back down the grid (although he did benefit when it came out later).

On lap 30 Massa had a crash very similar to that he had in practice. The safety car emerged, at which point Mercedes were slightly compromised as they had to pit, which meant Hamilton losing a few seconds (and then places) because Rosberg was still in the lead. Sheer bad luck for Hamilton, who dropped from second to fourth.

The safety car stayed out for quite a few laps, which was perplexing. At this stage it was unclear whether another stop would be necessary.

On lap 46 there was a crash involving Maldonado and Chilton which tore into the softer barriers, so that the barrier material largely obscured the track. This prompted a red flag.

This enabled the drivers to change for fresh tyres whilst waiting on the grid for the race to restart, unfortunately.

Red Bull were tremendously lucky with both incidents. The safety car allowed them to pass Hamilton, and the red flag gave them a much needed tyre change, whereas the Mercedes, Lotus and Ferrari *may* have been able to get to the end without another stop.

The race resumed at 2.35pm behind the safety car, with most cars on the supersoft.

Anderson reckoned Alonso was competitive on softs, but very poor on the supersoft tyre.

Ricciardo and Grosjean collided, creating much debris on the track and prompting another safety car.

Perez was doing many slightly dodgy passes. He tried one on Raikkonen, the Finn had none of it and blocked him, damaging Perez’s front wing. However, Raikkonen then suffered a puncture and had to pit.

In the end, Perez had to retire and Raikkonen scraped into the final points position, having previously been in fifth.

Perfect race from Rosberg who secures a deserved win, Vettel and Webber were fast but also benefited enormously from the various incidents.

Hamilton was unlucky due to the safety car timing (not unlike Australia in 2012, actually) to be down in fourth. Sutil’s fifth was brilliant. Unlike Perez, his passing was rather more considered. Button will be pleased with sixth (and that Perez got nothing) and Alonso will be disappointed with a surprisingly poor race pace to finish seventh.

Vergne got a solid eighth, and Di Resta, having qualified only seventeenth, got ninth. Raikkonen fought back to gain but a single point.

I’m posting this prior to the highlights (I may watch them just to see what I make of Perez’s passing and the various other incidents), but from the radio it sounded as exciting as watching beige paint dry in an old people’s home. With a few exceptions (Force India, Raikkonen) there was sod all passing, a procession of a race and the safety cars/red flags even robbed us of any tactical cunning which could’ve seen varying pit stop strategies shuffle the pack a bit.

The Raikkonen bet may’ve stood a chance but for the red flag. Vettel was told by his engineer that it was touch and go regarding another stop, but the red flag allowed an extra free change. It’s a bit frustrating, not only because the bet lost (hedge was unmatched) but also because I don’t know what would’ve happened. It’s a coin toss situation: either Raikkonen would’ve easily passed the Red Bulls or he wouldn’t, but we’ll never know now.

In terms of performance, Ferrari had a shocker. Alonso had poor pace throughout and actually went backwards (despite Perez retiring and Raikkonen pitting late on) from his grid slot. Meanwhile Massa retired with another crash.

Force India should be chuffed. Sutil’s been very fast during his comeback but dogged by rotten luck. Bad luck was absent today for him and he made the most of it to achieve a great fifth. Di Resta also put in a good performance after a very poor qualifying.

Mercedes will be happiest, though. Not only did they get the win, their pace looked good. Rosberg was peerless all weekend, and thoroughly deserved the victory.

In title terms Vettel stole a march on his rivals. Throughout the race (excepting the possibility of a pit stop pass that never happened for Raikkonen) he was ahead of the Finn and Alonso. The Spaniard’s poor pace and the Finn’s ill fortune meant that Vettel significantly extended his lead at the top of the table, and Red Bull did likewise for the Constructors’.

Vettel 107
Raikkonen 86
Alonso 78

Red Bull 164
Ferrari 123
Lotus 112
Mercedes 109

Thankfully, the Canadian Grand Prix, which tends to be rather more interesting, is in a fortnight. The BBC coverage even involves fancy moving pictures as well as sound.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Monaco: pre-race

A sudden rain shower shortly before qualifying meant that the first part of qualifying was on intermediates. Grosjean managed to get his car fixed in time, but Massa did not and will start last.

In the soggy first session we lost Di Resta, Pic, Gutierrez, Chilton, Bianchi and Massa. That’s tremendously disappointing for Di Resta, and for Massa (who never got to put in a lap). However, Van Der Garde will be delighted to escape Q1 for the first time (I think).

More rain started falling before and during Q2. With a few minutes to go the rain eased, Van Der Garde switched to supersofts and was then followed by everyone else. Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Bottas, Van Der Garde and Maldonado left qualifying at this stage. Pretty disappointing for Grosjean.

Q3 began on supersofts, but rain started to fall halfway through. I thought Vettel, who led after the dry first half, was guaranteed pole. Happily, Rosberg nabbed it at the end, just a tiny bit ahead of Hamilton. Vettel and Webber share the second row, with Raikkonen and Alonso behind. Perez and Sutil follow, with Button and Vergne rounding out the top 10.

So, the tip came off, which I was very surprised at given the weather conditions. I’m also pretty pleased that I backed (small stakes and not tipped) the Mercedes’ drivers at 8 each to win.

Happily the weather forecast for tomorrow is entirely dry, so let’s hope the elements don’t intervene as they did in qualifying. A few ideas for bets did present themselves, but the odds were surprisingly poor. I happen to think the Silver Arrows will do rather better than in recent races and would be slightly surprised if they don’t end up with at least one chap on the podium.

Finding the race very hard to bet on. I suspect that from the line the top 3 will remain more or less as they are. Webber could well lose a place or two (he starts poorly and Alonso tends to start well).

Given a dry race that means we’ll be in for a procession. One or more safety cars is likely, and the timing could provide cover for pit stops. If there isn’t one until later on then it’s possible a single-stop for Raikkonen could deliver him victory. I was very tempted by this, safety car timing, traffic and Lotus potentially being a little off the pace put me off.

I suspect it’ll be a procession (good for the Silver Arrows), but finding a bet with remotely decent odds is rather difficult.

In the end I backed Raikkonen for a podium at 2.86, hedged at 1.4. I suspect the potential for an extra pit stop could play into his hands, and there’s the opportunity for him to pass Webber off the line. He’s also highly consistent, which rather helps when the boundary of the track is steel.

Well, that took a while to come up with. I hope the hedge gets matched now.

Morris Dancer

Monaco: pre-qualifying

Gary Anderson said during practice that the tyre woe for Mercedes could disappear in Monaco. In P1 Red Bull were locking their brakes up easily.

P1 had Rosberg fastest, followed closely by Alonso and then Grosjean, Massa, Hamilton, Maldonado, Webber, Button, Perez and Vettel.

In P2 the Silver Arrows did even better, with Rosberg top, then Hamilton (three-tenths down the road), Alonso, Massa, Webber, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Button, Vettel and Di Resta.

However, Grosjean did have a crash in P2, and will be glad that in Monaco Fridays are a free day (the above sessions occur on Thursday), giving more time to mend the car.

At this stage I’m thinking of splitting a pole bet between Rosberg and Hamilton. The Ferraris also look good. Vettel seems quite unhappy with his pace and was 0.3s and 0.6s off of his team mate (in one session he lacked KERS, however). If he does badly (without traffic) in P3 there’s the off-chance of laying him for Q3, but that’s unlikely (although worth keeping an eye on because the odds would be tasty).

Aerodynamics matter less in Monaco, so this may help McLaren. They won’t be competing for pole, but they should be better than usual.

There’s a small chance (30%) of very light rain in qualifying. It shouldn’t disrupt things much, if it arrives at all.

In P3 Vettel had to abort his fastest lap. It’s unlikely it would’ve beaten Rosberg, but it probably would’ve been fast (a second Grosjean crash produced a late red flag preventing Vettel having another crack at it). The red flag means we don’t have an absolutely accurate picture for qualifying. However, the standings were Rosberg, Grosjean, Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Webber, Di Resta, Maldonado, and Hulkenberg.

I’ve backed Rosberg for pole at 1.95, no hedge. He was fastest in every practice session and often by a significant margin. Vettel may challenge, but I don’t think he would’ve been fast enough in P3. Things can always change in Monaco, but unless there’s an accident or another out of the blue event I think he’s very likely to get another pole position.

Morris Dancer

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Monaco: early discussion

Pirelli are to change their tyre compounds for Canada, which is the race after Monaco:

Now, the difference to the pecking order obviously depends on how big the change is, but here’s how I see it playing out:
Winners - Red Bull, Mercedes
Losers - Lotus, Ferrari

If I’m right and Pirelli overcook the changes we could see a very tight, interesting title race devolve into a Red Bull procession. I really hope that doesn’t happen, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

During the Spain-Monaco interval I backed Red Bull for the Constructors’ at 1.9, because I was green for Ferrari and Lotus and wanted to cover that possibility. I also put small sums (NB this is not a tip) on Hamilton and Rosberg to win in Monaco.

Although 4 stops in Spain was excessive it’s worth pointing out that every team has the same tyres and if Lotus have made theirs work very well then fiddling with the compounds now is unfairly penalising them. For all Red Bull’s bleating they are leading both title races.

As Gary Anderson wrote: “In 2011, Vettel won the Spanish Grand Prix. He also made four pit stops and there were 77 pit stops in the entire race. There were no complaints from Red Bull then.”

However, since then the FIA has stated that changes to the tyres can only occur to help safety (in this case reducing the risk of the dramatic delamination  a few drivers have seen). So, with luck, this will minimise the impact upon the pecking order.

It’s also been announced that in 2015 McLaren will switch to Honda engines:

Many BBC chaps reckoned that Mercedes could be the team to watch in Monaco, as the third sector of Spain is apparently a very good guide to Monaco pace and the Silver Arrows were fastest in that sector.

Your thoughts, tips and insights are all welcome in the comments below. (NB P1 and P2 are on Thursday rather than Friday, as is the norm for Monaco).

Morris Dancer