The first thing to note is that there is invariably next to no value in the ‘Winner’ market in F1 at this point in the season. For Singapore Vettel is at 1.72 (8/11) having won the last two races at the Marina Bay circuit, not to mention the last two races of this season. Hamilton comes in at second favourite at 4.00 (3/1) with Alonso at 8.50 (15/2) and Webber at 11.00 (10/1). Vettel’s odds represent about a 58% chance that he will win the race! That may actually be a little low, but the random nature of F1 can’t be discounted and both qualifying and the race can throw up exceptional circumstances. As will be seen below, a safety car could throw a real spanner in the works and one is almost mandatory at this race! Hamilton’s odds represent a 25% probability of a win, and I fear that may be too high. Yes a lot of talk indicates that the circuit will suit the Mercedes more than Belgium or Italy, but it is also notoriously hard on the rear tyres (even with the removal of the chicane at Turn 10, or the ‘Singapore Sling’ as it has been called) and the Mercedes still has an apparent weak spot on the tyre management. Ferrari have fallen off the boil a bit recently despite two second places for Alonso in a row – could this be another year where they start looking at next season’s car to get a head start on the other teams only to find out in Australia that they haven’t succeeded? All things being equal I can’t look past Vettel or Hamilton for the win, and Vettel doesn’t really offer value whereas Hamilton would require a Vettel failure of some sort.
Qualifying is another matter, and there may be an opportunity. Whilst Vettel set some blistering times in FP2, but Hamilton was no slouch in the FP1 either. Again, it would appear to be a battle between these two for pole with Vettel at 1.80 (4/5) and Hamilton at 2.50 (6/4), with the remaining drivers 9.00+ (8/1). Vettel’s odds represent a 55.5% probability, and I just think that this is too much for a driver who doesn’t even lead the pole position stakes. Hamilton comes in with a 40% probability, and I think that this is too low. He has secured five pole positions this season in a car that is seriously fast over the one lap (and in the hands of a naturally fast lap driver). I’d say that Lewis is worth backing for the pole position at those odds. As I have noted the performance of the Mercedes, it is worth noting that Rosberg is on offer at 9.00 (8/1), an 11% chance. This is probably unfair on a driver who has secured pole position three times this season, but not since Monaco. But there is that Monaco stat – another street circuit where Nico just edged Hamilton. Bet365 offer 1/3 odds for an each-way bet of pole or second on the grid, and 9.00 (8/1) seems a good offer.
I am not a big fan of the other bets that are available for a GP – not least because I haven’t done enough (read any) research into them to make a logical assessment. However, there are two that stand out from the crowd. The first is the ‘Safety Car Period During Race’ option. A simple yes there will be or no there won’t be bet. The problem is that Singapore has had a safety car every time the race has been run (starting in 2008 and ignoring the much older races before anyone shouts). And there are often multiple stints of safety car use at the track (which I can’t quantify as I can’t find the data!). This fact is reflected in the odds of such a period where yes is on offer at 1.22 (2/9) and no at 4.00 (3/1). That is around an 82% chance of a safety car in the race! Now there is the fact that previous form shows a 100% chance, versus odds that only represent an 82% chance, so there is value there – stick £10 on and count that £2.22 profit when the safety car comes out. But the reward to risk doesn’t justify it in my opinion when considering the fact that they deploy the safety car at the drop of a hat these days, and Singapore has seen the car deployed not only every race, but multiple times in a race (notwithstanding the manufactured incident of 2008). Odds of 1.40 (2/5) would be more tempting though, so worth considering if you see them on offer anywhere!
The other bet relates to the number of finishers, which I admit I don’t have a great track record with (no pun intended!). In this case the odds are <17 at 2.37 (11/8), 17 or 18 inclusive at 2.75 (7/4) and >18 at 3.00 (2/1). For less than 17 classified finishers four cars would need to retire from the race; the race averages 5.4 retirements each time it is run. Importantly, it also averages 2.6 non-accident retirements per race. With an implied probability of 42% that there will be less than 17 finishers, I believe that this offers good value as it has been true for 80% of the races. Now an important point: the last three races have had 24 runners which offers a greater chance for crashes etc., but even the 20 runner races in 2008 and 2009 saw 5 and 6 retirements. I would place the probability of less than 17 finishers as more like 66% (1.50 or 1/2), and so I would have to say that I think that this is where the value comes in. Now just watch as everyone gets round the track!
So in this, one of the best races of the season (in my opinion), I would say the value bet is less than 17 finishers at 2.37 (11/8). Alternative options would be Hamilton for pole at 2.50 (6/4), or an each-way bet on Rosberg for pole at 9.00 (8/1). We’ll have to see how things pan out, and whether I need to go back to the drawing board!
The good, the bad and the ugly. Let’s start with the ugly. The prediction of less than 17 finishers was a bust from the get go, not due to weather conditions or bad driving but mainly due to a mental failing in terms of the number of total drivers. A GP this season starts with 22 drivers, not 20! Guess that is a tip to check the base data before making predictions!
The bad was Lewis to take pole. He was never really in the mix, despite having had a good FP1 and declaring that it was more of a ‘Mercedes track’ than the previous races. It was a Mercedes track to an extent, as we’ll see.
Thankfully the good came through in the form of Rosberg securing second place on the grid. A shame the race didn’t work out for him, despite the interminable presence of yet another Singapore safety car.
So three predictions, one came in that – at level stakes – would have covered the best with a very small profit. More importantly, logic was in place which is the aim of noting down these predictions rather than relying on gut calls. I’ll take that for now!