Saturday, 31 July 2010

Hungary: pre-race

Well, short odds, but a winning tip is always better than a losing one. As it happened, Red Bull were miles ahead of the rest, with Vettel a full four-tenths faster than Webber. Petrov did tremendously well to get 7th, ahead of Kubica. I was surprised Button failed to make Q3, but there we are.

It’s worth emphasising just how much faster the Red Bulls are than everyone else. Alonso (3rd) was more than a second behind Vettel. Barring accident or suchlike, I can’t see anything but a Red Bull victory, based on raw pace. However, Vettel has had poor starts, and the odd-side is cleaner and faster. It’s possible that Vettel will get passed by Alonso and Hamilton (5th).

Horner has said that at Hockenheim Vettel had a bit of oil on the clutch, accounting for his poor start.

Hungary’s a track where it’s hard but not impossible to pass. The weather forecast is for a sunny day.

The problem here, gambling-wise, is similar to qualifying. There are two clear frontrunners, with a strong third-placed chap. So the win and podium spots all seem to be sewn up.

I dislike straying from the main markets, but have decided to do so based on what’s happened recently at the starts. I’ve laid Vettel at 1.29 to lead lap 1. Not only has he had bad starts recently, the Ferraris and McLarens have had good starts and Alonso and Hamilton are on the clean side of the track.

I prefer winning driver/car and podium markets, but I couldn’t see anything else I considered value. Laying Webber for a podium had some appeal, but even if he gets passed by Hamilton, Massa and Alonso at the start he should have enough speed to pass [even on a circuit like Hungary]. Similarly, I considered backing Massa for a podium spot, but I can’t see him being allowed to finish ahead of Alonso or being quick enough to stay ahead of the Red Bulls.

So a single speculative tip: lay Vettel to lead lap 1 at 1.29. It will be interesting to see if he continues trying to drive the number 2 placed car (in this case his best friend Webber) towards the right hand wall. He’s done this at both previous races where he started pole, and both times lost the spot.

Unfortunately it is impossible to insert a lay (or back, in this case) for this sort of bet, so you end up all green. On the plus side, after a minute and a half of the race you’ll know where you stand.

Morris Dancer

Hungary: pre-qualifying

Based on recent races, here are a few little trends I think I’ve identified. Vettel and Webber have had poor starts of late, particularly in the last two races. The Red Bull remains damned quick in qualifying but its race pace is typically a little slower. The McLaren is the opposite of this. The Ferrari appears to be in good shape for both qualifying and race.

P1 was really about the Red Bulls being miles faster than everyone else. Vettel topped the timesheets, followed by Webber a tenth later. Third-placed Kubica was a second behind, then Button, Barrichello, de la Rosa, Alonso, Rosberg, Schumacher and Hulkenberg.

Vettel looking good for pole right now. In P2 the Red Bull was fastest by a long way with both light and heavy fuel. The McLaren was the opposite, slower than they would want to be in both light and heavy fuel conditions. The Ferrari is between the two.

In P2 the order was Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Massa, Petrov, Hamilton, Kubica, Hulkenberg, Button and Schumacher.

P3 saw Webber come first by about four-tenths, but he got in a proper qualifying simulation lap, and Vettel’s was ruined by tons of traffic. The order was Webber, Vettel, Alonso, Kubica, Massa, Hamilton, Petrov, Rosberg, Button, Hulkenberg.

I can’t see beyond a Red Bull pole. The problem is that whilst Vettel was fastest in P1 and P2, it’s the P3 qualifying simulation run that matters, and he didn’t get a clean run. In addition, the odds for Vettel and Webber are 1.8 and 2.5 respectively, which isn’t great.

So… the only other market for qualifying is who gets into Q3, or fails to do so. My reading is as follows: Red Bull are fastest, then Ferrari, then Renault, then McLaren, followed by Mercedes and Williams. Frustratingly, I can see some potential value (Hulkenberg and Petrov for Q3) but there isn’t enough money there at decent odds.

This is a bit rubbish. There are only two contenders for pole, and whilst there are interesting questions regarding who’ll make Q3, the only one with real liquidity is laying Button [don’t do this. I think he’ll make it comfortably].

So, much as I dislike giving short odds tips, especially when shooting half-blind, I’m going to back and tip Vettel at around 1.85 to get pole. He’s got several in a row now and consistently beat Webber when they were at comparable stages. He’s half a second down in P3 but that’s because he got a hell of a lot of traffic [plus Webber will have benefited from a speed boost due to the track rubbering in].

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Hockenheim: post-race analysis

Tips-wise, the worst weekend since Canada. Betting a tenner each bet without laying, you’d be down £20. The Alonso tip was eminently layable, the Button one was not, alas.

Button had a reasonable position in turn 1, but he hit heavy traffic and slumped back and never had a chance for a podium from there. Bit of a dull race, to be honest.

The most important part of the race was poor Rob Smedley, my favourite engineer for his fantastic lines (“Felipe, baby, stay cool!”), who had to give a ‘suggestion’ to Massa that his team mate was faster.

Team orders are banned, and there was a clear team order. It was pretty unpleasant to watch, to be honest. Eddie Jordan has stated that it was cheating, and that’s a valid position.

The Ferrari principal was smiling and lying after the race, pretending there was no team order. However, the head of the FIA is Jean Todt, former team principal of… Ferrari. So we’ll seen if it gets investigated or if Ferrari get punished.

In the post-race press conference Massa looked pissed off, and rightly so.

However, we should not lose sight of the fact that the Ferrari is really back in contention. We can’t read lots into a single Grand Prix performance because each circuit is different, but it seems that the Ferrari and Red Bull are approximately equal, with the McLaren slightly further back.

In addition, Webber may have been able to have a go at Button were it not for yet another reliability issue. Nothing race-ending, but still a concern for Red Bull.

The result actually extends Hamilton’s lead slightly to 14. It’s important to remember that last season Button had a pretty rubbish latter half of the season, but kept a steadily eroded lead because his rivals (Webber, Barrichello and Vettel) constantly took points away from each other as well as him.

The top 5 drivers are separated by just 34 points.

The McLaren Constructors’ lead declined minutely to 28, with Ferrari 70 odd points behind second place Red Bull.

So, a bad weekend I’m afraid, with 2 wrong tips and a distasteful end to the race. Hungary takes place in just a week’s time. I can offer one tip already: don’t back Massa to beat Alonso.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Hockenheim: pre-race

That was immensely frustrating. Alonso came second by 0.002s. On the plus side, my evens lay did get matched, so if you set one up you should be no worse off. That’s damned irritating.

Alonso and Vettel are in a league of their own here. Massa’s third, closely followed by Webber, with row three made up of Button and Hamilton.

The weather forecast is for a dry race.

I’m not backing either of the favourites for the win. Vettel’s evens and Alonso’s 3, but given the high unpredictability of F1 I don’t fancy either at those odds, despite the fact that they’re streets ahead of the field.

The latter half of the track is very narrow, and I imagine overtaking opportunities there will be very limited. Turn 6 (the hairpin) is the place where I suspect most passing will occur. I think this could be to the advantage of the McLarens. They won’t be passed in sector 3, where they’re relatively slow, because it’s narrow, but will be able to pass people in turn 6. Well, that’s my guess, anyway.

Given the McLarens are more reliable than the Red Bulls and have better race than qualifying pace, I’m going to back Button at 3.9 to get a podium. There’s limited liquidity, so I’d take 3.5 or above.

Gutted the Alonso tip was so close but didn’t come off.

Morris Dancer

Hockenheim: pre-qualifying

A note on the German Grand Prix: I was doing some reading up about it, and it turns out it alternates between Hockenheim and the Nurburgring. Quite handy to know that. Anyway, the last winner at this track was Hamilton, in 2008.

Another important snippet of news is the fact that the tyres available for this race will be the hards and supersofts. This could well result in a scenario similar, or at least comparable, to Montreal (one of the most exciting but least profitable races this season).

However, having watched most of P1 and P2, I don’t think there’ll be the same huge levels of degradation of the soft in Germany that we saw in Canada, so I anticipate the typical one-stop strategy from all teams.

P1 was pretty damned wet, and saw a large number of drivers engaging in not entirely intentional off-road rally action. Of these, Hamilton did some damage to his car by running into a gravel trap (bit unlucky, most of the track has big run-off areas). Hard to take the times too seriously because it was torrential, but here’s the top 10: Sutil, Massa, Button, Barrichello, Petrov, Rosberg, Buemi, Hulkenberg, Liuzzi, de la Rosa. For qualifying predictions, I think this almost certainly useless (unless it rains) but it could prove a handy pointer in case rain seems likely for the race.

P2 was a bit wet but mostly damp-and-drying. Hamilton got out briefly, his mechanics having worked to repair his car. The order was: Alonso, Vettel, Massa, Webber, Rosberg, Schumacher, Hamilton, Kubica, Barrichello, Hulkenberg.

At this stage (Friday afternoon) a few things stand out. The Ferraris look competitive, perhaps even pole position is up for grabs for them. Both Williams were top 10 in both sessions. In P2 Button was 15th. The Mercedes are looking good for middling points but probably not a podium spot.

As always, the end of P3, when teams do qualifying simulations, will be the primary guide to qualifying predictions. Right now I’m looking at whether Alonso could be in with a shot of pole and whether Button could be laid for Q3. Unfortunately the rain’s made it difficult to assess how good or bad the McLaren upgrade is.

P3 showed that the track gets substantially faster as time goes by and the track rubbered in. So, later runners will have an advantage due to that. The order was: Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Massa, Rosberg, Hamilton, Schumacher, Barrichello, Kubica, Hulkenberg. The session started off damp and was mostly dry by the end (although turn 6 stayed wet for much longer than the rest of the track).

Again, both Williams made the top 10.

The weather forecast is for showers, though they’re not certain.

I do think Alonso will run Vettel close, but I think the German has the best chance of nabbing pole. This is difficult, because the deciding factors will be traffic (which we can’t predict, but will probably affect at least one driver badly), weather (which we can’t predict) and the order of running (which we can’t predict). What I do feel confident of is that Alonso stands a reasonable chance, especially with a little luck, but that Vettel is the favourite (2.1 is not very long though).

Given that, I’m tipping Alonso to win qualifying, at 6.6 (presently). I think with raw pace he has a chance, and there are, for me, only 3 chaps who have a realistic shot at pole: Vettel, Alonso and Webber, in that order. With bad luck or an error on Vettel’s part (or Alonso going last) I think the odds are reasonable.

As always, I’m going to set up a pair of lays (one at evens to cover losses, another shorter so I’m green either way, if it gets matched).

Ha. Nervous about this. The wetness means that it’s very difficult to tell. If the conditions were guaranteed I’d’ve bet and tipped against Button (if dry) and for Sutil (if wet). But, they aren’t. So, just a single tip: Alonso at 6.6 for pole, with lays.

Morris Dancer

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Negotiations and love songs: why simplification and deregulation never happens

I am quite a big fan of music; I have over 30,000 songs on my ipod and I must be one of the few people who wishes that they made ipods with bigger capacity than 160GB. My taste in music is quite iffy, but one artist who I'm not at all ashamed to admit that I like is Paul Simon. One of his songs contains the lyric: "negotiations and love songs are often mistaken for one and the same". What did he mean by this?

Well, as so often with Paul Simon, he was making a subtle point. There are a few romantic songs that have lyrics along the lines of "I love you, you love me, oh how happy we shall be", but they are in fact a distinct minority. Far more romantic songs have lyrics along the theme of "if you come back to me I swear that I shall treat you better and generally be a nicer person in any number of ways that are not easily encapsulated in a three minute song". These are not love songs, but negotiations.

In just the same way, simplification and deregulation are misunderstood. Which is why my heart sank when I heard today that the coalition is setting up the Office for Tax Simplification. This is doomed to disappointment.

Different people mean different things by simplification. The general public hear this as "tax cut" or "eliminating an unfair anomaly". The taxman hears this as "closing a loophole". The tax professional hears this as "an easier life". These three things are directly in conflict.

Moreover, people will often use the terms simplification and deregulation interchangeably. That doesn't help either. Some deregulation can be very complex. For example, a flat tax is very simple. But most people would welcome the complexity that comes with various reliefs, allowances and exemptions.

The plain truth is that while most people claim to want simplicity, they are quite prepared to put up with a lot of complexity if they can benefit from it. This is particularly true of large corporations and wealthy individuals, who will see complex tax schemes as a big plus. There are powerful vested interests in maintaining complexity.

Finally, it should not be overlooked that every line of legislation was inserted with a policy objective in mind. It may be that policy objective was not met by the legislation or it may have been superseded, but it is more likely that the policy point is still extant and that there is a cost as well as a benefit from repealing or simplifying it.

All of which leads me to predict right now that the Office for Tax Simplification will be a damp squib. It will tinker round the edges, but I expect the tax legislation to be lengthier in 2014 than it is today.


Sunday, 11 July 2010

Silverstone: post-race analysis

Ugh. Torn between Petrov and Webber at similar odds (for points and the win) I chose the wrong one. £13.33 ahead from 3 tips, at £10 each with no laying. Petrov got close, but his chances were ruined by 2 stopping, for some reason. On the plus side, I got most of my 1.5 lay matched, so finished ahead.

However, from a racing perspective this was utterly fantastic and thoroughly absorbing. I must say that the odd side of the track was clearly slower than the even side, something I’d read should never happen (as it disadvantages the pole-sitter). Unfortunately, this information will prove of no use next year as I think they’re moving the starting straight.

Vettel was the author of his own misfortune, but redeemed himself somewhat (aided by the safety car) to climb to 7th. Hamilton put in a great performance, as did Button who went from 14th to 4th, a worthy reminder that the McLaren is dire in qualifying compared to its very good race pace. [In addition, Silverstone is very much a Red Bull track, so for Hamilton to be the only chap anywhere near Webber is some good news for McLaren].

A great race for Mercedes, which saw Rosberg 3rd and Schumacher 9th, in the midst of a Germanic quartet of points scorers. Very poor for Renault though. Kubica had to retire, and Petrov (who was 10th for a time) fell back sharply when he had to pit for a second time.

I’m not an Alonso fan, but he was done a great injustice by the stewards and then slapped in the face by misfortune. The drive-through was unwarranted given he couldn’t yield the place (Kubica had retired by then) and the safety car emerging as it did meant he went to back the grid, and then had to have another pit stop due to getting a puncture. Massa also did not do well, so a second race in a row where Ferrari have a competitive car but have looked poor.

However, the most important part of this race was Webber passing Vettel even before turn 1 and then dominating the race completely. He banged in endless fastest laps, he was never under any pressure and completely crushed the opposition. I think I may reassess Webber. Not so sure he’s a second rate driver in a first rate car anymore. It is also a huge moral victory, after Red Bull’s ungentlemanly theft of his front wing. In the catfight of Red Bull, Luscious Liz, spurned chassis of Vettel, triumphed over Randy Mandy.

So, how are the Constructors’ faring? Here are the numbers:
McLaren 278
Red Bull 249
Ferrari 165

Even with the tremendous performance advantage in qualifying, Red Bull gained only a single point relative to their rivals. McLaren won’t bring downgrades to every track, and other circuits will suit them much better. Red Bull missed a trick here, and McLaren can count themselves very lucky. I think Ferrari are out of it.

Hamilton 145
Button 133
Webber 128
Vettel 121
Alonso 98
Rosberg 90

For the third race in a row, Hamilton’s doubled his advantage over Button. I do wonder why Button’s completely dropped off the pace, especially in qualifying. Hopefully this’ll change when upgrades come (and work). Webber will love being ahead of Vettel. Maybe they’ll even let him use upgrades in future, instead of stealing them to give to Vettel. Surprising, but Rosberg’s really homing in on Alonso now.

Next up is Hockenheim, in a fortnight. Last year Vettel came second… behind Webber. Hehe, should be a spicy race.

Anyway, I look forward to writing the pre-qualifying piece in a fortnight or so.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Silverstone: pre-race

Well, that was a mixed qualifying session. I was pleased and surprised how deep into the drop zone Button was in Q2, and surprised and disappointed Webber didn’t really seem to have a chance at pole. If you backed both you should be ahead, and according to The Ten Rule (£10 backing every tip, no laying) you’d be up £23.34.

As well as Vettel and Webber locking out the front row, a notable success was Alonso in 3rd, just ahead of his best friend forever Hamilton. If there’s contact between the two in turn 1 I’m sure it’ll just be them getting close for a good luck hug.

Rosberg did well to get to 5th, Schumacher disappointed in 10th. Barrichello did well to achieve 8th, and Silverstone’s been a happy hunting ground for him so he may climb the ranks during the race.

For the race, it looks set to be a catfight between Randy Mandy and Luscious Liz (the chassis of Vettel and Webber respectively. Liz was originally Vettel’s girl, but Webber had to make do with the cast-off after he rather spectacularly used Kovalainen’s Lotus as a take-off ramp for aerial acrobatics last time round).

Red Bull rather disgracefully replaced Vettel’s front end with Webber’s (it’s a new version), so Webber got both an old chassis and an old nose cone/front wing. That could’ve made the difference in qualifying but, more importantly, will do nothing to calm down the rivalry between the two drivers.

Barring collision or similar calamity (possibly from reliability) I can’t see beyond a Red Bull victory. The odds are pretty rubbish, especially for Vettel. 1.2 for the team win, 1.6 for Vettel, 4.2 for Webber’s somewhat better. Unfortunately this also makes the podium market damned hard because (I believe) there’s effectively a single slot up for grabs.

Overtaking is tricky, though not impossible, and the possibility of a safety car and pit stop timing could shake things up. The track is not hard-wearing on the tyre, so there’s quite a large window and lots of freedom to pick the moment of pitting.

Weather-wise, it’s expected to be dry throughout, removing one variable (probably).

I can’t see any value in the big markets. Red Bull and Vettel are too short given the possible reliability issues and the general unpredictability of F1. Webber’s not bad at 4.2, but I suspect (barring problems, obviously) Vettel will scamper away and win.

After a lot of deliberation, I’ve decided to tip Petrov to get points, at 4.2 (lay set up at 1.5). In previous years it has been possible for drivers to climb from far back (he starts 16th) to achieve 10th or better. Kubica showed the car (even adding 0.2s as a P3 suggested gap from Kubica’s pace to Petrov’s) well capable of better speed than most of those ahead of Petrov. I also think numerous cars may fail to finish due to reliability/spinning and during practice lots of cars briefly left the track, which could aid Petrov.

Of the Grand Prix he’s finished, he’s improved his grid position at half, and dropped down in the race in the other half.

It’s a bit speculative, but I can’t find anything else that catches my eye. The race itself should be great fun, with the Red Bull and Hamilton-Alonso battles we can expect.

Morris Dancer

Silverstone: pre-qualifying

Hmm. The weekend before the race I had a quick look at Button’s record here (he’s 10, 5 more than Hamilton, for pole, so I thought it might be value). He’s finished second to his team mate [of the time] at every British Grand Prix after 2005. Not a good record. Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso have all won here.

However, the circuit has been altered, lengthening the lap and the lap time. Remains to be seen what the impact of this will be.

P1 saw Vettel top the timesheets by 0.3s, then Hamilton, Kubica, Webber, Sutil, Rosberg, Hulkenberg, Button, Schumacher and Barrichello.

P2 again saw Red Bull fastest, but this time it was Webber, with Alonso a surprise in second, then Vettel, Massa, Rosberg, Schumacher, Petrov, Hamilton, Sutil, Barrichello with Button a lowly 13th.

McLaren’s performance was, indeed, so poor that the team decided to ditch the upgrades for the weekend. It’ll be interesting to see how they do in P3 and qualifying.

P3 saw, towards the very end, Vettel’s nose cone go wonky and slump down. Not sure how serious an issue it is (Red Bull managed to remove it easily enough). Button had some sort of suspension problem, and Ferrari were looking into a mysterious problem with Alonso’s car. Anyway, the order was Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Rosberg, Massa, Kubica, Hamilton, Schumacher, de la Rosa and Barrichello, with Button in 12th.

The weather is looking good for qualifying.

McLaren not looking good, and, worse still for them, the Mercedes, Williams, Ferrari and Renault are all looking tasty, with Red Bull as imperious as ever.

Bit of a toss up between the Red Bulls, I think, with Alonso a potential wild card. I’ve backed Webber at 2.94. It’s true he was second in the simulation, but he spent most of P3 with heavy fuel, whereas Vettel was light throughout. Plus, Vettel’s confidence/car may be slightly damaged by the nose cone going wonky. So, back Webber at 2.94 (I’ve set up a lay at 1.2).

This is a quote from the BBC F1 site:
“BBC F1 analyst Anthony Davidson: "If the problem with the nose mounting on Vettel's car is on the chassis side, it's a big problem."”

Apparently a new nose has been tried, and it’s holding.

Button has come 8th, 13th and 12th in each practice session. I got a miniscule sum laying him at 1.12 to reach Q3, and a bit more at 1.26. After wrestling a bit with it, I’ve decided to tip laying him to reach Q3 at 1.3.

So, Webber for pole at 2.94 (it’s just lengthened actually), and lay Button for Q3 at 1.3 (I’d set up a back at something like 3 or 4, just in case).

Morris Dancer

Friday, 2 July 2010

Mid-season Review

We’re roughly halfway through the season, with nine races down and ten to go (yes, it’s a looong season). I thought that now might be a good time to have a look back, both at the season and the success/failure of various tips I’ve offered.

Firstly, the numbers. I’ve offered 33 race tips, of which 9 have proven accurate. However, that does equate to a profit at 5 races, and a loss at 4. Oddly, the last four races have been almost exact matches for one another in terms of profit/loss, as highlighted by the lovely graph I shall attempt to insert.

Sadly, despite recovering somewhat from the dire start and being on an upward trend, if you put a tenner on every bet, without laying, you would have made a loss. You would, in fact, be down £8.14, by my reckoning. On the other hand, if you backed all my tips you should have bloody well laid, and (happily) as I’m slightly ahead this should’ve turned the red number into a green one.

A mistake I felt I made early on was trying too hard to replicate my success at Monza last year, where I offered five or six tips, and most of them came in (including an 8.8 long shot on the winner). With some exceptions, I think 2-3 bets per weekend is probably more sensible.

At times I suffered bad luck (Vettel’s engine exploding inconveniently) but also benefited from good fortune (Button’s Turkish podium and Massa failing to escape Q1 in Malaysia) so I can’t complain about that.

I think that things are presently going ok, and for the next race (Silverstone) I’ll have my eye mostly on Alonso, but also paying attention to the to-be-updated McLarens and the Red Bulls, which love the circuit. If anyone has thoughts on how my regular articles could be improved, please feel free to make suggestions. [Incidentally, do people find the “I thought about bet X but decided against it” pieces I sometimes include annoying, or interesting?]

Now, a look back at the season itself. Red Bull have had the fastest car throughout, but has failed to capitalise due to (again) suffering the sort of reliability usually attributed to Frenchmen in a war. It must also be said that both Red Bull drivers have, shall we say, unique and challenging methods of overtaking, which often involve crashing.

By contrast, the McLaren was a clear step behind the Red Bull for the earlier races, but benefited from great drivers using their head (Button with great tyre calls) and raw pace (Hamilton) to keep in the running, aided by rock solid reliability and the excellent new points system.

Ferrari have, save for the very early stages, been behind their two rivals. Decent reliability has given them a basis to build on, but they’ll need a big edge or some luck to win.

Elsewhere, Mercedes has built their car from fire-hardened wood, with digestive biscuit brake discs and an engine powered by a small dog. Renault have done very well, moving clear of the mid-pack teams to overtake Mercedes. Be interesting to see if Kubica stays there.

I think momentum is definitely with McLaren, and if their new upgrade is as good as is being suggested they should keep it. Ferrari do seem to have finally woken up, but I suspect it’s too late (and may not be aided by Alonso being as stable as a one-legged drunk). If Red Bull could solve their reliability gremlins they’d be in a much better position.

So, even though we have aaaages to go yet, and this may look silly, I’m predicting the Constructors will finish thus:
Red Bull

I’m not going to predict the Drivers’, for reasons that are strange and mysterious and not at all because I find it very, very hard to call between all four top drivers (I doubt Alonso will be a serious player at the end).

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading this post, which is clearly a serious analytical review of the season and not an excuse for me to play with graphs.

Morris Dancer