So the new F1 season is underway with a whole race under our belts. And for once there wasn’t a lot that we hadn’t already guessed from testing. Mercedes are the team to beat and the Mercedes engine looks to have a significant advantage over the others at the moment. Reliability is going to be an issue for the opening quarter of the season at least, but the new drivers for 2014 look like being something special. But what does that mean for Malaysia and for 2014 in general.
One race does not make a season, but if there was one thing that stood out more than the comfort of Rosberg’s win it was the performance of Magnusson in the McLaren. Taking ‘Old Man Button’ to school he secured an excellent second place (as adjusted after Ricciardo’s unfortunate exclusion). Bottas carved through the field (mainly due to his own error) showing a confidence and maturity that hasn’t been seen in a Williams for many years, whilst even Kvyat must be happy with a 9th place on his debut. On the other hand Ferrari will (yet again) be disappointed with their opening race performance, and Red Bull’s testing troubles are a long way from being sorted. At the moment we just don’t know if Ricciardo’s second place finish was a distortion caused by excessive fuel flow at certain times, or a more honest representation of the pace of the Red Bull when it is actually working. Assuming the gremlins can be kept at bay, for at least a significant portion of the race in Malaysia, we may see an indication of their true potential. Lotus, on the other hand, are having the proverbial ‘mare’, and will need to sort out their troubles quickly if the team, and investors, aren’t to lose confidence.
This all makes any predictions very difficult. It usually is for an early season race, and more so when the rulebook has been rewritten as in this case. The weather variable in Malaysia doesn’t help things either! One third of the races have had wet weather, including a finish after 31 laps in 2009 and a weather delay in 2012. Combined with hot temperatures this doesn’t bode well for reliability, with an average of 6 retirements each race, or an average of 30% of the starters. Given what we saw in terms of rear wheel spin in Australia, the concept of a wet or even greasy track is likely to see a fair number spin off.
With the above, the first thing to consider is the podium. It is difficult to look beyond the Mercedes, but similarly it is difficult to make a call as to who is going to take the advantage as there seems little between Hamilton and Rosberg, with Rosberg holding the main cards of being ahead (even at this early stage). Ladbrokes are offering a dual forecast (where the two selected drivers can finish in either order as long as they are first and second) at 2.63 (13/8). Now consider – this represents a 38% chance. The other 62% has to be accounted for by either driver not finishing, or another driver taking first or second. Well the latter just doesn’t seem an option – Mercedes are well ahead of the opposition. So we are down to the only chance of not seeing a Mercedes 1-2 being mechanical (or an accident). At an average of 2 cars per race retiring due to accidents, that doesn’t seem likely especially as such incidents are likely further down the grid (that is a gut call by the way). Personally I would put the odds of an accident or mechanical failure down at 30%, meaning the chances of a Mercedes 1-2 are 70%; although I’d take that down to 60% for caution! That is odds of 1.67 (2/3), or even 2.00 (1/1) for a 50/50 chance. Either way, the odds on offer are just too high, and possibly overplay the chances of rain or the potential damage from the high temperatures as far as the engines are concerned.
My other favourite markets are the number of classified drivers and the safety car. 13 out of 22 finished in Australia (not 14 as the BBC says, but that is no surprise given its abysmal F1 coverage), with five retiring with engine related issues. The Bet365 market is for 14-15 finishers (4.50), with more or less at 2.25. This might be one to wait for the day – if it is dry I’d go for fewer than 14 finishers, if it is wet more than 15 (as they are quite likely to stop the race!).
Safety car odds are 1.40 (or 2.75 for no SC). This reflects the frequent deployment of the cars for almost any issue, but will be adjusted by the increased likelihood of a mechanical problem leaving a car stranded as well as the car coming out for torrential rain. 1.40 represents a 71% chance of a SC, which I think is fair. There is no value in the bet, although I think there will be a SC.
So to summarise:
- Selected Bet
- Hamilton/Rosberg dual forecast (2.63 at Ladbrokes)
- Other predictions
- Safety car to be deployed (1.40 at Bet365)
- Under 14 if dry (2.25 at Bet365)
- Over 14 if wet (2.25 at Bet365)