Sunday, 27 May 2012

Monaco: post-race analysis

Boring but profitable would be a reasonable assessment of Monaco. There was some interesting strategy to observe and rain briefly threatening to make it interesting, but otherwise it was mostly a procession.

However, I shall not complain of a green race, even if tipping was like trying to stab a ghost in the dark. It was better not to hedge, obviously, but overall this season it's still slightly more profitable to hedge.

The front row got off the line in formation, but Grosjean (yet again) hit someone (Schumacher). In fairness, it was a racing incident, but put Schumacher down to 8th. The German later suffered tremendously when, from an isolated 7th, he got passed repeatedly and then had to retire, entirely due to a reliability failure.

Alonso quickly got up to 4th, behind Hamilton, with Massa right behind his team mate in the early stages. Indeed, Massa looked rather quicker than Alonso, but this is where his advantage in being the team's number one told.

At the initial pit stops Alonso was able to leapfrog Hamilton to get into 3rd place, which he happily retained until the end.

As Mr. Nigel prophesied in the comments of the previous article both Vettel and Button put on the softs to try and gain an advantage with a late single stop. Button, who lacked pace in qualifying, seemed to have little oomph in the race. However, Vettel drove masterfully, maintaining his tyres for about 40 laps and putting in such quick times that he was able to pass Hamilton in the pit stops to come 4th.

Massa had a very strong race and came 6th, which is a great result for a man who really needed it.

Further down the field Raikkonen ran in 7th for a time, which enabled a long train of cars to build up behind him. His tyres were shot and he eventually ended up 9th, just ahead of Senna. Maldonado had time to look up the word 'karma' in a dictionary after crashing out very early on.

Force India also had a strong race, with di Resta 7th and Hulkenberg 8th.

Toro Rosso cocked it up a bit. Vergne had a good position, running in seventh, when the rain was falling lightly. The team gambled on intermediates, but they were 3s off the pace, he got lapped by the leaders and ended up with fewer points than Engelbert Humperdinck.

Sauber had a bad time of it. Kobayashi had to retire and Perez got a drive-through penalty and finished 11th.

Webber's victory means that he is equal second on points with his team mate (73) and Alonso leads on 76. It's also noteworthy that Button is now in a lowly 7th place with just 45 points.

Alonso: 76
Webber: 73
Vettel: 73
Hamilton: 63
Rosberg: 59
Raikkonen: 51

It also means that we've had six different winners in the first six races, and Hamilton has yet to win. Canada's up next, which is essentially a collection of straight lines, so that might suit the McLaren and Mercedes.

I feel a bit relieved with the result today. Shame the race was tedious, though.

Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton are all roughly 4.2 to get the title, and Webber's around 12. Webber's odds are more tempting than Vettel's, I think. Not sure if I'll bet on them, but I might be able to be all green on the McLaren and Red Bull Drivers, and Alonso. I'm going to consider that, and maybe see what odds Ladbrokes offer (I imagine Vettel's will be shorter but Webber's might be the same or longer).

Anyway, 1 tip offered and it came good, which is nice.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Monaco: pre-race

Well, the rain never arrived but I'm still glad I sat out qualifying. I had a number of bets in mind. The ones I would've considered were Hamilton for pole (didn't happen), Massa to make Q3 (did happen) and Grosjean to be top 3 (didn't happen). As Massa was 1.8, that would've been a clear net loss.

As seems to be the norm these days, qualifying was entirely unpredictable.

Q1 saw the relegation of the pointless teams as well as Perez, who lost his no claims bonus with a crash that was happily much less serious than the one he suffered last year.

Q2 saw lots of big names struggling, such as Raikkonen, Button and Vettel. Massa put in the fastest time of this session, impressively. Hulkenberg, Kobayashi and Button were the fastest of those eliminated here, followed by Senna, di Resta, Ricciardo and Vergne.

Q3 was very exciting, largely because lots of chaps who had been expected to challenge for pole (Hamilton, Vettel, Grosjean) really couldn't. Surprisingly, the Silver Arrows were very fast, and Webber was thrashing Vettel. In the end Schumacher got the fastest time, but, instead of being his 68th pole he's got a 5 place grid penalty for ramming Senna last race. This promotes Webber to pole. After Webber is Rosberg, then Hamilton and Grosjean. Alonso is next, starting beside the demoted Schumacher. Massa and Raikkonen follow, and Vettel and Hulkenberg round out the top 10. Maldonado, who would've been 9th, is demoted to 19th for a childish and dangerous swipe on Perez during P3 (similar to but less serious than the move he made on Hamilton in Spa qualifying last year). Being fast is cool, being a cock is not.

I would never have picked Schumacher or Webber for pole, so that was a lucky escape for me. Track position remains critical for Monaco.

Right, so, the race. At this moment in time I was expecting to have a strong Lotus/Hamilton performance in qualifying. Instead we've got Webber, Rosberg and Hamilton with Schumacher fastest but relegated to 6th and Alonso 5th.

Track position is worth a lot in Monaco but it isn't the only thing that matters, given tyre degradation and strategy, as well as the likelihood of a safety car and the possibility of rain.

Alonso has typically done better in races than qualifying (the exception being last time when he held station) and has a recent history of starting well, so I'm going to back him for a podium at 3.25 (Ladbrokes). I'll set up a hedge at 1.4 with Betfair.

I was tempted by all three of those at the very front for the win. Webber has the critical pole position, Rosberg and Hamilton sometimes have very good starts, but I think it's too hard to tell.

So, just the one tip: Alonso, podium, 3.25 (Ladbrokes) hedged at 1.4.

Morris Dancer

Monaco: pre-qualifying

I was seriously considering doing this piece on the Friday, or late on Thursday, but the lack of running in P2 and the potential for rain put me off.

I missed all save the last 10 minutes of P1, when Kovalainen's Caterham did a fantastic impression of a steam engine (or possible a flatulent dragon). The order was: Alonso, Grosjean and Perez, followed by Hamilton, Maldonado and Massa. The final quartet in the top 10 was Kobayashi, Button, Vettel and Rosberg. It's only practice, but it's still very jumbled up.

I saw just about all of P2, which wasn't much use as off-and-on rain meant that running was very limited and of little use. However, the teams did go out and play a bit on the intermediates. Perhaps worringly, the intermediate (green) tyres struggled to retain sufficient temperature and were massively slow on a circuit too wet for slicks. Button led Grosjean at the sharp end, but there was only a short space of time for dry running so the times can't really be read into.

In P3 Massa was notably faster and more confident than he has been recently, which is great to see. The session ended with a red flag when Maldonado's Williams needed hoisting out on a crane. Rosberg was fastest, followed by Massa and then Vettel. Alonso was 4th, then Grosjean, Button and Hamilton. The top 10 was rounded out by Schumacher, Perez and Webber.

The Sauber looks pretty promising, including in the wet (which may well prove advantageous for qualifying and the race). The supersofts are good for only one lap, maybe two at a stretch. Then they're gone.

McLaren have also suggested that the Lotus team could be the one to beat, and I anticipate a good performance from the likes of Raikkonen and Grosjean.

There's a pretty enormous 0.8s to 1s between the compounds, and Pirelli reckon a one-stop strategy is viable for the race (although that doesn't mean it's necessarily the optimal strategy).

Just checked the weather forecast, and rain is likelier than not during qualifying. Given that, I'm taking the prudent/cowardly decision not to offer any tips for qualifying. The circuit's about as forgiving as Darth Vader and rain would make it very difficult in terms of both reaching and winning Q3 and introduce a large element of luck (if you're the fastest but get rain then you're screwed even if you do a perfect lap).

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Spain: post-race analysis

A very exciting race, although I must confess being a little disappointed by the final result. On the other hand, it was the most profitable race of the season so far (hedging was just over one stake more profitable than the bet-and-forget approach). The Alonso to win hedge at 3 was matched but sadly Raikkonen, despite briefly leading, didn’t have his hedge at 2 matched. Happily, Alonso lead lap 1 (backed at 6, laid at 2.8 and layable at 2.5 on the morning of the race).

Perez suffered very bad luck off the line, getting tagged by Grosjean, I think. He had a puncture, had to pit early and then suffered a pit stop problem that put paid to his race.

Hamilton and Massa both made great starts but were to suffer a bit later on.

Alonso and Maldonado essentially flew in formation for the first stint, with Raikkonen dropped a little but miles ahead of 4th-placed Grosjean. However, Williams brought in Maldonado earlier and benefited from the fresh rubber which saw the Venezuelan take the lead.

Hamilton was charging through the field and got to 5th, when the team decided to try and make a three stop strategy into a two stopper, which sadly didn’t really work. They had to revert to a three stop strategy which put him a few places down the field.

Meanwhile Schumacher took Senna roughly from behind, destroying both of their races and Vettel/Massa suffered drive-through penalties for not slowing under yellow flags.

In the final stint Alonso was getting very, very close to Maldonado but sadly couldn’t pass him. Despite having initially fresher tyres it was Alonso’s that fell away, enabling Maldonado to get the first ever F1 win for Venezuela. Raikkonen had waited until later than the two leaders for his last set of tyres and was catching Alonso by a second a lap but the gap was insurmountable and he came third, followed by Grosjean.

Kobayashi put in some of the banzai overtakes for which he is known, passing Button and then Rosberg to achieve a very good 5th for Sauber, which will go some way to making up for the unfortunate DNF of Perez.

Rosberg was also passed late on by Vettel, who did well to take 6th despite 4 stops and a drive-through. Hamilton started last but finished 8th, one place ahead of his team mate (glad I laid my bets on them for the title) and Hulkenberg was able to hold off Webber to claim the final points position.

Five races. Five winning teams. Five winning drivers. Pretty exciting stuff.

I also must confess that my opinion of Maldonado (I called him a pay driver) deserves significant revision. He did very well under extreme pressure from Alonso and, perhaps aided by the rather tasty Williams, managed to make the tyres last for longer than anyone had expected.

Turning to the vulgar necessity of money, this was the best race/race weekend so far this season, although overall it’s still in the red. I did (very briefly) consider a saving bet on Maldonado for the win (I think he was circa 10) but didn’t take it as I never really thought he could do it. Oh well.

The title race is intriguingly poised. Yes, I know it’s been intriguingly poised at every moment this season, but I’ve made a couple more title bets.

Alonso to win at 6. He’s leading the title race (joint with Vettel on 61) and his car’s much improved. Plus it can now, seemingly, qualify and he has a compliant team mate.

Lotus to win the Constructors’ at 8. Bit more of a trading bet, but they’ve got two very talented drivers (unlike Ferrari) and have been performing very well of late. Not sure they’ll be able to maintain that for the entire season so I’ll watch how they go with a view to hedging.

The next race is Monaco, in a fortnight’s time. I’d expect McLaren to do a bit better there and will probably be looking to back Hamilton for pole.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Spain: pre-race

Well, that was unexpected [again!].

First of all, my failure on the Webber bet wasn’t down to bad luck. Whilst his failure to escape Q2 was unfortunate, I really don’t think he would’ve gotten pole anyway so that was a clear misjudgement on my part.

The Kobayashi non-tipped mini-bet was maybe a little more unlucky. Kudos to Maldonado for an excellent second place, and Alonso did extremely well to get third.

Q1 was the standard affair of the three worst teams going out. Senna joined them due to an error on his part that involved a little off-road excursion, which was especially disappointing when his team mate was doing so well. The most interesting part of the session was Red Bull cunningly using just the softs (faster but less durable and useful in the race), which prompted everyone else (who had already used a set of hard tyres) to copy them, effectively saving Red Bull a set of hard tyres.

Q2 was remarkable for the inability of Button to escape it (he was 11th) and a bad call by Red Bull that saw Webber, who had been very quick early on, fail to go out for a second run and get pushed down to 12th. Almost as remarkable was the soon-to-be-ex Ferrari driver Massa in 17th. Both Force Indias and Toro Rossos were also out.

Q3 was a bit weird and slightly disappointing. Schumacher and Vettel trundled around without setting times to be ahead of Kobayashi, who qualified 10th but was unable to run due to a reliability failure. Hamilton put in a blinder to start with and then put in an even better lap to get pole (making me feel moronic for saying ‘Back Hamilton for pole is a stock bet’ and then not doing so). Even more impressive was Maldonado getting into 2nd with the Williams (happy 70th, Sir Frank) and Alonso dragging his lame but nevertheless still-prancing horse to 3rd. They were followed by Grosjean and Raikkonen, then Perez and Rosberg.

Note to self: just back Hamilton for pole next time.

Incidentally, well done to regular commenter Nigel for backing Hamilton for qualifying and the win at 9 and then hedging to be green either way.

The race is intriguingly poised because Vettel, Button and Webber are all clearly out of position and the Lotus has looked rather tasty over long runs but the drivers are 4th and 5th. Alonso also qualified very much better than he has recently, and that narrowing of the gap could bode well for Ferrari.

Considered a few bets, but decided to go for Alonso and Raikkonen to win at 9.6 and 7 respectively, with hedges at 3 for Alonso and 2 for Raikkonen.

I did look at some other bets. Vettel for a podium was a bit short at just over evens considering he’d have to pass the Lotuses and might be pursued (or passed off the line) by Schumacher, Button and Webber. I also considered (and wanted) Alonso for a podium but 1.9 is too short. If he has the pace to retain his place or advance then I think he can challenge for the win or at least have a chance of doing so. He’s also been driving tremendously well.

Raikkonen’s been driving extremely well and his car’s pretty damned good. Hamilton’s potential problems are that he can be a bit harsh on tyres, and McLaren’s pit stops have been a serious problem. They have changed some things, and replaced one of the pit crew, so that may have been resolved (or not). Oh, and the McLaren has suffered occasionally from lack of reliability.

Let’s hope the race is a bit more profitable than the qualifying.

Morris Dancer

Spain: pre-qualifying

This Grand Prix weekend sees the soft and hard tyre compounds used, instead of the more usual soft/medium combination. I think we had soft and hard in Malaysia, but due to the monsoon that wasn’t very useful for assessing them (on the other hand, Barcelona’s a different circuit so we might not have learnt much of use anyway).

The teams have already tested at the Barcelona circuit, so they should have a good handle on set-up. However, as almost all of them are taking big upgrades that might increase the chances of getting set-up wrong, as well as potentially altering the already difficult-to-discern order.

This may mean that we find out which cars are really the fastest, as they should have optimal set-ups, but we might also see the drivers being the critical factor. The cars are very close together, or seem to be, so the chap behind the wheel could be the difference between doing well, or not.

It’ll be interesting to see if Ferrari manage to close the gap to the frontrunners.

Hamilton for pole is a kind of stock bet I suggested during the review piece I posted previously. In addition, I think the last seven races have seen just two with safety cars.

P1: I missed most of this but did hear that rear tyres seem to be degrading quite rapidly. It was also suggested that hard tyre performance could determine the race, meaning that P2 might be more useful than it was last year in terms of judging pace.

The order in P1 was Alonso, Vettel, Kobayashi and Button. Fifth was Bottas, the Williams reserve driver, then Schumacher, Grosjean, Hamilton, Raikkonen and Hulkenberg. Don’t get too giddy about Alonso, as his time was apparently set on fresh tyres later than most others when the track had rubbered in. That doesn’t mean he might not be more competitive, though.

P2: I watched most of this. Although cameras can only show one thing at a time I was quite surprised by the lack of running on the hard tyre. As per the last race Lotus did a lot of high fuel running. From what I saw (and it was only a partial picture) the Lotus and McLaren looked very good on race pace, with McLaren and Red Bull the ones to beat for qualifying.

Surprisingly Button topped the timesheets, a little ahead of Vettel, who was followed by Rosberg, Hamilton and Raikkonen. Grosjean, Webber and Schumacher followed, with Kobayashi and Hulkenberg rounding out the top 10.

P3: I missed almost all of this due to a combination of irritating reasons. Anyway, the order was a surprise.

Vettel fastest (ok, not this bit), then Maldonado, Kobayashi and Webber. Perez, Alonso and Vergne followed, then Button, Raikkonen and Rosberg. Hamilton suffered traffic and he would’ve been at or near the sharp end if not for that.

Hard to pick, but I’ve gone for a single tip:
Webber to get pole at 10. Set up a hedge at 3. He’s won pole in Spain the last two years and beaten Vettel at every qualifying session this year except Bahrain.

From commentary in P3 it sounds like McLaren is compromised on the hard tyre, which is a serious concern for them.

I’ve therefore decided to lay the title bets I made pre-season on Hamilton and Button. I’m now evens if neither win and ahead if either do, but by about half the margin I would’ve been otherwise.

Sauber ran high fuel at the end of P3, which may suggest they’re actually very confident. Perez was faster on the hard tyre than some teams on the soft tyre, which is impressive. Not much use for qualifying, probably, but could prove useful for the race. He was lapping at around the same pace (same tyre/fuel roughly) as Rosberg.

I put £2 on Kobayashi to be top 3 in qualifying at 25, but his odds have more than halved since then.

So, it’s hard to predict but should be another thrilling qualifying session.

Morris Dancer