Seventeen races down. Four to go. Nico Rosberg has a seemingly massive 33-point lead in the Championship and many believe the German is on the brink of his maiden world title. It is never quite that simple though, is it? Not when it is the first time. Not when you’ve been so close before. Hamilton needs to have a big race this weekend and is there anywhere that does BIG quite as well as the Texas and the US? Whether you are clinging on to the top of your fantasy rankings, or trying to haul back in your friends or foe, then here is another driver and their own team under focus, one of which may just surprise you:
One-miss wonder? – Jolyon Palmer (£4m) – On paper, it hasn’t been a great début season for the third British driver on the 2016 grid. A series of retirements, coupled with trailing his team-mate Magnussen by 6 championship points (7 to 1), would suggest he has been one to avoid in this year’s fantasy line-up. However, first impressions can be dangerous and digging deeper paints a very different picture. Palmer is, in fact, the third-best value driver this season, his 44 points per million spent trailing only Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein in the standings and ahead of the likes of Romain Grosjean. In addition, his on-track performance isn’t all bad, out qualifying his Danish colleague nearly half the time, gaining 40 out of a potential 85 bonus points in this respect. It is doubtful whether we’ll see the Britain in F1 next year but he may at least leave a few fantasy players with good memories.
Lousy year! – Renault (£6m) – If first impressions didn’t tell the full story for Palmer, the same cannot be said for his manufacturer. This is the last team to fall under focus in 2016 and it wouldn’t be unfair to say that I have probably left the worst to last. It was exciting to see the French, British-based works manufacturer return to the pit lane in 2016 but they’ll be very keen to chalk this season up to experience and start again in 2017, with their new signing Nico Hulkenberg lining up alongside A N Other.
If you would like the gritty truth in numbers then hear it is in its painful glory – their 8 points leaves them trailing every team bar Manor and Sauber (that both have a significantly smaller budgets) and their value of just 1.33 per million spent trails Haas by 8 whole points (and the latter free up £3m to spend elsewhere). £6m can be used anywhere else to better effect and, if you have yet to withdraw your support for the cars in yellow, you probably gave up reading this regular piece a long time ago.
Other Tips – Twelve months can make one heck of a difference in F1, with Hamilton securing his third driver’s title with victory on the Texas circuit last time out, taking advantage of Rosberg’s late error to sweep to victory. Change only goes so far though and Mercedes will be expected to dominate the front of the grid again this weekend.
Max Verstappen was a surprise fourth-place last year in the Toro Rosso but it’d be no shock for him to do similar, or even better, this year. An eventful GP in 2015 saw only twelve finishers from the twenty starts, with rain pushing qualifying out by a day to make for an eventful Sunday in challenging and changing conditions.
Weather could again be a factor this year and may be a great shot in the arm for an F1 season that has started to lull, with rain currently forecast to make an appearance for Saturday’s qualifying and may still spread into Sunday’s race. If you are chasing points then keep an eagle eye on the forecast and possibly mix up your predictions for pole and the front-three on the podium. Fastest lap may also be a lottery if late tyre changes come into play!
Safety car statistics should be difficult to predict given there has only been four races at the Circuit of the Americas. However, it would be a bold fantasy player that predicts the silver Mercedes from not going for a Sunday jaunt, with the last three races seeing an appearance and last year alone witnessing a massive four! Surprisingly, there were no retirements in Japan with all 22 cars finishing. So, roll a 22-sided dice and see what appears for Texas is my advice or go Rosberg and pray for some end of season spice! Whichever way you go, there is every chance you’ll have done better than my zilch for this particular prediction!