Formula 1: Against The Odds

Pre-season Testing: Winners and Losers

with 6 comments

The old adage states that analysis of lap times from pre-season is meaningless; set on unknown levels of fuel, without scrutineering and in the pursuit of unclear objectives. Yet despite this, it is only natural that we try to rationalise what we see happening. The internet has been buzzing for the last few weeks with coverage and discussion about individual driver and team’s performances at the three Spanish facilities that have played host to the test sessions. The cynic in me suggests that this reflects growing anticipation for the season rather than a belief that anything earth-shattering is being discovered, but I’ve read much of it regardless.

I remain firmly in the camp that believes that anything that takes place in a test session should be taken with a hearty pinch of salt – certainly when trying to establish a measure of relative performance. However when I look back at 2009, I can’t fail to notice how dismissive I was of Jenson Button’s value in the drivers’ championship markets (I backed Vettel…) despite the weeks of publicity that his Brawn team had been generating from their testing performances. Is there a lesson to be learned here?

That question has been fuelled by some of the excellent long run analysis that has been carried out by various commentators – perhaps best by VivaF1. However I remain wary of trying to draw conclusions from specific data from specific sessions. Instead I thought it would be interesting to look at how the market has interpreted pre-season testing.

To do this I have looked at the respective odds of all of the main title contenders and how they have changed as the tests have passed. In theory, these prices should represent the collective wisdom and opinion of many, many people; some of whom will have digested every piece of published analysis, some of whom will be privy to inside information and some who have just lapped up any PR buzz. Any which way, I can think of no more accurate barometer of the likely chances of the individual drivers.

The below graph tracks the highest price that each driver was available to be backed on Betfair throughout the day of each of the testing milestones. The final price snapshot was taken at 17:00 GMT following the conclusion of pre-season testing.

Pre Season Odds


As has been widely reported, Ferrari appear to be in a strong position. Fernando Alonso has consolidated his position as outright favourite for the driver’s crown with his odds now 29% lower than they were in January. With exactly the same percentage change, those fancying Felipe Massa must be feeling a lot more confident.

The other clear winner has been Red Bull. Both Vettel (-21% change) and Webber (-10%) have clearly been impressing punters with their testing performances.

Over at McLaren, Hamilton’s price has eased as testing has gone on (+10%), whilst Jenson Button’s support has remained fairly constant (-3%). It all seems pretty calm. With Mercedes launching their own team and Ferrari stirring the pot like only they can, I wonder whether McLaren are enjoying this period of being, relatively speaking, out of the spotlight.

Speaking of Mercedes, it is clear that this is the team that has suffered the most in the public’s opinion throughout the month of February. The long run analysis that I mentioned earlier hasn’t really shown them to be massively off the pace whilst Brawn and Schumacher are far too wily to reveal their hand at this stage of the season. Regardless, the perception – partly fuelled by Schumacher’s comments – is that they are a few tenths shy of their rivals. This has seen Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg’s price increase by a whopping 67% and 79% respectively.


If you go back to the old adage that pre-season analysis is meaningless, then the conclusion would have to be that the value in the market now lies in the two German drivers. Their price has rocketed, based on a whole heap of unknowns. But then what would that be other than analysis…

Image reproduced courtesy of slitz under these terms.


6 Responses

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