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Sports Desk

by Aidan Elder |  Published: Aug 01, 2010

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Jenson Button

Formula 1

It’s rich pickings for fans of F1 these days. After years of watching what were little more than fortnightly processions blighted by a dearth of overtaking, team orders, and races frequently decided by how quickly a group of men dressed like Top Gear’s “The Stig” could change a set of tyres, recent seasons have brought drama and excitement both on and off the track. Initially derided in many quarters, the changes implemented by FIA over the last few years have — by hook or by crook — brought renewed interest and breathed life into a sport struggling for relevance in the modern era.

Although still a small sport in terms of a bookmaker’s turnover, betting on Formula 1 is growing, but the practice days and all-important qualifying sessions make betting less clear-cut than on other sports. The market priced up on a Thursday can look different after developments on Friday and, depending on what has happened in the battle for pole position, it can look like a completely different event again on Saturday afternoon. For the punter this presents a quandary as it’s difficult to know when the best of the value is around.

Clearly securing pole position won’t hinder your chances of winning the race, but are bookmakers a little too heavy-handed in responding to how the grid forms? From 2005 to the end of the 2009 season, the driver in pole position went on to win the race 47 times out of a total of 89 races. That represents a pole to victory rate of 52 percent. Due to the unreliable nature of the Red Bull cars and drivers, at the time of writing, that figure has dipped to 28.5 percent midway through the 2010 season. With the season being fiercely competitive, generally the main contenders will be available at prices between 3/1 to around 6/1 before qualifying. Almost universally, the driver in pole position will be trimmed to even money or as short as 8/11. Those prices would seem fair based on the stats going back five seasons, but with the events of this season, it lacks value. It suggests there’s value in backing some of the other contenders towards the front of the grid who, more than likely, have had their prices pushed out after qualifying.

In general, the evidence over the last few seasons also points to a trend that suggests claiming pole position and going on to win the race is less likely to happen in the middle-to-late part of the season — this could partially be explained by certain teams closing the technology gap that may have existed in the early stages of the year, but most importantly, this part of the calendar is based in Europe and at circuits relatively vulnerable to sudden downpours of rain that can make qualifying sessions and the race very different propositions.

Champions League

White Hart LaneThe delight around White Hart Lane at Tottenham Hotspur finally getting their chance to milk the cash cow of the Champions League was understandable. The club will now be showcased in global club football’s premier competition and with it, the profile, stature, and bank balance of the club will increase substantially. It is important to sound a note of caution however. That note of caution can be summed up in two words, Michel Platini.

Since taking over as president of UEFA, the Frenchman has been on a much-publicised quest to level the playing field of European club competition. One change has come in the playoff rounds of the Champions League. He has attempted to give the champions of Europe’s smaller nations an easier path to the group stages and in turn that has toughened up the process for non-champions. For example, under normal circumstances, Celtic could consider themselves to be unfortunate to have met Arsenal in the playoff round of last season’s tournament, but due to Platini’s rejigging, meetings of Europe’s bigger names at this preliminary stage will become more common.

As such, Spurs should not count their chickens before they’ve qualified for the Champions League proper. Illustrious names such as Champions League regulars Ajax, Fenerbahce, Zenit St. Petersburg, Dynamo Kiev, and Celtic are among the potential obstacles in the way of Spurs and the lucrative group stages. Added to the mix will be the comings and goings at the club over the summer. Any sustained progress will test the depth of the squad and finding the new mixture may be a case of fixing something that’s running smoothly.

There’s every chance that Tottenham will be rubbing shoulders with Europe’s giants, but it might be worth holding off from a bet to ensure they make a safe transition to these new heights. Spade Suit