At long last the 2012 Formula 1 season kicks off with the Australian Grand Prix this weekend. From a betting perspective this is one of the best races to follow because the televised race coverage is so comprehensive. Channel One will broadcast all three practice sessions, qualifying and the race, while Channel Ten will broadcast everything from the third practice session onward. Also, this is one of the few races that is run at a convenient hour from an Australian east coast perspective.
2011 Season in Review
Sebastian Vettel dominated the 2011 season. He picked up 15 poles and 11 race wins out of the 19 races. His season tally of 392 was 122 clear of second placed Jenson Button. Anyone who backed Vettel every round made a killing, especially in qualifying where he typically started each weekend near 2.00 odds. Vettel is a great man to bet on because he’s so competitive. He obviously tries to win each qualifying event and race, but he has recently also become obsessed with trying to win the fastest lap time, despite the pleading of his race engineer. Someone like Lewis Hamilton can be competitive for pace, but he is less reliably than Vettel, who seems to mature and improve as a racer every year. Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber is a fantastic driver, so the fact that he was able to dominate him so thoroughly last season highlights what a talent Vettel is.
Below are the race results and final driver standings for last season.
2012 Season Preview
With Kimi Räikkönen’s return to the sport, the 2012 Formula 1 season will feature six former world champions on the grid, making up 25% of the field! This is the highest number in Formula 1 history.
Below are the team line-ups and race schedule for 2012. This year sees the return of the Bahrain Grand Prix and the addition of the United States Grand Prix at the expense of Turkey.
Pre-season testing (selected titbits):
Ferrari did not have a great pre-season. The new F2012 design lacked competitive edge in testing and appears to have fallen behind McLaren and Lotus. They consider themselves to be doubtful for a podium finish in Melbourne.
Mercedes seem to be content with their progress. Schumacher says the car looks to be quick and reliable, but he doesn’t expect to be as fast as Red Bull.
Lotus (formerly known as Renault – ‘Team Lotus’ from last year will race as ‘Caterham F1’ this year. Confusing, I know!) can take away numerous positives from testing. Kimi Räikkönen topped the time sheets in the final day of pre-season testing in Barcelona. Lotus start the year as the dark horse to get in among the top four.
At McLaren, the new MP4-27 has overall been reliable in testing, with just a couple of hydraulic leaks and a KERS problem pre-season. There is a lot of optimism in the camp, especially given that Button and Hamilton both hinted they were running heavy fuel loads throughout testing.
Rules and other changes for 2012:
After being banned in 2009, in-season testing will return, with a scheduled test at Mugello on May 1st. Because teams are only permitted to do fifteen days of testing over the course of the season, the pre-season winter testing schedule has been cut back to accommodate the new test.
Tyre supplier Pirelli have revised their tyre compounds in an effort to encourage teams to use each of the compounds supplied for individual races. Pirelli predicted that the changes would translate into a 0.7 second difference per lap between the harder and softer compounds, down from 1.5 seconds per lap last year. Also, Pirelli will introduce some even softer compounds to reduce their life spans further, which will put more emphasis on pit-stop strategy.
DRS and KERS remain, but technical regulation changes elsewhere have stirred things up a bit and it remains to be seen who has done the best job of re-interpreting them.
Exhaust-blown diffusers, exploited effectively by Red Bull last year, are banned. Exhausts can no longer send airflow over the diffuser because the pipes must now exit the bodywork vertically. The net effect is this leads to a loss of rear-end down force, thus forcing aerodynamicists to search for new ways to regenerate it and rebalance the cars.
A driver may now only move once whilst defending his position in corners.
Under safety-car deployments lapped cars may un-lap themselves so that race leaders to do not get artificial cushions to their immediate challengers.
The use of helium in wheel guns has been banned, which will make pit stops slightly slower.
Personally, I won’t touch futures betting until the conclusion of the first race, because there’s too much uncertainty at the moment. With that being said, users of Betfair could always back one or two underrated drivers now and then lay them later if you can get lower odds. You could also lay drivers who you think are overrated now and then back them later if you can get higher odds. Based on pre-season testing, Ferrari will likely have a slow start to the season, so you may want to lay Alonso and Ferrari now. A poor showing in Melbourne could see Alonso’s odds blow out past 10.00.
It’s interesting to see that Ferrari are 6.00 odds in the constructors championship with Luxbet. That appears to be very poor value, especially given that the Betfair odds are 14.50 at the time of writing.
Last year’s runner up Jenson Button may be someone to take a look at now that the Pirelli tyres will be even softer this year. This change will benefit drivers with smooth driving styles who are easy on their tyres.
It will be interesting to see how much of an edge Red Bull lose due to the banning of the exhaust-blown diffusers they used last year.
Australian Grand Prix Race Betting
I recommend you hold off from qualifying wagering until you’ve seen the results from the practice sessions. Likewise, I recommend you hold off from race wagering until the conclusion of qualifying. Granted, odds will drop for the favourites if things go as expected, but with all the new technical regulations for the season, it can be risky making wagers based on 2011 race pace.
My eye will be firmly on Sebastian Vettel. If he’s competitive in practice (at or near the top of the time sheets) then I’ll back him in qualifying at 1.30 odds or more (if I can get them). If he qualifies in pole position then I’ll back him in the race at odds of 1.70 or more (if I can get them). I have derived these figures based on the 2011 results. In 2011 Vettel was on pole for 15 of the 19 races. He won 9 races from those 15 pole positions. I have taken 19/15 = 1.27 and 15/9 = 1.67 and rounded up. Obviously, these odds are based on the expectation that he can dominate like he did last year. If something over the course of the weekend causes me to think otherwise then I will adjust my odds accordingly.
For those who wish to bet before the weekend, one bet that stands out is Vettel to place at 1.30 odds. He placed in the top 3 in 17 out of 19 races last year, so that appears to be good value.
As always, Button is someone to keep an eye on in wet weather. He can maintain good pace on a wet track and is known for his bold pit stop timings to roll the dice a bit. At the time of writing the forecast for rain during the race is possible, but unlikely.
If you really like to wait and see before betting, then I recommend you wager in-play after the first lap or so once the race order has settled down. If you’re interested in live online (in-play) wagering on Formula 1, William Hill is arguably the best place to do it. If you’re located outside of Australia, then bet365 is by far and away your best option.
McLaren are looking fantastic. Hats off to Grojean for qualifying third. Hamilton is currently 2.08 to win on Betfair, with Button 4.10.
Remember that DRS can be used throughout the qualifying lap but only under certain conditions during the race, so the relative qualifying paces may not translate over to relative race paces.