Saturday, 4 April 2009

Grid and Saturday Prediction

Qualifying was uninterrupted by weather, and featured a notable mistake by Ferrari - they assumed that there were at least 5 cars who wouldn't beat Massa's time, and in fact it was only 4. So Massa will start 16th. Penalties for Barrichello and Vettel also affect the grid, which I inlcude below with predicted first stop laps:

Front row: Jenson Button (19) Jarno Trulli (17-18)
2nd row: Timo Glock (17-18) Nico Rosberg (17)
3rd row Mark Webber (17) Robert Kubica (20)
4th row: Kimi Raikkonen (20) Rubens Barrichello (21)
5th row: Fernando Alonso (26-27) Nick Heidfeld (31)
6th row: Kazuki Nakajima (28) Lewis Hamilton (22)
7th row: Sebastian Vettel (14) Heikki Kovalainen (29-30)
8th row: Sebastien Bourdais (23) Felipe Massa (30)
9th row: Nelson Piquet Jnr (27) Giancarlo Fisichella (27)
Back row: Adrian Sutil (17) Sebastien Buemi (29)

KERS cars in bold, penalised drivers in italics.

Scenario 1: Dry, no forecast rain. Vettel, Sutil, one Toyota and possibly Rosberg or Webber start on softs. Rubens drops further places off the start, to 3 men on 2 following rows with KERS. Heidfeld, Kovaleinen, Massa try one-stopping (start on hard, judge softs based on Vettel, etc and then either 1- or 2-stop). Button favourite, but we'll find out on the day.

Scenario 2: Starts dry, rain forecast: Most teams start on hards, Vettel on softs. Someone will "luck in" on the timing of the rain. Note: if it rains, the drivers are no longer required to run both dry compounds (for obvious reasons). Favourite: still Button, but Vettel, Kimi and Rubens all stand a good chance, if the rain falls conveniently for them.

Scenario 3: Starts wet, but drying. Whoever has the lightest car that will go until the track suits dry tyres will be in the box seat. Ferrari would therefore be well placed.

Scenario 4: Wet, not drying. Whoever copes best, wins. Favourites: Button, Glock, Raikkonen, Barrichello, Vettel, Heidfeld, Hamilton.

I think scenarios 1 and 2 are most likely and therefore predict the following top 8:

Win Jenson Button
2nd Timo Glock
3rd Rubens Barrichello
4th Jarno Trulli
5th Fernando Alonso
6th Nico Rosberg
7th Sebastian Vettel
8th Kimi Raikkonen

We'll find out tomorrow how good these predictions were.

The markets this week

G20 summit and the usual turbulence left most markets significantly higher. Here's my weekly update on the performance (reminder: this is to better follow trends, rahter than get swamped by one day's news).

FTSE: up 130.82 points or 3.36%

DOW: up 241.41 points or 3.10%

£: up 5.22 US cents or 3.65%

£: up 2.35 Euro cents or 2.16%

Oil: up $1.87, down £0.01, up €0.83

Gold: down $21, down £35.49, down €24.02

Below I'll include a graph of the value of oil and gold in £ over the past 4 months (18 weekends worth of data) with the gold price divided by 20, so both can be displayed on the same graph.

These lines are a little different from those for the dollar (which are widely published so won't be repeated here). The oil price has been fairly flat in the past fortnight, since movements in its dollar price have matched those in the $/£ exchange rate. The value for gold is, in fact, more volatile in £ than in $, probably because confidence in the world economy causes the gold price to rise, and the value of sterling to fall, emphasising shifts in the £ price of gold. In the past fortnight the price has tumbled, far faster than it appears to have in dollar terms.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Malaysian Predictions - Friday

Friday practise (in hot, dry conditions, rather than the warm, wet ones expected for Sunday) showed a similar picture to Melbourne.
Purely judged on times, you'd guess it was a Williams/Ferrari race with Red Bull and Brawn just behind. BMW would be fighting to avoid last place (but then BMW are ALWAYS slow on Fridays).
Realistically, I'm only going to adjust my predictions slightly: Rubens got a 5 spot grid penalty, so he'll have a harder job on Sunday.

Win - Jenson Button
2nd - Kimi Raikkonen
3rd - Rubens Barrichello
4th - Nico Rosberg
5th - Mark Webber
6th - Sebastian Vettel
7th - Robert Kubica
8th - Timo Glock

I'm still expecting rain, so will put my mistakes down to incorrectly judging who'll slide off (Trulli, Massa and Nakajima, for instance).
Guess 3 to come after qualifying.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Malaysia - or Melbourne revisited

So the paddock and press arrive in Sepang, and start talking about the race ahead. Well, almost. As per Formula 1 ritual, they in fact are discussing stewarding decisions from the previous race (both Vettel's grid penalty, and the overturning of Trulli's penalty, without appeal and the disqualification of Hamilton, fo rmisleading the stewards).

Firstly, I'll re-reasses my predictions from the last race. By the previous scoring method (one point for each named driver appearing in top 8, 2 points for any correctly placed) I now score:
Thursday: 5/16 (4 drivers, Alonso correctly placed)
Friday: 6/16 (5 drivers, Alonso correctly placed)
Saturday: 3/16 (3 drivers, none correctly placed).

Now, how about some views on this weekend?

Firstly, the weather. Storms and heavy rain are predicted, and some are anticipating a premature red flag, due to poor visibility (either through the rain, or the darkness after rain delays proceedings). This favours weaker teams, as it reduces the significance of their lesser cars. It also favoured experienced drivers (or those who specialise in the wet, I'll name Button, Barrichello, Vettel, Sutil, Heidfeld and Webber as drivers who have taken advantage of poor conditions before). It should also favour those teams who have experience driving this year's car in the rain (all bar Toro Rosso, Force India and crucially Brawn).

Good wet-weather drivers, great tactician (Ross) but no wet weather practise. Hopefully, they'll be able to take advantage of Friday practise to get accustomed to the handling of their car in wet conditions. If it is dry, then the race is theirs. If it is wet, it will probably be theirs anyway.

Now second in the championship thanks to their "3rd and 4th" finish in Melbourne. They have some experience of their car in the wet, and Glock did well in such situations in testing. Should be well placed, and might well match their Melbourne form, barring accident or further penalties.

Thrid in championship thanks to Fernando. Will suffer greatly here, but storms may provide Fernando with the chance to put in a virtuoso performance. Nothing else will save them from a zero-point weekend.

Showed good pace last weekend, and may be able to take better advantage of it, now that they have put a race weekend behind them. Should score points, assuming they finish, and will almost certainly be in the front 3 rows on the grid.

Toro Rosso:
Joint fourth (technically fifth) in the table after their fortunate double-points finish of last weekend, they will be hoping for an equally chaotic race to further their chances of scoring points. I still feel the team is favourite for 9th place in this year's standings.

Last year they were atrocious in the wet, but Kimi has performed well before. They will have a very tough weekend ahead of them if they want to score more than a few points. Any less, and there will be outrage in the Italian press.

It will be interesting to see whether Heidfeld uses KERS again this weekend. It wasn't all that useful for him last weekend, but might prove crucial in chaotic wet situations. Should put one car in the top 6, and probably both in the top 10 in qualifying. They will also expect points for both cars, supposing again that they finish.

Many eyes will be on them as controversy yet again flies around Lewis and the team. They know that this will be a tough weekend on the track, and today's news won't help them to focus.
However, on a wet track, Lewis can amaze crowds, and stands a good chance of ending on the podium or in the wall. If it is dry, neither car will score.

Red Bull:
Very fast last weekend, I expect one of the cars to be light-fuelled to try and start from the front row (on softs if there is no rain). Both drivers are good in the wet, especially Vettel, so this could be their weekend (a win even, if anything happens to Brawn).

Force India:
With the greatest will in the world, rain, chaos and dodgy stewarding decisions are the only chance Force India have of featuring this weekend.

So, now for my Thursday predictions:

Win - Jenson Button
2nd - Rubens Barrichello
3rd - Sebastian Vettel
4th - Robert Kubica
5th - Lewis Hamiton
6th - Timo Glock
7th - Kimi Raikkonen
8th - Mark Webber

This supposes rain, and accidents wiping out some of: Heidfeld, Massa, Trulli and the Williams cars. Let's see if Friday practise will change my views - I'll let you know tomorrow.


Pretty much everyone in the country, and millions of people around the world is aware that one of the features of the English summer is Wimbledon.

The Championships have their own promotional products, and whilst traditionally associated with Pimm's and strawberries and cream, they also produce their own range of very stylish sunglasses, for both Ladies and Gentlemen.

My friends at Fun in the Sunglasses would like me to promote both the 2009 range, which is already on sale, as well as the 2008 range, which remains on offer for the forseeable future.

All frames are £99, with 'free' single vision lenses (that is, for the same price as the non-prescription glasses) or, for £135 these glasses are available as bifocals, for all your summer needs.

My tips for the tournament? Serena for the Ladies, and Andy Murray for the Gentlemen. Laura Robson might well retain her junior title, if she so chooses (she has a wildcard into the qualifying draw for the senior tournament, too).

100 days

Well, that period is meant to expire in a little over 3 weeks' time. However, with Paul Krugman sounding ever more critical and John Stewart's Daily Show focussing on how many Obama policies amount to re-naming problems, I'm getting the feeling that Obama's honeymoon is definitely running out.

Hopefully he can still be a force for good for a few years, at the very least. Even if the media is tiring of their darling.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Nobody's fool

I don't think I fell for any of the day's fake news stories.

I was, perhaps excessively, sceptical of news about Alan Shearer taking over at Newcastle.

My favourite story of the day, though, came from the Economist - their launch of a new theme park, Econoland, in East London.


I'll probably do other what ifs, but here is the first:
What if Fernando Alonso had signed for Honda, in the autumn of 2008?

1. Honda probably wouldn't have quit. Santander have fairly deep pockets.
2. Rubens would have been forced into retirement (or perhaps would have pushed harder for a drive at Toro Rosso - hardly better)
3. Renault would be in deep, deep trouble. Piquet kept Hamilton honest in GP2 yet struggles mightily to score points with Renault, and realistically, only Barrichello or a rookie could have replaced Alonso.
4. Alonso would be claiming the credit for Honda's great early season form, and would probably be feuding with Button with far more venom than Villeneuve ever did. Though it would have been interesting to see the two matched up in equal equipment.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009


Not exactly brand new, but they are a very useful thing, to those who use them.

I tend to listen to news based podcasts, such as the NY Times' "Front Page" and "Back Story" or the BBC's "Business Daily". The Guardian's "Guardian Daily" is good for anyone who only wants to listen to one news podcast, that more-or-less mirrors the news priorities of BBC/Channel 4 TV news, or the UK's broadsheet (or former broadsheet) newspapers.

Slate has some very interesting podcasts. I subscribe to their "daily podcast" that includes 6 different areas over the week. My favourite is the political gabfest.

Comedy is also well represented in the land of podcasts. Stephen Fry and David Mitchell each have very succesful podcasts that hardly need promotion, but my favourites are the BBC's "Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4" which includes the News Quiz and the Now Show whenever either is in season, and the Onion's "Onion News Network (Video)" which provides twice-weekly 2-3 minute spoofs of 24-hour news reports. The same videos are available (although not full screen) on their website. A recent example is the story: Prague's Franz Kafka International Named World's Most Alienating Airport

For formula 1, there are fewer (unless you can recommend any) with the BBC providing (under the name Chequered Flag) a race preview and review for each race and Autosport providing occasional (monthly?) chats about the goings on within the sport.

Monday, 30 March 2009

2009 season prospects

This will be my final F1 article of the weekend (they'll recommence on Thursday or Friday, preceding the Malaysian GP next weekend).

I want to take a quick look at each team, to assess how strong they look for the season, based on their strengths and weaknesses in Melbourne.

Brawn GP:
Front row lockout, 1-2 finish. Everything's fine? Well, not quite. Their pit stops were atrocious (costing 5-10 seconds each, above what is normal). Barrichello's anti-stall kicking in on the grid also cost him dearly (well, as it turned out, it didn't cost any points, but it did make his life much harder).
Also, predictions that they'd lap the field were wide of the mark. Jenson was consistently a few seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel and would have been under great threat from Robert Kubica, had the latter pair not taken each other out towards the end.
This shows that whilst the strongest team on the grid, not everything will go their way this season.

Red Bull:
Strong throughout qualifying with Webber P3 in Q1 and Vettel P3 in both Q2 and Q3. Webber's first corner accident cost him more dearly than anyone else (bar Heikki Kovaleinen) so we should discount his race performance (the only finisher to be lapped). Vettel consistently matched the pace of Jenson Button and would have finished 3rd, if only he'd let Kubica through more easily.
I feel they'll appear on the podium at more than half of this year's races, and probably win one or two races. Webber would dearly love to break his duck (longer than any active driver's other than Heidfeld) and I'll back him to manage it.

Kubica didn't follow the same strategy as the Brawns, Williams or Vettel, and so it is hard to make a direct comparison as to potential. However, he was definitely in the mix for a win until the accident, without KERS, so should be considered a threat throughout the season. I'd even tip him as favourite for Sepang.
Heidfeld, in the KERS-equipped BMW suffered more than his teammate inn qualifying (finishing Q2 in 11th place). This might well indicate that the KERS isn't worth the lost ballast distribution, or might indicate nothing more than his inferiority to Kubica. Most likely, is a small mistake that cost a crucial tenth of a second and the critical lap. The field is so close, that such mistakes will be severeely punished, and Heidfeld has never been a strong qualifier, but always a much better racer (his race today was compromised at the first corner, in an incident in which he isn't enitrely without blame - he took a very tight line for someone with 2 cars inside them).
Probably will be fighting Brawn for both championships this season.

Rosberg topped all three "meaningless" free practise sessions and set the fastest lap of the race. Strategically, they erred by leaving his final stint to be too long (his middle stint should have been lenthened when it became apparent, early on, how bad the super-softs became after 5 laps). He was also the only driver, other than the Brawns, to appear in the top 8 in every session that counted at all (Q1, Q2, Q3, the race and even fastest lap) so the car is clearly very strong.
Nakajima was overshadowed by his teammate, but, before his accident was running very well with a heavy car. Had he not crashed, he probably would have followed Barrichello closely until the Brazilian's pitstop and possibly got the jump on him throuhg strategy. Presumably he'd have been fuelled for a late splash-and-dash, just like Rubens, so would not have suffered as badly as Rosberg, and might have picked up a podium, given all that happened. However, such specualtions are useful only for passing time. The short version is that he clearly had a similar pace to the leaders, when adjusted for fuel (his car was the heaviest of the frontrunners).
This augurs well for the season, and I believe the team will get plenty of podiums. Their prospects are similar to those of Red Bull.

Qualified 6th and 8th, but started from the pits, due to an "excessively flexible rear wing". Finshed the race 3rd and 5th, demonstrating good tactics, good speed and everything required to be race winners. Trulli's 25 second penalty cost them a podium, but should hide their strength. They are probably only slightly behind Brawn and BMW, and appear justified in their decision to avoid KERS.

Last year, both Ferraris retired from the Australian GP and yet they won the constructors championship. This year will be harder though. They have a performace deficit to Brawn, but one they can probably catch up once the teams return to Europe. Neither driver excelled today, and were comprehensively outdone by Kubica despite a similar strategy, so they definitely have work to do.
For those reasons, I rank them 6th at the moment, but with every prospect of improving.

Hamilton's 3rd place disguises their clear weakness. In no other session (that counted) did they trouble the top 8 (Q1,2,3, or fastest lap) with either car although Hamilton demonstrated well, the benefits of KERS (although the poor showing of the other KERS cars amply demonstrate the drawbacks).
McLaren are a big team, with massive facilities and the ability to develop greatly during the season, so those points for Hamilton may come in useful at the end of the season. 7th at the moment on performace (by my reckoning) yet a fair bet to end the season in the top 3.

The other KERS team also had a poor weekend, masked by a decent result for their world champion (Alonso was promoted to 5th place by Trulli's penalty). Pat Symonds will not be kidding himself that their current 4th place in the constructors' championship is representative. However, this team has always shown itself to be good developers during a season (at least, when Alonso is around) so they too, cannot be discounted from challenging for wins, or at least podiums.
Currently 8th (by my reckoning) but will probably end the season in the top 5. This will, however require a lot of work, and possibly replacing Piquet with an actual racing driver (di Grassi seems to have the heart for it).

Toro Rosso:
One of only two teams to achieve a double points finish (albeit 7th and 8th) but their pace was lacking all weekend, and they will be doing well to reach Q2 at half of the races, and achieve points on more than half a dozen occasions. Buemi impressed today, on his debut, but then again, so did Mark Webber and Markus Winkelhoek. Will spend the season fighting to avoid the back row.

Force India:
Much closer to the field than they were last year, and with the benefit of a little McLaren magic, they may well find themselves in the mix for points several times this season. Sutil finished 9th today, but that will be hard to repeat in less chaotic races. I'd strongly recommend that they mix up their strategies to take advantage of the differences between the tyres this season (and to "do a Piquet" at some stage). Might manage 10-20 points this season, but it will be tough.

KERS - didn't show itself to be an advantage this weekend, but it might at other races. We await with baited breath.
Level playing field - does anyone remember the days when cars would be lapped 3 or 4 times in a race, because that will only happen in exxceptional circumstances, this year. This level playing field will force all the big teams to "waste" a set of soft tyres in Q1 far more regularly tahn they would like.
Tyres - the super-softs were a disgrace to the sport this afternoon. Perhaps teams will learn that they are next to useless beyond 5 laps, and adjust their cars and strategies accordingly, but this will certainly add to the unpredictability of races.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Psychology of a crisis

An article in yesterday's New York Times gives a very interesting account of the importance of understanding mood and psychology, and particularly their role in creating crises such as this one.

Robert Schiller writes about a paper delivered by Larry Summers in 1989 about a fictional crisis set in 1991, where a stock market boom had led people to believe that recessions would never return.

Euphoria gripped the investors of his fictional universe. “The notion that
recessions were a thing of the past took hold,” Mr. Summers said. He added that
over a 15-year period through 1990 — a time that included the 1987 crash —
investors earned an average real return of 11 percent. The popular view was that
“with a reduced cyclical element, the future would be even brighter.”

Much of the story mirrors what has happened in the past 2 years in reality. Handily, the paper's author is now director of the White House's National Economic Council, so is well placed to treat the patient, but, of course, that requires the agreement of many politicians, with differing worldviews and motives.

Here's hoping.

Aussie GP - comment

That ending was ridiculous. Much as I was hoping Kubica and Vettel would take each other out, I never expected it to happen. Vettel then trying to bring a reliant Red Bull home on three wheels. The safety car coming out was necessary, but did it really need to return to the pits with 200m to go?
Still, the fairytale came true. The final result, before any stewarding decisions, of course:
Win - Jenson Button
Second - Rubens Barrichello
Third - Jarno Trulli (from the pit lane)
4th - Lewis Hamiton (despite the McLaren and starting last)
5th - Timo Glock (also from pit lane)
6th - Fernando Alonso
7th - Nico Rosberg (who suffered greatly from putting on the super-soft tyre too early)
8th - Sebastien Buemi (on his debut!)

Assesment of predicitons (1pt for being in top 8 as predicted, 2 points for being where predicted)
Thursday: 6 of possible 16 (5 drivers, Buemi correctly placed)
Friday: 6 of 16 (6 drivers, none correctly placed)
Saturday: 4 of 16 (3 drivers, Alonso correctly placed)

Shows how a little information is a dangerous thing.
EDIT: Due to Trulli's penalty, my predictions now score as below.
Thursday: 6/16 (5 drivers, Alonso correctly placed)
Friday: 7/16 (6 drivers, Alonso correctly placed)
Saturday: 3/16 (3 drivers, none correctly placed).
Still supports the point "a little information..."