Qualifying was a mixture of blistering excitement, and long periods of nothing happening at all (no, not at all like an F1 race, you philistines). After Q2 got red-flagged six seconds after it started, with Vettel down in 16th, and the Brawns 5th and 6th, things looked rosy for Button.
It didn’t last. During the 165 minutes of qualifying Button came in 14th, and thanks to Liuzzi being penalised 5 grid places for needing to change a gearbox Vettel got promoted to 15th. However, the really bad news for Button is that Barrichello got pole position (something he’s had twice before, but he’s never won at this circuit in his 327 years of F1 racing).
For this race I’m betting with smaller sums than I otherwise would. The tremendous difficulty of predicting the weather in particular means it’s entirely possible a hugely unlikely result could occur.
There was little dry running during practice and sod all during qualifying, but my impression is that the Red Bull is the best of the dry runners. A combination of bad luck regarding traffic and the track conditions together with a dry running setup for Vettel explains why the rain-meister didn’t make it out of Q3 for the first time this season.
The favourite should be Webber, in my view. He’s carrying just enough extra weight compared to Barrichello to make the second place he achieved more impressive than Rubens’ pole. He also has a better car in the dry, and will be running two laps longer for the first pit stop (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/f1mole/2009/10/bbc-sports-fueladjusted-brazil.html).
At present he’s 3 on Betfair, but Red Bull are identical or marginally longer so I’d take the winning car bet, just on the off-chance Vettel shows a bit of Teutonic rage and monsters the field.
Barrichello has a great shot at first or second, but his bad record here is quite strong (he failed to finish about 5-6 races in a row), and his car is not as good as the Red Bull if it’s dry. I’m not backing him for a podium at 1.5 because although it’s likely, if rain interrupts (either by putting him on the wrong tyres, creating a pit stop/safety car drive through penalty or just making him go off the track) it could easily ruin his race, and the odds aren’t long enough for that possibility.
I’ve checked a few weather websites, and the general consensus is for showers, with about 40-50% chance of them happening. Sounds like intermediate weather to me, which we haven’t really seen too much of.
Because he’s set up for dry running, is also good in the wet and has the joint heaviest fuel load of anyone, I’m going to go out on a limb and back Vettel for a podium. Off the line he, and probably Button, will get overtaken by the two McLarens right behind them, but they’re both light and will come in earlier, and Vettel has about 10kg more than anyone in front of him. Backed him at 7.8, anything over 7 I’d take. It’s pretty risky, but the weather conditions will probably be dry or intermediate, and that will favour the Red Bull, the track is one where overtaking is eminently possible, he’s got more fuel than anyone else and he’s a man on a mission.
As I said before, I’d advocate reducing your stakes for this race. If nothing else, it should be pretty eventful. Race starts at 5pm UK time. After this, we have the final race in Abu Dhabi.