In the long run-up to the testing period, I was wondering about how I’d manage to offer tips given that the main plank of my betting strategy (refuelling) was now a thing of the past. The reason why I opted for refuelling was because it was concrete information known pre-race, and would provide a potential race-changing moment for teams. It didn’t always work out, but sometimes it did.
So, I tried to think of some comparable factors that would be of use in 2010. Here’s what I came up with:
Differentiation of tyre degradation and performance. Now, I know that sounds as sexy and interesting as one of Gordon Brown’s ties, but hear me out. Pit stops will still occur, and teams are still obliged to use both of the two different tyre compounds (unless it’s wet). Typically soft tyres are faster, but degrade more quickly, and with the extra fuel (and thus weight) degradation may be speeded up. So, at tracks where the tyre compounds are very different in terms of degradation/performance, ragged edge drivers like Lewis Hamilton may suffer. Silky smooth Button and those who can race either way (Schumacher, Barrichello etc) should be relatively unaffected, and thus benefit.
Circuits – straight or bendy? This is pretty basic. Try and find out which cars are superior under braking. If a circuit has a stackload of passable corners, these cars will do better. Better straight line speed will enable overtaking at the pit straight.
Launch systems. Yes, KERS is, alas, no more. But cars still need to start and this is a great opportunity. Some cars/drivers are very good at this. I remember a few years ago that Renault had a tasty launch system, and I think Verstappen was damned good at starts. It’ll be impossible to say early on in the season, but this could be a useful bit of knowledge for betting.
Reliability. This applies to both car and driver and is exemplified by Wunderkind Vettel. I rate Vettel’s driving skill extremely highly. However, he was let down by some schoolboy errors (in Australia he was in a 50/50 needless collision with Kubica, losing at least 6 points) and poor car reliability, mostly because his engine kept exploding.
Engine efficiency. Yes, another sexy topic. Basically, efficiency can matter as much as power. Less efficient engine equals greater fuel weight, increasing workload on tyres and brakes, as well as making the car less agile.
We’ll have to wait and see how these pan out. In the early stages of the season, I’ll be keeping a bloody close eye on the practice times.
Now we come to the test times of Valencia and Jerez test 1 (second test starts on the 17th). I have to say, I knew these would be of limited use, but I was still disheartened by the rainfall at Jerez. At Valencia an eagle-eyed fellow at the newsonf1.net forum (Jim Watt) noticed that the top 4 cars were all Ferrari engine-powered (Ferraris, obviously, and BMW Sauber). However, this dominance was not continued at Jerez. Sauber have been faster than expected, although I suspect they’re running on fumes, but we’ll see come race day.
Although it’s hard to compare times as we don’t know the fuel loads, here’s how the top 4 teams’ drivers compare so far. Massa was moderately faster than Alonso at Jerez, the reverse was true at Valencia. Schumacher edged Rosberg at Valencia and they were equal at Jerez. Hamilton was faster than Button at Valencia and at Jerez. Red Bull sat out Valencia to play in the wind tunnel; at Jerez Vettel was faster.
At Valencia the Ferrari was top dog, follow by Sauber. At Jerez, it was a mix of Toro Rosso, Sauber and Force India, but McLaren was probably top of the tree.
To put into context the effect of fuel, every 10kg is worth about 0.3s per lap. A car now carries circa 240kg, fully laden. This makes assessing testing very difficult.
Given that, my early thoughts on testing are thus: Ferrari are looking good. Mercedes are still in the top 4, but may not be the leading contenders I suspected they might be. Red Bull are an unknown so far, McLaren look like being Ferrari’s closest rival. But, it’s very early days.
Sauber have probably been running light, but if they haven’t they could spring a surprise and compete for the odd podium position.
I wish I could offer tips at this point. I haven’t bet on the market since Schumacher returned. Massa at 12 looks the best title bet to me, but I still advocate holding off. I don’t think I’ll be able to offer concrete tips until right before the first race, and those will be a little speculative. Apologies, but I’d rather keep schtum than pretend I have a brilliant 70/1 shot that only a morris dancing genetic engineer could possibly spot.