At least we now know that Mercedes should walk away with the titles this year. Their real pace, shown after the late safety car in Bahrain, was just ridiculous compared to the other teams – they might as well have been in a different formula. The real interest there lies in the competition between Rosberg and Hamilton, and the evidence from that last race shows that Hamilton holds the cards. Nico had a chance to lay down a real marker, a real case for being the top dog in the Mercedes team, but his inability to get past Hamilton will be interpreted as being the ‘second’ driver in the team.
Behind the Mercedes things are getting interesting. Naturally those engines are leading the way, but Force India are making the most of their advantage. Perez is driving like a man with a point to prove (and probably laughing his head off each time he passes the McLaren drivers and garage), whilst The Hulk may well have finished on the podium were it not for his poor qualifying. Williams are still up there, but appear to be behind an improving Red Bull. Hopefully the team can continue their challenge for the title of ‘Best of the Rest’. Red Bull themselves will probably be pleased that their nightmare start is improving, although they will be upset that their appeal against Ricciardo’s DQ in Australia was rejected (Seriously, why did they bother? It was never going to win). Ferrari are battling with McLaren for the title of fifth best team at the moment, and that is nothing short of a disaster for the team; a disaster which has seen the end of Domenicali at the team (a tad unfair I thought – the engine is simply rubbish and that should be where the heads roll). McLaren had a bright start, but have faded. Both Button and Magnussen retired with (convenient?) clutch failures, and they will be determined to get back on track (no pun intended) in China.
The other news from Bahrain was the frankly ludicrous decisions regarding penalties. Sutil quite simply should have had his licence suspended immediately with his actions over the weekend, and the other penalties don’t seem to have any basis in logic. Hopefully that will just be a one-off in the season.
So what can we expect from China? Well a Mercedes 1-2 looks as though it should be on the cards, certainly to the level that any other decision is a shot in the dark. That is reflected in the odds of 1.50 on a dual forecast for Hamilton/Rosberg. To be honest, that only reflects a 66.6% chance. If we assume that the only thing that can stand in the way is a mechanical problem, then they run at a rate of 16% (1 failure out of 6). Even if we allocate a 10% chance of some accident related damage, the chances of not finishing 1-2 are 26%, meaning the chances of finishing 1-2 are 74% (around 1.35). So there is still value in that bet, assuming you accept my 10% ‘accident’ chance!
One tempting bet is the ‘Both team cars to have points finishes’. That didn’t pay out last time, but currently Force India, McLaren and Williams are all offered at 1.67. Which team has the best chance of beating those odds/probability (around 60%). Well each team has failed with at least one driver, but McLaren retired both last time. A driver fails to hit the top 10 1/3 of the time, so they are out. Williams and FI have both a one driver fail, but for Williams this was an accident whilst for FI it was a failure to start. In this case, although everything is screaming at me to suggest FI, I’d have to back Williams.
For a bet with a greater return possibility there is the ‘Race winner nationality’. A German winner is offered at 2.38 compared to a Brit at 1.67 (with an Aussie at 19.00, Finn at 23.00 and Spaniard at 34.00). The German seems the best value, as it covers Rosberg but also Vettel and, importantly, The Hulk if anything were to happen to the Mercedes. The British odds are, realistically, only for one driver, and worse than can be got for Hamilton directly so there is no value there. Is 2.38 high enough though? That is where an individual’s risk/reward element comes in.
The highest return may come from the ‘Betting w/o Rosberg and Hamilton’ though. Because of the much more variable performances behind the Mercedes the odds are better, although Vettel as favourite at 4.50 seems a little short even if he has taken a third so far. The other top finishers are Magnussen (13.00) and Perez (11.00). Alonso can’t be counted out, but at 8.00 the odds are too short given the Ferrari’s performance thus far – Raikkonen’s 11.00 is more ‘realistic’. In this market, I would lean towards Hulkenberg at 8.00 – the same as Alonso, Bottas and Massa, but with what appears to be a far better car (similarly Perez at 11.00 offers good value, but still remains a little more unpredictable). The odds represent a 12% chance, but this is a driver with a 6th and two 5ths behind him and a reputation as a solid, if competitive, driver.
The two other ‘usual’ markets are classified drivers and safety car. Bet365 has this at 15-16 (3.25) with under 15 at 3.75 and over 16 at 1.80. China averages 18% retirements (equates to 18 drivers finishing), and only in three of the last 10 events have enough drivers retired that would bring the equivalent number this year down to 16 or fewer. There is value in taking the over 16 offer.
In terms of safety car deployment, this comes in at Yes 2.20 and No 1.61. Three safety cars have been deployed in the last 10 races in China, and with fine conditions expected there is no reason to change that belief. The only SC deployment in Bahrain came as a result of an accident, and that is likely to be the case in China as well. I’d predict no safety car, but I am not so sure that there is value in the bet.
So to summarise:
- Selected Bet
- Hulkenberg to ‘win’ without Rosberg/Hamilton (8.00 with Ladbrokes)
- Other predictions
- Safety car to not be deployed (1.61 with Bet365)
- Over 16 finishers (1.80 with Bet365)
2014 Season Totals (based on level stakes on 1 unit)
- Selected Bets: 1 win, 1 lose for +0.63
- Safety Car: 0 win, 2 lose for -2.00
- Finishers: 1 win, 1 lose for +0.25