Melancholy. That is the word I’d use to describe my current feelings towards F1. Australia had many promising aspects which included a competitive Ferrari, an enjoyably cluttered midfield and encouraging début for Romain Grosjean in his new Haas (on which there is more below). However, to bring us down to earth, there was then qualifying, then amended qualifying, then “original” qualifying reinstated, then the free-to-air debacle, then Italian GP threats – the list goes on!
I don’t know about you, but I’m glad we have Fantasy F1 to allow us to concentrate our attentions on the on-track action.
Here is some analysis post-Melbourne along with some other hints and tips for Fantasy success in Bahrain;
One hit wonder? – Romain Grosjean (£5m)
A whopping 52-point haul for Grosjean, along with a further 8 points for the Haas team, made for a stunning introduction for Gene Haas’ new racing venture. It would have also made many Fantasy players happy, with Grosjean featuring in 7.3% of all predictions at the time of the last PrixView which has, unsurprisingly, risen to 9.6% as at the time of writing. At 10.4 points-per-million spent, the Haas driver represents potentially superb value but there are two words of caution – firstly, that the safety car/red flag played into the hands of Haas and a similar scenario cannot be assured for Bahrain and, secondly, if you are already playing catch-up then you should recognise that a Haas/Grosjean combination will be duplicated among many line-ups this season, limiting potential gains on your opposition. In any case, Grosjean was a well-deserved “Top Dog” in Melbourne and one to consider for Bahrain.
Points win prizes? – Toro Rosso (£7m)
Predicted by many for a strong start to 2016, Melbourne was looking like delivering on that promise with both Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz primed for finishes high up the order. Fernando Alonso’s massive crash, followed by a temper tantrum from Verstappen (or “slow running” from Sainz if you are that way inclined) resulted in a team haul of just 3 points, or 0.43 points-per-million spent. At £7m, I still strongly believe that the Italian team represent good value for money and will deliver better value than many of their rivals but they need to cash-in on whilst their performance would appear strong. Despite these words of warning, I would note that before Melbourne, 14.2% of team picks included Toro Rosso which made them the second most popular team behind Mercedes and this, at time of writing, this has risen to 16.0%. However, cheaper alternatives such as Haas are becoming more popular with 15.2% of picks including them (up from 13.4%), freeing up funds to spend elsewhere.
Lewis Hamilton cruised to victory in the respective GP last season as Kimi Raikkonen took a hard-fought second place from Nico Rosberg. On the evidence from Melbourne, you’d expect Mercedes and Ferrari to be competitive again here although you would feel that the latter will need to improve their reliability to stand any chance against the dominant German outfit. It appears that the rest of the field could be a lottery with 7 different teams featuring in the top ten in Australia.
Despite a disappointing start to the campaign, Hamilton remains a ridiculously high favourite for both pole (79.5%) and race win (75.3%) in Bahrain although I anticipate this may change closer to race day.
Daniel Ricciardo is a surprising outsider to feature on the podium (included in 1.3% of total podium picks) but that doesn’t appear an overly-optimistic shout after a strong showing in Melbourne though
Renault’s TAG Heuer’s engine improvements will be put to test again. Weather is unlikely to play a huge part in proceedings but tyre wear will again be a factor in the expected heat. While reliability on the long Bahrain straight puts high demands on the engine, there were only 3 retirements last year compared to double that number in 2014.
A big contributory factor to the Australian spectacle was the appearance of the safety car and red flag following Fernando Alonso’s crash. Odds are against another safety car appearing again in Bahrain with only 2 of the previous 11 races featuring the event and, even if you are feeling bold, I wouldn’t recommend you go for more than one in a modern track with plenty of run-offs and escape routes.
Tyre choices are consistent amongst the teams for the super-soft option but mixed soft/medium choices mean there could be some varying pit strategies on race day.