Monday, 26 December 2011

Early preview of 2012

For the first time in a few seasons 2012 won’t see a slew of massive rule changes. With luck (as always) this may help me finally start a season in the green rather than the red.

DRS, KERS and Pirelli all remain, although the blown diffusers are to be abolished (or at least reduced significantly). Here’s a brief and approximate explanation of how the blown diffuser works, and what hot and cold blowing (do stop giggling) are:

Teams have taken to channelling the exhaust gases from the engine to specifically designed aerodynamic parts, which acts to push the car into the road, improving grip. The engine can be (and has been) used to do this even when the car isn’t accelerating, substantially enhancing grip in slow corners particularly. Hot blowing is much the same, only fuel is used to heat the exhaust gases which enhances their effect.

Possibly helpfully this was banned (in a rather shambolic way) at the Silverstone Grand Prix, which was also the only one that Ferrari won (ironically it was the only race won by a car not built in Britain). Ferrari are a bit rubbish at it compared to Red Bull, and McLaren are in between.

This may help the others catch up to Red Bull somewhat, as their downforce is the very best on the circuit (more than making up for a slight lack of straight line speed or a dodgy mini-KERS unit). However, I don’t anticipate the teams being shuffled around too much. It’ll be intriguing to see how Mercedes and Lotus (formerly Renault) do in their bid to close the gap to the frontrunners.

I think roughly 70% of speed is down to the car, with 30% from the driver. However, drivers are more consistent across seasons. So, I fully expect Vettel and Hamilton to be the best qualifiers in 2012, and Schumacher to consistently be out-qualified by Rosberg.

In 2009 I enjoyed an epic (albeit Pyrrhic) tipping victory as I tipped, but didn’t back, Button before the season began at 70/1. In 2010 I had a plethora of long-term bets, almost all of which were utterly wrong.

This season I didn’t tip on title or similar bets but did make a small number that turned out green in the end. I think a sensible approach is to avoid pre-season tipping due to the low number of tests and high degree of variability (due to fuel especially), but consider such things around a quarter or a third into the season. At that stage matters will be clearer, as will the direction of travel (which teams are improving, or not) and there’s plenty of time to hedge.

I had a pretty good run on the safety car this year. I think I’m right in saying every bet on it was green. There are two big things to look for when making such a bet: the circuit, and weather. Circuits like Malaysia and Hungary are good, as there’s lots of run-off area, and Monaco and other street circuits are bad (obviously). Weather can be hard to predict, but this can also help as many people have monsoons in mind when contemplating Malaysia, but actually it’s one of the circuits least likely to have a safety car, artificially lengthening the No Safety Car odds.

Raikkonen (surely this was Raikonnen a few years ago? Or am I going mad?) is a big wild card. He varies from Absolutely Cannot Be Bothered to Staggeringly Fast, for no apparent reason. It may take him a little while to get used to the Pirellis, but I think he’ll be a bit faster than Schumacher when it comes to re-acclimatising to F1 (he’s been out a year less, he’s raced cars competitively since and he’s a bit younger). A few races at least will probably be needed, perhaps more.

It’s also important to consider in the first few races that different circuits suit different cars, so you can’t necessarily draw immediate conclusions (the first of 2012 are Australia, Malaysia and China).

Anyway, I thought a quick rundown of the teams and drivers at the end of 2011 and their prospects for 2012 might be worth doing, so here it is:

Red Bull

The champions. Less KERS (40kW and unreliable unlike the standard 60kW other teams employ), less straight line speed but absolutely top drawer downforce which enables them to use the DRS in places others can’t, partially explaining their relative qualifying advantage. Absolute pace cannot be guessed at in 2012 but the recipe of lower top speed and excellent downforce is likely to continue.

Vettel – fantastic driver. Very good qualifier, enjoys leading from the front, is capable of excellent passes (cf Monza this year). Few weaknesses, possibly uncomfortable when things are tight in the wet (cf Canada) and, weirdly, relatively rubbish at the Nurburgring (which we next visit in 2013). Rightly favourite to retain his title.

Webber – good, but not in Vettel’s league. Had some difficulty adjusting to the Pirellis and more reliability issues than his team mate, so I expect the gap to close this year. More capable of challenging in qualifying than the race, and he needs to sort his starts out.


Excellent straight line speed, downforce good but not on a par with Red Bull. They were actually faster than Red Bull at many races but failed to capitalise, such as in Spain and Monaco. Improved strategy (including some qualifying faux pas that cost Hamilton and the Monaco disaster) needed.

Button – better than in his 2009 winning year. He’s still got his cunning tactical mind for tyres and the ability to find grip in soggy conditions when others can’t, but he’s also a great passer. Qualifying is his weakness, but towards the end of the season he was matching and sometimes beating Hamilton. Almost as importantly, he’s got a 3 year contract and has been working the team diplomatically.

Hamilton – had a slightly rough year, but it’s somewhat over-egged. Multiple collisions, some of which were not his fault and a few that were, helped him to a lowly 5th in the title race. However, at the end of the season he was qualifying and racing better. Man most likely (perhaps excepting Webber) to challenge Vettel for pole.


Dog of a car, mostly. Couldn’t get the medium compound (white) tyres to work which repeatedly compromised them (cf Brazil) all season. They also failed to challenge for pole throughout 2011.

Alonso – However, the very fact that Alonso was just a point behind Webber, who had the championship winning car, despite this, points to his continued excellence. Should he get a truly competitive car next year I think he’s the man likeliest to challenge Vettel for the title (partially due to his undoubted number one status at the team.

Massa – has put in some good qualifying performances but sadly is a shadow of his former self. I do not think he will remain as Alonso’s sidekick for long. It’s a real shame after his great 2008 season.


Played with themselves all year long (as it were. Ahem). Not fast enough to beat Ferrari, not slow enough to be seriously under pressure from a lower team. Great DRS and top speed but still shredding rear tyres. If they get that sorted and find a smidgen of performance they could join the big three, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Schumacher – Had a cracker of a race in Canada when he gained 4th and only just missed out on a podium. Although the team’s best result of the year he was beaten overall by Rosberg (perhaps due to failing to finish around a quarter of the races). His qualifying remains ropey, his starts are excellent and in the latter half of the season he was a better racer than Rosberg.

Rosberg – very hard to assess as we have no idea how good his team mate is today, relatively. His qualifying remains pretty good but in terms of race pace he’s now the second driver in the team.

I’ll cover the other teams, who are unlikely to get race wins or contest for the title or regular podium places, more briefly.

Renault – renamed Lotus next year. They’ve got a surprising lineup. Firstly, the still-injured Kubica cannot drive for them (incidentally, I’ve read that the problem is now not his hand/arm but the fact he’s been so inactive and has lost the strength, perhaps especially in the neck, needed to cope with heavy G-forces) and Raikkonen is now their lead driver. Romain Grosjean also makes a return to the team, having driven for them somewhat unimpressively a few years ago. I doubt Renault will be able to challenge regularly at the sharp end but they should be just behind Mercedes.

Force India – unsurprisingly Sutil has been axed and replaced with Hulkenberg, and di Resta retains his seat. I rate both the relative newcomers highly, and think that Force India are in a pretty good position. At certain tracks (high speed circuits, like Spa or Monza) they may spring the odd surprise. Hulkenberg’s lack of race experience on the new tyres may hinder him for the first few races, but his practice sessions this year should mean his qualifying is unaffected.

Sauber – they’re keeping Perez and Kobayashi. The team often starts pretty well but lacks the knack (or money) for full-season development. Perez is pretty good, and Kobayashi likewise, but I suspect they may be let down by their car.

Toro Rosso – not often we get teams changing both drivers, and even rarer to have it happen twice. I think Buemi and Alguersuari are somewhat unlucky to both be axed, though the latter may get the final seat at HRT (a grim fate). They’re replaced by aspiring Red Bull young guns Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne. Hard to assess the drivers as Vergne hasn’t been in F1 before and Ricciardo spent a few races last season at HRT. Toro Rosso have been reasonable in 2011, and have excelled in speed traps suggesting a ferocious top speed but lacking elsewhere. Their aim must be to beat the likes of Sauber.

Williams – at the time of writing Williams have yet to announce who will partner the bank manager-pleasing Maldonado, who has not impressed with manner or skill. Barrichello seems likely to be out but Sutil, Senna, or another could take the seat. The car has not been good enough for a while, and unless they want to be overtaken by Caterham/Lotus they need to sort it out.

Lotus – renamed Caterham for 2012. They’re sticking with Kovalainen, who’s been driving well, and Trulli (probably). The team’s been the best of the backmarkers for the last couple of years but that’s not good enough. However, they do get a pleasing slice of money for their performances over the last few seasons which could help them start to actually nibble at the points occasionally.

Virgin – renamed Marussia, and featuring Glock and a new chap called Charles Pic. Most significantly, predictable yet nevertheless vaguely amusing double entendres regarding the team’s name will be a thing of the past.

HRT – rather surprisingly the 73 year old Pedro de la Rosa has gotten a drive with them. The other seat in the comedy acronym team remains vacant. The new boss, Luis Perez-Sala, has said that the team will be taking a step backwards in 2012, a statement that seems to defy all reason. How can you take a step backwards when you’re always last? Presumably this means the team will now comprehensively fail to beat the 107% rule (I use the term ‘rule’ loosely) and when they accidentally get to the starting grid their cars will burst into flames before the lights go out.

I’ll write a final preview after the final pre-season test but before the first race. Unless something dramatic happens I don’t intend to write another article between now and then.

Morris Dancer

Friday, 23 December 2011

2012 – antifrank aims ahead

Undaunted by my mediocre predictions for 2011, I am nevertheless going to have a bash at predicting what's coming up in the year ahead. This is particularly foolish given my long-held belief that the future is unwritten, but it's always useful to have something to test my expectations against.

Looking forward by looking back

In order to understand where we are going, it's first important to understand where we're coming from. 2011 has in many ways been a remarkably static year in political terms. All three parties are more or less where they were at the beginning of the year – the Conservatives may have put on a bit of support in the last few weeks, but it remains to be seen how permanent that is.

This is astonishing, given the amount of political turbulence. We have had a very ropey year for the economy, public sector strikes, riots, widespread anger at the revealed behaviour of the press, a crisis in the Eurozone that looms ever closer and a bona fide Euro-hissy fit. Yet the political barometer has barely moved, no matter how hard it has been hit.

So the first big question to ask is why public opinion is so static. And here we come into a whole load of negatives:

1. The public doesn't approve of the Coalition. It routinely gets -20 or worse on the YouGov surveys.

2. The public doesn't much like David Cameron. He has negative approval ratings with both MORI and YouGov. (But Conservatives adore him)

3. The public really doesn't like Nick Clegg. His approval ratings are so far below water that he is exploring territory that previously had been reserved for Jacques Cousteau.

4. The public doesn't rate Ed Miliband either. There is a big discrepancy between MORI and YouGov in his ratings, but both are negative (MORI is merely poor, while YouGov finds him to be very poor). In a survey commissioned by Lord Ashcroft, the word most frequently associated with him was "weird".

5. The public doesn't like the EU. Surveys show that more people want to leave the EU than remain in it. David Cameron's refusal to sign up to the latest EU treaty was enthusiastically received across the political spectrum.

6. In fact, it's very hard to find anyone or anything at all that the public approves of right now.

The net effect of all of this, when no one commands public support, seems to be that the public are following Newton's First Law of Motion, proceeding in a straight line with no outside force operating on them.

If this is correct, then we should not expect events by themselves to make much difference until sections of the public are persuaded from their current default settings by the analysis of those events put forward by one or more public figures.

The Grid for 2012

When working out what might come next, we have to think about what is likely to come up. There are five predictable events of significance, two economic, two cultural, one international.

1. The Eurozone crisis will be resolved, one way or another

But like the film Seven, this isn't going to have a happy ending. Even on a best case outcome, we are probably in for economic disruption. On a worst case outcome, we are in for an appalling time. Worryingly, the worst case outcome is not a remote possibility.

2. The UK economy in 2012 will continue to languish

It looks reasonably likely that we shall have another recession in 2012. The parties will put their competing interpretations on the poor economic performance. Meanwhile, the public will continue to feel morose as they continue to tighten their belts.

3. The Queen will enjoy her Diamond Jubilee

There will be a lot of retrospectives about the last 60 years. The public will wallow in nostalgia and monarchism. It should be a good year for the forces of conservatism.

4. The summer will be dominated by the Olympics

All the signs are that the Olympics should be a success. The construction works have been remarkably trouble-free to date. You can guarantee that there will be some crisis, scandal or media storm about them, though. An obvious flashpoint will be the transport in London during the games.

5. The US election will be on the news all year

The US election looks to be even more of a circus than usual this time around. The Republican nomination race is frankly embarrassing and will be reported as a freak show. This will have an impact on how the public see the economic and political debate here. It may even make the public feel a little more warmly disposed towards our own selection of politicians.

My predictions

That's the easy part over and done with. Now the harder part, what am I going to predict?

Boris will probably win the Mayoral election, but it will be a lot tighter than is currently assumed

Today, you can back Boris on Betfair at 1.37 (4/11). This is far too short. There has to be at least an 11/4 chance that Boris Johnson gets embroiled in some major brouhaha in the next five months, given his remarkably chequered past.

This is a two horse race. The other serious runner, Ken Livingstone, is a two term Mayor with a formidable political machine, a continuing appetite and a flair for eye-catching election promises. He has a lot of baggage, but he has been written off far too soon. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson seems to be reacting to Ken Livingstone's campaign rather than fighting a positive campaign of his own.

Boris will probably still win because he can transcend party boundaries. But at a time when Labour is polling far better than it did in 2008 when this battle was last fought, it is not a done deal by any means.

Polling this time next year won't be far off what it is now

The public seems to have formed settled views of the respective merits of the three main parties. In the absence of anything persuading them to take a fresh look, they probably won't change their opinions.

The Conservatives' poll numbers might move if David Cameron brings back peace with honour from the EU as part of the settlement of the Eurozone crisis. The direction of movement depends on whether the peace with honour is seen in the same light as Disraeli after the Treaty of Berlin of 1878 (when we came home with Cyprus) or as Chamberlain after the Munich Accord. David Cameron will not be helped by the utterly unrealistic expectations of the right of his party. On balance, I expect that the Conservatives will stay roughly where they are now.

The economy, though grim, is probably not going to change many people's votes either way. Those who wish to believe that it is the fault of the coalition's policies will carry on believing that and those who wish to believe that it is the fault of the Eurozone crisis will carry on believing that. Those who don't know will continue not to know.

From a narrow partisan viewpoint, the coalition parties may actually do better if there is a disorderly break-up of the Eurozone. Any economic fall-out will swamp the mistakes that could be laid at their door. From a national viewpoint, it would be a complete disaster.

Labour's poll numbers will move in an inverse relationship with the Conservatives'. The public seem fairly settled in their opinion of the leading Labour figures and they don't have control of events to make the political weather. However, Labour should do well in the local elections in May, now that they seem to have belatedly realised that they need to take on the Conservatives (rather than the SNP and the Lib Dems) if they are going to make progress.

It's hard to see what the Lib Dems can do to pick themselves back up off the canvass. They'll have to take Churchill's advice and keep buggering on.

Politicians will mostly stay put

This should be an excellent year to bet against senior politicians leaving their jobs. While all three party leaders have negative ratings, it would suit no Lib Dem for Nick Clegg to stand down next year, David Cameron is hugely popular with his party faithful and Ed Miliband will do well enough in the polls to keep the wolves from the door. It will be a year to bet on things not happening rather than on them happening.

This will also generally hold good at Cabinet level, but for different reasons. Because the Cabinet is an explicitly brokered coalition, Lib Dem Cabinet members will only go for the most egregious reasons (and even then, only maybe). And because Lib Dems won't lightly resign, neither will Conservatives. The next departures from the Cabinet will probably be at a reshuffle in June/July. Bets on next Cabinet departures should be set accordingly - who is the most dispensible? Caroline Spelman and Michael Moore spring to mind. Kenneth Clarke might also choose to take the next reshuffle as a time to retire. Lord Strathclyde at 33/1 might be worth thinking about too, because he is politically dispensible, should David Cameron need to dispense with him. It might be convenient to have a Lib Dem leader of the Lords, for example.

I for one am hoping that we are going to see more markets speculating on John Bercow's departure. To be clear, he will stay put, but it would be lovely to have some more ways of making interest-free high yield returns.

The minor parties will continue to miss trick after trick...

The current political mood is as toxic to mainstream politicians as I can recall. But no minor party is taking advantage of this. The Greens are invisible, UKIP are offensively graceless and the BNP are collapsing in internal recriminations. There is a glittering opportunity for the minor parties, but none of them show any signs of having any leadership capable of taking it.

... except for the SNP

Alex Salmond is very successfully positioning himself both as head of a Scottish government and as a leading internal opponent to the coalition. It's a nice trick if you can pull it off, and it seems as though he can. He is aided enormously by the dismal quality of all his local opponents.

However, he has concerns of his own. While he can retain power easily enough, the political climate has never been less promising for Scottish independence. "Independence in Europe" is not an easy message to sell when the Eurozone is circling the plughole, and leaving what at present looks like a relatively safe haven in the UK is going to be an equally tough sell. Yet he has no excuses not to hold a referendum at some point in this Parliament. No doubt we will eventually get a referendum (though not next year). But I would not bet on it passing without a very dramatic change in the political weather.


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

antifrank's almanac – reviewing last year's predictions

This time last year, I was foolish enough to commit some predictions to pb2. It seems only fair to look at them again now with the benefit of hindsight and see how I did. My self-assessment is written in italics.

"1. Labour will prosper in the polls

In the short term, this trend will help Labour. When the public is in a hostile mood, the lightning will be directed at the parties in power. As the cuts bite deeper and taxes rise, Labour should rise in the polls. Even if the economy continues to grow, the public will feel poorer. Ed Miliband will have to work quite hard to mess this up."

Meh. When I wrote my prediction, Labour were around 42% with YouGov and polled 39% with ICM the following week. This week, Labour are around 40-42% with YouGov and polled 34% with ICM last week. So they didn't rise in the polls. Ed Miliband has not cut through in the way that he would have hoped.

"Labour can hope to win something close to an absolute majority in both Scotland and Wales with good campaigns."

I didn't see the SNP triumph coming then (though I did make a lot of money out of it a few months later). In Wales, Labour got exactly 30 out of 60 seats. If I were being cheeky, I'd give myself half marks, but the Welsh prediction was a lot easier to get right.

"2. The Greens may well become more influential

But unless Ed Miliband can turn around initial public perceptions of him, it's likely that other parties also will benefit. The Greens seem to have a major opportunity: leftwingers in particular seem to feel let down by all their regular choices. If they positioned themselves wisely, the Greens could scoop up a lot of left of centre voters who don't yet feel that the Labour party that has yet found a new direction. To date, the Greens have decided against compromising with the electorate. Do they have the vision to see their opportunity?"

Apparently not. The Greens have been conspicuous by their absence from political debate. They have only themselves to blame.

"3. UKIP should resurface

There is also an opportunity on the right. The Conservatives have got the sound money right wing vote locked up. Can UKIP exploit the cuts to its own advantage? They would need to take a populist rightwing approach, but such approaches have worked well in quite a few European countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Hungary, for example) and UKIP could do much worse than look to continental Europe for inspiration. What they really need is an impeccable rightwing campaign that needs government spending. The armed forces, perhaps?"

UKIP barely did better than the Greens. They came second in Barnsley Central, had the minor success of holding their deposits in Feltham & Heston, but otherwise, nothing. They failed to broaden their appeal to become a populist right-wing party and failed even to make much of an impact in the biggest crisis to hit the EU in decades. A couple of snotty speeches in the European Parliament are not going to give UKIP power and influence. They urgently need to rethink their entire strategy.

"4. The Lib Dems will continue to flounder"

Not my most challenging prediction.

"Expect to see the Lib Dems retreat into hyper-localism. This may prove more effective than the major two parties expect in the local elections, but is unlikely to help them much in Scotland or Wales, in both of which they can expect to be spanked."

It didn't prove much more effective in the local elections than the major two parties expected, but Scotland and Wales were just as predicted.

"On the other hand, they might just take Oldham East & Saddleworth if they can harness the tactical Tory vote."

They could, but they mightn't.

"5. The Tories will stay in touch with Labour

Tory supporters like the cuts, at least the principle of them. The Tory poll ratings have slid gently but consistently through the last few months and will probably continue to do so while the cuts continue to bite. But I doubt the slide will accelerate and in Scotland the Tories might even get an increase in support in May. In the local elections, the Conservatives will lose a lot of seats, but perhaps not as many as might be expected, given how badly placed Labour are in so many parts of southern England."

The heading was more accurate than the detail. The Tories are currently polling considerably better than I had imagined this time last year. But the Tories lost seats in Scotland and gained local election seats in England. The trajectory for the Tories has been at the top end of my expectations for them this time last year.

"6. The AV referendum will be lost

The election will take place after two weeks of Royal wedding mania and no one cares about electoral reform. The referendum will be seen to be about Nick Clegg. If Ed Miliband campaigns hard for AV also, it might also come to be seen to be a referendum about him. At the moment, neither are voter magnets."

One unequivocal success. It's particularly gratifying to see that I was right at least partly for the right reasons.

"7. Fewer than half of my predictions will come true.


Another unequivocal success!

I shall put up my predictions for next year to have rotten tomatoes hurled at fairly soon.


Thursday, 1 December 2011

Full-season review of 2011

A mixed bag, overall, I think.

The races, especially early on when the Pirellis crumbled like cheese, were pretty good and a few were excellent (China and Canada, for example). Unfortunately we did get some processions (Monaco ended badly due to the red flag, India was boring, Valencia and Singapore likewise) but on the whole racing was good, I think.

From both a betting and racing perspective the season was reasonably good but could have been better (especially in the latter half of the season). The tale of the season was Vettel/Red Bull dominance, and this made qualifying and race betting often quite difficult.


Vettel has gone up in my estimation, as has Button. Hamilton’s gone down somewhat, but if he gets his head screwed on right he has the speed to challenge for further titles. Alonso’s as excellent as ever but he needs a car capable of more than one victory (and Silverstone may’ve been down to a rather shambolic last minute and temporary rule change).

Massa is a shadow of the driver who competed for the 2008 title and missed out by the narrowest of margins. A combination of recovering from a serious head injury and Alonso assuming the throne once occupied by Schumacher has reduced him to an also-ran.

Webber also performed poorly, relative to his team mate, and whilst he suffered the lion’s share of reliability failures Vettel suffered likewise in 2010 but still took the title.

The Mercedes pair are the most intriguing, because it’s very hard to tell who’s better. In the second half of the season Schumacher was more impressive, although Rosberg enjoyed season long dominance in qualifying. I hope that they, McLaren and Ferrari can challenge Red Bull more closely next year.

The also-rans remain also-rans. No real shift from Lotus, Virgin or HRT, although Kovalainen did manage to occasionally get his Lotus into Q2. Hopefully the extra prize money will help them to close the gap to the midfield.

Perhaps the closest battle during the course of the season was in the midfield. Renault nabbed fifth, just four points ahead of Force India. Force India have been strong throughout, and with Hulkenberg reportedly joining them (replacing Sutil) and the strong Di Resta they’ll have two potentially great drivers for next season. Renault took off like a rocket at the start of 2011, with a pair of podiums, but their front-exiting exhaust (as well as sounding awful) was dire in slow corners and they clearly missed Kubica’s world class talent.

If the Pole can’t make the start of 2012 then I’d give Senna the seat. He’s made a few mistakes, but he’s also qualified well and worthy of a race seat, in my view.

Update: surprisingly, Raikkonen has got the nod. Team mate unconfirmed, presumed to be Petrov with the announcement due by the 10th of December.

Sauber just about fended off the Toro Rosso team to get seventh by just three points. A bit like Renault, Sauber got more points early on (Perez would’ve scored in his debut race had it not been for a purely technical infringement regarding the rear wing) but struggled more later on, perhaps due to lack of development funds. I think Perez has done a pretty good job throughout the season, and with him and Kobayashi Sauber have a decent lineup.

Toro Rosso have two cars, which is worth reminding them about because they seem to have about four potential drivers next year. Buemi and Alguersuari have both driven pretty well, but Ricciardo and Vergne[sp] are also eyeing up the seats.

Alas, poor Williams. A paltry five points, and seemingly due to axe Barrichello whilst keeping the bank-manager-pleasing Maldonado. I’m not a Maldonado fan. The side-swipe in Spa on Hamilton should’ve earnt him a serious penalty and getting penalties twice in one race for ignoring blue flags is not impressive. Raikkonen is now definitely not going to get Barrichello’s seat, so it’s unclear who will drive for the once mighty Williams.


The start of the season seems a long way away now, especially given the sub-optimal UK coverage situation for next season. I’m not going through every race (you can, excitingly, go back and check the blog archives) but will pick out some high- and lowlights.

Bahrain –

Valencia’s chief rival for Worst Track On The Calendar. Although the reasons for the track’s absence were severe and serious it is not the sort of track that will be missed. We’re apparently headed there next year, but already that seems questionable.

China –

My worst result of the season (4 tips, 4 losers) but a very exciting and unpredictable race due to the super-fast degradation of the Pirellis. Webber charged through the field, having exited in Q1, and got himself a podium. Had the race been a little longer he would’ve certainly won.

Turkey –

No Red Bull collision, but it’s the last time an F1 race will be held there. It’s a decent rather than fantastic track, but given the state of Bahrain, Singapore, Valencia etc it’s a shame to lose one of the better new tracks.

Canada –

The longest race ever (over 4 hours) and maybe, just maybe, one of the very best. I buggered up qualifying tips badly, and it looked like my McLaren to Win tip was equally moronic when, after about 40 laps, Button was 21st of 21 cars still running. And yet he won, and there was much rejoicing.

Germany –

It’s weird and unfortunate for Vettel that (excepting for when his car didn’t finish once) his worst result was at home. For whatever reason he just can’t excel at the Nurburgring. Annoyingly, this will only prove useful in two years as Germany alternates its circuit and next year we’ll be at Hockenheim.

Belgium and Italy –

I’ve bracketed these together for two big reasons: Red Bulls making crazy passes on Alonso. At Spa Webber passed him through Eau Rouge at full speed, and the skill of both men to avoid a massive accident was breath-taking. Vettel is often criticised for being a lacklustre passer, but at Monza he pulled a great move on Alonso, even having two wheels put on the grass.

Brazil –

An allegory of the season. Less exciting than we’ve come to expect because the Red Bulls were just too damned fast. Handy for Webber that his team mate got a gearbox problem and gifted him the win.

Rule changes

I think having both KERS and DRS is a bit gimmicky, but there’s no denying they’ve often worked well. Occasionally the DRS has been too easy/hard, but it’s the inaugural year so that’s to be expected.

The biggest change was the Pirelli tyres. Sadly they became more durable (or the drivers better at managing them) in the latter half of the season, but early on it was pandemonium as the races unfolded in brilliant chaos.


Overall, I think I did ok. Bit disappointed with recent races, but I finished ahead overall, for both qualifying and the races, and that’s better than last year. Hopefully I can beat the 2011 result in 2012.

In the first half of the season not hedging was significantly better, but in the second half hedging produced a lower less. Over the entire season it was better, by far, not to hedge.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Brazil: post-race analysis

Since Abu Dhabi:

It’s not been officially confirmed, but it’s highly likely Hulkenberg, whom I rate, will replace Sutil and partner Di Resta at Force India.

The BBC have also released their half-season calendar, which includes the lion’s share of terrible tracks but also has a few gems (Silverstone, Spa and Interlagos). I remain less than impressed with the broadcaster’s nefarious canoodling with Sky. (The list is: Spain, Monaco, Valencia, Britain, Belgium, Singapore, Korea, Abu Dhabi and Brazil).

Qualifying summary:

Quelle surprise, Vettel got pole and broke another record (15 poles in one season). Webber also got second, making it a 1-2 lock-out for Red Bull.

I didn’t offer a tip on this as I couldn’t see past Vettel getting it in the dry but there was a serious chance of rain (it didn’t appear but numerous engineers believed this also) and that would’ve made things utterly unpredictable.

Slightly surprisingly Button beat his team mate and McLaren locked out the second row. With rain a strong possibility tomorrow and Webber’s trademark handbrake starts the moustachioed one may stand a decent chance of victory. Alonso took fifth, and Rosberg got a cracking sixth for Mercedes.

The top 10 were rounded out by Massa, Sutil, Senna (who has impressed me during his brief time with Renault) and Schumacher, who was miles behind his team mate. However, this often happens in qualifying, but in races Schumacher is one of the top overtakers and Rosberg often goes backwards, so we’ll see how that goes.

Further down the field Maldonado showed why his money has secured his seat, getting 18th, whilst his probably soon-to-be-ejected team mate got 12th. Petrov only got 15th, highlighting Senna’s relative skill, and the Saubers got a poor 16th and 17th.

Race summary:

I offered a pair of tips for this race: Button to win at 7 (hedged at 2.5) and Alonso for a podium at 2.6.

From both a racing and betting perspective, the race was disappointing. The reason was simple: the Red Bull was absolutely unrivalled and when Vettel’s gearbox went slightly wonky the victory was gifted to Webber.

No rain meant less excitement. Frustratingly, Alonso looked likely to get a podium for almost the entire race, until the last 16 laps or so when Button, on the same compound, passed him.

There were some tussles lower down the grid, but all forecasts of rain proved false and it was an unusually processional race (at the front) for Red Bull.

The silver lining (half of one, anyway) is that the bets I’d made earlier in the season for Button to finish in the top 3 came good, as did the small hedged bet for him to win the ‘without Vettel’ market (Alonso would’ve been my first choice). However, both of these bets were made in the first half of the season.


It’s been a season of two halves for me. After my traditional rubbish start I went from Turkey to Italy with a single loss (with hedging), but the latter half of the season has been red. In the last 6 races I’ve made a loss at 4 of them, and contemplated but decided against two long odds bets in Korea that would’ve turned the whole half-season around.

On the plus side, I was ahead for both qualifying and races. Despite the latter half of the season being better with laying, you’d be better (£43.90 better assuming £10 stakes) over the season going without hedging bets.

Bit irritated about today. Any number of small differences (rain, Vettel’s gearbox breaking) could have given Alonso third, but that’s the way things go.

The next season won’t be available free-to-air in the UK due to the BBC’s decision to shaft the licence fee-payer and canoodle with Sky (the only way the sport could stop being free-to-air). Hopefully this won’t adversely affect tipping (mind you, seeing it free-to-air in the latter half of the season didn’t stop me buggering it up).

I’m thinking of returning to the pre-qualifying, pre-race, post-race analysis style I went for in 2010. I write more or less the same amount anyway for a single article, and if anyone has views on this I’ll take them into account.

Although the last few months have been ropey, overall the season’s green and that’s pretty nice. I’ll do a review in the nearish future and another post looking ahead to 2011 (from a betting perspective, so I won’t wait for driver lineups to be confirmed). Thanks for reading my articles, hopefully you made a little bit of money, and I’ll be writing more in 2012.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Abu Dhabi: post-race analysis

Since India:

Both Mercedes’ drivers are to extend their stay with the Silver Arrows. Rosberg’s signed a multi-year deal, with Schumacher extended his stay until the end of 2013. I really hope they can put together a race-winning car that can compete for the title in that time, so that we can see whether Rosberg can cut it at the sharp end and if Schumacher’s still got what it takes to win.

Update: read later that no decision’s been made by Schumacher, so the 2013 deal seems to be rumour, for now at least.

Qualifying summary:

I offered no tip on this. I was tempted by Hamilton, but thought he’d be 3.75. When I checked he was evens, and Vettel was around 2.4. I thought it not worth betting on Hamilton, and in the end Vettel won.

Barrichello didn’t even leave the pits in possibly his penultimate qualifying session and starts 23rd, ahead of his team mate Maldonado who suffers a 10 slot penalty for using 9 engines.

Force India were the best of the rest, after the customary top teams assumed the top 8 grid slots, with Toro Rosso slightly underperforming given their recent level of achievement.

There is, contrary to earlier reports, no change to the circuit itself. There had been plans to amend it to encourage overtaking but instead the organisers are relying upon the two DRS zones for this. Button and some others fear there’ll still be sod all overtaking. To make matters, possibly, worse the tyres seem to be lasting a long time (more like the Bridgestones and less like the excellent early season Pirellis that crumbled not unlikely certain types of cheese).

Race summary:

I rather nervously backed both McLarens, counting it as a single tip (effectively as McLaren to Win, but going for drivers as the odds were better) based upon very good qualifying pace. More confident was the tip for Schumacher to be top 6 at 2.5. He started 8th, makes up 2-3 places on average per race, and Massa has recently had a habit of buggering things up.

Lap 1 was damned exciting for one big reason: one of Vettel’s rear tyres deflated with immediate and permanent consequences. Although he managed to (eventually) get the car back to the pits his tyre had effectively become a flail that had wrecked any hope of continuing. The invincible Weltmeister was out.

Shortly thereafter Alonso, who maintains his habit of fantastic starts, passed not only Webber but also Button, becoming second to Hamilton’s first. It was to remain thus until the end of the race, with Hamilton untouchable and Alonso being the only man anywhere close (almost like Button has typically been to Vettel since the mid-season interval). I must say that it’s great to see Hamilton back to his old self, but I found Alonso’s performance even more impressive.

Button soon found himself with more problems, as his KERS stopped working. This affects not just the 11 seconds (or however long it is) of the power boost, but the brake bias, and resetting the system (which we learnt in the press conference he had to do multiple times) takes quite some time. His third place was fantastic given those circumstances.

Webber had a bad start (yes, again), but was also hampered by bad luck when he had an unusually long pit stop. He did gain some luck, however, as Massa had a spin later on that meant Webber was all but guaranteed fourth. Despite that mistake, Massa actually drove a pretty good race.

My confidence in Schumacher was misplaced (come the end of the season I might try checking to see if he’s usually bad at street/processional circuits). He tussled with Sutil’s Force India after being quickly repassed by Rosberg (whom he had overtaken on lap 1) and basically deserved the 7th he ended up with. Not his circuit.

The Force Indias had a good day with a double points finish, although di Resta was understandably grumpy about the one stop strategy he had adopted. Rounding out the top 10 was Kobayashi, who was followed by his Sauber team mate Perez.

It’s worth taking a moment to seriously criticise Maldonado, who behaved like a bloody clown on the track. He got a drive-through penalty for holding up a faster car under blue flags, and then got another one for the same offence! Some other drivers were also tardy in getting out of the way. I’m not a Maldonado fan, and haven’t been since the unforgivable and stupid side-swipe on Hamilton’s car in Spa this year.

So, this race was a lot more entertaining, but rather less tense, than last year’s four-way title decider. I think the DRS zones should be a shade shorter as both were a bit too easy for passing.


A green race, but only just. However, after the woeful Indian result I’m very happy with how things turned out. It’s true that Hamilton’s win may have been down more to luck than judgement (we’ll never know if he could have beaten Vettel) but that works both ways and is part of both betting and F1.

Next up is the season finale in Brazil, at the brilliant Interlagos circuit. It’s one of my favourites, and is not only a great racetrack but also often has tons of rain. The Brazilian Grand Prix is in a fortnight and both qualifying and the race start at 4pm.

The result in Abu Dhabi was almost perfect for my season bets, which will shortly come good (or not). Button’s highly likely to finish second, which is good for my Top 3 result but less so for my Winner Without Vettel bets. An Alonso win in Interlagos with Button 4th or lower would go down nicely.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Lacklustre tips since the mid-season interval

A couple of races ago I was considering making a post about a slightly poor performance since the mid-season interval. At the time I thought it was premature, but given disappointing results in Korea and now India I think that it’s worth doing.

First of all, whilst the second half of the season is presently in the red it’s worth mentioning that two circuits were effectively new (we did visit Korea last time but it was incredibly wet). There’s also a certain natural element of luck which sometimes has been on my side (the McLaren win in Canada, Schumacher being top 6 in Japan) and sometimes hasn’t.

So, the purpose of this article is to analyse what (if anything) has changed in the latter half of the season, why I’ve got certain things wrong and others right and, most importantly, what practical lessons I can learn for the next two races and for the forthcoming seasons when plenty of new races (America [twice], Russia and so on) join the calendar.

Changes since the mid-season interval

Vettel has been the class of the season throughout. However, he had more competition in the second quarter of the season. The McLaren was more competitive in the race, he still isn’t great at the Nurburgring and the unique (and slightly unfair) Silverstone circumstances hampered him and aided Ferrari.

This meant that, qualifying aside, there were more opportunities for drivers to beat him in the first half of the season. In the second half I feel that the Red Bull has quite simply dominated the field even more than before. In the five races pre-interval Vettel won a single race, since then he’s won five from six.

McLaren has inverted its relative strengths, and has been racier in qualifying but less impressive during the races, since the mid-season interval. At a number of races Hamilton has had the pace to get pole, but cock-ups prevented him from realising this potential, except at Korea. I then, stupidly, broke my own habit and backed him pre-P3 at the last race, which didn’t work.

Hamilton has been especially lacklustre in the last few races, whereas his team mate has been the class of the field (Vettel aside). The running order is clearly, in my mind: Vettel, Button, Alonso and is partly due to machinery, partly down to skill.

Things I got wrong

Getting tips wrong is pretty shitty, but if it enables you to learn something then it may help provide future profits (and there’s no point bitching about wrong tips or missed opportunities unless you get some future advantage).

Qualifying: this is the easiest area to look at. When I backed Vettel I made money, when I bet against him I didn’t. If there’s a good reason, based on practice times, to back Webber or Hamilton that *may* be ok, but is probably best avoided. Vettel’s especially good at qualifying, is in the form of his life and has the best car.

Race: Vettel isn’t a great starter, but it’s better to look at Webber, who is the worst starter of the year. This provides an opportunity to lay him for (typically) a podium, even if he starts quite high up. Correspondingly, Button and Alonso (as their team mates are performing poorly) may be value in this area.

I avoided a safety car bet in India. Whilst the weather was good and the track is nice and wide I was uncertain whether crashes would likely occur in tricky areas. This appears not to be the case, and the marshals did a good job clearing away cars quickly. So, in future, if dry, No Safety Car at India seems a decent bet.

In Korea I was gutted when an early potential tip for pole (Hamilton, at about 5 or 6) which I didn’t offer proved accurate. Even worse, I considered backing Vettel (who started second) to lead lap 1 at about 6.8, and didn’t. The Korean circuit is excellent for a second-placed chap to overtake the leader on lap 1.

Deciding when to back potential tips and when not to has been a problem. If I’d backed both the above tips I’d be well ahead right now (in fact, Korea would be my best result of the season), but I didn’t. The pole tip wasn’t backed because of timezone issues, and I think it’s fair enough to let that go. The lead lap 1 tip wasn’t backed due to lack of confidence even though I was sorely tempted, and I think that was a mistake on my part.

Things I got right

I’ve backed Schumacher twice (once due to an excellent tip from Mr. Putney, the other time off my own bat) to finish in the top 6. Somehow he seems to keep doing it despite being in a car that should average a 7th or 8th-placed finish. The customary Hamilton-Massa contretemps and some good tyre management has helped him out. This is not a dead cert, as Petrov proved in Korea, but at something like 2.75 or 3 may be cunning. [It’s also worth recalling he’s a great starter and often makes 3 or more places up immediately].

Rating Jenson Button. I backed him to be top 3 in one qualifying session (not tipped due to lack of liquidity) and to win in Japan. After Vettel he is the man of the moment, and appears to have the measure of everyone else. Mentally, he’s in good shape.

Looking forward

We have just two more races left, and it’d be nice to end with an upward swing. Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit has been altered to try and encourage overtaking (kudos to the organisers for being dissatisfied with a processional circuit) but it’ll probably still be quite hard to pass.

A safety car appeared at one of the previous two Yas Marina races, but I’d rate it as likelier than not (especially given the new F1 tradition of Hamilton and Massa crashing).

Tyre degradation is unknown. However, higher degradation hampered Webber earlier in the season and appears to have returned as a problem in India.

Vettel’s won both previous races by over 10 seconds (Webber’s finished 2nd and 8th). Button’s finished on the podium twice.

Interlagos, meanwhile, has huge passing potential (and may have rain).

For future new circuits: tons of construction dust may mean that there will be little grip. A slightly better line will emerge, but even with a layout that encourages overtaking the lack of off-line grip will make it harder for the inaugural race. Possibly conservative tyres choices could emphasis this and making rising up the order more contingent upon people ahead making mistakes than passing on track.

The next Grand Prix is in Abu Dhabi, with the race on the 13th. For Britons, the time is usual, as it’s a twilight race.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 30 October 2011

India: post-race analysis

Since Korea:

News has broken of a 10 year deal for a new Grand Prix in New Jersey, around the streets of New York City. I must confess to being less than enthused. I’m not a street circuit fan, and fear that a decent or excellent circuit (I hope it isn’t Spa) will end up making way for another money-spinning procession. There’s also the fact that we now have two Grands Prix in Spain and the US, but none in France and the brilliant Belgian GP has an uncertain future. Hopefully vile Valencia will be axed.

Qualifying summary:

Well, that shows the folly of tipping pre-P3 (my habit is to do so afterwards). Backed Hamilton for fastest Q3 time at 3.7 with a hedge set up at 1.6. Irritatingly, he had a great chance of [briefly, at least] getting the fastest time in the dying moments of Q3, but chose to pit. I think Vettel would’ve still gotten pole, but the lay may very well have been matched.

In Q1, strangely, Button had to go out and use/waste another set of the soft tyres (this time the compounds are soft and hard, yellow and white respectively) and he was also significantly off the pace at the sharp end.

Schumacher disappointed in 12th, but it’s probably a better place than 10th as he has more fresh tyres than he would have and can choose which tyres he will start the race with. Hamilton, Alonso and the two Red Bulls were all very, very close (Vettel did pull a 0.3s gap but that was partly because Hamilton aborted his final run. Not sure if the Ferraris/Webber did likewise).

The Ferrari has looked pretty good in practice, but the Red Bull is, apparently, the only car that can make the white tyres work quickly. However, given the very low levels of degradation and the yellow tyre’s speed advantage this may not be an enormous help in the race.

So, disappointed somewhat for a few reasons. Bad tip, obviously, but it may’ve been laid if Hamilton had completed his final lap (though it’s understandable why he didn’t).

Race summary:

A brand new circuit presents both a great challenge and opportunity for those of us betting on the sport. In commentary for qualifying it was remarked upon that the track doesn’t really have a clean side, and that, coupled with the enormo-straight in the first sector made me wonder whether or not Vettel would retain the lead. I also, unusually, checked the speed trap standings and found Vettel almost at the very bottom (the speed trap being near the end of the enormo-straight).

In the end I went for two tips, the only ones I ever really considered. Backed Alonso for the win at 8.6 (lay at 3), and laid Vettel to lead lap 1 at 1.42 (with a suggestion *not* a tip of backing him at long odds with a paltry sum, as I could see him getting passed but retaking the lead).

In the end, the race was disappointing in terms of both action and betting. Webber actually started alright, but he bottled/lacked the speed to try and pass Vettel but managed to hold up Alonso as well. Once Vettel had the lead he never lost it.

I thought my form had improved a bit after the mid-season lull but recently (admittedly at a brand new circuit and one that was used in the dry for the first time) it’s dipped again. After this article, perhaps next weekend, I’m going to write another piece examining why that is.

Back to the race. Schumacher continued his excellent starts, leaping to around 8th. Alonso buggered up the first corner, possibly due to Webber braking too early, and ended up 4th, whereas Button had a great start, passing first Alonso and then Webber on lap 1. Thereafter, the Briton was a permanent fixture in the number 2 slot.

Hamilton got passed by Massa at the start. In the latter half of the race, just for a change, the two decided to have a collision. Surprisingly, the Brazilian got penalised, and after the crash Hamilton (possibly in a car suffering damage) never threatened the Mercedes ahead of him and brought it home in seventh.

There was surprisingly little action at the sharp end. Quite a few passes and close battles occurred further down the field with Force Indias, Toro Rossos and so forth, but Vettel and Button proceeded serenely to another podium. The closest fight at the top of the field was between Webber and Alonso, with the latter passing the former at a pit stop and then retaining 3rd to the end. The Ferrari occasionally has bursts of excellent pace but was mostly slower than the Red Bull.

Schumacher, by staying out longer than his team mate, passed him during the last pit stop and claimed 5th, having started 12th. After Massa’s contact and subsequent penalty his day got a little worse when he thumped over the curbs and snapped his suspension, ending his race altogether. Perez did well to climb from 17th to 10th.

Hopefully next year there’ll be a bit less dust and more tyre degradation to encourage cunning plans and overtaking. Even more importantly, hopefully there’ll be some winning tips. Note for next year: the safety car never appeared despite quite a few collisions and off-track excursions. The track is often wide and the marshal did a good job of quickly clearing away beached cars and so forth.


The lack of tyre degradation meant that, despite an apparently decent circuit layout, the race saw track position as a dominant factor, removing cunning strategy, effectively, as a serious option for winning the race (contrary to the early races of the season). I’ll comment more on this in the next article, but given that Abu Dhabi has been very processional, this may play a big role in the next race (NB Yas Marina has been modified to encourage overtaking for this season).

Hamilton was again off the pace. After the collision that could be due to damage, but he followed up a poor start with a lacklustre performance. Button, meanwhile, is clearly the second best driver at the moment. Alonso has the skill but his car is simply not good enough, and Webber continues to drift backwards through the field.

Mercedes: Schumacher’s been more impressive than his team mate for a few races now. I really, really hope they can produce a podium- and race-winning car next season, both to challenge Red Bull and so that we get a good intra-team rivalry.

Pretty disappointed with this weekend, but philosophical. Gambling is, after all, inherently risky, and it’s a new circuit. I’ve made some mistakes but I think I can see some lessons in them.

Abu Dhabi and Brazil are the only remaining races. As I said above, Abu Dhabi has been ultra-processional since it started hosting GPs a little while ago, but has been altered to try and boost overtaking. This will be critical when assessing bets (including for what happens if cars get stuck behind a slower driver following a poorly timed pit stop). Interlagos, by contrast, is spectacular, with overtaking eminently possible.

So, this has been a bad weekend, but there are two more to come and opportunities to make up for the disappointing performance at India. Before the Abu Dhabi race I’ll put up an article examining recent poor tips, and hopefully draw some useful conclusions for the forthcoming two races. Abu Dhabu is 11-13 November and Brazil is 25-27 November.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Korea: post-race analysis

Qualifying summary:

No tip offered, due to the timezone, and now I feel like a moron. Hamilton tempted me at 5, but I neither tipped nor backed it, and didn’t even mention it. I thought that the pace advantage was strictly wet weather, and whilst the gap did close I was wrong and missed a tasty triumph. Oh well.

Schumacher qualified in a relatively poor 12th, however, he was unfairly disadvantaged. The Pirelli tyre set he used was, unusually, out of balance and this caused a substantially vibration and cost him circa 0.9s. I hope he gets a new set for free, as, being 12th, he can obviously opt to change without penalty but he’s already lost out due to Pirelli’s mistake and he shouldn’t lose a set of supersofts because of that.

For the first time this year a Red Bull was not on pole. Vettel was two-tenths down from Hamilton, who seemed very emotional and was just keeping it all together instead of celebrating. Button got 3rd, Webber 4th, Massa again beat Alonso (5th and 6th), and they were followed by Rosberg, Petrov, di Resta and Sutil.

The run to turn 1 is pretty short. However, Coulthard suggested in commentary that the McLarens might have a long first gear which could cost them at the start but help them out during the race (I’m not well-informed enough to explain why that should be the case, I’m afraid). I’ll check out the first lap leader market, and see what odds Vettel is to lead.

Race summary:

The grid was ideally set up for an exciting race, but a bit of a bugger when it came to betting. In the end I backed Button for the win at 4.7, with a lay at 1.8.

From the main site: “I was agonising over betting on Vettel to lead lap 1 at 6.8, but decided against it after reading of the Vettel non-penalty and Button's relief.”

The race start was unusual as everyone predicted the dirty (even) side of the track would be severely disadvantaged. In truth, there was no difference whatsoever, and the long McLaren first gear didn’t hamper them at all either. Infuriatingly, Vettel did pass Hamilton on lap 1, using the very long straights to get a great slipstream, pass him and then be in the lead in the twisty section where passing is very hard. [Hopefully I’ll remember this for next year]. Meanwhile, Button was third off the line but got passed thrice on lap 1 and ended up 6th.

At the front, it was depressingly familiar. Vettel rode off into the sunset, his serene procession to victory disturbed only by the occasional effort to secure fastest lap (which he did on the final lap).

However, there was a tasty fight that lasted much of the race between second-placed Hamilton and Webber. Contrary to expectations the Red Bull actually had the edge on the McLaren throughout the race. However, Hamilton defended very well, and superior traction into the DRS straight prevented Webber being close enough to take advantage.

Button was aided by poor initial pits by the Ferraris and got out into 4th, where he was neither particularly threatened nor particularly threatening. After the race both McLaren drivers complained of understeer, suggesting the set-up was slightly wrong, perhaps compromising any prospect of victory.

Interestingly, Ferrari decided to let its drivers race. As a result, Alonso was held up by Massa for the first half of the race, stayed out longer with quick primes and managed to pass him at the pit stop stage. After that he was often the fastest man on the track and was very close to Button at the end. His comedy radio message “I give up” provided some entertainment near the end. The commentary team were undecided as to whether it was a cunning plan to try and lull Button into a sense of false security, or an unsubtle way of saying “Never, ever let Massa hold me up again, you clowns.”

Schumacher failed to finish due to being rammed from behind by Petrov (as it were), and Rosberg got passed by Alguesuari near the end, the pair ending up 7th and 8th. The Toro Rosso was pretty tasty all weekend, and was the only car faster in a straight line than the Mercedes.

Quite an entertaining race, slightly spoilt by the unchallenged supremacy of the newly re-crowned Weltmeister.

Also worth mentioning that tyre degradation was nowhere near as bad as feared, and what had been mooted as a possible 5 stop race turned into a 2 stopper, with very little pace difference between the supersofts and softs.


Bloody dire betting weekend. I can forgive myself the failure to go for the 5 pole bet on Hamilton, as I almost always bet just after P3. But I really buggered up the First Lap Leader bet. 6.8 was there for the taking. On the plus side, I’m so pissed off with myself for the error of judgement that I’m hopeful I’ll remember next year and not do it again.

The Button bet was reasonable, though wrong, but he never got close enough for it to even be laid. Just a rubbish betting weekend, really. The only plus side is that I didn’t go for other failed prospective bets I was considering (Schumacher at 3 for top 6 and Hamilton-Button to be top 2 at 3.25). The rocky second half of the season continues.

In non-whinging news, Red Bull secured their second Constructors’ in a row, which was not very surprising. They have had the best car, but I think Vettel may be an even bigger asset than Newey, judging by the advantage he’s had over his team mate. Next year there are few regulation changes, for once, so hopefully it’ll get closer at the front and Mercedes can offer a car capable of podiums or the odd victory.

So, the preantepenultimate race has not been a happy one for me. The antepenultimate race takes place in India in a fortnight. P3 ends at 7.30am (bit weird for a half hour finish) so I may be able to offer a qualifying tip, or two. Let’s hope it’s a bit more profitable.

Just checked the Indian circuit diagram. After the start, which is quite long, there’s a very long straight, so that could enable two opportunities for passing (or, for the leader to re-take first position if he gets dropped to second off the line) and could be a rare case of hedging a First Lap leader bet making sense. I’ll consider it nearer the time.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Japan: post-race analysis

Qualifying summary:

No bets offered for this, as P3 was from 3am to 4am and I didn’t get up to watch it and bet.

The first two practice sessions were notable for a few reasons. Firstly, Vettel outpaced Webber twice, suggesting he’ll get pole without serious challenge. Secondly, Button (who has been driving very well of late) beat Hamilton twice, and, last and probably least, the Williams’ drivers took three out of four opportunities to finish a session due to crashing or mechanical failure.

Qualifying was defined by the reluctance of the teams to use up their tyres. They’re all afraid of significant tyre wear, which may hamper some teams (Mercedes, alas) but help others (Ferrari).

Q1 was notable for Rosberg failing to get out at all and therefore starting 23rd. Button very narrowly missed out on pole to Vettel, and I feel Hamilton may have taken it had he not fallen asleep during his out-lap and missed the boat. They line up Vettel, Button, Hamilton, Massa, Alonso, Webber, Schumacher, Senna, Petrov and Kobayashi.

Race summary:

I’d offered an early tip (after P2, pre-P3) on Schumacher to get a top 6 place at 2.75, with Ladbrokes. Rosberg going out in Q1 was handy, but high tyre wear was not. I also offered what I consider a single tip for Button or Hamilton to win (I avoided the McLaren to win bet because the odds were less favourable and advocated splitting a single stake to give equal profits for either McLaren driver to win) at 4.9 and 5.9 respectively, hedges at 1.4 each. Because of the nature of the bet I’m considering the Button-Hamilton bet to be a single tip rather than two.

At the start Vettel decided to emulate Herr Schumacher and introduced Button’s tyres to the grass as he pushed him wide, enabling Hamilton to nab second. Surprisingly, the Ferraris did not start as well as we’ve grown used to, and Schumacher made up a single place, largely due to Kobayashi having a dire start.

The first few laps were displeasing, as the top cars all seemed to develop a few seconds between themselves, and I was worried it would turn into a procession with sizeable gaps between frontrunners. Happily, I was wronger than the thirteenth Duke of Wrongcaster.

Hamilton suffered a puncture, freeing Button into second and necessitating an earlier than desired pit stop. Shortly thereafter Button made his tyres last better than Vettel, who pitted first, and managed to reduce the gap to the World Champion Elect during the initial pit stops.

As has become customary on these occasions Hamilton and Massa were scrapping over a place and there was contact. It was nothing serious, but a pointy bit of carbon fibre littered the track and, some laps later, prompted a safety car to appear.

After another pit stop Button emerged ahead of Vettel, who had suffered bad traffic when he rejoined the track. All the top chaps except Schumacher had pitted twice when the safety car came out, and the wily old German ducked into the pits and got almost a free stop.

Button seriously backed up the pack when the safety car came in and then bolted, adding a healthy half second to his advantage over Vettel. By the time (2 laps later, as per the start) DRS was re-enabled he had over a second lead.

Then came the third and final stops. As Schumacher pitted last he led the Grand Prix whilst the others pitted, and his team-mate helpfully held up Massa long enough for the necessary lead to be built. Schumacher pitted and came out in 6th, ahead of his former Ferrari team-mate. Although the gap was always small fresher tyres and the mighty Mercedes top speed meant Schumacher held onto the place until the end.

At the front, meanwhile, Alonso had come out ahead of Vettel. For many laps the German, not content with a mere third place, sought to pass the Spaniard. However, traffic issues (provoking a shaken fist of disgust from Vettel) put paid to any serious hopes of getting second. Worryingly, Alonso then started closing on Button, who benefited from the Ferrari and Red Bull tussle.

Happily, the Briton decided he wanted to win after all, sped up a little bit and got the victory by a small margin.

I’d put the Button-Hamilton tip down to sound judgement, and the Schumacher one down to pure luck.


After some lacklustre results since the mid-season interval I can’t complain about getting two from two. That said, I did consider backing Alonso for a podium at 2.7 but thought the Ferrari incapable of such a feat versus the McLarens and Vettel.

Regarding my longer term bets (Button top 3 and Alonso/Hamilton to finish 2nd) this result is pretty helpful. I’m green either way due to cautious hedging, but right now the former seems quite likely and the second is not yet impossible.

The race was interesting for a few reasons, one of which was the divergence within teams between drivers. Button, Alonso and Vettel had good races, but Webber never threatened a podium, Hamilton was clearly inferior to Button, and Massa was well off the pace.

Now that the title race is over it’s worth saying that it has not been the most thrilling, especially in the wake of the fantastic 2010 season. Vettel has crushed his opposition with ruthless ease.

However, individually, the races have been almost uniformly excellent. Yes, Valencia was as much fun as a distressing bowel movement and Singapore was less than super, but we’ve also had some truly epic races. China was thrilling and Canada was perhaps the finest race I can recall seeing, with the truly glorious (and profitable) victory for Button.

Bit early for 2012 season thoughts, although I would say that Alonso may be best placed to challenge Vettel as he enjoys number 1 status at a rival team.

Betting-wise, it was better not to hedge. Assuming £10 stakes you would be a whole £4 better off.

The next race is Korea in just one week’s time. I hope it isn’t quite as soggy as last year.

Morris Dancer

Monday, 3 October 2011

Mark says it was the women, I am not so sure

In today's lead article on, Mark Gill contends that it was women who denied the Conservatives an overall majority in the election last year. I however wish to contend that actually it was men who denied Cameron a majority.

After the election in May 2010, I found data referring to exit polls going back to the October 1974 general election and was amazed at how much information there was as it not only showed the national exit poll, but how the genders voted, but the ages and the social classes and by using the calculation for swing several election mysteries began to make sense.

Why did Labour do so badly in 1983?
In the 1983 general election, there was a national swing of 5% from Labour to Conservative. This swing was repeated evenly among the genders,  but not quite so evenly among the ages. There was only a 4% swing in new voters, a 3% swing in second and third time voters, but a 6% swing in the older voters. But what really did it for Labour in 1983 was the 4% swing to Conservative in their traditional class, the DE's, In October 1974, this class recorded a 57% Labour vote, in 1983 it was only 41% with most of the change in support going to the Alliance.

Why did the Conservatives win in 1992?
A 2% swing to Labour in 1992 was nowhere near the swing that Labour needed even for a hung parliament. Men recorded a 4% swing to Labour (hung parliament), Women recorded a 1% swing (Con maj) but the real problem was the famous C2's. The voters who were able to make seats such as Basildon change hands didn't swing as much. Labour only managed a 3% swing which explains why seats like Southampton, Itchen was a Lab gain but Basildon was a Con hold.

So why didn't Cameron gain an overall majority in 2010? Well, the national swing was 5% to Conservative. Men recorded the national swing, but women did better recording a 6% swing. If anyone denied Cameron an overall majority it was the first time voters. Compared with 2005, Labour fell by 7%, the Conservatives rose by 2% (a 5% swing) but it was the Liberal Democrats who rose by 4% (indicating a 1% swing from Con to Lib Dem) who puts the brakes on a Con overall majority and might also explain why as soon as the Liberal Democrats broke their tution fees promise the Liberal Democrat vote has collapased to 1979 levels (and lower in some polls)

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Singapore: post-race analysis

Since Monza:

My early thoughts (writing this the day after the Italian GP) are that Ferrari and Alonso may be faster than many expect in Singapore. The Ferrari has suffered on the medium compound white tyres at the last two races, as it’s not very quick at getting heat into them, leading to less grip. However, Singapore is using the soft and supersoft compounds. This will get rid of the heat issue (I think) and may also give a real advantage as the Ferrari is kind to its tyres. By contrast, tyre-shredder Webber and the Mercedes may suffer. If this proves accurate, it’ll be more of a race issue (if the race is dry) than one for qualifying.

Qualifying summary:

Unusually for a normal(ish) race in terms of practice and qualifying times I decided not to offer any tips. In my view Vettel was rightly favourite at 1.45, but the odds were too short, and (his laps being largely compromised by traffic) it was very difficult to accurately assess pace at the sharp end. I did look around for other tips, but there was nothing that caught my eye.

Practice was notable for the first session losing 38 minutes due to bizarre incompetence by the race organisers, as numerous bits of curb were unsecured. As a result, some parts have been removed, enabling drivers to take a wider line, albeit at the risk of introducing their car to the wall.

Practice saw, generally, the Red Bull fastest over a single lap, followed by McLaren then Ferrari, but Alonso marginally faster than Vettel and substantially quicker than the McLarens when it came to heavy fuel running. So, I expect Alonso to be on the second or third row come qualifying but with some opportunity to make up places in the race.

Race summary:

Well, this was two hours of tedium and woe. I backed Webber at 9.6 for the win (this lengthened to 12 before the race), as the odds were rather ginormous for a second-placed man, despite Webber’s bad starts of late. However, he decided to have yet another awful start, then managed to lose out at almost every pit stop and never challenged for the lead.

Vettel started well, retained the lead, and was only under threat briefly, when McLaren waited until the last 10 laps to get Button (also processing serenely to the podium) to have a go. Surprisingly, as both were on fresh option tyres, Button caught Vettel at a great rate of knots but the gap was simply too large to be reduced in the limited time available.

Hamilton started badly, then lost a wing in an altercation with Massa, then got a drive-through penalty because of the aforementioned contact, and did well to recover to fifth.

Webber had a bit of a disappointing race following another bad start, being held up repeatedly by Alonso and being unable to approach Button who consistently held second.

Alonso was fourth, hampered by a Ferrari that, contrary to expectations, chewed up its tyres whilst at the same time being not very fast relative to McLaren or Red Bull.

Other incidents of note include a great sixth place for di Resta, who has been impressive throughout the season, and Schumacher taking Perez from behind, losing his front wing (one can only imagine he has shares in the company that makes them, or is perhaps being sponsored to get through as many as he can this season) then ramming into the wall after a little airborne action.

The Renault was catastrophically poor. They got back-to-back podiums, I think, at the start of the season, yet finished 15th and 17th here (Senna again beating Petrov).

There were moments of excitement, quite a few passes, but the two leading cars were never under threat and it was more of a farcical slapstick than high drama. Not as bad as Valencia, but otherwise probably the most boring race of the season. I remain less than thrilled about street circuits.


Given my poor performance since the mid-season break I might write something trying to analyse and resolve any problem there might be.

I got the Webber tip wrong, obviously. However, almost all the other tips I considered (Alonso for podium or win, Button for the win, lay Webber for a podium) would also have lost. The only two exceptions were backing Button for a top 3 qualifying finish at 3.4 (didn’t tip because there wasn’t enough money available) and a safety car (it did appear, but the 1.2 odds were just too short). The only betting upsides are that I only offered one wrong tip rather than many, and that the result plays quite nicely for my preferred Top 3 Title contenders and Winner Without Vettel result (Button and Alonso, respectively, but marginally green whatever happens).

I really hated the odds for this. However, you can only bet on what’s there in front of you. We go to Japan in a fortnight, then the new Korean circuit, the debut at India, Abu Dhabi and the fantastic Interlagos in Brazil.

So, the next article will either be Japan in a fortnight, or a contemplative post in a week or so.

Morris Dancer