Badger GP welcomes Jamie Sawyer to the Sett for a series of “How to win at Fantasy GP” articles. Jamie is a F1-loving mathematician and has been busy number crunching to figure just how you can win at Fantasy GP.

A new year means a new season of Formula One, which of course means a new battle for supremacy in the Badger GP Fantasy Grand Prix!  Last year I worked on some optimisation models to build an awesome team after the fact, and this year I am bringing this data straight to you, the avid reader.

Pre-Season Theorising

The moment the new Team and Driver pricing was announced, along with the new scoring mechanisms, it was clear that this year would be a very different world to 2014.

Last year, little was known about how the teams would perform, and both team and driver pricing was rather ‘off’ compared to the actual performance of the drivers. This meant that a large number of drivers and teams were significantly undervalued – Williams and Mercedes in particular provided huge value throughout the season.

Last season, for the majority of races, the strategy was to grab Williams, either Hamilton or Rosberg as you see fit, then fill in the gaps with the upper-midfield and finally Mercedes if the budget allowed. The huge technical changes in 2014 really did mix up the grid, and so made a lot of decisions very easy.

For 2015, with far fewer technical changes taking place, pricing seemed far more likely to align with actual results. Using my “2015 20/20 Hindsight” script, I ran a number of basic simulations, and for most of my expected results the optimal team was focused around getting the best teams, and filling the gaps with lower-midfield drivers. This was compounded by the new qualifying points system of 2015, which further awards drivers for doing well around the position that they are in.

So, it looked like this season would be pretty simple really – grab the top 3 teams (likely Mercedes, Williams and Ferrari for most) for a “guaranteed” 88 points, and fill the gaps with number 1 drivers from Toro Rosso, Sauber, Force India and the like. Manor drivers might even be an option – since they’re running a minimally adjusted 2014 car, it’ll be reliable, right?

The Best Laid Plans of Badgers and Men…

The Australian GP weekend opened with chaos throughout the paddock – Manor failing to get a car out on track at all, and Sauber looking like they were more likely to end up with their cars in impound than on the grid. Hasty adjustments were being made by Fantasy GP entrants throughout Friday, throwing any mention of Sauber or Manor aside.

News of Giedo van der Garde’s dispute with Sauber being dropped came (very) early on Saturday morning. At just £4m for the team, £3m for each of the drivers, following a reasonably strong pre-season, the reintroduction of the Sauber team and drivers into the Fantasy Teams was an interesting option for those awake enough to process this information at stupid o’clock in the morning.

Qualifying went as expected by most – Mercedes dominating, with Williams and Ferrari fighting just behind. A sweet immediate 15 points for anyone with Hamilton in their team, but with no Bonus Points available for overtakes, would this be enough to make Hamilton worth it? Only time would tell.

Immediately after qualifying, the first blow was struck to the pre-season theory, with Bottas unable to race due to a lower back injury. For those of us with a Mercedes/Ferrari/Williams pick, this was a kick in the teeth, but only bought our total potential team points down to 80.

Race day, 3:30am, and the fans begin arriving at the Sports Bar and Grill in Marylebone for the Badger GP Aussie Breakfast Bash. Breakfasts are eaten, coffee drunk, and bleary eyes begin to clear in preparation of the start of the 2015 season. The drivers begin to come around to the grid, and immediately the drama begins – both Magnussen and Kvyat stop on the track with what appear to be engine failures before even reaching the grid. From the perspective of the Fantasy GP, these losses were likely not to affect anyone too badly – Magnussen at £18m and Kvyat at £11m were both relatively pricey, and neither McLaren nor Red Bull had a spectacular pre-season to say the least.

With a starting grid made up of only 15 drivers, and 4 of 10 teams having been adversely affected before the lights even went out, this race was going to be an interesting proposition for the Badger GP Fantasy Grand Prix.

Lap 1 took even more of a toll, with both Lotus drivers retiring, and just 13 drivers left on track. The Mercedes pair pulled away from the chasing pack at alarming speed, and were barely seen on the coverage for the rest of the morning.

scriptToward the back half of the race, 2 more drivers retired – Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen. This meant that only Mercedes, Sauber and Force India still had both drivers in the race – the pre-season theory of putting more money into teams than drivers was beginning to look a little hairy!

So came the end of the race, 11 finishers, with the Mercedes pair of Hamilton and Rosberg locking out the top 2 positions, and Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari coming through over 30 seconds behind in 3rd position. Without my laptop to hand, it was up to my trusty phone to run the 20/20 Hindsight script.

To translate this mess of plain text, our optimal team for this race was:

  • Hulkenberg
  • Hamilton
  • Nasr
  • Ferrari
  • Mercedes
  • Sauber

This setup would net a top score of 161 points, plus 10 points for Hamilton’s pole and 80 points maximum for getting all the predictions – giving 251 points. Amazingly enough, 2 fantasy teams managed precisely this – huge congratulations to both Leon Matthews of team Autobots, and Anta of team Mini Racing Team!

What did we learn?

First of all, don’t discount the top drivers! Hamilton made up 40 points for £22m, giving us 1.82 points per million – if he is able to consistently win and outqualify Rosberg, 1.82 ppm is quite a nice haul.

Secondly, as long as the Saubers continue to race, they may be able to provide massive value to your teams. Nasr managed to pull off a huge 30 points from a cost of just £3m – making 10 ppm. The Sauber team got themselves a healthy haul of 14 points for £4m, giving us 3.5 ppm. Although we can’t necessarily expect this sort of performance from every race, they have the potential to be this season’s value option, like Williams were in 2014.

Reliability is a huge watchword in Formula One, and in the Badger GP Fantasy GP it’s no exception. With so many failures in Australia, dropping values of teams by almost 50% in many cases, our original plan of taking top teams and mid-tier drivers was thrown off a little. This being said, even running a simulation with Raikkonen and Bottas landing in 5th and 6th respectively (where they may well have ended up), the best team would not have changed (although the top score would have dropped from 251 to 250 points).

Finally, make sure you keep up with your F1 news – the Sauber situation at Melbourne was a prime example of how quickly things can change in F1, and keeping up to date with that news is often key to producing the best team available.

That’s it from me for this race, but stay tuned for more “20/20 Hindsight” at the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2 weeks time!