Tuesday, 30 November 2010

For St. Andrews Day: Holyrood 2011 The New Constituencies

Happy St Andrew's Day one and all. As we are only 5 months out from the Holyrood elections, I thought it might help the serious gamblers on PB if I set out the 73 new constituencies and where possible show the relevant 2007 winner and runner-up and my early guess at likely winner in May. The new seat is named first and the old seat in brackets below. In a couple of cases where seats are completely new or go completely there is no comparison.

Some seats have had little or no boundary changes like the 3 island seats while others like the Highland seats, the Aberdeenshire and Angus seats and the Borders seats have seen major changes.

The Weber Shandwick website www.scotlandvotes.com attempts to show what would have happened in 2007 on the new boundaries and for example turns Jim Murphy's East Renfrewshire (Eastwood at Holyrood) into a safeish Tory seat because Labour has lost its heartland of Barrhead from the constituency into a neighbouring already safe Labour Renfrewshire one.

Unless there is a big sea change between now and May, I reckon many of the SNP gains in 2007 on huge swings resulting in tiny majorities, in almost all cases far below the average of 2000 spoilt votes per seat will return to Labour and the LibDems will lose out in places like Dunfermline which swung back so heavily to Labour in May.

New Seat
(Old Seat) 2007 Winner 2007 Runner Up
Nov 2010 Prediction
1.Aberdeen Central
(Aberdeen Central) Lab Hold SNP Lab Gain from SNP
2. Aberdeen Donside
(Aberdeen North) SNP Hold Lab SNP Hold
3. Aberdeen S & N Kincardine
(Aberdeen South) SLD Hold SNP SLD Hold
4. Aberdeenshire East (Gordon) SNP Gain SLD SNP Hold
5. Aberdeenshire W (Aberdeenshire W and Kincardine) SLD Hold SNP SLD Hold
6. Airdrie and Shotts (Airdrie and Shotts) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
7. Almond Valley (Livingston) SNP Gain Lab Lab Gain from SNP
8. Angus North and Mearns
(Angus) SNP Hold Con SNP Hold
9. Angus South - - SNP Hold
10. Argyll and Bute (Argyll and Bute) SNP Gain SLD SNP Hold
11. Ayr
(Ayr) Con Hold Lab Con Hold
12. Banffshire and Buchan Coast (Banff and Buchan) SNP Hold Con SNP Hold
13. Caithness, Sutherland and Ross (C, S and ER) SLD Hold SNP SLD Hold
14. Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (C, C and D V) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
15.Clackmannanshire and Dunblane (Ochil) SNP Hold Lab SNP Hold
16. Clydebank and Milngavie
(C and M) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
17. Clydesdale (Clydesdale) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
18. Coatbridge and Chryston (C and C) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
19. Cowdenbeath (Dunfermline East) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
20. Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (C and K) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
21. Cunningham N (Cunningham N) SNP Gain Lab Lab Gain from SNP
22. Cunningham S (Cunningham S) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
23. Dumbarton (Dumbarton) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
24. Dumfriesshire (Dumfries) Lab Hold Con Con Hold
25. Dundee City East (Dundee East) SNP Hold Lab SNP Hold
26. Dundee City West (Dundee West) SNP Gain Lab SNP Hold
27. Dunfermline
(Dunfermline West) SLD Gain Lab Lab Gain from SLD
28. East Kilbride
(East Kilbride) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
29. East Lothian
(East Lothian) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
30. Eastwood (Eastwood) Lab Hold Con Con Hold
31. Edinburgh Central (Edinburgh Central) Lab Hold SLD Lab Gain from SLD
32. Edinburgh Eastern (Edinburgh East and Musselburgh) SNP Gain Lab Lab Hold
33. Edinburgh North & Leith (Edinburgh North and Leith) Lab Hold SLD Lab Hold
34. Edinburgh Pentlands (Edinburgh Pentlands) Con Hold Lab Con Hold
35. Edinburgh Southern (Edinburgh South) SLD Hold Lab SLD Hold
36. Edinburgh Western (Edinburgh West) SLD Hold SNP SLD Hold
37. Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire (R and Berwick) Con Gain SLD Con Hold
38. Falkirk East
(Falkirk East) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
39. Falkirk West (Falkirk West) SNP Gain Lab Lab Gain from SNP
40. Galloway and West Dumfries (Galloway and Upper Nithsdale) Con Hold SNP Con Hold
41. Glasgow Anniesland (Glasgow Anniesland) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
(Glasgow Baillieston) Lab Hold SNP -
42. Glasgow Cathcart (Glasgow Cathcart) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
43. Glasgow Kelvin (Glasgow Kelvin) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
44. Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn (Glasgow Maryhill) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
45. Glasgow Pollok (Glasgow Pollok) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
46. Glasgow Provan (Glasgow Springburn) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
47. Glasgow Shettleston (Glasgow Shettleston) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
48. Glasgow Southside (Glasgow Govan) SNP Gain Lab Lab Hold
49. Greenock and Inverclyde (Greenock and I) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
50. Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse (Hamilton South) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
51. Inverness and Nairn (Inverness E, Nairn and Lochaber) SNP Hold SLD SNP Hold
52. Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley
(K and Loudoun) SNP Gain Lab Lab Gain from SNP
53. Kirkcaldy (Kirkcaldy) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
54. Linlithgow (Linlithgow) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
55. Mid Fife and Glenrothes
(Fife Central) SNP Gain Lab SNP Hold
56. Midlothian N and Musselburgh (Midlothian) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
57. Midlothian S, Tweeddale and Lauderdale
(T, Ettrick and L) SLD Hold SNP SNP Hold
58. Moray
(Moray) SNP Hold Con SNP Hold
59. Motherwell and Wishaw (Motherwell and Wishaw) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
60. Na h-Eileanan an Iar
(Na h-Eileanan an Iar) SNP Gain Lab SNP Hold
61.North-East Fife (North-East Fife) SLD Hold Con SLD Hold
62. Orkney
(Orkney) SLD Hold SNP SLD Hold
63. Paisley
(Paisley North) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
64. Perthshire North (Tayside North) SNP Hold Con SNP Hold
65. Perthshire South and Kinross-shire (Perth) SNP Hold Con SNP Hold
66. Renfrewshire North and West (Renfrewshire West) Lab Hold Con Lab Hold
67. Renfrewshire South (Paisley South) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
68. Rutherglen (Glasgow Rutherglen) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold
69. Shetland (Shetland) SLD Hold SNP SLD Hold
70. Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch (Ross, Skye and Inverness West) SLD Hold SNP SLD Hold
71. Stirling
(Stirling) SNP Gain Lab Lab Gain from SNP
72. Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Strathkelvin and B) Lab Gain SNP Lab Hold
73. Uddingston and Bellshill (Hamilton N and Bellshill) Lab Hold SNP Lab Hold

Saturday, 27 November 2010

2010 season review: tips and bets

In the first half of the season if you backed all my tips and didn’t lay, you’d be a muppet because I say in almost every post bets that can be hedged should be. However, you’d also be down £8.14. I don’t have a figure for the result if you did hedge your bets, but believe you’d be moderately ahead.

The first half of the season also saw a huge divide regarding qualifying and race betting. Namely, I’m alright at qualifying betting but as much use as a condom made of sandpaper when it comes to race day.

More detail is available here, as is a lovely graph:

In the latter half of the season (Silverstone to Abu Dhabi) I kept better records of what happened regarding the bets and what the impact of hedging is. Naturally, hedging does make things a bit fuzzier, as people will hedge at different times with different stakes.

Without hedging, just 3 of the last 10 races ended green. With hedging, this number rises to 5. Hedging improved the result at 5 races, made no difference at 3 (the ones where I couldn’t tip much due to stupid start times or personal business) and worsened the result at 2. At Spa and Monza, hedging turned red results into green ones.

Below is a splendid graph showing the impact of hedging. The blue line is what happened if you put £10 on every tip, and left at it that, the pink line is what happened if put £10 on every tip and (if possible) hedged.

The total affect, from Silverstone to Abu Dhabi, is an improvement of £61, taking a £53 loss and making it into an £8 profit. Now, that’s still a bit rubbish, but it does show just how useful it is to hedge bets.

In F1, fortune can be very capricious. A good example is the Turkish GP, where I got my best result not due to foresight but because Vettel very helpfully collided with Webber. Obviously this works both ways, such as when Alonso failed to get pole at Hockenheim by 0.002s after I’d backed him at 6.8 [and laid at evens to end up all square].

Weather, mechanical failure, being hit by another car and driver error can all ruin a race, and advantage those behind. This is why I think hedging is best, with the odd exception (first lap leader being one).

For the next season, my plan is to offer tips on the main site, and do a post-race analysis for each GP. Depending on how things go, I may revert to the three articles per Grand Prix format.

Going forward, I will probably do a preview of the 2011 season in February, and possibly write a little about the testing in that month. The first race is, sadly, Bahrain from 11-13 March.

So, this is the final 2010 post. On track the season had many ups and downs, as did my tips. Hopefully the next season will see a bit more reliability from me, and a competitive Mercedes joining the Red Bulls, Ferraris and McLarens battling for race wins.

See you then.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Who hates Nick Clegg?

Since the Lib Dems threw in their lot with the Conservatives in the aftermath of the general election, Nick Clegg has come in for a lot of flak on the more left wing blogs and newspaper sites. It is often asserted that Nick Clegg is despised as a hate figure, perhaps even a figure of fun. Is that true?

Well, we have had two recent polls where the public were asked to judge his performance, from YouGov (14 Nov) and IPSOS-MORI (27 Nov). The results are pretty similar. YouGov found 40% thought he was doing well and 50% thought that he was doing badly as leader of the Lib Dems, while IPSOS-MORI found 38% were satisfied and 49% were dissatisfied with his performance as deputy Prime Minister. Despite the difference in the questions asked, the words "margin of error" spring to mind.

Are these unprecedentedly bad figures?

No. These are perfectly normal. Gordon Brown twice managed to hit minus 62 in June 2008 with YouGov. David Cameron was at minus 27 in September 2007 with YouGov. Nick Clegg's positive approval ratings first broke 40% as recently as May 2009. His 38% positive approval rating with IPSOS-MORI is pretty comparable with the 42% positive approval rating that he had with IPSOS-MORI in January.

What has changed is that Nick Clegg has far higher dissatisfaction ratings. In January 2010, only 26% were dissatisfied with his performance. That has shot up.

Do 2010 Lib Dem voters feel betrayed?

On the evidence of the IPSOS-MORI poll, yes, many do. 52% of 2010 Lib Dem voters are dissatisfied with Nick Clegg. This comprises fully 10% of the sample questioned by IPSOS-MORI. This is a troubling figure for Nick Clegg, there's no getting away from it. If that is the result 6 months in, he is going to struggle to win their support back.

How do current Lib Dem voters feel about Nick Clegg?

This is unclear. YouGov found that a mere 14% of Lib Dems felt that Nick Clegg was doing badly or very badly, while IPSOS-MORI found 34% dissatisfied with they way that he was doing his job. These figures are based on small samples, but the difference is striking. Perhaps this reflects the different questions asked. More data is needed.

The internal dissent is certainly higher than David Cameron faces - 97% of YouGov Tories profess satisfaction with him, a result worthy of Pyongyang (ISPOS-MORI registers a scarcely more plausible 92%) - but Ed Miliband has yet to enthuse Labour YouGov and IPSOS-MORI respondents, with 15% of both already unhappy with him. Of course, there are rather more Labour supporters at present than Lib Dem supporters.

Where does all the dissatisfaction come from?

Three words sum this up: current Labour supporters. IPSOS-MORI finds that 71% of Labour supporters are dissatisfied with Nick Clegg's performance as deputy Prime Minister and YouGov finds that fully 87% of Labour supporters think that he is doing badly as leader of the Lib Dems. This fits in with the anecdotal evidence of who is making all the noise about him.

There is also a geographical component to this. Sub-samples are not weighted, so are dangerous to rely upon, but the 68% disapproval in the YouGov Scottish sub-sample will not give Nick Clegg much encouragement in an area where 11 Lib Dem MPs have seats, while both YouGov and IPSOS-MORI find rather higher support for him in the Midlands and the South. There seems no reason to disbelieve this.

How angry are the dissatisfied?

Pretty angry, it seems. YouGov give respondents the opportunity to say whether they think Nick Clegg is doing badly or very badly. 27% of all respondents think Nick Clegg is doing very badly, including an incredible 61% of Labour supporters. That compares with 42% of Labour supporters thinking that David Cameron is doing badly. It is Nick Clegg that's getting the Labour heat.

But outside the ranks of Labour supporters, there is no such anger. A mere 2% of current Lib Dem supporters and a mere 3% of Conservative supporters rate Nick Clegg's performance as very bad. This anger is an entirely partisan phenomenon.

What does this mean?

What it means, I think, is that there is a dialogue of the deaf. Current Lib Dems and Tories don't understand Labour anger. Labour supporters don't appreciate that their reaction is particular to them.

Labour will no doubt feel confident that it will hang onto the support of the very unhappy. But making Nick Clegg into a human piƱata doesn't look like a promising way of getting many new recruits.


Saturday, 20 November 2010

2010 season review: prediction

This review is about how good practice sessions are for predicting qualifying, and how good practice sessions and qualifying are for forecasting race winners. After this, I’ll write a final review summarising betting success or lack thereof during 2010.

I allocated 1 point for every correct prediction. So, if P2 had Vettel the fastest and he subsequently got pole that’s 1 point. If he then won the race then (in the numbers for the winner) that’s also 1 point, and a further 1 point from qualifying.

In addition, for pole position, I allocated 0.1 points for a prediction of a chap that came within a tenth of pole. So, entirely at random, if Alonso came within 0.002s of Vettel for pole, and P2 had Alonso as the fastest, that’s 0.1. I included this because I think a chap that close to pole is both capable of getting it and close enough to be very layable.

So, which practice session was best for forecasting pole? Here are the stats:
P1 = 4 = 21%
P2 = 2.4 = 13%
P3 = 7.2 = 38%

This is good stuff, because I’ve said throughout that P3 (with the low fuel qualifying simulation run) is best for predicting the pole-sitter, and that P2 is probably the least useful as it includes heavy fuel running.

What about the race winner, though? Again, I looked at the practice sessions, and qualifying, and here’s what emerged:
P1 = 5 = 26%
P2 = 4 = 21%
P3 = 5 = 26%
Q = 8 = 42%

Unsurprisingly, pole is the best predictor, but still less than 50% correct. Interestingly, all three practice sessions are about the same in terms of predictive power, getting the answer right about a quarter of the time.

We need to consider the Vettel Effect when looking at these numbers. He got pole more than half the time this year, and failed to get a win from pole pretty often. So, his lack of reliability (mechanical as well as personal) will have a dramatic impact on the results.

So, what happens if we remove Vettel from the equation by cutting out races where he got pole? He got 10 poles, so stripping those races reduces the number to 9 (just under half). Here are the qualifying stats:
P1 = 0 = 0%
P2 = 0.1 = 1%
P3 = 3.1 = 34%

Race stats:
P1 = 2 = 22%
P2 = 1 = 11%
P3 = 1 = 11%
Q = 5 = 55%

With the exception of qualifying predicting the race result, all other sessions see reduced predictive power. However, the grid becomes a better than evens forecaster, getting it right 5 times out of 9.

Will this hold true next year? KERS, especially if some engines have superior systems, may give an almost automatic number of passes off the grid for some cars. If the Pirellis do (intentionally) degrade more than this year’s tyres then this will increase the impact of strategic decisions (deciding when to pit) and tyre management. Neither of these will affect qualifying, so I fully expect P3 to be best at predicting that again next year, but both would affect race results, making things a bit more mixed up at the sharp end.

However, we also need to look at the predictive results for each individual race. There are some oddities (no-one saw Hulkenberg’s stellar pole in Brazil coming, for example), but a few patterns too. Here are the individual race predictions for pole and the race win (NB numbers are totals of all practice sessions/all practice sessions and qualifying):
Bahrain = 0/1
Australia = 0.1/0
Malaysia = 2/0
China = 0/1
Spain = 0/1
Monaco = 0/1
Turkey = 0/1
Canada = 1/2
Europe = 1/2
UK = 2/1
Germany = 1.1/1
Hungary = 2/1
Belgium = 1/0
Italy = 0/1
Singapore = 0.2/1
Japan = 2/3
Korea = 0.1/0
Brazil = 0/2
Abu Dhabi = 2.1/3

There are clearly quite a few races with little foresight offered by practice/qualifying, but a few do stand out as being predictable. Abu Dhabi and Japan especially, with high qualifying predictability in the UK and Hungary. Whether this is repeated next year remains to be seen, but is something I’ll try to remember to keep my eye on.

Although P3 is the best qualifying predictor and qualifying is the best race predictor neither got it right even half the time, and this ought to be considered for next season.

The next, and last, review will be about how the tips I offered (particularly in the latter half of the season) turned out.

Morris Dancer

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

2010 season review: racing

This first review will be purely from a sporting perspective. Later ones will examine how good practice and qualifying are for predicting race results, and how the actual betting went.

I’ve been, lazily, into F1 for quite a while, and keenly into it for the last few years. I’ve got to say that I think 2010 has been one of the very best seasons ever, and the best I can personally recall. There were five genuine title contenders, numerous twists and turns, with driver errors and reliability problems galore, plus a final glorious sting in the tail.

This year also saw the return of seven times champion Michael Schumacher. He did start off well below par, but towards the end of the season was more competitive, given the Mercedes was a leading midfield vehicle rather than a car capable of winning races.

Three new teams joined the sport (HRT, Virgin and Lotus), and were frankly unimpressive. I’d definitely axe HRT, and probably Virgin and Lotus as well.

But the real trademark of this excellent season was the action at the sharp end between Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull. Ultimately Red Bull tied up both the Constructors’ and, through Vettel, the Driver’s titles.

Unlike 2009, when Brawn had the fastest car by miles at the start, McLaren had the quickest car at the end and Red Bull was second best throughout, 2010 saw Red Bull fastest throughout the season. McLaren and Ferrari got close at times, but never really surpassed the double-title winners.

The early season saw two phenomena that dictated the standings for a time: Vettel’s shocking reliability and Button’s excellent tyre calls in changeable conditions. The Briton scored his two victories in Australia and China, sandwiching Vettel’s first victory in Malaysia. The German ought to have won in the first race (Bahrain), but his spark plugs had other ideas.

After this, Webber and Hamilton started racking up serious points. Both had back-to-back victories (Webber in Spain and Monaco, Hamilton in Turkey and Canada), and, after Alonso got the controversial and ultimately pointless win in Germany, they got their final wins in Hungary and Belgium.

Button, unlike his rivals, never had consistent reliability issues or numerous driving errors. His main problem was a lack of speed, especially in qualifying, which made his races even harder, and he gradually slid down the table as others kept getting wins. In terms of driving reliability, he was clearly the best contender of the season.

After Belgium, a horrible thing happened. Alonso started winning races. The last six were shared equally between El Grumpino and the Wunderkind, although Alonso’s Korean triumph was solely due to Vettel’s engine exploding (yet again) denying him another victory. Alonso drove tremendously well after Hockenheim. He did enjoy some luck, but earlier in the season a combination of safety cars and penalties had cost him dearly, and fortune evened out over the course of the season.

Hamilton’s challenge had veered into the concrete barrier of woe due to a series of self-inflicted (if moderately unlucky) DNFs, when a number of overtaking attempts went wrong and wrecked his races, and his hope of regaining the crown.

For a long time Webber seemed favourite for the title. However, a slip up in Korea, when he spun (and took out the unfortunate Rosberg) cost him a podium. Vettel then beat him in Brazil, and the Aussie had to finish ahead of Alonso in Abu Dhabi. Instead, the Aussie crumbled, delivering an unimpressive 5th spot on the grid, with his team mate grabbing pole. In the race, he was too slow. Even though Alonso was backed up by Petrov he never came close to passing the Spaniard or even trying to.

Alonso had the easiest job in Abu Dhabi. With Webber behind him, all he needed was 4th or better. He qualified 3rd and although he was passed by a fantastically quick Button at the start he was still fine. Then Ferrari made a huge mistake. They copied Webber’s tactical error and pitted, forgetting about Vettel (who led almost all the race). Alonso emerged behind Petrov, who drove very well and kept the Spaniard behind him for more than half the race.

Vettel made a number of serious mistakes during the season. Torpedoing your team mate never goes down well (except with the McLarens following you), and Button was unimpressed when the German accidentally took the Briton (and himself) out later in the season. But in Abu Dhabi he was just about flawless. He got pole, he led for almost all the race and he got the victory. Even better, fate was, for once, kind to Vettel. His rivals finished too far back and he was staggered to become the youngest ever world champion, and a deserving one too.

Could next season be as good as this? The F-duct is gone, but KERS is back and a moveable rear wing (meant to aid overtaking) is introduced. Renault and Mercedes will be trying to thwart the top teams from this season, and it’ll be fascinating to see if they manage it.

Recent news: Hulkenberg has parted ways with Williams. Despite a decent season for the rookie, he’s been axed, probably because the team needs more money. He stands a chance of getting a spot with a new team, or with Force India. Williams have confirmed Barrichello is being retained for 2011, which will be the Brazilian’s 19th season in F1.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Yas Marina: post-race analysis

This season has been fantastic. Five contenders have battled for the title, each one has suffered reliability failures, made some mistakes and underperformed along the way. Ultimately, I feel the best man won.

This race, and the season, was decided not just by the unbeatable pace of Vettel (followed closely by the surprisingly quick McLarens) but by the strategic side of the sport. I wrote before that Yas Marina is a processional circuit; it’s very hard to overtake in Abu Dhabi. If you’re ahead, that’s great. But if you make a critical strategic error and emerge from the pits behind, say, a Renault who took advantage of the safety car and doesn’t need to stop again it will wreck your race.

Off the line Button got a great start and passed El Grumpino to take third. The soft tyres had begun to grain and slow, so Red Bull pitted Webber, and Ferrari reacted with both of their drivers. Massa was unable to jump Webber and although Alonso stayed in front of the Aussie he was, crucially, behind Petrov. I expected the Russian to make a mistake, and allow Alonso through. But instead he drove very well, and it was the increasingly desperate Spaniard who had the occasionally expedition off track [though Webber was so far back he couldn’t capitalise and pass Alonso].

The two title leaders were held up, lap after lap, when, lo, a miracle happened. The soft tyres of the McLarens and Vettel began to improve. The three at the front stretched the gap. Hamilton blinked first and pitted, but came out behind Kubica (who had started 11th on hard tyres and would not pit for some time). Vettel used this to increase his lead, pitted and emerged ahead of the duelling Renault and McLaren. For a time it seemed Button, whose pace was most impressive, could also leapfrog Hamilton and Kubica, but eventually he came out behind Hamilton to get a tasty podium.

Kubica had made the strategy work so well the gap he had created between himself and Petrov enabled him to finish ahead of his team mate (who had done very well to out-qualify the excellent Pole and keep Alonso bottled up for more than half the race).

Vettel’s performance was near perfect. For a short time Hamilton got very close as the McLaren seemed to be easier on the tyres, but he was never close enough to contemplate the pass he needed for even a small chance of the title. Last year, Button had seen his lead eroded race by race, until he took up the gauntlet at Interlagos, passed more than half the field and secured a glorious title. This year, Webber crumbled at Yas Marina. His qualifying was not good enough, his race pace was slower than all his rivals and he never looked in it. Alonso failed to get past Petrov and made a rather frustrated hand gesture at the driver (who had done a marvellous job to get sixth) at the end.

The top three were made of sterner stuff. Vettel was almost in a league of his own, and the two McLaren drivers were a distance ahead of the rest of the field (20s ahead of Rosberg). Vettel’s made some mistakes, but so have others (Alonso in Monaco and China, Hamilton’s repeated DNFs recently) and suffered more lost points to reliability than anyone else. I’m thrilled he (and not Alonso) won the title. Hockenheim could’ve tainted the prize. Instead, we have a youngest ever world champion, destined to be around for many a year.

KERS comes back next season (Eddie Jordan reckons that Mercedes have stolen a march on Renault in this regard), as do five world champions. If the Mercedes team improves their car, Schumacher could be a contender again, though for the long term I think we’re going to see Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso sharing the titles between themselves.

It’s also nice to end the season with an uncharacteristic pair of profitable tips. For next year (to be 20 races) I think I might do one article per weekend (after each race) and include any tips I offer on the main site there. I’ll do a few reviews of the season (from racing and betting perspectives) in the next few weeks. It’s been a fantastically entertaining season, so let’s hope 2011 can be half as good.

Cheers for reading.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Yas Marina: pre-race

Most interesting qualifying session. Vettel got pole, as tipped, after the Red Bulls opted for a series of laps on the soft tyre (which, unusually, seems to need that to get optimum pace) instead of an early run on one set of tyres then a late run on softs. Hamilton and Alonso did well to get 2nd and 3rd, and Button was unexpectedly racy in 4th. I never rated Webber’s chances of pole but was surprised he only got 5th.

For Alonso, it’s good, likewise Vettel. Despite a great 2nd place, Hamilton remains very unlikely to get the title back. Webber had the worst of the lot though. 5th in a car fast enough for pole when fighting the final battle for the crown is simply not good enough.

The lower half of the top 10 were Massa, Barrichello, Schumacher, Rosberg and Petrov. I was a little surprised the Mercedes didn’t get higher up the grid, and Petrov did very well to oust Kubica from the top 10 for the first time this season.

Once again, rain seems unlikely for the race. Bit of a shame, as it would’ve thrown a spanner in the works and made things even more interesting. If the race finishes as it starts Alonso will win the title, by 5 points, less than the 7 extra he gained when Massa entirely of his own accord pulled over during Hockenheim.

Each driver in the top 6 has a particular mission. Massa must try and get ahead of Webber, to prevent him having any hope of passing Alonso. Button must try to pass Alonso and keep the Spaniard and Webber behind him, so Hamilton can battle Vettel for the win without interference.

Webber simply must pass Alonso. If he doesn’t, he can’t win the title. Vettel has to win, and hope other results go his way (he could theoretically win if he got 2nd but that’s even less likely. Alonso needs a 1st or 2nd to guarantee the title, but if the grid remains unchanged, he is the champion. Hamilton’s got to win and hope the other 3 do appallingly badly.

Here’s the complete set of permutations:

Hamilton and Massa came close to colliding during Q2, but both got through and came 2nd and 6th respectively in Q3, but a grid penalty is possible for the Briton, which would be a great shame.

Unfortunately Yas Marina is one of those tracks where overtaking is not very easy or common, unlike Spa or Interlagos. This makes the qualifying result even more important (and likewise the penalty or lack thereof for Hamilton). Last time round only two cars retired so the final result will probably be very similar to the starting grid. The key moments will be the start (as ever), any safety cars and the pit stops.

No action to be taken regarding the Hamilton-Massa incident, which I’m very pleased about.

Quite hard to spot any value. Vettel’s 2 to win the race, and I’m more tempted to lay than back at those odds. He’s had good starts recently, but the lap 1 leader market does offer a 1.46 lay value or 5.6 to back Hamilton.

Last time round there was very little change at the sharp end. Hamilton got pole and was on for the win until his car broke down, and the Red Bulls got a formation 1-2. Button went from 5th to 3rd, passing Barrichello who stayed 4th.

Decided to back Button for a podium at 3.15. My thinking is thus: he starts 4th, so a good start could see him in the top 3. Unlike Webber and Hamilton-Vettel he doesn’t have to go bananas trying to beat Alonso/secure a win, so is less likely to make a silly error (Button’s made very few of those this season anyway), whereas a daring/mad overtaking manoeuvre from another driver could end that man’s race. He was also just three-hundredths off of Alonso’s time and was very competitive throughout qualifying (much moreso than I expected). Last but not least, Vettel’s car does have a habit of exploding just as he seems certain to win a race. Even if they hold station, Button would get 3rd if this happens yet again.

So, a single tip: Button to get a podium at 3.15 (set up a hedge at 1.4).

Morris Dancer

Yas Marina: pre-qualifying

Correction from last time: “If Vettel gets 1st he needs Webber 3rd or lower [Webber has more wins] and Alonso 6th or lower [10 points for 5th now].” Is wrong, Vettel would have 1 more win so if he wins and Webber’s 2nd, he has 1 more win than Webber and ties with Alonso.

Cheers to, er, someone, for spotting that.

It’s Thursday, and I’ve just read there’s been rain in Abu Dhabi. Only light, but still rather unexpected. Present forecast is for some rain over the weekend but a dry race day, though qualifying might be a little soggy.

For full title permutations, the official website has helpfully put together a feature stating who must do what: http://www.formula1.com/news/features/2010/11/11509.html

Staggeringly, P1 was slightly wet as it had rained in Abu Dhabi beforehand. Due to engine usage, the Ferrari was not really firing on all cylinders and its time cannot be considered representative of actual pace.

P1 saw Vettel fastest, half a second ahead of Hamilton who was an equal margin ahead of Button in 3rd and Webber 4th. They were followed by Kubica, Alonso, Schumacher, Kobayashi, Rosberg and Heidfeld. Interesting to see the recent trend of Schumacher outpacing Rosberg continuing, and both Saubers doing well. I expect Alonso to improve from 6th come P3.

During P2 Brundle reported that Button and McLaren think rain is a real possibility on race day.

P2 had Hamilton a quarter second ahead of Vettel, who was about the same ahead of Alonso and Webber. They were followed by Kubica, Massa, Petrov, Button, Liuzzi and Rosberg. Strong performance so far from Hamilton.

P3 was entirely dry, and had Vettel fastest, then Webber, Hamilton, Alonso, Button, Petrov, Schumacher, Rosberg, Kubica and Heidfeld. This is hard to read. BBC commentators believed that Red Bull were running a higher than usual fuel load at this stage to mask their true performance. Ferrari did not do the usual P3 qualifying simulation (a very low fuel, near to the end set of laps to show possible qualifying pace).

Weather forecasts for the qualifying, (5pm local time, 1pm UK time), indicate it should be dry. Normally I wouldn’t bother checking for a race in the desert, but it has been raining very recently.

So, qualifying. I’d be surprised if Webber got pole. Though not impossible, he’s run behind Vettel at every stage so far, and the German has been very quick of late. Ferrari’s lack of a qualifying simulation speaks of confidence but is rather unhelpful. Hamilton’s been running quite well, though the McLaren has an odd habit of being worse in qualifying than either practice or the race itself.

For me, it’s between Vettel and Alonso. Vettel had a heavier fuel load (probably) but we did get a time. Alonso may’ve set his time with heavier fuel, but didn’t set a more recent time. Right. Looking back to P2 [I’m ignoring P1 as there’s no way the Ferrari is over a second slower than the Red Bull] Vettel had a few tenths on Alonso.

The odds are presently Vettel 2.06 and Alonso 9.6. Got to say I’m tempted by those long odds. Checked back at the times for P3 and Hamilton was almost a second off Vettel, with Alonso almost identical to Hamilton. Even bearing in mind fuel and the track getting quicker, that’s pretty substantial.

So, my tip is for Vettel to get pole at 2.06. Not very exciting or out of left field, but I think him the likeliest chap to do it.

Morris Dancer

Update: I slightly misread the timings, it would seem, but it doesn't materially change anything. Hamilton was just over half a second off the pace, Alonso was 2-3 tenths off of him. Tip stays as is.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Interlagos: post-race analysis

I love Interlagos. I’ve not seriously followed F1 for all that long, but for me it’s up there with Spa and Silverstone. Today featured an exciting race that saw Button’s title hopes axed completely and Hamilton’s hanging by a thread. Barring a seriously unfortunate (for them) turn of events, it’s now a Red Bull/Alonso title.

If the top three got the same places at Abu Dhabi’s tedious Yas Marina circuit Alonso would win. Last year Abu Dhabi was good for Hamilton (he would probably have won or got a podium spot had his car not expired). This matters a lot because if he gets between Alonso and the Red Bulls this would help Vettel and Webber greatly.

But, more title speculation later. The race was also remarkable because, if you followed my tips with equal stakes, you’d actually finish ahead. The wiser heads [ie not me] correctly forecast that Hulkenberg’s dry pace was nowhere near his drying pace, although he did a decent job against Alonso and an even better one against Hamilton. Ultimately, he got 8th, which isn’t great from pole, but it’s not a catastrophe either.

Mercedes had another solid race, and seem to have a decisive advantage over Renault now. Schumacher is improving, outqualified Rosberg by a distance but couldn’t beat him on race day. Be interesting to see how he fares next year, having gotten back up to speed and had input into the 2011 car.

By my assessment, the Ferrari and McLaren were pretty equal. Hamilton thrashed his tyres after the first pit stop, and but for that might have had a chance to try and pass Alonso come the restart. Button did a very good job to climb up to 6th, Interlagos is clearly a circuit he likes.

However, the team that’s quickest is Red Bull. The problem is that their speed is like a glass dagger: very sharp, but brittle. There have been many reliability issues. But for them, Vettel would already be champion.

Red Bull wrapped up the title nowhere cares much about, the Constructors’, showing a tip by me to back McLaren to be a bit rubbish.

So, here are the title standings [decided to omit Hamilton as he needs a win and Alonso to get no points and the Red Bulls to do badly]:
Alonso 246
Webber 238
Vettel 231

If Webber gets 1st, he needs Alonso 3rd or lower. If Alonso gets 1st or 2nd he gets the title. If Vettel gets 1st he needs Webber 3rd or lower [Webber has more wins] and Alonso 6th or lower [10 points for 5th now].

Here’s a reminder of the new scoring system:
Winner: 25 Points
2nd: 18 Points
3rd: 15 Points
4th: 12 Points
5th: 10 Points
6th: 8 Points
7th: 6 Points
8th: 4 Points
9th: 2 Points
10th: 1 Point

Alonso and Webber clearly have the advantage, but Vettel does stand a real chance. Safety cars working against his rivals and accidents could yet hand him the title.

I’m no fan of Yas Marina, the next and final race of the season. I think it’s a triumph of glitzy hotels over an exciting circuit [the polar opposite of Spa]. From what I recall, the race last year was somewhat processional. Anyway, it’s just 1 week away, not the usual 2. It will be the last race I’ll post a trio of F1 articles [until maybe 2012], after which I’ll take a little time and put up a few season reviews posts [from racing, prediction and betting perspectives]. I imagine I’ll not post again after that until it’s time for a 2011 preview post or two.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Interlagos: pre-race

Blimey. The most surprising qualifying session this year, in terms of pole position. Hulkenberg came from nowhere to not only claim pole but slaughter the opposition. He beat 2nd-placed Vettel by over a second. Amazing. His odds were as long as 400/1 to get pole. Absolutely astounding performance. But will he be able to hold on during the race?

The closest comparable event is, I think, Fisichella’s Spa pole in 2009 for Force India. At the time, I suspected he would spend the race going backwards, and so he did, only to second and he was always close to eventual race winner Raikonnen.

Hulkenberg has a bigger problem, though. We are at the sharp end of a title race with four serious contenders, every one of which is immediately behind him. At the same time, there is a lot of speculation he’ll be axed by Williams and replaced by a driver with a lot of cash. Glory aside, he has a huge reason to do well.

After The Hulk, we have Vettel and Webber, then Hamilton and Alonso. After these title contenders are Barrichello and Kubica, Schumacher, Massa and Petrov. Interestingly, the best placed team after Red Bull is Williams, suggesting that whilst Hulkenberg was spectacular in qualifying, the car itself is performing nicely at Interlagos.

Just checking odds to get an idea of possible bets, and seen Hulkenberg is 33/1 for the win. From pole. This must be a record. Given the reliability issues of Red Bull I am seriously tempted by this. Recent precedents for this include the Fisichella drive at Spa last year and the Toro Rosso victory of Vettel [slightly different, as it happened in the rain]. In fact, every one of the four drivers immediately behind him are shorter (Alonso’s odds are just 10/1).

33/1 is ridiculous for a chap on pole. Yes, the odds are against him, but not that much. I’ve got to back him.

At the same time, I’ve laid him at 1.99 [not much available, but hopefully there will be] to lead lap 1. If he can stay ahead for much longer than that his victory odds ought to tighten substantially.

Update: there’s now £1,900 to lay at 1.91.

Anyway, it’s a bit late and that’s all I’ve got to offer. Tomorrow is all about The Hulk.

Morris Dancer

Friday, 5 November 2010

Interlagos: pre-qualifying

Yes, yet another pre-qualifying post before P3. Can’t be helped, I’m afraid. Before I get to the Grand Prix and title race, a word on next season. I do intend to continue betting on and following Formula One. However, given the performance of this year [ok on qualifying, dire on race day] I’m not going to write a regular mini-series of articles each weekend. If I do spot a tip, I’ll put it on the main site. I do intend to post about F1 on pb2, but more sporadically. Once the 2010 season ends, I’ll be doing some analysis, firstly to try and see just how good the practice sessions are at forecasting qualifying and race pace, and how good qualifying is at predicting race results. After that, I’ll be going through my bets and trying to find out which were just unlucky [yes, I still remember that **** Alonso missing pole by 0.002s] and which were moronic.

The fact is I never really got to grips with no refuelling. I think it’s a mistake in terms of racing as, excepting Montreal, just about every dry race has had an identical, dull, one-stop strategy, but it’s also something I’ve not got a handle on betting-wise. If I do ok or better in 2011, I’ll go back to regular articles in 2012 [something for you all to look forward to].

Anyway, back to Brazil, home of fantastic races and title-transforming results. Only Alonso can win the prize in Brazil, but many others could lose it. Theoretically, it’s still a five horse race, though Button is unlikely to be a contender come Sunday evening.

P1 saw Red Bull dominance. Vettel had half a second on Webber and Hamilton, and was a full second ahead of 4th-placed Button, who was followed by Kubica, Rosberg, Barrichello, Schumacher, Sutil and Heidfeld. The Ferraris seem to have been dicking about in this session.

P2 saw a similar but less pronounced result. Vettel was a tenth up on Webber and three-tenths ahead of Alonso, who was a similar margin ahead of Hamilton (closely followed by Massa). After Massa was Kubica, Button, Heidfeld, Rosberg and Schumacher.

From this point, it looks like Vettel’s pole to lose [then again, it was in Singapore and he lost it]. Rain is slightly probable for qualifying. Last year, bad luck and dire weather terminated Vettel’s title hopes as the qualifying Wunderkind suffered a calamitous Q1 dropout. Rain this year could massively jumble things up.

I won’t bore you with all the permutations of the race and what it means for the title, but here are some basics to watch out for:

Vettel must beat Alonso, or his challenge is over.
Hamilton beating Alonso is almost as good for Red Bull as it is for himself.
Button pretty much needs to win to have any hope of keeping the title.

Glad I don’t have to call this. If I did, I’d perhaps back Alonso at 8.6. Vettel’s 2.4 is tempting, Webber’s 3.7 isn’t particularly. Hamilton stands an outside shot.

My forecast is for a Red Bull front row lockout, with Alonso and Hamilton on row 2. Watch out for Kubica, Button and Massa trying to get in the way. Massa especially has a point to prove.

The pre-race piece will also be late, as I’m out for most of Saturday.

Morris Dancer