Three entertaining races down and it is time for this fantasy blog to switch its immediate focus as the free tinkering to your Badger GP line-up ends and you have limited (penalty-free) changes left for the massive eighteen races on the calendar.
Are you happy with where your team sits? Do you regret not staying loyal to your original picks? Here is a snapshot of the shifts in driver and team selections from pre-Melbourne to post-China and maybe a hint or two to gain a sneaky advantage over your rivals:
It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist (or even someone that reads!) to identify the driver with the biggest switch in popularity (both positively and negatively).
Romain Grosjean’s stunning début for Haas in Australia, followed by an even better result in Bahrain, saw 22.5% more fantasy players make room for him in their hearts and line-ups. Grosjean’s popularity would appear to be greatly deserved as the most valuable driver in the game at a bargain £5m and stunning value at 16.8 points per million spent. However, before you jump on the bandwagon, don’t ignore a horrible China for the Haas team. I wish I’d seen that coming – a switch out of the Grosjean/Haas combo post-Bahrain followed by a switch back pre-China has left me wondering whether 136th in the standings might not have been closer to a top ten. I’m not bitter though…
Unsurprisingly, Nico Rosberg (at 12.6%) is the second most popular switch (and one of only 5 drivers to have seen a positive swing), whilst his team-mate Lewis Hamilton has mirrored this by being the joint second-most “dumped” driver (at 4.2% down alongside Felipe Nasr).
However, despite Rosberg being £4m cheaper and winning all 3 races this season, he has scored 18 points less than the Brit and is 0.16 points per million less valuable. Russia could be very important in making or breaking the German’s early season momentum.
If I was going to call a surprise package this season, I’m not certain it would have been Red Bull given their struggles with engine performance during the last campaign. However, with an 8.6% rise in popularity (second only, of course, to those new boys at Haas), they trail Ferrari’s points haul by only 4 (at a £6m saving) after that great Daniil Kvyat podium in China and are currently leading Williams by 28 points and are 152.8% more valuable (at 4.07 points per million compared to an unfavourable 1.61 for Frank’s outfit). If Daniel Ricciardo can get a bit more luck to go with some fabulous driving then they could represent a great investment up until the season decider.
I featured Force India as a team to watch in my first PrixView but did caveat my optimism by raising concern over their lofty £13m price-tag. It may be proving their downfall as a touch over 10% of players have kicked them out of their line-ups. However, the Silverstone-team will at least be glad to have 6 points on the board, unlike McLaren and Renault that have managed a combined total of 1 point, dropping 6.6% and 6% respectively in the process. It would be different to make a case for including either in your line-ups at the current time but I wouldn’t completely rule out Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button finding something that resembles form in the coming races!
Other Tips – It was just over six months ago when Lewis Hamilton won an incident packed Russian GP to move to the brink of a third world championship with Rosberg retiring with a throttle issue. However, the landscape has changed and the pressure to start hauling in the German may mean that Rosberg is the safe bet for glory in an switched, early season Sochi-based run-out. Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari will be keen to repeat his second-place on the podium from last year too. Nasr will have to hope for great things from his new Sauber chassis to finish 6th again whilst you’d have to think Button would bite your hand off to emulate his 9th-placed finish on the faux-street circuit.
Bad weather is not predicted for Russia although the cool temperatures could always make this subject to change. Another advantage of the lack of heat for the teams will be seen in their ability to run softer compounds, with no team taking more than one set of medium compounds on the trip, whilst Red Bull and Haas maximise their super-soft allocation. Safety car data is sparse in Sochi with only two previous races, with the first in 2014 producing none (in one of the dullest races of the calendar) whilst 2015 saw two interesting breaks which made for an exciting race on a circuit which some still feel may become a “white elephant”. There were 19 drivers classified in 2014 which dropped to 15 the following year – don’t forget to name your first non-finisher for those potentially vital extra points!