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Thursday, 11 October 2012

Japan Pre-Race Analysis

First Red Bull front row in 2012
Qualifying Results
Starting Position
1st
Vettel
2nd
Webber
3rd
Kobayashi
4th
Grosjean
5th
Perez
6th
Alonso
6th
Raikkonen
8th
Button
9th
Hamilton
10th
Massa
11th
di Resta
12th
Maldonado
13th
Rosberg
14th
Ricciardo
15th
Hulkenberg
16th
Senna
17th
Kovalainen
18th
Glock

The Red Bulls look like the only serious contenders for victory at Suzuka this year. Vettel was almost a second quicker than the 3rd place man and Webber was not far behind at 0.7 of a second faster than Button. The Red Bull’s also showed strong race pace during the practise sessions and the nearest driver in a McLaren or a Ferrari is a further four places behind Webber. It is very difficult to see how Alonso, Button or Hamilton could challenge for victory. The biggest danger the Red Bulls face is the temperamental nature of both Sauber and Lotus. They show much more variation than most teams, with some tracks that the car seems perfect on and other it simply struggles on. If either team finds that Japan is one of their preferred circuits then either could pull off a surprise victory. However, with passing so difficult at Suzuka should also the Red Bulls to fend off Lotus and Sauber if either has superior pace although they are certainly worth watching for live betting.

Vettel is the firm favourite of the Red Bulls at 53/100 (1.53) from Blue Square whilst Webber has odds of 13/2 (7.50) from Betfair. Whilst Vettel is rightly the favourite, Webber should not be completely ruled out. Vettel seems prone to mechanical failure so Webber is a good back up bet. Also, high tire degradation could leave opportunities open for Webber if Vettel misjudges when to come in and of course Webber could challenge on his own merits. Spreading bets on race winner across both Vettel and Webber is wise. If betting £10, place £8 on Vettel to win £12.24 and £2 on Webber to win £15 whilst losing £10 if anyone else wins.

Both Vettel and Webber are likely to take the podium but with so many other strong cars behind them deciding who takes 3rd place is difficult and so betting on podium finishes is probably bet avoided. Top six finishes are a more interesting bet. Three of the cars in the top six all have usually high odds, with Kobayashi at59/50 (2.18) from Betfair, Grosjean at 63/100 (1.63) from Bet 365 and Perez at 4/5 (1.80) from SkyBet. These odds are usually low since Alonso, Raikkonen, Button and Hamilton are directly behind them. However, of those four drivers only Button is out of place after the grid penalty, the others genuinely seemed to lack race pace. Starting in 3rd Kobayashi seems an excellent bet, Perez not a bad one but the crash prone Grosjean needs higher odds to be worthwhile.

Odds above accurate at Sunday 07th, 01.15 GMT. Click to see live odds.

Image © Ryosuke Yagi

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Japanese Pre-Weekend Analysis

The 15th Race of 2012, Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

Previous Winners
2011
Button
2010
Vettel
2009
Vettel
2008
Alonso
2007
Hamilton
2006
Alonso
2005
Raikkonen
2004
Schumacher
2003
Barrichello
2002
Schumacher
Hamilton is still the favorite for Japan despite Vettel's win in Singapore. With four pole positions in four races for McLaren, they would have almost certainly had four wins also were it not for Hamilton's gearbox. He kept an steady gap to Vettel throughout the race and the safety car would have prevented Vettel's extremely slim chance of jumping Hamilton in the second round of pitstops. Victory is by no means guaranteed for Hamilton but he currently looks almost as strong as Vettel did in 2011.

Suzuka has seen many victories from pole, however, unlike many circuits victories has often come from much further down the field. On this basis betting on someone who qualifies outside the top three could yield a substantial profit. It does not seem likely that anyone could start lower down the field and also beat Hamilton but podiums will certainly be possible for low qualifiers. Raikkonen especially should be watched closely given his poor qualifying but excellent race pace.

Button could be an interesting wild card. Considerably weaker at qualifying than Hamilton he usually will have difficulty beating his team mate. However, with Japan having so much opportunity for weaker qualifiers this could be one of his better opportunity to take victory. There is, however, a concern that he will move over and give Hamiliton victory if Button is first and Hamilton second.

Odds above accurate at Friday 6th of October, 01.02 GMT. Click to see live odds.

Grid position of race winner since 2008
Grid Position
Number of times
1st
6
2nd
1
5th
1
17th
1
Image © nhayashida

The dynamics of the championship has suddenly finally settled down as the championship goes into the final quarter of races. Prior to Korea Hamilton looked like Alonso’s greatest challenger and even only two races ago in Italy Raikkonen was a reasonable outsider bet. However, two factors have changed everything. Hamilton’s retirement in Singapore has probably ended his championship bid whilst Alonso’s retirement in Japan has vastly narrowed his lead. Meanwhile, Alonso always looked like the 2012 champion as long as race victories were spread between all his main competitors. However, Vettel’s victories in Singapore and Japan have made this a two horse race, between Vettel at 31/50 (1.62) from SkyBet for the championship and Alonso at 81/50 (2.62) from Bet 365 .

Vettel certainly currently looks like the most likely to take the championship. He has had an excellent run of races since the Summer break. He was in 12th position after the 2nd lap of Belgium yet finished 2nd. He was 4th at Italy – probably the worst track for the Red Bull - until taking the penalty for forcing Alonso off the track, working he way back to 6th until the retirement from mechanical error. Hamilton’s retirement at Singapore gave Vettel a lucky victory but ignoring that he’d easily have finished 2nd. Finally, his victory at Japan looked like an emulation of 2011 performance. Alonso’s current performance is more difficult to judge, having been taken out on the first lap at Belgium and Japan. He had an excellent race in Italy, finishing 3rd from starting 10th and his 3rd place finish in Korea was respectable. There’s no denying that Alonso is currently extremely competitive but Vettel has generally looked stronger since the summer break.

Looking back at 2010 and 2011, Vettel was far stronger at the forthcoming circuits this season. He retired from 1st in Korea in 2010 and won in 2011. He won India in 2011 (there was no 2010 race in India). He won Abu Dhabi in 2010 and retired from 1st in 2011. Finally he won Brazil in 2010 and was 1st until a mechanical failure in 2011. This means that of remaining races this year (obviously except America), Vettel would have probably won every single one in both 2010 and 2011 except for mechanical error. By contrast, Alonso only managed four podiums in those seven races and only one victory after Vettel’s retirement in Korea in 2010. Vettel very clearly holds the upper hand based on previous years.

The only hope for any other driver would be both Vettel and Alonso suffering at least one retirement in the remaining five races. Hamilton has odds of 20/1c(21.00) from Betfair and Raikkonen has odds of 40/1 (41.00) from Paddy Power . Hamilton is probably the better bet despite lower odds since he arguably still has the fastest car although only moderately so compared to the Red Bull. However, assuming that Hamilton wins the next race and both Vettel and Alonso failed to score he’d still be 13 points behind them with only four races remaining. This makes him truly an outsider bet. Raikkonen is five points ahead of Hamilton but with so few races remaining he could not narrow the gap on consistency alone, he would have to have race victories but has yet to win this season. He cannot be recommended for a bet.

Despite the lowest odds, Vettel is the only recommended bet. Given his dominance at the remaining courses in previous years and strong results in recent races there’s a high chance he will still take the title even if he has another retirement in the remaining races. Perhaps the most likely route to victory for Alonso would be to have Vettel retire once more whilst Hamilton takes most the remaining victories, meaning Vettel would be unable to score decent points to make up the deficit. Whilst it is not impossible for Alonso to win his odds are too low to be value for money.

Odds above accurate at October 11th, 14:23 GMT. Click to see live odds.

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