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

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

General Election 2015 : The (Very) Early Assessment

First of all, credit where it is rightly due.
To The Guardian Newspaper for their exceptionally speedy turnaround of the Boundary Commissioners inital proposals and Google Earth map file of the proposed constituencies, Anthony Wells for his even faster conversion of those proposals into constituency estimates (for all the parties not just Con, Lab and Lib Dem) and finally the Sheffield University Spatial Geography department for converting the BBC's election colours into both HTML code and RGB codes.

So, England is to lose some 30 seats and have 502 seats which according to the calculations would see 293 Conservatives elected (including the Speaker), 173 Labour MP's elected and 36 Liberal Democrats elected (based on the 2010 election) with Labour being the biggest casualties losing some 18 seats (compared to the Conservatives losing 5 and the Lib Dems losing 7), but where does this put us in the context of a general election.

Well, as we don't know what the Scottish or Welsh proposals are going to be yet, we cannot say for sure, but we can say that based on the announced reductions you need 301 seats to gain an overall majority in the new House (down from the current 326) and therefore the Conservatives (who were 19 short in 2010) are already only 8 short of an overall majority (with Wales and Scotland still to announce), but as there is only one Conservative MP in Scotland (which is likely to go) and based on the assessments of Wales in the past suggesting only three Conservative MP's, let's work on the assumption the Conservatives need five seats for an overall majority and 30 for a good working majority of 50 or so. What seats might attract their attention?

Well, the first thing to note is that the top 30 English Conservative targets are 67% Labour and 33% Lib Dem and as we saw in the locals this year, Con vs Lib Dem battles do seem to side with the Conservatives, therefore the Conservatives have their overall majority. However as we also saw in the locals, there was an almighty swing from Conservative to Labour, suggesting that it will be Labour on the advance. Current estimate: Con 303 Lab 173 Lib Dem 26

Now, for Labour to win an overall majority they have really got to go some. They need a rather staggering 128 gains just to get an overall majority of 1 (and a further 15 - 25 gains in order to get an working majority). Remind you of a certain David Cameron anyone? So what do these 128 gains comprise, well, thanks to the changes rather a large number of current Labour seats. For instance, number 10 is Hull West and Hessle, 37 is Southampton, Test, 40 is Walsall South, 44 is Birmingham, Erdington and 124 is Walsall North. Number 128 is Bosworth which would go Labour on a swing of 11.73%. The latest polls are suggesting a swing of about 5% (59 gains) but with the Lib Dems being hit the most (11% swing from Lib Dem to Lab) so based on that the tally would be: Con 249 Lab 237 Lib Dem 16

And we cannot rule out the odd suprise along the way. For instance, the Greens may have lost their Brighton, Pavillion seat to Labour, but as their number one target who is to say that they can do it again and win the new Brighton, Pavillion and Hove or even take a second seat in Norwich South (7.22% swing from Lib Dems). So as things stand at the moment, my inital suggestion is that in England the Conservatives and Labour would be virtually neck and neck with the Conservatives ahead of Labour by about 10 but with Labour certainly assured at least 50 seats in Scotland and Wales (taking them up to 287) can Ed Milliband encourage Labour to take those last 14 gains and regain a Labour overall majority?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Who now hates Nick Clegg?

Last November, I posed the question on pb2 “Who hates Nick Clegg?”

My analysis showed an intriguing split, with Labour supporters remarkably united in their disdain for the Lib Dem leader. If Nick Clegg is not going to add as a serious drag on his party’s polling, he needs to improve his public standing before the next election.

Have Nick Clegg’s ratings started to improve?

No. The two pollsters who regularly poll on the standing of the party leaders, YouGov and IPSOS-MORI, offer no comfort to Nick Clegg. Both have issued new polls on this subject this week. By 67% to 22%, the Great British public as polled by YouGov think that he is doing badly rather than well. According to IPSOS-MORI, 59% are dissatisfied with the way that he is doing his job as Deputy Prime Minister and only 31% are satisfied. These figures are actually considerably worse than in November last year.

Where has this deterioration come from?

Impressively, Nick Clegg seems to have been able to alienate still more Labour supporters in the last 10 months. IPSOS-MORI now find that fully 78% of Labour supporters are dissatisfied, up from 71%, and 90% of YouGov respondents with a Labour allegiance now think that he is doing badly, up from 87% last year.

He still gets the nod from the largest part of Conservative supporters with IPSOS-MORI (49% to 41%) and his figures are a respectable 39% to 51% with Conservatives with YouGov. But to put this in context, Conservative supporters still rave about David Cameron – fully 94% of YouGov Conservative supporters think that David Cameron is doing well and 78% of IPSOS-MORI Conservatives are satisfied with him. Nick Clegg is standing in his shadow, so far as Conservatives are concerned.

It gets worse. According to YouGov, 28% of current Lib Dem supporters now think the Lib Dem leader is doing badly. In November last year, this figure was 14%. So this has doubled in 10 months. IPSOS-MORI shows a less dramatic move in dissatisfaction among Lib Dem supporters – up from 34% to 42% since November. But it’s unlikely that Nick Clegg will take much comfort from that.

Has the intensity of anger diminished?

Not obviously. YouGov allow respondents to say whether they think Nick Clegg is doing badly or very badly. 59% of Labour supporters say that they think that he is doing very badly. That is actually a slight improvement on the 61% who thought this last year, but the Lib Dems would need to be very creative to turn that into a bar chart. Meanwhile, fully 36% of all respondents now think that he’s doing very badly, up from 27% last year.


Nick Clegg needs to improve his ratings from the very poor levels that they plunged to following the formation of the Coalition. But instead he is sinking further. He has 3 years and 9 months at most to see improvements. But given what has happened to his polling in the last year, it may already be too late. The public may already have made their minds up.


Sunday, 11 September 2011

Italy: post-race analysis

Since Spa:

In a first this season there will be both two DRS zones (which we saw in Montreal and Valencia) but also two detection zones. The thinking is that this will aid overtaking, of course, but also that it will make up for a lesser DRS effect, presumably due to the generally high speed nature of Monza.

Tyre allocations for the weekend are the same as for Spa (soft yellows and medium whites). This is bad news for Ferrari, who suffered greatly when trying to get heat into the white tyres at Spa. They’re also more adversely affected by the cold, for the same reason.

Qualifying summary:

The first practice session was handy as all times were set on white tyres, enabling an approximate comparison. McLaren were fastest, followed by Red Bull, with Ferrari some way back.

Second practice had Vettel, Hamilton and Schumacher at the top, followed by the two Ferraris, Webber, Button and Perez. However, the commentary chaps reckoned that the McLarens were relatively slow on heavy fuel. That could prove handy for Red Bull and Mercedes.

Third practice had Vettel ahead of everyone by a few tenths, and on that basis I tipped him for pole at evens.

To my surprise and delight, Vettel not only got pole, he slaughtered his opposition. Hamilton and Button were 2nd and 3rd, but Hamilton was almost half second behind the Weltmeister.

Even more oddly, Webber (who had just one run rather than two) was down by seven-tenths on his team mate, and managed only 5th, directly behind Alonso and ahead of Massa. The top 10 were rounded out by Petrov, Schumacher, Rosberg and Senna, but it’s worth mentioning that Rosberg did Q3 on the prime tyre (the slower white compound) and Senna did not set a time at all.

Race summary:

I found the race even harder to predict than qualifying. In the end, I opted for a Vettel win tip at 2.3 and a Webber podium tip at 2.75 (although this did later lengthen to 3.25). A gentleman from Putney suggested, pre-P3, backing Schumacher for a top 6 place at 3.05, which I also put a little on.

The start was very exciting. Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton entered turn 1 abreast, and left it in the above order. Meanwhile, Webber and Button continued their habit of starting poorly, and Schumacher continued his of taking off like a rocket. However, the midfield was torn to shreds by a HRT car which decided to go for some off-track rally action and rammed its way through half the midfield runners.

A safety car appeared, a few cars (especially those that had slyly begun the race on medium white tyres) dove into the pits, and the numerous cars, including Rosberg’s and Petrov’s, destroyed by the incident were removed from the circuit.

At the sharp end, Schumacher’s ultra-fast Mercedes had gotten past Hamilton, and was holding him up. This continued for many laps, and the wily old fox was rather robust with his defensive moves at times.

Still before lap 10, Webber (who had fallen back, due to his bad start), tried passing Massa but unfortunately forgot that two objects possessing the same co-ordinates in time and space contravenes the laws of physics. He whacked the Ferrari, lost his front wing and spun Massa around. Shortly thereafter, Webber’s car, angry at his mistake, refused to turn at a corner (possibly due to nearly zero front downforce resulting from no front wing) and he thumped nose-first into a barrier and out of the race.

Vettel, meanwhile, completed a staggeringly good pass on Alonso, going around him in a sweeping, high speed corner. Pass done, he then drove off into the sunset and divided the rest of his time between growing and maintaining a healthy lead and doing the Financial Times crossword.

Schumacher put Hamilton onto the grass slightly (still, better than a concrete wall at 200mph), allowing Button to sneak past his team mate and then immediately past the German. Many laps later Schumacher yielded to Hamilton, perhaps reasoning the pass was only a matter of time and such defensive driving was damaging his tyres.

As predicted the Ferrari was poor on white tyres and this enabled cunning Button to pass him and reach second place. Briefly it appeared as though Alonso might yet retake the place, but by the final lap he was just ahead of Hamilton. Another lap and he would’ve finished in fourth.


Schumacher got a very solid fifth, for the second race running, making Mr. Putney’s tip nice and profitable (and better than mine). I got one right and one wrong for the race making it very slightly profitable, and got my solitary qualifying tip correct. After the woes of Spa I’m happy enough with two from three, and a small profit augmented by the wisdom of Mr. Putney.

Webber crashing out was irksome, both as it meant that bet failed and I have no idea if it would have come off. I think it had a reasonable chance, but we’ll never know.

Yet again, both Ferraris and Schumacher had electric starts, Red Bull varied between a big sluggish (Vettel) and nodding off (Webber) and Button was also a little slow. I did consider the First Lap leader bet briefly but decided against it.

There is a silver lining to Webber’s failure to finish (the first time since Korea last year a Red Bull has failed to win points at a race), which is that Alonso now becomes second in the title race, a more profitable place for my Winner Without Vettel market bets (Alonso or Hamilton winning gives more than anyone else). However, still a bit irked that he crashed out, but that’s racing.

So, why did the car that is substantially slower than its rivals in a straight line manage to win at a circuit which is all about top speed?

Because, as I’ve said before, Vettel is clever. He and Webber opted for differing gear ratios at the top end (gears 6 and 7). Vettel went for short ratios, reducing top end speed but, I believe, enabling the car to be quicker through the sweeping corners. In practice and qualifying the McLaren was much faster in sector 1 but was losing about half a second in sector 3 to the Red Bull.

This is also why Hamilton had such difficulty, even with DRS, passing Schumacher. The Mercedes was cheerfully set up to be fast as hell in a straight line, but McLaren had copied the Red Bull path. The problem is, overtaking in a straight line is bloody hard when the bloke in front is about the same speed as you, and passing elsewhere, even if you have speed in hand, is also tough.

Unfortunately, after the epic old European circuits, we’re off to the tedium of Singapore in a fortnight. Hopefully it won’t be like Valencia, presently the only boring race of the year.

Morris Dancer