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