Sunday, 14 March 2010

Bahrain: post-race analysis and title thoughts

Mixed bag regarding the tips, overall I’m afraid it was a loss. Barrichello scraped into the points, but my podium suggestion was laughably optimistic. Once again, I tipped Massa to come top and he came second. Naughty Brazilian.

I made a few notes during the latter stages of the race, which I think are of importance. The Red Bull uses a Renault engine (mostly because they left it too late last season to switch to a Mercedes) which apparently is more fuel efficient than the Ferrari, giving it a 10kg weight advantage at the start of the race. It can’t be said it’s a certainty, but the start saw Vettel get away very easily which may be due, in part, to the fuel effect.

Sticking with engines, the Cosworth (which Williams use) is faster in a straight line than the Ferrari, if Barrichello’s easy overtaking of Buemi is anything to go by. The McLaren is also super fast in a straight line, but that’s because of the cunning F-vent in the nose.

Interestingly, the cars never got close to qualifying pace and were always, even on fumes, 4-5s or more slower.

As some suspected, the Red Bull had reliability issues (as it did last season). But for that Vettel would’ve won, or at least come second. As it is, he came 4th after a rather lacklustre challenge from Rosberg. The Red Bull’s soft tyres seem to degrade slightly after 10-15 laps or so, and the Ferraris were so hot they had to avoid slipstreams to stay cool. Obviously, Bahrain is a hot place so this may not be an issue elsewhere.

Also, Bahrain is not a circuit that’s too hard on the tyres. At circuits where this is the case, I wonder if we’ll see multiple stops. There wasn’t much overtaking on the track, which the no refuelling rule was intended to encourage. To be frank, the race was rather dull, with large gaps between most cars and little excitement.

So, what did we learn? The McLaren’s tyres didn’t disintegrate after six laps, as I thought they might. I had been tempted to tip laying Hamilton for the podium at 2.9, but in the morning the odds had lengthened so I didn’t. In addition, Hamilton was markedly better than Button in both race and qualifying. We’ll see if this continues at tracks with higher rates of tyre wear.

Red Bull didn’t get much practice in, and didn’t top the timesheets until qualifying. The car also showed very good, consistent race pace, but being fast means sod all if the reliability isn’t there. It’s just one race, and it might be bad luck, but given what happened last season I think this indicates the team is fast but need better reliability.

Ferrari are fast and reliable, but they did have an issue with overheating. Not all circuits are in deserts, but quite a few are in hot spots. Massa had some issue or other with his, but was still comfortably second, and I think the two Ferrari chaps are pretty evenly matched.

Mercedes continue to underwhelm. It is interesting, though, that Rosberg was 0.5s (consistently) faster than Schumacher in practice and qualified better by 2 places, but only finished 1 place ahead of him. Not yet proven whether Rosberg can cut it at the sharp end on race day. Schumacher needs to up his game.

So, how is the Driver’s Title shaping up? Massa’s now at 8.6 for the title, which remains too long, and Alonso is ridiculously short at 2.34. We have a stack of races (it’s 19, or something crazy like that) and we’ve only had one finished. Vettel’s probably a little too short at 4.7, and Hamilton’s interesting at 8. Not sure why he’s shorter than Massa given the McLaren was slower in practice, slower in qualifying and slower in the race. Oh, and both McLarens finished behind both Ferraris.

I didn’t tip anyone for the Constructor’s, regarding it as very hard to call. Ferrari are at 1.76, which seems rightish. Red Bull are at 3.85, which may be a little long, though I’m not going to back them at those odds. McLaren are surprisingly short at 3.55, and Mercedes are 9.6, which looks about right.

So, where to next? Australia, in a fortnight. Quite unfairly, the 3rd practice session finishes at 4am, with qualifying from 6am, so I’ll probably do the pre-qualifying article on Friday rather than Saturday, with the pre-race on Saturday and the analysis on Sunday (which hopefully won’t include Massa coming second whenever I tip him). We’ve seen how the race goes (boringly) with no refuelling, and there’s some data regarding the recent Australian GP results for the race and qualifying so that’ll give me something to get my teeth into in the meantime.

Morris Dancer


bunnco said...

Nice article Morris. But it's a shame you didn't highlight the tremendous achievement from Norfolk-based Lotus, both of whose cars finished on their first outing. This from the Eastern Daily Press

The happiest man of all, though, was team principal Tony Fernandes who said “I'm completely over the moon! I cannot describe the feeling. Six months of work and to have both cars finish is just unbelievable. We're thrilled, we're happy and the spirit in the team is fantastic. I'm really proud of Jarno and of Heikki and everyone here. It's a great start and better than I could have dreamt of. We wanted to finish the race and to do so ahead of established teams is fantastic.

“From here we keep going. Before the race Clive Chapman gave me Colin Chapman's old Lotus cap and said 'when you win the first race you'll be the man to throw this up in the air like my Dad used to.' That meant a lot to me, it was a wonderful gesture and it's like handing over the mantle of one of motor racing's great dynasties.”

Lotus is a Great British marque and are placing a lot of emphasis on this season to set the scene for an ambitious expansion program. One to watch.

Peter from Putney said...

My thoughts after the first race are that the F1 champion for 2010 will be one of the following 3 drivers (incl their % probability imho):

Alonso 45%

Hamilton 25%

Vittell 15%

Other 15%

I would have included Massa in this short list, but frankly I don't see him overcoming Alonso at Ferrari. He would probably rate about 7.5%, ie half of the "Other". I don't see anyone else having a realistic chance, but then this time last year, unlike you, I didn't think Button had any chance.

Morris Dancer said...

Peter, I think you underestimate Vettel. He's the best driver on the grid. If the car doesn't keep breaking he should win.

I do agree Alonso should be favourite, he's in the top 3 (the above two plus Hamilton) and has a fast and reliable car.

Massa had some sort of issue with his car, and was still a strong second. He has an uphill battle, but should be third favourite now, with Vettel second and Hamilton fourth, in my view.

Bunnco, you're right that I omitted all mention of the new teams and the midfield. It wasn't intentional, I just had my focus on the top 4 teams (as well as Barrichello, whom I backed).

I feel rather sorry for Chandhok, who seems a splendid fellow, and likewise Senna, who had to essentially run the race as a test session. I hope Virgin, Lotus and HRT [stupid acronym...] can improve and play a part in the midfield, or even challenge for the podium. It's not so long ago Red Bull debuted, and until last season Force India were nowhere really. Let's hope the new teams can get competitive sooner rather than later.

Peter from Putney said...

Morris - I hope I haven't underestimated Seb Vittel, like you, I think he's a great driver, but I fear he will suffer the same reliability problems as last year. Let's not forget either that Lewis Hamilton was the top points scorer in the second half of last season so shouldn't be overlooked. Arguably the best F1 driver ever should not be discounted either.
I've just placed my bets (for now) - £15 on Ferrari at 9/10 with the Tote to win the Constructors and £10 on Alonso at 6/4 net with Betfair to win the Drivers.
If one or other wins I'm quits, if they both win I'm up £28.50
Rather sad to see Button quoted at almost 30/1 on Betfair - the market clearly thinks his time has past.

Morris Dancer said...

Car matters more than driver. The Red Bull was second best throughout last season, first to Brawn, then to McLaren. Hamilton had the best car when he did best, whereas Vettel had huge reliability issues (at one point he was second in the title race despite finishing only 60% of races). If the Red Bull stops exploding all the time, Vettel can win this year.

Those bets sound reasonable, but given how up and down last season was I'm just going to stick with my position (ie backing Massa at 11/1 and 17/1 with small sums).

Omnium said...

The lack of overtaking yesterday was rather disappointing and backed up by Schumachers comments. Although I hadn't expected a lot of action I had hoped we'd get some.

For me it was a real shame that Sutil managed to get caught up in the aftermath of Webbers cloud of smoke. Having the hard tires with a decent car underneath him had given me hope that he'd make some decent progress.

Ferrari did look pretty solid and Vettel was very impressive.

Unless Mercedes and Maclaren were holding something back yesterday - which is entirely possible given that it was the first race and it was so hot, then it seems we may be looking at a battle between Alonso and Vettel.

I had a large bet (500) on Rosberg for the championship, but I've reversed almost all of that now - I thought he did well and I still like the idea that Mercedes will improve (Schumacher getting to parity with Rosberg over next couple of races) but there is a bigger gap than I thought.

I'm now all green, with a big win if Sutil suddenly finds a jet engine for the rest of the season.

I agree Lotus did spectacularly well and would love to see them up in the mix at the front later in the year.

Morris Dancer said...

Schumacher's not the only driver to voice concerns. However, Prost reckons that it's because it's such a big adjustment, and that in a few races the drivers will be used to it and the races will get better.

Omnium said...

Actually I was surprised that towards the close of the race noone tried diving in for some fresh soft tyres. They were lapping at around 2:00 and qualifying was several seconds ahead of that, so if you could get say 10 laps of fast times out of new tyres then it struck me that it would be a good thing to try.

Morris Dancer said...

With any luck we'll see that sort of strategic gambit at Australia. If Bahrain is the template for the season then by banning refuelling the sport will have managed to make what should be an epic year of 4 champions and 8 competitive teams into a dreary series of processions.

Nigel said...

I bet fairly large on Maclaren ahead of Bahrain, but fortunately got spooked by Hamilton reporting during practice that he had cooked the hard tires in just four laps.

Hedged my bets, and put a bit of (though not enough) cash on Alonso.

I'm adopting a similar approach for the championship. I'll make good money if Hamilton wins (8:1 on Sunday night was too good to resist), decent money if it's Alonso - and I'll be surprised, and a bit worse off, if it's Vettel.

Saving most of my cash to bet on individual races, though. They ought to get easier to predict.

Morris Dancer said...

Interesting, Nigel, that like Peter you don't rate Vettel as much as me. Or is it doubts over his car that make you think he has little chance of the title?

Another British win would be great, though we should probably let another country have it this time. Massa or Vettel would be nice.

Nigel said...

Hi, Morris. Enjoyable article (rather more so than the GP itself).

I rate Vettel very highly indeed. On sheer ability, I think it's very difficult to judge between him, Hamilton and Alonso.

I just don't think he'll be champion this year. Reliability, and more importantly the superior development ability of Maclaren and Ferrari, are likely to count against him.
Of course, I could be wrong - but you can't profitably bet on everyone (usually).

Omnium said...

Interesting how long odds Webber is now. Still can't bring myself to back him though, as he never seems to pull it all together in a race. I've been looking at the fastest laps in Bahrain and was quite surprised to see him 3rd. (A few others surprised me too).

The Ferrari price for the constructors championship seems to me to be verging on the too short area - have laid a little bit, but hard to argue with Alonso's performance.

One issue that might be interesting for Melbourne is that given the lack of race action I guess we'll see even more intense qualifying - I wonder if we'll see some casualties from people pushing too hard.

Morris Dancer said...

Webber is like Coulthard. Occasional race winner, but not in the first class, certainly not when facing the likes of Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton. His team mate is a class act, Webber's leader of the midfield, no more than that.

On Red Bull development, I slightly share the view on development (they were competitive for all of 2009, though that may not be a good season to use as an example) but the big issue for me is reliability. With a reliable car, Vettel would have won last year. It's early days, but Bahrain isn't a good start.