Thursday, 26 April 2012

F1 2012 season, after 4 races

As there are three weeks between Bahrain and the slightly less controversial Grand Prix in Barcelona, I thought it would be a good time to pause, take stock, put on the theme from Where Eagles Dare and consider how the season is shaping up, and then how that affects betting possibilities.

So far, I think the season is excellent. It’s married the tight races of 2011 with the close title battle of 2010. Half of the teams have been on the podium and all save the pointless triumvirate are now on the scoreboard.

In addition to this, every race has been won by not just a different driver but a different team. The top 5 drivers are separated by 10 points (a 5th placed finish, I think, under the new scoring system) and there are just 9 points between Red Bull and McLaren.

Reliability is interesting. It’s been a bit less bulletproof than 2011, though not as bad as a decade or two ago, and McLaren have had problems in the pits. They need to sort that out, because in a season this close it could make all the difference.

The tyres are crumblier than ever, and, interestingly, sometimes the prime is the better in the race with marginal speed loss and significantly better durability than the option. At different circuits different teams have struggled or excelled. Mercedes ate their tyres at the first two races then excelled at China, McLaren were good at the first three circuits but seemed to struggle in Bahrain and Lotus fell off the cliff in Shanghai.

Whilst all this makes the racing exciting and unpredictable, it does make trying to bet on F1 more challenging, I think, than it has been recently. On the plus side, that probably means more long odds events will occur.

Disregarding small differences I made 1 stake losses at the first three races and almost recouped 1 stake in Bahrain. So, that’s roughly 2 stakes down, which isn’t terrible (or impressive).

It’s also important to remember that all teams, especially red ones, are very keen to upgrade their cars for the European bit of the season, starting with Spain. So, whilst the cars won’t fundamentally change the order could be rejigged a bit.


We’ve had three teams and individuals getting pole so far. Hamilton edged his team mate at the first two races, then Rosberg won by miles in China and Vettel was a tenth ahead of Hamilton in Bahrain.

Unlike last year, P3 seems to offer little in the way of helpful indications. So, I might bet on qualifying even if I don’t see P3 (if I find something that seems cunning).

I also think there might be a simple guideline: back Hamilton. He has two poles and two second places, one of which was just a tenth away from pole. The top 3 market might also offer opportunity.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that getting to Q3 is not guaranteed, and even leaving Q1 can sometimes be tricky for even the top teams.


These have been dramatic, thrilling and often a little bit crazy. Australia was pretty close and exciting but was also a ‘normal’ race (Hamilton got screwed by the safety car, which was unlucky). Malaysia, however, was soggier than a dog in a swimming pool. Tactically astute moves from Ferrari and Sauber, coupled with some very good driving from Perez especially, got Alonso his first win and Sauber their best ever result (as purely Sauber).

In China we had a runaway winner in Rosberg as Mercedes perfected tyre management and race setup whilst half a dozen cars were separated by a hundred yards or so and vied for 2nd. We also saw what happens when the cliff is reached, when Raikkonen tumbled from 2nd to 14th in about a lap. Bahrain was competitive throughout the field, but the major stories were the resurgence of Vettel and Raikkonen’s great performance to come 2nd.

It’s hard to take too many general lessons from the races so far because the field is so competitive that each particular circuit itself becomes perhaps the dominant factor in how teams and drivers do. However, we’ve seen that the chap who starts in pole doesn’t necessarily win (well, if his name’s Hamilton, that is) and that drivers can come from very far back to score points. 11th to 2nd was great for Raikkonen but 1st was perhaps possible.

Considering who has what tyres left after qualifying is perhaps as important as their actual grid slot.


I do think that McLaren may be best-placed. They’ve lost both title leads, for now, to Red Bull, but this has been due to some misfortune. Hamilton had poor pit stops in Bahrain, Button had a reliability failure in Malaysia and Hamilton had dire luck with the Australian safety car. However, the McLaren is the only car to be competitive at every qualifying session and in every race save Bahrain (that circuit, with high degradation and high temperatures may be unique. Be interesting to see how high degradation Canada plays out).

Red Bull lack their qualifying dominance of last year but their race pace has been very solid and they’ve made the most of their opportunities. The Mercedes, I think, may be a glass dagger (very sharp, but fragile). The Ferrari is a dog, yet Alonso is really still in the hunt so if their early season upgrades work he could yet surprise us all (the close title fight will help him as it prevents anyone getting miles ahead and being uncatchable). The Lotus seems to be like the Mercedes: capable of great speed but not consistently so.

The top 5 drivers are:
Vettel 53
Hamilton 49
Webber 48
Button 43
Alonso 43

If we remove the Malaysian race, however (which was a bit crazy) we get the following (I think):
Vettel 53
Button 43
Webber 36
Hamilton 34
Alonso 18

Perhaps perversely, I’m actually most tempted by Button and Alonso. Button has been quick in most places, and has two DNFs due to bad luck (reliability failings). Alonso has an appalling car but is doing very well with it. Better luck for Button or working upgrades for Alonso could see them improve still further.

Pre-season I put small bets on Hamilton and Button to win the title. Vettel is presently favourite, but I’m not sure that should be the case. If I were betting now, with no previous bets, I’d be looking at Button at 5.6 and Alonso at 17 (the latter is with Ladbrokes). In fact, I’m pretty tempted to put a small sum on Alonso at those odds anyway [this is very counter-intuitive, but I’ve read that he’s actually in the best position he’s been in with Ferrari at this stage of the season]. However, I’ve got to wait and see how the Spain upgrades go.

There are four things that should be considered when betting on titles:
How good is the driver (or drivers, for a Constructors’ bet)?
How good is his team mate?
How reliable and fast is the car?
How good is the team at upgrading the car during a whole season?

Even though we’ve had 4 races so far there are still 16 left, so there’s a very long way to go.

Incidentally, I’m contemplating adding a third line to the graphs I’ll eventually be putting up, showing how well pb2’s readership (mostly Messrs Nigel and Putney) do with their tips. If so, I’ll do it for the second half of the season, using the same £10 stake rule I use for my own offerings.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Bahrain: post-race analysis

Bit of a strange one as the race was actually interesting (surely a first for Bahrain?). In other weird, but welcome, news the race tip came off. Raikkonen was very much in the top 6 (he finished 2nd), making the race and the weekend as a whole green.

The start saw Vettel party like it was 2011, and Hamilton also got off to a good start, remaining 2nd. However, the real story was that both Lotuses had great starts, and Ricciardo, who had qualified in a stellar sixth, had a dire start. Rosberg had a poor start, unusually for a Mercedes.

So much happened it’s hard to know where to start, so I’ll just deal with it team by team.

Vettel did a very good job. He managed to pull a small gap over Hamilton with relative ease, and maintained the lead (barring pit stops putting people out of order) for the entire race. The only real threat came from Raikkonen, who came very close to passing him around halfway into the race, but Vettel drove well defensively and deserved the narrow win. His team mate, Steady Webby, had his fourth 4th in a row and seemed to trundle along without drama or much media attention.

Lotus had a fantastic double podium result. It’s worth bearing in mind Raikkonen had more fresh rubber than anyone else, but even so to come from 11th to 2nd and come close to victory is pretty fantastic. Looks like Lotus finally got their car and luck together, and Grosjean drove a very, very good race to come 3rd.

Rosberg came 5th, after some perhaps dubious moves on Hamilton and Alonso. The radio team reckoned they were out of order but the TV commentators seemed far less concerned. To be honest, I quite like robust racing. Schumacher had a pretty good race after the double dose of bad qualifying luck when his DRS broke and then his gearbox needed changing, giving him a 5 place grid penalty and putting him back to 22nd. He ended up 10th, doubling his points tally, but after the race questioned whether Pirelli were doing a good job as F1 is now more about tyre management than race speed.

Di Resta got a great 6th, and was the only man to make a two stop strategy work. It’s also nice to see Force India do well after their mysterious absence from qualifying coverage. Hulkenberg could only manage 12th.

Alonso battled his way to 7th, after another great start, and was very close to passing di Resta at the end. He’s actually still in decent shape for the title race if Ferrari can turn the car around, but that’s a big ask. Massa scored his first points of the season in 9th.

McLaren had a race to forget. Hamilton started well, retaining 2nd, but 2/3 of his pit stops were hampered by a problem with his left rear wheel, and his third was pretty slow as well. He only finished 8th, but that’s still better than Button. Button had been running about 6th when he suffered a puncture, pitted, and then suffered a reliability problem and had to retire (save the retirement it’s quite reminiscent of what happened in Malaysia).

Perez just missed out on the points in 11th, and Kobayashi was 13th. After their recent strong performances Sauber may be a bit disappointed.

Vergne came 14th, which is not too bad considering he failed to leave Q1, but Ricciardo (who qualified 6th) must be gutted to finish just 15th.

Williams also had a day to forget. Maldonado spun and retired, and Senna had to box and retire late on, so neither troubled the scorers.

HRT, Caterham and Marussia remain pointless.

McLaren have got to sort their pit crew out. Once or twice can be attributed to bad luck, but repeated problems in a single race could end up costing them one or both titles. Apparently the issue is that their rear axle is titanium but the wheel nut is aluminium, making it prone to becoming cross-threaded.

After that result Vettel leads the race for the drivers’ title, but it’s tight:
Vettel 53
Hamilton 49
Webber 48
Button 43
Alonso 43

Alonso’s tally is the most impressive, because his car is a dog. Second most impressive is Button, who’s had some bad luck and failed to score twice out of four races because of that. The result is great for Red Bull, but I’m not sure the combination of high temperature and degradation will be repeated elsewhere, nor that McLaren will suffer such bad luck at most races.

On the betting front, it’s a funny old game. I felt pretty confident about Rosberg, but P3 proved a useless guide and he slotted the car home in 5th. I only bet on Raikkonen because I thought the win was completely unpredictable, and it came off.

Anyway, the race and weekend are green for the first time. Somewhat counter-intuitively, although the season as a whole is still red it’s only half as bad as it was this time last year.

Three weeks to go to Spain, and between now and then I’m going to put up an article about where we are regarding the drivers/cars and also how the betting is going.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Bahrain: pre-race

I was wondering what’s brought about the seeming turn-around in Mercedes’ fortunes. No, not the pace, I mean the fact that Schumacher was better in qualifying and the race (save for bad luck) in the first two grands prix but now Rosberg seems top dog. Maybe it’s because Schumacher can better handle a car that eats its tyres but Rosberg is better when it’s operating perfectly (a bit like Hamilton and Button).

Anyway, I must admit that I was relatively confident of my Rosberg tip and so was rather disappointed when it was significantly wrong. He only ended up 5th.

Q1 was more interesting than usual. Not only did Vergne again fail to make the cut, Schumacher was too complacent and soft tyres combined with the ever-improving conditions to enable Kovalainen’s Caterham to put in a sterling effort and make Q2. Hamilton and Button got lucky, and were very near to being put out themselves.

Massa failing to leave Q2 is no longer a surprise, but Raikkonen made a slight mistake (similar to Schumacher’s) and ended up 11th. However, that’s not necessarily too awful as he will get to pick his tyres and the medium compound seems very much the favoured choice for race pace. Also out were Kobayashi, Hulkenberg, Senna, Kovalainen and Maldonado [who got a penalty, so Schumacher starts 17th].

Ah, Q3, which this year has been about as predictable as a drunk schizophrenic woman with a revolver and one bullet. I would never have bet on Vettel for this. Kudos to Mr. Slackbladder (on the main site) who did have covering bet at 14/1. Hamilton (who slightly tempted me) was second, a tenth behind Vettel and a tenth ahead of Webber. Interesting to see Vettel ahead of his team mate this time. I wonder if he’ll be able to beat Webber in the race. Button was next, followed by a disappointing Rosberg. Ricciardo had a great qualifying, bringing the Toro Rosso all the way to sixth (this may due to some upgrades) and he was followed by fellow young drivers Grosjean and Perez. Alonso and di Resta round out the top 10.

This is a bit irksome as I considered qualifying easier to predict than the race. Rosberg has said the team’s concentrated on race pace and sacrificed some qualifying pace, and Vettel has expressed surprise at getting pole. With Raikkonen and Schumacher out of position, tyre degradation expected to be high and the effectiveness of DRS unknown, the race could actually be exciting (a first for Bahrain).

Picking a winner is nigh on impossible. I’ve decided to back Raikkonen for a top 6 finish at 2.75 with Ladbrokes (no hedging). The reasoning is thus: he’s got the opportunity for starting on fresh tyres, as he’s 11th, and he’s got more fresh sets than anyone else. In a race with 3 pit stops likely and 4 possible that should prove an advantage. Plus, he’s got a quick car and is a pretty good driver.

I’m sure the race will be topsy-turvy and exciting, but let’s hope it’s profitable as well.

Morris Dancer

Bahrain: pre-qualifying

So, this grand prix is on for the first time in two years. This is the first time that DRS will have been used on the circuit, which is otherwise very difficult to overtake on. Another first is Pirelli in Bahrain, and they’ve brought the soft-medium combination that was used in China a week ago. The track is reportedly rough on tyres (and moreso if sand gets onto the tarmac) so degradation will be an issue in the race, and will mean that the first lap on the soft tyre will have to be nailed otherwise too much life will have been taken out of the compound for a second effort.

Five laps soft, 10 laps for the medium is the decent performance lifespan according to the BBC’s technical analyst (NB this is not to the cliff, just to the point at which times decline). I think that’s for the Mercedes, but reportedly Red Bull is doing a little better.

Apparently Schumacher’s shredding the tyres much more than Rosberg, who is also very fast in sector 2 especially.

McLaren seems to be alright for race pace, but, unusually, less competitive over a single lap perhaps due to the wind being an issue in Bahrain (it’s quite exposed), and, later in the year, Barcelona (that’s the Spanish GP not the European GP which takes place in the woeful Valencia).

Medium seems to be the best option (if you’ll pardon the pun) for the race, as per Australia and China.

We’ve also seen KERS failures for Hulkenberg and Webber (yet again).

In P1 Hamilton was the fastest, a healthy margin ahead of Vettel and then di Resta. Rosberg, Button and Hulkenberg followed, with Schumacher, Webber, Raikkonen and Grosjean rounding out the top 10.

P2 was most notable for Force India not participating due to their staff being caught in protestor-police crossfire, which also led to two staff members leaving Bahrain. Rosberg was the fastest by almost half a second in the second practice session, followed by Webber and Vettel. Hamilton, Schumacher and Button came next, with Kobayashi, Alonso, Grosjean and Perez next up.

P3 was a bit interesting. So far this year it’s not been a great indicator of pole, and, instead of the 5-10 minute qualifying simulation we saw at the end of most such sessions last year, the fast runs were more spread out. This made the fastest times harder to read, particularly as Bahrain improves significantly as more laps are run. The fact that Rosberg remained top despite posting his time about 20 minutes earlier than second-placed Vettel suggests that the Mercedes’ driver is well-placed. Webber was third behind Hamilton (who was half a second off of Rosberg’s pace but did put in his fast lap at around the same time). Schumacher, Button and Raikkonen are all separated by about a tenth and were followed by Ricciardo, Grosjean and Alonso.

Just the one tip: Rosberg for pole at 2.34. This has since shortened to 2.16 but I’d back him at evens or longer.

I’ve also got one eye on his odds to win the title, presently 8.4. No bet or tip yet, but if they can make the tyres last in Bahrain then it would seem Mercedes’ tyre-shredding problem may be resolved and that could see them compete at the sharp end.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 15 April 2012

China: post-race analysis

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I didn’t expect that to happen. Everybody, including me, was concerned about Mercedes shredding their tyres and losing a significant edge due to lack of DRS. Of course, Brawn had said that the team had focused on race pace, and how true that was.

I offered three tips, of which one came off. There was no hint of rain, and fortunately the few retirements that did occur did not bring the safety car out.

Irritatingly, whilst I don’t think Raikkonen was truly on for a podium he ran in second for quite some time before providing a perfect example of what happens when tyres ‘fall off the cliff’ [lose enormous quantities of grip due to being run too long]. If I’d suggested a hedge then it might well have got matched, but I didn’t and that was a mistake on my part.

Hamilton did not run nearly as well as I’d imagined he would, and this was due to two factors, in my view. Firstly, McLaren buggered up its strategy and put him out in traffic. Secondly, and this is related to the first point, the DRS zone, which I think has been shortened substantially, was nowhere near as effective as last year. Many cars (McLarens, Lotuses and Saubers especially) seemed hard to pass on the straight. Vettel couldn’t get near the Sauber ahead of him and it was only when Raikkonen’s tyres let go that he managed to pass the Finn (similarly, Hamilton did not make the progress many had imagined he would).

The biggest shock of the day was the performance of the Mercedes car and Nico Rosberg. I think the enormous margin of victory was due to both car and driver. Schumacher, who sadly had to retire after a pit stop failure meant one of his wheels wasn’t attached properly, was running in a comfortable second, far behind Rosberg but a moderate margin ahead of Button. If he’d finished a 1-2 could’ve been on.

The Mercedes was well-known for shredding its tyres but in China their car was perhaps the very best at managing them, and this was coupled with the best outright pace in both qualifying and the race. If Mercedes can repeat this form throughout the next 17 races, we might be seeing Schumacher race wins and possibly a Rosberg/Schumacher title challenge. However, this is just one race, and we’ll have more information (presumably) about how the Mercedes can manage in hot temperatures when we visit Bahrain next week (I just checked the official site and apparently temperatures are usually around 29C, so let’s hope it’s nice and hot).

Although Rosberg was a run-away winner the battle for second place was tremendously tight, with about six cars as close as train carriages for the last 20 laps or so. Vettel will be pissed off that he got into second, after a very ropey start, only to be passed by Button and then Hamilton and then Webber [who must’ve been cackling with glee]. I’m beginning to wonder whether Webber might be a top 3 bet, but if Mercedes can conserve their tyres then I think he’ll struggle to achieve a top 3 title finish.

Meanwhile, Kobayashi, after a stellar qualifying, had a dog of a start and ended up just 10th. I’m glad Mr. Putney hedged that bet. Perez only got 11th and Grosjean impressed (and proved me wrong, again) by getting a very decent 6th and surviving another tussle with Maldonado. The Lotus definitely has the pace, but going soft at the end cost Raikkonen dearly (interestingly, there seemed to be little speed difference between the compounds in the race, similarly to Australia which used the same soft/medium combination).

Williams also enjoyed more good results after their 2011 annus horribilis, with Senna 7th and Maldonado 8th and Alonso, after making a mistake and going off track, could manage only 9th.

I am a bit disappointed with myself for not suggesting a low odds hedge on Raikkonen for the podium, but it is nice to at least get one of the tips right. Not a great start to the season, but there is some room for optimism. For a start, we got an entirely dry race and this gives us a better idea of the pecking order. Secondly, all my tips came off or not based on judgement, not blind chance (such as gearbox failure).

I never would’ve predicted a Rosberg win, but great credit is due the German driver. He absolutely deserved it, and if and the team can reproduce this pace then the title may be something he can aspire to this year.

Bahrain is at a more pleasing time, I think, so qualifying tips (well, probably one) will probably be offered, assuming it goes ahead.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 14 April 2012

China: pre-race

Well, that was a thrilling qualifying session. I didn’t offer tips on it, but Mr. Nigel (from the previous article’s comments) was unfortunate that Mercedes got a front row lockout (courtesy of Hamilton’s penalty) yet it was the young Rosberg who seized pole with a supreme lap.

Qualifying was quite odd because the sessions were so different. Q1 was pretty normal. The six mobile chicanes got dumped, as did Vergne, who was a good margin behind his team mate.

Q2 was incredibly tight. The top were covered by 0.3s. Vettel was knocked out in 11th, and Massa in 12th (Alonso sneaked into Q3 with 9th). Both Lotuses (Loti?) made it, as did the McLarens, Mercedes and Saubers. Webber also got into Q3, out-qualifying Vettel once more.

Q3 was a bit weird, frankly. The temperature dropped slightly (circa 21C to 19C, air temperature) and Rosberg went out and put in an absolute blinder of a lap. Hamilton and Schumacher were about half a second down the road and neither threatened him. Button complained of loss of grip, attributing it to the cooler than expected temperatures, and got 6th (he’ll be 5th because Hamilton moves from 2nd to 7th). This means it’s the first all Mercedes front row since 1955, when Fangio and Moss achieved it in Italy. Almost as surprising is the fact that Kobayashi got 4th (promoted to 3rd), and was almost a second faster than Perez.

That last point means that Mr. Putney’s bet of Kobayashi to be top 6 at 7/1 is now looking fantastic value. I must admit that I wasn’t convinced or tempted to follow his suggestion, but it’s pretty clear that this was a mistake on my part. Personally, I’d seek to hedge it, but that is the way I tend to play these things.

The grid is poised perfectly for an unpredictable and thrilling race. The Mercedes have an edge in qualifying, but tends to eat its tyres (although they do have more fresh soft rubber than their rivals) in the race and loses the DRS bonus. Air temperature will be critical. Not only does a lower temperature seem to help Mercedes/Sauber, it also decreases the degradation of the soft tyres, which are 0.6-0.8s faster than the medium compound. So, unlike Australia, it seems that the soft rubber’s pace advantage will outmatch the medium tyres’ durability. The BBC’s technical chap reckoned that there’s no real difference between a 2 or 3 stop strategy, and that a 4 stop is viable, albeit a bit slower (for those wondering, a 1 stop is reckoned to cost 44s extra compared to a 2 stop).

I’d imagined that Button or Webber (5th and 6th) would be top 3 (given Hamilton’s penalty) and would (due to general struggling and bad starts) be a good bet to lay for a podium, but those odds now seem likely to be too long.

Just checking Wunderground (which offers temperature info at three-hourly intervals) and it reckons it was 18C at 2pm, when qualifying began, cooling to 16C at 5pm. The forecast for tomorrow (bearing in mind the race starts at 3pm Chinese time and will finish, probably, around 4.30pm to 4.45pm) is for 19C and 17C, so very similar. Neither that site nor is predicting rain, so I’m still comfortable with the 2.08 No Safety Car tip offered in the previous article.

As well as the weather, (temperature and rain or lack thereof), a critical factor will be how well the Mercedes can manage its tyres on high fuel with soft rubber. The probability that a 3 stop strategy is optimal will probably be handy, as will the fact that they’ve burnt less sets of soft tyres (Rosberg especially) than their rivals will help, but we’ve seen that with qualifying excellence and a very sound car they’ve achieved a solitary point in the first two races.

Also very interesting is Kobayashi’s performance. The Sauber doesn’t have an especial qualifying advantage as the Mercedes does, and he was 0.8s ahead of Perez. Sauber has also been running pretty well in the races.

I think Hamilton is quite well-placed in 7th, considering his penalty. He’s been driving well, he seems to have a calm head on his shoulders and he’s been much more comfortable in the car than his team mate in China.

I don’t think Rosberg will win. If the Mercedes is good enough then I expect he will either be passed at the start or in the race, as Schumacher’s been faster for some time now in race trim. However, if you think he stands a chance of winning you might be tempted by the 15 he is to get the hat trick (pole, fastest lap and win) with Ladbrokes.

I’ve backed Raikkonen for a podium at 3, with Ladbrokes. The Finn has improved from his grid slot at every race, and if the Mercedes eats its tyres he’ll be the second beneficiary after Kobayashi.

The winner’s market is one I like to bet on, partly because it’s always got the most liquidity so a hedge has more chance of getting matched and partly because it’s the most important result. Looking at the grid I can see a number of potential winners (Schumacher, Raikkonen, maybe Kobayashi, Hamilton).

We just don’t know whether Mercedes’ tyres will hold on. They (especially Rosberg) have more sets to spare than other teams, which will help them out. I think Schumacher and Hamilton are the most tempting at 7.4 and 5.6 respectively. I’d quite lack to back them both, but I’m wary of making so many bets when we still really don’t know the pecking order and whether or not the Mercedes can go without ruining its rubber (plus, last year I scored 0 from 4 tips in China). In the end, I think that Hamilton, even though he starts 7th and is 5.6, is the best value. He’s got a strong record in China (won last year and is the only man to win it twice), he’s been outpacing his team mate all weekend and seems to have the right approach. I’m going to set a hedge up at 2.4.

So, here (after a lot of prevarication) are the race tips:
No Safety Car 2.08 [given yesterday, I’d still back it at evens or longer]
Raikkonen podium 3
Hamilton win 5.6 [hedge set up at 2.4]

Let’s hope the race is both thrilling and profitable, and if Schumacher wins I’m going to thrash myself about the head and neck with an enormo-haddock.

Morris Dancer

Friday, 13 April 2012

China: pre-qualifying

I was going to write a quick post looking back at the first two races to analyse why I’d gotten things wrong (zero from two tips), but soon realised there’d be little point. Neither tip may’ve come off with better luck, but we’ll never know. Schumacher’s gearbox problem was unforeseeable and wrecked his chances, and Button’s HRT problem and subsequent bad tyres were also just bad luck. I’m not happy with how things have gone, but I think Button stood a good chance of victory if he hadn’t made that slight mistake and Schumacher had an outside chance in Australia.

I caught the last 30 minutes of P2 and found out quite a few interesting snippets. For a start, the Mercedes is extremely tasty over one lap, but as China has many straights its super DRS system will give it a qualifying advantage that won’t recur in the race. Hamilton is quick, and seems substantially more comfortable than Button (NB Hamilton is taking a 5 place grid penalty due to a gearbox change). Raikkonen/Lotus seem to be having some difficulty with setup, largely because the circuit’s just 15 Celsius and therefore much cooler than expected. There’s also a lot of tyre degradation, the same compounds (medium/soft) as Australia and a heavy fuel effect (ie more fuel slows the cars down more significantly than at other circuits). Ferrari also appears to be off the ball.

My present thinking is to not bet on qualifying, but to think about backing Hamilton for a podium or win (depending on the odds and his starting position), and perhaps laying Schumacher or Button for a podium, depending on where they start. We’ll have to wait and see how the grid stacks up.

Here’s the rundown from P1: Hamilton was fastest by over a second, and he was followed by Rosberg who was two-tenths up on his team mate. Then Perez led Kobayashi, with Webber, Vettel and Button next. The top 10 was rounded out by and Ricciardo and Vergne.

In P2 Schumacher was fastest with Hamilton seventeen-hundredths behind him and Vettel one-hundredth behind the Briton. Webber was three-tenths down the road, followed by Rosberg, Button and Kobayashi. Di Resta was eighth, over two-tenths ahead of Hulkenberg, with Alonso 10th.

Unexpectedly, I am actually offering a tip now, but it’s not for the race. There have been 3 of the last 8 races with safety cars, and rain played a part in one race (there were two safety car periods during it but the second may’ve been due in part to residual water). The weather forecast is for it to be dry, so that’s 2.5 from 8 races (calling the wet one a half), or 5/16. However, the odds on No Safety Car are 2.08, which is what I’m tipping.

So, one tip: No Safety Car at 2.08 (no hedging).

Morris Dancer