F1 2014: Italy GP Preview

Despite the Monza circuit being one steeped in history and tradition, and the focal point of Ferrari worship since Grand Prix started, all eyes this weekend are likely to be on the Mercedes and the ongoing relationship between Rosberg and Hamilton. No matter what has been said, Nico clearly laid down a marker that he will not be bullied by the aggressive driving that Hamilton traditionally enjoys and ensured that Hamilton can no longer ‘slam the door’ assuming the other person will give way. For that matter, Nico needs to be aware the his actions have reflected badly on him and the team, and that he has probably used up his one ‘get out of jail’ card. Frankly I am just looking forward to the ‘double points’ race (the most asinine idea in sports history mind you) to see what happens – it might be time to have a punt on Ricciardo on the exchanges!

The only other conclusion from Belgium was the any attempt to apply logic to the concept of finishers and safety cars this season is a waste of time. There are just too many random elements, not just in terms of driver collisions, parts damage and track debris but also the stewards who determine just what is and what is not too hazardous. The predictions will continue, but only for the remainder of this season.

So on that note, what about Monza. Well, despite the incredibly fast nature of the track, it would appear that a safety car is not a common factor. Only 3 in the last 10 years (although the data isn’t completely reliable) would indicate a ‘No’. That said, consideration has to be made of the chances of Lewis and Nico smashing into each other approaching the first chicane! That would appear to be the thinking behind Bet365’s odds of 2.00 for no safety car period (compared to 1.72 for the SC being deployed). With the weather predicted as ideal, it would seem that backing no SC is the logical, and value, selection.

At the time of writing only Bet365 are offering odds on the number of finishers, at 2.00 for less than 17, 2.75 for 17/18 and 4.00 for over 18. The number of retirements at Monza isn’t as high as expected, running at an average of 15% over the last ten years – that would mean 3.38 retirements, rounded down to 3 meaning 19 finishers. With only two retirements in each of the last two years, not to mention the value in the odds, this is the selection we have to make. So, going on track record (no pun intended), we can be sure that we will see a race more like that of 2011 with 9 retirements!

With those aspects taken care of, what other options should be considered. As already inidicated, Monza is a very fast track – effectively a series of long straights that are interrupted with a few chicanes. 2014 has shown us that in these circumstances (and without any apparent weather conditions to allow for) it is foolish to look beyond the Mercedes engine. Realistically they should dominate the top positions, with the Mercedes team 1-2, Williams 3-4 and McLaren 5-6. The drivers here are generally odds-on, and the only value is in Button (3.00) and Magnusson (3.50) for a top 6 finish. With Magnusson’s highest finish 7th (other than the opening 2nd place) the odds are just too short.

The betting without Hamilton/Rosberg market offers some interesting options. Ricciardo is favourite here at 3.25, but I can’t see how that works out with the engine the Red Bull has to run. Following my assessment of a strong Mercedes engine track, the best option would appear to be the two Williams drivers with Bottas at 3.25 and Massa at 7.00. Bottas has a record of 3/2/2/8/3 over the last five races, and that goes a long way to explain his odds. Massa, on the other hand, has a comparable record of 4/R/R/5/13. I have to admit that the odds on offer for Massa are tempting, but those two Rs stand out and either as a matter of talent or luck, he is less reliable this season.

So the choice appears to be Bottas to win w/o LH/NR at 3.25, or Button to secure a top 6 at 3.00. Bottas for the win (personal bias may be here!), although I would fancy a small punt on Massa in the same market!

  • Selected Bet
    • Bottas to win without Hamilton/Rosberg (3.25 Bet365)
  • Other predicitons
    • Safety car to NOT be deployed (2.00 Bet365
    • Classified finishers: Over 18 (4.00 Bet365)

2014 Season Totals (based on level stakes of 1 unit)

  • Selected bets: 2 win, 8 lose for -5.12
  • Safety car: 3 win, 6 lose for -4.66
  • Finishers: 3 win, 6 lose for -2.95
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