Sunday, 29 July 2012

Hungary: post-race analysis

The race was not all that exciting, but somehow turned out to be profitable. I only checked Betfair for the sake of certainty, but it turned out that the 3 hedge against Grosjean got matched, which I found really surprising. Anyway, for the race hedging was obviously better, and over the course of the weekend it was about one stake better than not doing so.

There was an incident even before the race started when Schumacher stalled his car on the grid. This meant we had a second formation lap whilst the veteran driver went to the pit lane, from whence he would join the back of the pack when the race actually started.

It was initially formation flying. Vettel tried to pass Grosjean but failed and this left him vulnerable to an early pass by Button. Somewhat surprisingly Grosjean managed to keep pace (with a 2.5 second gap, give or take) to Hamilton in this phase of the race.

Webber, who not so long ago had a tendency to leave the handbrake on when starting, had a great getaway and was up to around 7-8th after the first lap.

Things were looking quite good for both Grosjean and McLaren generally (running first and third as they were). However, after Button's pit stop he got stuck behind Senna for a prolonged period. Hungary is a bit rubbish in that overtaking is too difficult, and this allowed Vettel and Webber to easily pass Button during the pit stops.

After the first stops Grosjean was very fast, easily hauling in Hamilton, yet could not get past him. A few over-eager mistakes meant he dropped back slightly, and he never had a serious chance to take the net lead (he did lead, I think, for a time but only due to a difference in the number of pit stops).

However, Raikkonen was greatly aided by a strategic blinder his team played. The Finn found himself in clear air and used this to full advantage, putting in fast lap after fast lap. When he pitted and emerged he was (just) ahead of Grosjean. He was also able to close to Hamilton, but, like his French team mate, found himself entirely unable to actually pass him.

An item of interest was when Vettel, whilst stuck behind Button earlier in the race, got on the radio and basically stamped his foot and demanded the team did something to help him get past the Briton. It sounded rather petulant, to be honest (and I say that as someone who appreciates Vettel's tremendous talent). He ended up fourth.

Alonso will probably be relatively happy with damage limitation in fifth. Because Hamilton's so far back in the title race and Alonso beat Webber (eighth) this actually extends the Spaniard's lead to 40 points (over Webber, who just retains second place).

Worth giving a mention to Senna as well. The Brazilian got a pretty impressive seventh, although his team mate got a drive-through penalty for hitting a Force India and ended up 13th.

It was another day to forget for Schumacher. He must have retired from about seven of the 11 races to date. He stalled on the grid and then had a drive-through for speeding in the pit lane and then had to retire for uncertain reasons.

I've got to say that I think getting that hedge matched was really very lucky. Grosjean did have better speed, I feel, than Hamilton overall (as did Raikkonen) but his lack of experience and judgement led to small mistakes and I underestimated just how hard overtaking would be at Hungary. I'm pretty happy the race ended up green, even if it was a fluke.

Thanks to Messrs Nigel and Putney for each offering an early green line tip. Although neither came off it is worth pointing out that both were at long odds (30/1 and 8/1 respectively).

Going into the long mid-season break the drivers' standings are as follows:
Alonso 164
Webber 124
Vettel 122
Hamilton 117
Raikkonen 116

The long break to Spa will almost certainly see the pack shuffled a bit, but a 40 point lead with four closely matched competitors behind him is a pretty solid position for Alonso. He also has the strategic advantage of being the clear number one driver at Ferrari, whereas that isn't the way McLaren and Red Bull do things. (Well, Red Bull sometimes does, but Webber ignores them).

Alonso's barely over evens, which I think is about right (maybe a tiny bit short). Vettel's 4, Hamilton 7.4 and Webber 14.5, which is too long. Interestingly, Raikkonen's down to 16. If I hadn't already bet on the market quite a bit I'd probably go for Webber and maybe Hamilton, with the intention of hedging later.

I'll be writing a second mid-season review, focusing on the driver/team situations and how I think they might do in the latter half of 2012, between now and Spa. Not sure how long I'll leave it but it'll probably be in the next week or two. The next Grand Prix begins on 31 August.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Hungary: pre-race

We had an unusually clear-cut qualifying session today. Hamilton looked top dog in practice and never really seemed like he'd fail to get pole. Happily, he got it and the tip came off. Naturally, it was better not to lay.

In Q1 Red Bull cut it fine but both cars just about managed to escape. The pointless teams departed, as did Ricciardo.

Q2 saw Sauber continue their strangely poor qualifying, with Perez 13th and Kobayashi 14th. Webber only got 11th, but that might prove slightly advantageous regarding tyres in the race (it remains uncertain whether the soft or medium tyre will be better in the race. Last week Red Bull struggled with the medium, and although Hungary will probably [see below] be hotter they still seem to have problems). Neither Mercedes escaped, with Rosberg 13th and Schumacher a poor 17th.

We've grown accustomed to Q3 being very tense and competitive, but today it wasn't, really. Hamilton got pole and was a mighty four-tenths faster than Grosjean, who got a stellar second. Vettel managed third and Button should be pleased with fourth. Raikkonen got fifth, making the session a great one for Lotus. Alonso just about led Massa (they're sixth and seventh respectively), dodgems star Maldonado got eighth, Senna will be happy with ninth and Hulkenberg got 10th.

So, a fantastic qualifying for McLaren and Lotus, and an impressive showing from Williams as well. Red Bull will be disappointed overall and I think Ferrari will be hoping to limit the damage tomorrow.

The weather forecast has improved over the week, but rain is still possible during the race. I think the odds are it won't happen, but it certainly wouldn't be a shock.

On pace, Hamilton looks unbeatable. Worryingly for his rivals, he's almost as good on medium tyres as on the soft (unlike Red Bull who seem to be struggling with the medium, as per last week in Hockenheim). Agent Neil of the PB2 Intelligence Corps has suggested that Red Bull might also be suffering from a device the team used in pit stops to adjust suspension in-race being banned.

Lotus also looked very tasty on long runs, and they tend not to chew up tyres as much as other teams. Mercedes seem to still have tyre wear issues (last race, thankfully, Schumacher had to pit once more than the Saubers which gifted Perez sixth).

It's also worth bearing in mind that Hungary is not an easy circuit to overtake on. I do expect some shuffling of the order but it won't be as thoroughly jiggled as other races this year. Unless, perhaps, it rains.

I've decided to back Grosjean to win at 8.2, with a hedge set up at 3. Whilst I agree with the market that Hamilton is the favourite by a distance more than 7/1 for the second on the grid is a bit mad. Given Hamilton's only 1.35 to lead lap 1 (he had a bad start in Hockenheim) then 'all' Grosjean has to do is pass him off the line and the hedge will probably get matched.

Vettel is less of a threat than he might be, I think, due to the Red Bull finding medium tyres tricky, and he'll probably have fun trying to keep Button and Raikkonen behind him. The loss of the engine mapping and possible loss of suspension adjustment in-race may not be significant but they won't help either.

A bad start, poor strategy/stops, heavier tyre wear than the Lotus or rain could imperil Hamilton's hopes. I do think he is the favourite for the win but the odds on Grosjean are just too long and he showed in Valencia (until reliability failed him) that he's got the speed and composure to compete for victory.

Let's hope the race is thrilling, and profitable.

Morris Dancer

Hungary: pre-qualifying

And so we move to the eleventh of twenty races, and the last before a long break to Spa.

The soft and medium (same as in Germany) tyres have been brought to the race, but it's expected to be much hotter. The circuit isn't used much the rest of the year so takes a while to rubber in, meaning that the P1 times are not that representative of true pace.

P1 was McLarentastic and had Hamilton lead Button at the sharp end. They were followed by Alonso, then Rosberg, Grosjean and Schumacher. Massa was seventh, and Raikkonen, Bottas (Williams test driver) and Perez rounded out the top 10.

P2 started off dry but then the rain tipped down and caught out a few drivers. Hamilton was again fastest and was followed by Raikkonen, Senna and Massa. Alonso was not faster than Massa (as he was fifth), and Button, Di Resta, Vettel, Grosjean and Schumacher (who crashed after aquaplaning in the wet) finish off the top 10.

P3 was also dry. Webber was fastest, then Hamilton and Vettel, followed by Senna, Alonso and Raikkonen. Grosjean, Massa, Di Resta and Maldonado finish the top 10.

Qualifying is forecast to be dry (the race may not be). There were a wide array of bets on all three main qualifying markets (fastest, to reach Q3 and to be top 3) I looked at. However, for most there was not enough liquidity and/or the odds were displeasing.

In the end I backed a single bet: Hamilton to be fastest in Q3 at 2.96 (hedged at 1.4). Whilst not quite fastest in P3 he was in P1 and P2 and would have been faster in P3 but for a mistake. So, the driver and car have the pace, and I think he'll be brimming with confidence after seeing the car's fresh potential in Hockenheim.

Remember: if you want to offer tips in the comments I'll add these to my records and see how they do compared to my own. [Obviously offering tips is not necessary to post comments and if you want to opt-out just say so and I won't record them]. Please remember to indicate not just the bet but whether it's with Betfair or not so that I know whether to subtract 5% from any profits.

Morris Dancer

Monday, 23 July 2012

2012 Mid-season Review Part 1

We're exactly halfway through the season, with 10 races come and gone and 10 races ahead. Part 1 of the review will mostly look back at what's already happened, and consider how well or badly the betting's gone.

At the start of the season it was quite clear. McLaren had the best car in qualifying and in the race. Red Bull were second, Ferrari had a dog and Lotus and Sauber were more competitive than expected.

But this did not last very long. Possibly due to their atypical solution to the rule changes (having a pretty nose rather than a kinky one) McLaren have not done so well in developing their car as might be expected. Red Bull have done well and improved an already good car, but Ferrari have done the best job. Their car at the start of the season was barely a midfield competitor but now, whilst perhaps not quite as swift as the Red Bull and maybe the McLaren, it can at least compete at the sharp end. It's also tasty in all conditions, unlike the McLaren which hates very wet conditions.

Sauber, Lotus, Mercedes and Williams are all still doing fairly well, the first two teams especially. Mercedes seem to be a little further back, doing well in qualifying but struggling to maintain that in the race (the anti-Sauber, if you like).

Anyway, to the betting.

Perhaps surprisingly the Perez tip in Germany was the first winning race tip (without hedging) since Monaco in May. It's also rather counter-intuitive, but true, that the vast majority of profitability for the bet-and-forget numbers comes from qualifying (race bets are green but modestly so). I've only offered qualifying tips at five out of the 10 races to date (this is generally due to P3 being at 2am for Far Eastern races, or if it's very soggy in P3 and qualifying's expected to be dry).

There's a more or less even split of profit between qualifying and race bets for the hedged style of betting. Hedging has been better than not at four races, and less profitable at two. Overall it's better by a clear margin.

Last year, pretty much throughout the season, not hedging was more profitable. That was because, bluntly, I was getting more things right. This year I'm getting some things right but also getting quite a lot of things nearly right, leading to hedges getting matched.

Despite this, and some recent good results in Europe and Germany, I'm still somewhat tentative about betting. The topsy-turvy nature of the season and some recent wet weather has kept me a bit cautious. I think that's a good thing, and hopefully it will keep me on my toes.

I've continued my bad habit of starting a season rubbishly, as the graph clearly shows. However, there's also a general upward trend, which is nice, and I haven't had too many losses since the first part of the season.

Specific markets:

I think that the Q3 market (to reach it and be top 10 prior to penalties) is one of the most interesting. Grosjean was far too short in Germany, and Alonso likewise in Europe.

It's also worth noting that recently big names have even struggled to escape Q1 as they try and make it on prime tyres (Webber, Schumacher and Button have all either exited or nearly exited at that stage recently).

Generally speaking the chap on pole has gone on to win (Alonso is a double exception to this, in both ways, and Hamilton has also failed to convert his poles to wins yet won from further back in Canada).

Further down there has been a lot of churning in the order from grid to flag. I mentioned Sauber further up. They've been qualifying poorly lately, but they've had good race pace. Mercedes are somewhat the opposite. Podium and Top 6 markets have potential, and I quite like them.

I think hedging generally makes sense. As well as being cautious by nature anyway, F1 (especially this year) is especially prone to sudden changes in fortune.

Regarding the titles, my bet on Lotus to get the Constructors' now looks as silly as a morris dancer without a wiffle stick but the Drivers' is looking a little better. For modest sums I'm ahead if Alonso or any Red Bull/McLaren driver wins.

Given the unpredictable nature of the sport this year I'm reasonably satisfied with the season to date. Whether the latter half is better, worse, or broadly the same remains to be seen.

The next race:

Looking ahead to Hungary, which is this weekend, No Safety Car (assuming there's no rain) is a likely bet. The circuit has the lowest incidence of safety cars on the calendar. I remember reading that the track's all about front-end grip, so this may especially help Mercedes and Lotus (assuming the latter's updated DRS system works) in qualifying.

I'd also guess, based on the Germany race, that McLaren will be very competitive and Hamilton might well nab pole. If it's dry, I'd be surprised if Alonso got another pole.

From Hungary (inclusive) I'll be adding a green line to the graph. This green line will be based upon the tips offered in the comments (usually by Mr. Putney and Mr. Nigel, but it's entirely open to others as well). I'll just take a note of the bet, the odds and whether it's with Betfair or not (to account for the 5% commission). I'm not going to take hedged bets, because I think four lines would be a bit excessive.

Obviously most bets are for races or qualifying but if title bets are suggested I'll take a note of those as well. As with my own tips, I'll assume a standard stake of £10.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Germany: post-race analysis

Well, that was a tremendously exciting race from start to finish (and beyond) and it even turned out to be profitable. I tipped Perez to be top 6 (he was 6th) at 4 with Ladbrokes, no hedge, but he slipped to 5.9 after getting a five place grid penalty and starting in seventeenth position.

The start was exciting but rather hard to follow on the radio. Numerous cars had problems (Hamilton got a puncture and numerous others parted ways with the circuit) but nobody retired. The top few cars stayed in formation and Hamilton limped a long way back to the pits.

Perez, happily, was having a very nice time of things, and was soon up to about 12th, and Button was also having a better performance than has recently been the case. Webber seemed strangely off the pace. He wasn't going backwards, he was just stuck and unable to really make much progress.

The Force Indias, having had a great qualifying, then drifted inexorably backwards and in the end Hulkenberg just got into the points in 9th and di Resta just missed out in 11th. Rosberg had a pretty good race to finish 10th having started very near the back, and Schumacher came 7th, (better tyre wear might have seen him hold 5th, as he pitted late on).

At the sharp end Button was picking off those ahead of him one by one until he was third and closing with Alonso and Vettel, who were very close. After the final pit stops Button was just ahead of Vettel and challenged the Spaniard for the lead but he just couldn't get ahead of Alonso. Then Alonso pulled a small gap and Vettel closed up to Button. Very near the end of the race Vettel passed Button, but he was off the track when he did so and it may well be investigated and penalised by the stewards (we'll see if he gets a penalty, unlike the engine mapping shenanigans of Red Bull which went unpunished).

Raikkonen got a solid but unspectacular 4th and Sauber will be delighted with an impressive 5th and 6th, which is especially good as their drivers started about 12th and 17th. If they could sort out qualifying they might be in a position to contend for more podiums.

Massa came a lowly 12th, and Grosjean was only 18th. Hamilton was the sole retirement due to a reliability failing quite late on. It was a pretty rubbish way for a 100th Grand Prix to go.

In the dry the McLaren was perhaps the fastest car of them all, and if not it was not far off. The Saubers were also pretty tasty. Force India were clearly helped by rain in qualifying, and are less competitive in the dry.

Before the race began Red Bull were being investigated for possibly illegal engine mapping. The FIA apparently called the mapping illegal but stated that the rules were too unclear and so the team got no penalty.

The contentious nature of Vettel's late overtake will probably be investigated, and we'll see what happens (or not).

The good news for McLaren is that, in the dry, their car is now very sharp. The bad news is that reliability in the race and rain in qualifying cost them this time and there's just one more race before a prolonged break.

The Perez tip was probably half down to good judgement and half down to luck. I never would've backed him (even at 5.9) to be top 6 from 17th on the grid. Really quite pleased with how this weekend's gone, both in terms of entertainment and betting.

Hungary is just next weekend, but I will be writing a mid-season review part 1 (looking especially at what's happened so far and the betting aspect of things) during the week [assuming I can actually sort out my records, which have suddenly grown a strange discrepancy]. After Hungary, during a long break, I'll write part 2 of the review, with an eye on the last nine races of the season.

From Hungary onwards I'll be adding 'green line' tips to my records, with such tips being the ones offered by my esteemed commenters.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Germany: pre-race

Qualifying was as exciting as usual, and unusually profitable. Alonso got the fastest time ahead of Webber, and I'm pretty happy with that because I was ambivalent about the tip and bet. As an added bonus, the tiny sum I managed to get on Grosjean not reaching Q3 (laid at 1.23) also came off.

The first qualifying session has actually become quite interesting of late, and this was no exception. Webber was in trouble for a while, and so was Schumacher, who just about escaped an ignominious exit. As it happened, Vergne joined the pointless teams.

The first session was pretty much dry but the second saw rather a lot of rain which intensified towards the end of the session and made it all but impossible for those then outside the top 10 to progress. Although both Saubers failed to reach Q3 they did qualify towards the top end of Q2 in 12th and 13th, and Ricciardo starts from an impressive 11th. Massa will be disappointed to be out in 14th and Grosjean really struggled, ending up 15th. Perhaps the biggest disappointment was Rosberg, who finished a measly 17th.

Q3 started very wet, so much so that even on full wets there was quite a lot of aqua-planing and off-track excursions. However, the track did improve towards the latter end of the session which meant the order at the sharp end kept changing. Alonso made a call late on to return to the pits and stick on some new wets, which proved as cunning as a fox who has recently acquired a doctorate in cunning.

The Spaniard got his second pole in a row, and second fastest was Vettel, followed by Webber. However, the Aussie will start further down the grid because of his five place grid penalty for changing his gearbox (which also affects Grosjean and Rosberg). Schumacher, whose team mate was 17th and who barely escaped Q1, got 4th and Hulkenberg did tremendously well to get 5th. He was followed by Venezuelan traffic offender Maldonado, Button, Hamilton (out-qualified by Button for the first time this year), di Resta and Raikkonen, who really struggled in the wet.

The race tomorrow is, however, expected to be dry. Hamilton, Perez and Raikkonen are all probably out of position regarding grid slot and pace (and Webber, but that's due to a penalty). I'd expect it to be an Alonso/Vettel duel for victory, but Schumacher and Maldonado (starting 3rd and 5th) cannot be written off entirely. I think Hulkenberg, who starts 4th, may well end up going backwards, and I'd be unsurprised if Schumacher did likewise. Maldonado's fast but rather too prone to crashing.

The circuit is one where overtaking is eminently possible, so grid slots, whilst important, are not the be all and end all.

I expect the victory to be an Alonso-Vettel duel, although there is an off-chance Schumacher or Maldonado might be surprisingly fast. That makes the winner and podium markets a bit tricky.

I've decided to back Perez at 4, with Ladbrokes, to finish in the top 6. My reasoning is that he was very fast in the partly dry P1 and entirely dry P3 and his race pace has consistently been much better than his qualifying. Decided against hedging.

Hopefully the race will be dry, entertaining and profitable.

Morris Dancer

Germany: pre-qualifying

"Euripides: Chance fights ever on the side of the prudent."

We're at Hockenheim, which alternates with the Nurburgring as the German Grand Prix venue. However, the latter circuit might end up going bust and Hockenheim may end up as the sole German racetrack in F1.

The tyres this weekend are soft and medium.

P1 was a mostly soggy affair, which didn't yield too much info of use. However, there is some suggestion that Lotus might have a Mercedes-style double DRS which could give them an edge in qualifying, as well as increasing (possibly) their ease of overtaking in the race. Alguesuari reckoned the Mercedes, especially Schumacher looked pretty good on both tyres. The order was: Button, Hamilton, Alonso, Schumacher, Perez, Hulkenberg, Rosberg, Massa, Maldonado, Grosjean.

P2 was even wetter, so the times are probably of even less value, but here we are: Maldonado was fastest followed by Rosberg, Vettel, Perez and Grosjean. The 6-10 slots were filled by Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Button, Webber and Raikkonen.

Lotus confirmed they had a swanky new aerodynamic device, possibly like the Mercedes super-DRS but said they wouldn't be using it in the race. However, it may make an appearance at Hungary, next weekend:

We also learnt that the McLaren drivers weren't singing in the rain, which could prove of value if the qualifying forecast is wet:

P3 was mostly dry, thankfully. Alonso, Hamilton, Perez, Raikkonen, Webber, Vettel, Maldonado, Massa, Kobayashi, Senna. Button was dead last.

Webber and Rosberg both have five place grid penalties for gearbox changes, and Pic has a 10 place penalty for changing an engine. Pretty high record of gearbox changes this year.

It seems that qualifying is likely to be affected, at least partly, by rain. This shouldn't bother Red Bull, Ferrari or Sauber but McLaren may be adversely affected.

Given that, I feel more comfortable betting against drivers than for them (rain means that calling a pole-sitter is even harder than usual). Sadly the 1.23 to lay Grosjean to reach Q3 (he is, in my view, likely to be just on the cusp) has disappeared and 1.4 is not generous enough.

After some agonising I've decided to back (half-stakes each) Webber at 9.2 and Alonso at 6.2 for fastest qualifying time (hedges set up at 2.5 and 2 respectively). As usual in this case this counts as a single tip. My reasoning is thus: both were fast and very tightly matched at Silverstone qualifying (also wet) last weekend. They're also both likely to be competitive if it's bone dry. And, Alonso was very close to getting pole in 2010.

Should be an exciting qualifying session. Let's hope it's profitable too.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 8 July 2012

United Kingdom: post-race analysis

Another exciting and surprisingly dry race. Whether it was profitable or not depends upon whether the bet was hedged. If so, a modest profit was had, if not then a modest loss was suffered. Interestingly, the gap between bet-and-forget and hedging is pretty enormous this year (right now you're more than three times better off hedging than not).

Anyway, to the race:
Alonso was very nearly passed off the line by Webber but they managed to retain their positions, with Schumacher keeping third. Vettel had a poor start and ended up behind Massa and Raikkonen, I think. Button had a nice get-away and got to 12th from 16th (he qualified 18th but penalties for Pic and Vergne bumped him up two spots) but that was about the highlight of his race.

Grosjean tagged di Resta, which punctured the unlucky Briton's rear tyre. He got the car back to the pits and went out again but in getting there the first time he'd ruined the floor and had to return to retire.

There was quite a lot of rapid overtaking and the order got jiggled about in the midfield and lower down. At the front Alonso had a distinct but not enormous gap to Webber and both were pulling away from Schumacher, behind whom a small convoy of faster cars had lined up. Eventually he was passed and pitted and spent much of his time seeming to struggle (as did his team mate) with the Mercedes. I wonder if it had a compromise or wet set-up. However, he did pass Hamilton late on to nab 6th.

Massa had a good race, and although he wasn't able to stay ahead of Vettel he wasn't dropped much and scored a very good 4th. The two Lotuses showed good pace, getting 5th and 6th for Raikkonen and Grosjean respectively.

McLaren just weren't fast enough. Button scraped into 10th position, but that's still feeble for a potential title contender. Hamilton was perhaps screwed by a bad strategy. They had him out on the hard tyre initially (not bad) but the middle soft stint was incredibly brief, just about eight laps, and then he was back out on the hard tyre. He was ahead, after the final stop, of Grosjean, but got passed by the Frenchman and then Schumacher to finish a measly 8th.

At the sharp end Ferrari employed the correct strategy most of the time. Going hard-hard-soft made sense because the car seemed much happier on the harder compound (there was surprisingly little performance difference between the two). However, when Webber did his final stop first and started whittling down the 20s gap (15s or so is needed to come out ahead) Alonso pitted at about 19.4s or so. However, whilst the Spaniard could maintain a roughly 5s gap on softs (Webber was on the hard tyre) for a little while once they started to deteriorate Webber gobbled up half a second a lap and passed Alonso with ease. However, Alonso had enough over Vettel to keep second.

Yet again, there was a collision and controversy involving Maldonado. Perez was seeking to pass him on the outside of a corner, and Maldonado either drove into him or cocked up and accidentally collided with the Mexican. Afterwards Perez was very forthright, saying that all drivers were concerned by Maldonado's lack of respect and called on the stewards to punish him properly because otherwise he wouldn't stop his unacceptable behaviour.

Strong words, and I can only agree. Maldonado side-swiped Perez in Monaco practice, he did the same last year to Hamilton at Spa qualifying, he stupidly collided with Hamilton at Valencia and now he's hit Perez. Even if the latest incident were accidental he would need a slap from the stewards.

Although an Alonso win would've been better for me I can't feel grumpy about a green race when it was so very unpredictable.

In terms of the title, Alonso's lead, formerly 20 points, has been trimmed to 'just' 13 (that's still the second biggest lead of the year so far). Importantly, though he lost ground to Webber he extended his advantage over Vettel and Hamilton.

Alonso 129
Webber 116
Vettel 100
Hamilton 92

Both Hamilton and Vettel are more than a win (25 points) behind Alonso. But could Webber win? He's qualified well, he's raced very consistently (perhaps most consistently of any driver over the entire season so far) and he's got probably the fastest car. The main reason for saying 'no' would be his team mate. Vettel is tremendously talented, but he doesn't have a God-given right to beat Webber.

Webber's presently 7 with Betfair to take the title, but he's second. Alonso is 3 (about right, I think) and Vettel's 3.35. Hamilton's drifted a smidgen to 5.4. I've put on an extra £1 (because I'm a big time gambler, ahem) on Webber. Now I'll make roughly the same for him, Vettel or Hamilton and a bit more for Alonso.

The next race is Germany in a fortnight. I forget whether it's the turn of Hockenheim or the Nurburgring and, coincidentally, which circuit it is that Vettel really struggles at. I think we had it last year (I think his 4th there was his worst finish in the first half of the season).

Although there's only one week between Germany and Hungary and the latter is followed by a long break I'm going to do the mid-season review between Germany and Hungary. After Germany I plan to introduce my crowd*-sourcing green line to the betting graph (*a crowd meaning Messrs Nigel and Putney, and anyway else who wants to join in). So, tips offered in the comments will also be recorded and we'll see how they stack up against hedging and non-hedging tips.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 7 July 2012

United Kingdom: pre-race

Writing this rather later than I imagined (it's presently 3.50pm) due to a rather prolonged qualifying session.

Q1 was wet, perhaps unsurprisingly. Caterham discovered that their upgrades were not good enough, but the real shock was Button's exit in the first round of qualifying. He struggled with his initial set of intermediates, and seemed poised to put in a good enough time when yellow flags damaged his chances and he ended up 18th.

Q2 saw the return of the red-shouldered blackbird. It started off very wet and then got wetter. With 6 minutes and 19 seconds left it was red-flagged. At that moment Perez was fastest, followed by Hamilton and Rosberg. Schumacher, Grosjean and both Ferraris were, at that point, in the drop zone.

There was quite a lengthy rain delay, which did have a few interesting moments. Jordan and Anderson both argued, quite eloquently, that the red flag penalised those (like Sauber) who had made the right call and let those who had not (like Ferrari) off the hook. We also got to see the return of F1 legend Murray Walker, and it really was great to hear him shouting "Go, go, go!" again.

However, the session did get going again. Sauber cocked up and sent their drivers out on the wrong compound. Though they changed it couldn't help Perez, who tumbled from 1st to 17th. Bloody unlucky for the talented Mexican. Both Ferraris and Schumacher managed to get through, but Rosberg did not.

Q3 was one of those sessions where the track was constantly and rapidly improving, meaning later laps were also faster. Alonso, who had been on the verge of being dumped in Q2, nailed Ferrari's first pole for about 30 races. Webber put in a great performance for 2nd (beating his team mate, who was 4th) and Schumacher got a very impressive 3rd. Massa also continued his recent return to decent form with 5th and was followed by Raikkonen, Maldonado and Maldonado's best friend forever Hamilton. Hulkenberg and Grosjean (who didn't run after parking the Lotus in a gravel trap in Q2) round out the top 10.

The forecast was too optimistic for qualifying, so although it suggests there will possibly be light showers for the race I think it'd be foolish to rule out any kind of weather. We could easily see anything from sunshine to showers to a return of the British monsoon season.

It's quite hard to predict, of course, but I've decided to back Alonso for the win at 3.5 (hedged at 1.4). The reasoning is that he not only got a wet/drying pole but he was also fastest in P3, which was dry (and he's been very competitive of late, of course).

Should be a thrilling race. Silverstone's a great circuit, and it'll be fascinating to see what the weather does and just how strategy (wet or dry) will be managed. I'd prefer it if there weren't an hour and a half of delay, though (NB after Canada the spoilsport bean-counters have decreed no race can exceed 4 hours in length. Worth knowing if you're betting in-play and there's a prolonged rain delay).

Morris Dancer

United Kingdom: pre-qualifying

Well, the event takes place during the British monsoon season, with yet more torrential rain. The first two practice sessions were very wet indeed and of seriously limited value for determining pace. Sauber look decent in the wet, but that's about all we learnt.

That would always be annoying, but is especially so when Red Bull brought yet more updates, McLaren brought some and Caterham brought a ton. It's hard to assess if they're working or not when the track is underwater.

For the sake of completeness, P1 had a top 10 consisting of: Grosjean, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Perez, Massa, Webber, Kobayashi, Schumacher, Rosberg and Vergne.

P2's top 10 were: Hamilton, Kobayashi, Schumacher, Rosberg, Perez, Button, Kovalainen, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg and Alonso.

Unfortunately, for reasons that are annoying, I missed most of P3. I think that Alonso, who set his time quite early, Button, who came close on used hard tyres, and Kobayashi, who would've been faster but screwed up the last corner, could be interesting in qualifying.

Anyway, P3 (which was dry) saw Alonso fastest followed by Button, Grosjean, Vettel and Raikkonen. Hamilton was sixth and followed by Maldonado, Perez, Kobayashi and Hulkenberg.

I also think that I may well have been wrong, on the main site, to disagree with Mr. Putney, who advocated backing Button for a podium (I think). My disagreement was based upon a poor past performance both this season and at Silverstone over the years. However, Button looks to have decent pace and, perhaps more importantly, is really looking after his tyres.

Weather forecast for qualifying is that a smallish shower is possible. Shouldn't affect things too much, if accurate.

The lack of dry running, Red Bull only doing one quick run near the end and Mercedes suffering some sort of issue which kept their cars in the garage for a prolonged period make this difficult to call. [I do seem to write that every week, but it's true].

A few potential bets caught my eye but in the end I either decided against them or there just wasn't enough money there to tip/bet. I've decided to sit out betting this session, based on the serious lack of dry running.

Morris Dancer