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PONDER STORY

A formula for profit

Russ Wiseman gives an insight into how to bet on the sport of playboys: Formula One

It sounds obvious, but the key to successful Formula One betting is building up a good knowledge of the subject. The sport is notoriously complex in its rule changes and year-on-year technological advancements so it’s virtually impossible to know all there is to know about the sport unless you work in the pit garage or your name is Martin Brundle. Still, even if the rules don’t make complete sense there are other areas where you can ‘gen up’, particularly important on the betting exchanges where getting a headstart over other punters can mean the difference between profit or loss.

Armed with a little knowledge of the cars, the circuits, the likely conditions and a basic familiarity with the behaviour of the exchange markets across a race weekend, you will be much better equipped for a profitable punt. Luckily, F1 is as rich in stats as it is in cash and there’s a wealth of information freely available online about most aspects of the sport.

A final introductory note: don’t make the mistake of thinking a Grand Prix is won and lost on a Sunday. The practice sessions give a huge insight into the likely contenders while a favourite’s race chances can be wiped out with a stupid error or slip of concentration in the qualifying shootout. Even if you’re not paying attention to the unfolding events on the Friday and Saturday of a race weekend, you can be sure that others are, with their pointers poised on Betdaq’s back and lay buttons, and by the time you get a chance to place your bets the best value might be long gone.

KNOW THE CARS

Before the season has got underway, amid each team’s secretive developments and wind tunnel testing, it’s tricky to know exactly how the cars will perform in relation to the other constructors until they’re out on the track. The classic example of this was the Brawn GP car ahead of the 2009 season. Not even a team until Ross Brawn led a management buyout of Honda, there was little hope given to a constructor with such an unstable build-up to a Championship and whose lead driver, Jenson Button, was nothing more than an also-ran in previous seasons. Opinions were quickly readjusted however after Button and his teammate Rubens Barrichello crossed the finishing line in Australia in first and second place. Brawn GP’s lofty price for the Constructors’ Championship plummeted after the race weekend.

This was largely down to the controversial ‘double diffuser’, but news of this mysterious design was kept largely out of the mainstream press beforehand. When its effectiveness became apparent, plenty of punters were caught short.

Those that did back Button for the Championship at 9.4 would obviously have been over the moon but there were far more who were backing Lewis Hamilton to retain his title and win the opening race. My advice would be to wait for a couple of races at least before you start backing or laying race winners. Trends quickly form and are often surprising.

Take the first few races of this season. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was hot favourite for the Championship before the season’s first GP in Bahrain. He was matched at 2.79 a week before a pedal was pushed and his nearest market rival on Betdaq was Michael Schumacher, matched at 7.0. Alonso won in Bahrain, causing his price to drop to 2.36. However, it was not until after race five or so that it became fairly clear that the real contenders were going to be the Red Bulls and the McLarens, given that they had won in Australia, Malaysia, China and Spain. The price for one of these drivers – Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Button and Lewis Hamilton – to win future GPs was subsequently shorter, but at least they can be backed with much more confidence now a real picture of the season has been built up. Barring the first race, a driver from one of these teams won every one of the first 10 races of the season. Conversely, after his triumph in the Middle East, Alonso only recorded two further top podiums in the first 10 races.

FOLLOW THE TRENDS

We don’t always need to know the ‘why’ though. Red Bulls have dominated qualifying sessions so far and in fact there was only one occasion when a Red Bull did not start from pole or both Vettel and Webber were not in the top three on the grid in the first 10 races of the season. Based on this trend, I would automatically lean to backing Vettel to win qualifying for every race. I don’t need to know why Vettel and the Red Bulls seem to be best in qualifying, just that they are.

However, there are complications. The technicians and designers are constantly working on new upgrades for their cars, copying innovations that they have seen in their competitors. This is the case with Red Bull’s ‘low-blown’ exhaust, which was introduced by Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault for the European GP and by McLaren and Force India for Silverstone. These are unlikely to have an immediate impact, but just knowing when the upgrades take place should make punters more wary of the continuation of trends. In other words, you might want to think twice about backing a Red Bull to be quickest in qualifying for races 13, 14 and 15 now that the other teams are using a similar technology.

Interestingly, in the first 10 races of 2010 there were six team one-two finishes, which represents an upward trend for one-twos over the past five years. At the same stage of the season last year there were also six one-twos; after 10 races in 2008 there were four; four also in 2007; two in 2006; and one in the first half of the 2005 calendar. There may be many possible explanations why, but the trend cannot be disputed. If your analysis leads you to conclude that a driver is likely to win the Grand Prix, it might make sense to also back his teammate to finish second or to back a one-two. McLaren occupied the top two places on the podium in Canada – the price for the team to do so was offered at around 10/1.

KNOW THE CIRCUITS

Knowledge of the F1 circuits is also important. At the most basic level, ask whether a driver is suited to a particular track. The changes made to the Silverstone layout were expected to suit Lewis Hamilton more so than the other drivers, which of course should be considered when it comes to backing or laying the Brit. Some circuits are all about qualifying, as opportunities to overtake are limited. At these venues, it’s always wise to back the pole-sitter, or, for better value, back the fastest car to win before the practice.

Two examples of street tracks where it is considered difficult to overtake are Monaco and Valencia – in both cases the driver in pole-position also took the chequered flag this year. This is also much more likely to occur now that refuelling has been disallowed and pit-stops are much more uniformly timed. Incidentally, Red Bulls – easily the fastest car this year – won both races.

It is especially important to know about the circuit when looking to profit in-play on the exchanges. As any experienced punter knows, the markets tend to overreact to occurrences, and these overreactions can be capitalised on. Each circuit will have one or two spots where it’s easiest to overtake, so you’ll want to make sure you back or lay at just the right time before duelling cars reach the best overtaking points to take advantage of the market movements.

Cars dropping a position are likely to cause the driver’s price to lengthen slightly, even if it is as a result of a scheduled pit stop. Traders can take advantage by laying drivers before, and backing them after at the slightly inflated price.

KNOW THE CONDITIONS

Finally, be aware of the likely conditions of a race weekend, specifically the weather. Despite this year’s being one of the sunniest Grand Prix in recent memory, there’s always going to be a greater chance of rain at the British GP than there is in the desert of Abu Dhabi and this should be factored in to any betting. Likewise, Belgium’s Spa circuit is notoriously wet. Patterns of steering, braking and accelerating completely change and some drivers, like Hamilton and Robert Kubica, relish the wet weather, while others hate it.

Also in wet conditions, there is a greater chance of a crash and therefore of the appearance of the safety car. This can result in a driver’s lead over the car chasing them to be drastically reduced, i.e. a 20-second lead could become a one second lead behind the safety car. The reduction in this lead will translate to a lengthening of their price, so if you can anticipate whether a yellow flag will be shown, it opens the door for a simple lay-to-back strategy for the race leader or the opposite for the chasing pack.

Check out the weather forecasts and apply to your race betting strategy accordingly – if you can forecast better or earlier than other exchange punters, there’s money to be made.

PONDER STORY ARCHIVE

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A formula for profit
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14/10/2010
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The Big One
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