Sunday, 24 June 2012

Europe: post-race analysis

Blimey, the race was absolutely thrilling (contrary to my expectations) but rather frustrating betting-wise. There was a safety car, but only because that fool Vergne firstly had needless contact with Kovalainen and then compounded his error by racing back to the pits instead of going slowly. This caused the tyre to shred, wrecking his own car and pelting the tracks with bits of wheel and bodywork. Idiot.

Grosjean failed to get a podium or the possibility of a win solely due to a rare reliability failure, which was pretty galling, and Raikkonen was never really in the hunt for a win. A small silver lining is that my hedge on Grosjean winning got matched, so (for the race) I was down two stakes rather than three. Still pretty disappointing though, especially as bad luck more than bad judgement played the critical role.

However, as a spectator the race was unusually exciting, for Valencia.

Early on both Lotuses had a great start but Maldonado blocked Raikkonen and put the Finn some way down the field. Grosjean passed the Venezuelan and from then it was pretty much formation flying with Vettel pulling a strong lead over Hamilton and Grosjean in a comfortable third.

Further down the grid Alonso and Schumacher had decent starts and I think Button went backwards.

Grosjean was able to pass Hamilton and soon pulled out a sizeable gap, but Vettel was absolutely miles ahead. After the first pit stops it looked like Vettel, Grosjean and Hamilton were destined for podium spots, but the Fates are fickle.

Vergne (boo hiss!) moronically did what I described above, causing a safety car to emerge. Everyone save Ricciardo pitted, but Hamilton's very poor stop (just for a change) meant the order shifted to Vettel, Grosjean and, staggeringly, Alonso (who started 11th).

After the restart I was hoping Grosjean could pass Vettel, but instead it was Alonso who got into second, which was bloody frustrating. Then a huge surprise came about. Vettel, who had been easily leading by 20s and retained the lead after the restart, suddenly stopped on track. Some sort of reliability issue put him out of the race.

I was still hopeful of the podium bet and possibly the win bet, but then Grosjean also had a reliability failing (the alternator). That was really disappointing, but these things happen (and sometimes they're helpful, sometimes detrimental).

Now the order was Alonso, Hamilton, Raikkonen. The Finn, as Coulthard said in commentary, doesn't have the cutting edge when it comes to passing, but he eventually got past Hamilton when the McLaren's tyres were wrecked. Raikkonen soon opened up a gap to Hamilton but was too far back to consider passing Alonso.

Hamilton's fading tyres put him within reach of Maldonado, and the two tangled. Maldonado was forced (legitimately) off track by Hamilton, but then he returned to the circuit and smashed Hamilton into the wall, damaging his Williams in the process. In my eyes, that's clearly Maldonado's fault.

The departure of the McLaren and weakness of the Williams enabled Schumacher to pass Maldonado and get his first podium since his return to F1 (not sure what number that is, but it must be astronomical).

Webber got 4th and was followed by Hulkenberg, Rosberg, di Resta, Button, Perez and Maldonado.

This win was immensely important for Alonso, and not just because he started 11th and finished 1st. His two main rivals, Hamilton and Vettel, scored zero points, meaning he has a 20 point advantage over second-placed Webber.

As a spectator the race was exciting and enthralling, but as a gambler it was pretty galling to suffer two hefty slices of misfortune. On the other hand, it's still the best weekend of the year so far by a clear distance.

Silverstone is next, in a fortnight.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Europe: pre-race

Delighted to get the first winning tip for qualifying this year (from four), especially at fairly long odds. I thought it'd be congested around the Q3 cut-off, and luckily for me Alonso (along with Schumacher and Massa) were not quite quick enough.

Q1 was actually moderately interesting. Poor Timo Glock was too unwell to race and was therefore 'last', but the real shock was that Webber, who'd missed P3 due to car problems, failed to get out of Q1 even on soft tyres. The reason for that was a hydraulic problem which meant DRS didn't work, and that cuts 1.3s from a lap time in Valencia.

Q2 was hyper-competitive. Alonso was out in 11th but was barely two-tenths off of the fastest time set in that session. Fellow big names Schumacher and Massa were out in 12th and 13th, and it's worth mentioning that the much maligned Massa managed to be just seven-hundredths behind his team mate. Senna was 14th with a somewhat disappointing Perez 15th (that said, he started 15th in Canada and finished on the podium). Kovalainen had a good 16th for Caterham, ahead of Ricciardo (Vergne was 18th meaning Kovalainen beat both Toro Rossos).

Q3 was less competitive than Q2. It was pretty close at the sharp end, until Vettel did a single lap and slaughtered Hamilton (2nd) by four-tenths. He also got Canadian pole by a mile, but the Red Bull was slower than its immediate rivals in the race. Maldonado was very close to Hamilton, with Grosjean and Raikkonen extremely close behind. I think the Lotus could be the car to watch tomorrow. Rosberg, Kobayashi, Hulkenberg, Button and di Resta round out the top 10.

The Force Indias were a bit slower than I expected in qualifying, and Maldonado did very well (especially compared to his team mate) to nab 3rd. Lotus look good on both single lap pace and the long runs.

McLaren and Red Bull are hard to read. Hamilton and Button were both downbeat pre-qualifying and Hamilton seemed a bit surprised to be second fastest. I'm not sure how the Red Bull will do in the race. Valencia is very hard to overtake at (which Button amusingly and honestly referred to in an interview with Lee Mackenzie) but high degradation is expected (air temperature of around 28C is forecast) which may change that. A two or three stop strategy seems to be the way to go.

As noted on the previous article I tipped No Safety Car at 1.5 earlier in the week, and still stand by that. It's up to 1.63 on Betfair now.

Like Mr. Nigel, who commented on the previous article, I think that Lotus could be the team to beat.

Annoyingly, Ladbrokes' top scoring team market is down (I'd been very interested in backing Lotus for that). Really hard to pick one, or maybe two, from Lotus to win, Raikkonen/Grosjean to win and Raikkonen/Grosjean to get a podium.

Tiny bit irked that I can't have that single Lotus to top score bet. After quite a lot of cogitation I decided to back Grosjean for the podium at 2.62.

Also decided to split one standard stake to back Grosjean to win at 10.5 and Raikkonen at 11.5, with both hedged at 3. If you prefer to just bet-and-forget you might prefer the 5.5 at Ladbrokes for Lotus to win. Because I'm advocating splitting a single stake (as per the Hamilton-Button bet at Canada last year) this'll count as a single tip. Hopefully it'll work, considering how long I agonised over it.

So, the race tips are:
No Safety Car 1.5 (1.63 now up on Betfair)
Grosjean, podium, 2.62 (Ladbrokes)
Half-stake: Grosjean, win, 10.5 (hedged at 3)
Half-stake: Raikkonen, win, 11.5 (hedged at 3)

Let's hope the race is as pleasingly profitable as the qualifying.

Morris Dancer

Europe: pre-qualifying

And so we arrive in Valencia, at arguably the worst circuit on the calendar. However, Bahrain did shock spectators this season by actually being somewhat interesting and Jaime Alguersuari reckons high tyre degradation could make the race worth watching, so we'll see.

It's worth noting that P1 and P2 both occurred in relatively cool conditions and therefore might not prove all that much use for forecasting qualifying and the race. In addition, Lotus spent a lot of time using both compounds on high fuel loads, so they may be well-placed for the race.

P1 had juvenile delinquent Maldonado fastest, followed by Vettel and Webber. Button will be pleased to be up in 4th, with Alonso, di Resta and Schumacher behind him. Hamilton, Rosberg and Raikkonen finish off the top 10.

P2 was led by Vettel, who was followed by Hulkenberg (especially impressive as he missed P1 so that Force India's reserve driver could have a go). Kobayashi was next, then Schumacher, Senna and di Resta. Alonso, Grosjean, Webber and Rosberg were 7th to 10th.

Temperature for qualifying may be very high, comparable to Barcelona and Bahrain. Ferrari may have high degradation, and Force India seem strong on both single lap and long run pace.

In P3 Webber didn't get any running done, and it's clear that traffic will be an issue in qualifying (to reach Q3 especially). Button was fastest, followed by the Lotuses of Grosjean and Raikkonen. Hulkenberg and di Resta came 4th and 5th, which is a welcome improvement for Force India. Perez, Schumacher, Hamilton, Massa and Maldonado round out the top 10.

Vettel's better than his 13th suggests, because he was very quick in 2/3 sectors. Really hard to pick a pole-sitter. Could see any of the Red Bulls, McLarens or Lotuses up there. Decided against betting on pole therefore.

Perused the top 3 and to reach Q3 (ie be in the top 10) markets. I decided to lay Alonso to reach Q3 at 1.14 (no hedge). My reasoning is thus: traffic is very serious, the Ferrari is on the cusp with others (Mercedes, Sauber etc) and the tyres are good for basically one lap. So, he could lack pace or just get unlucky with traffic.

Earlier in the week I also tipped No Safety Car at 1.5. I'm still content with that but it's now up to 1.63 with Betfair.

Ferrari tyres may degrade a bit too much, Anderson reckons they'll be a little off the pace. I think that, in the race, Force India could be the surprisingly fast team this weekend with an outside shot of a podium. Be fun to see whether they can do it, and if Hulkenberg or di Resta is fastest.

So, two tips:

No Safety Car at 1.63
Lay Alonso to reach Q3 at 1.14

No hedging for either (bit weird for me, I know, but there we are).

If I remember I'll take notes on who uses how many tyres in qualifying. I suspect the medium compound will be the best in the race, with durability outweighing raw pace in terms of long term speed.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Canada: post-race analysis

As is so often the case, Montreal served up a thrilling race. The Alonso tip did not come off, but it did get matched at evens, so no real harm done in the race, but overall the weekend was a bit disappointing.

The start was clean (or dull, as you like) with everyone staying as they were. However, the top three were soon a good distance ahead of the rest and there were big enough gaps to stop DRS being used early on. Massa was going well but spun and ended up around 12th.

Then Vettel started to struggle with his tyres and Hamilton put his foot down, catching and passing him. After the first pit stops (Vettel then Hamilton then Alonso) Alonso emerged in the lead, followed by Hamilton and then Vettel. Hamilton passed Alonso and then started to pull away.

Further down the field everyone was pitting except the Lotuses (Raikkonen was fourth) and Perez, in fifth.

Perez held on all the way to lap 42, and managed the one-stop perfectly.

Hamilton pitted a second time and Alonso and Vettel gambled on a one-stopper. Hamilton was a second a lap faster than his rivals and easily caught and passed them. Vettel pitted very late on and Alonso stayed out.

This proved a bungle by Ferrari as his tyres fell to pieces and he was passed by Grosjean, Perez and Vettel, ending up a lowly 5th. If he'd pitted a lap after Hamilton he would've gotten first or second, but it's easy to be wise in hindsight.

Hamilton drove the perfect race. He was aggressive and fast but never destroyed his tyres. He absolutely deserved the victory and became the seventh winner in seven races.

A word for the slightly neglected Grosjean and Perez (understandable given how exciting and tight the battle for the win was). They both managed to pull off a one-stopper because they made the first stint last for ages. Alonso and Vettel tried to have the best of both worlds but pitted too early and ended up off the podium which should've been theirs easily. Although McLaren's pit stops were a little slow their strategy was spot on and Hamilton drove very well indeed.

Button finished a rather paltry 16th, having suffered with a bad set of tyres and being unable to make any real headway. What's happened? The car clearly has the pace but Button's lost his.

Massa got tenth, which is disappointing given his pace, and Kobayashi's ninth made it a double points result for Sauber.

Schumacher's run of abysmal luck continued. His DRS was jammed opened, he managed to reach the pits but it couldn't be rectified and he had his fourth retirement of the season (the others being due to a gearbox failure, a wheel not being attached at a pit stop and attempting to occupy the same co-ordinates in space and time as Bruno Senna's Williams).

Obviously I'm disappointed with the overall betting result, but at least one of the hedges got matched. I'd initially thought to hedge all at evens instead of splitting with 2 and 1.5, but that was (another) misjudgement. If I had done that then the result would've been evens for the weekend instead of down, but there we are.

The race was thrilling, and, as well as enduring Legard on the BBC's radio commentary, I watched, which often posted info faster than the radio reported it.

I think the Alonso bet was a valid one, although it didn't come off it did get matched for a hedge. It's a shame as it ends a run of three positive results, but all good things come to an end.

For the title race, I'm pretty happy now to be green for Hamilton and Alonso. The result means that there is sod all difference, really, between the top three, who many also regard as the chaps likely to be competing for titles for the next five years or so.

I decided to back Vettel at 4.4, on the basis that that would make me green on the top three drivers. Not hugely so, as I've been betting with smaller stakes, but still. Alonso's odds are the same but Hamilton's around 2.6, which is too low for one man in very much a three horse race.

However, if Button can't get himself in shape then Hamilton will effectively become the team leader by default, giving him the same advantage Alonso has.

On pace in the race, I'd say the Ferrari was either equal to or a hair's breadth faster than the McLaren with the Red Bull in third. In qualifying, the Red Bull was miles faster but the McLaren and Ferrari were (again) practically identical.

Every race and qualifying session this season has been difficult to predict but if that trend continues then it might help make things a bit easier to foresee.

Hedging is a little better than not hedging, but either way the season's close to being flat so far. Unfortunately the next race is at arguably the worst circuit on the calendar, in Valencia, which happens in a fortnight.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Canada: pre-race

Qualifying was surprisingly uncompetitive. Kudos to Mr. Nigel, as Vettel got pole, making the 14.5 on him to get pole and win excellent value. Only an idiot would have hedged that bet at 4 (ahem). Rather obviously, this means that my premature 2.8 tip on Hamilton didn't come off. That'll teach me to bet before P3, which really did change the lie of the land.

Anyway, Vettel was three-tenths up on Hamilton, who beat his team mate (10th) by a whole second. Button's title challenge will be over if he can't improve sharpish. The drop-off in performance lately has been dramatic for the Briton.

Alonso was third, under a tenth behind Hamilton, with Webber two-tenths further back. Then we have Rosberg, Massa and Grosjean, followed by di Resta, Schumacher and Button.

So far this season the races have either been thrilling or in Monaco, and Canada's superb circuit is known for the excellence of its races. Pole is not the be all and end all here, although it is worth noting that this season has seen people who aren't called Hamilton enjoy a very strong record of converting poles to victories. In fact, excluding Hamilton, it might even be a 100% record. That's rather counter-intuitive given how competitive the races have seemed, but there we are.

If you did back the excellent Vettel double tip and want to hedge, lay on the winner market (2.18) rather than the double market (2.26) for a bit extra [obviously check and make sure that's still the case beforehand].

I've got to say that it's very hard to try and find value. I do say that quite often, but Vettel's highly likely to win, though 2.1 is quite short and Alonso/Hamilton will be pushing like crazy. To be honest, if I'd thought of the 14.5/27 tips I'd probably just leave it.

The weather looks like being dry, but one potential area of divergence is strategy. A one-stop strategy is viable, but drop-off in performance can be dramatic (as Raikkonen showed in… Bahrain, I think it was). Strategically, Red Bull and Ferrari have been generally competent and McLaren has not.

Decided to back Alonso to win at 6 (Ladbrokes) with a one stake (that's profit, not liability) hedge at 2 and another one stake hedge at 1.5 (so if he got very close and both hedges got matched but he failed to win you'd be up 2 stakes on Betfair with a liability of 1.5 stakes).

My reasoning, hopefully inspired by Athena rather than Hypnos, is thus:
Hamilton will be hampered in the race. If there's a one-stop strategy he'll probably ruin his tyres more than Alonso/Vettel. If there's a two-stop strategy he'll suffer more from slower stops (and maybe very bad ones). McLaren do have the new funky front jack, but their problems have been not with that but with the wheels.

Alonso sometimes has very good starts and has been driving very well recently.

The Red Bull's relative weakness is top line speed, and Vettel has never won the Canadian Grand Prix.

Have to admit I found it extremely hard to find value, but I do think that the race will probably be a Vettel/Alonso fight. Hamilton's very good, but he has been let down by his team and Alonso was punching above his weight even when his car was a dog.

So, just that single tip: Alonso to win at 6, with hedges split at 2 and 1.5.

Morris Dancer

Canada: pre-qualifying

The tyres are soft and supersoft, as per Monaco, but because Montreal's more like a normal circuit (and there probably won't be a helpful safety car in the first few laps) a one-stop strategy is less likely (but is still viable).

There's just the one DRS zone this year, and it's been shortened somewhat.

Sadly, disruption is a possibility due to some protestors being against the Canadian Government for one reason or another, and suggesting that they may target the Grand Prix. Let's hope they don't disturb the race or qualifying.

The first practice session saw Hamilton fastest, a tenth ahead of Vettel. Rosberg and Alonso were third and fourth, followed by Webber. Hulkenberg, Kobayashi, Perez, Schumacher and Button finished off the top 10.

In P2 Hamilton was again fastest, half a tenth only ahead of Alonso. If that's a true reflection of pace then Ferrari might be looking good for the title. Massa was also half a tenth behind Alonso, pointing to both decent pace and the continuation of the Brazilian's good form in Monaco. Vettel, Kobayashi and di Resta filled slots four to six, and were followed by Schumacher, Hulkenberg, Button and Rosberg.

It's worth pointing out that Button had very limited running in these sessions due to a gearbox problem/oil leak. However, Gary Anderson (BBC technical chap who is well worth listening to) was flabbergasted that it took 3 hours and 45 minutes for a change he reckoned should take 30 minutes. Radio analyst Jaime Alguesuari agreed that the length of time taken was ridiculous.

P3 was tremendously close, making me rather nervous and wondering if I should've sat qualifying betting out. At one point 15 cars were covered by 1 second. Vettel was fastest, six one-thousandths of a second ahead of Alonso who was three-tenths up on Hamilton. Webber was fourth, followed by Maldonado, Massa and Schumacher. Grosjean, Raikkonen and Hulkenberg round out the top 10.

Pre-P3 I tipped Hamilton at 2.8 for pole, with a hedge at 1.3. However, I would not advocate backing that now (it's now stretched to 3.85, with Vettel at 4.6 and Alonso 5.8). It's very hard to tell whether Hamilton, Vettel or maybe even Alonso will get pole. I still hope Hamilton will get it, but I'm not tipping anything else.  

On the main site regular commenter Nigel spotted that the double (qualifying/winner) market was out of kilter with the qualifying winner, with Alonso/Alonso 27 and Vettel 14.5. Might've shortened since but there could still be value there.

Brief moment of plugging: I've got a book out, a stand-alone fantasy novel which is available for a very reasonable $0.99. I hope readers give Bane of Souls a go, or check the sample to see if it's their sort of thing.

On a related note, I've occasionally thought of writing a non-fiction book about F1 and betting. I do like the idea, but right now I'm not sure that I either have the time or the experience to do the subject justice. I would be interested to know whether (in the future) people would like the idea of such a book.

I'm also unsure if I've ever actually mentioned that I do have a Twitter account. I only made it because I opted for that route to sign in to, but I do post tips on it as well. The address is:

Morris Dancer