Sunday, 14 March 2010

Bahrain: pre-race

I feel a bit moronic about missing Vettel. The lack of Red Bull practice times that were speedy made me discount him, though he was (as I pointed out) the best of the top drivers in qualifying last year and the most consistent qualifier in 2009. Not too surprised Massa beat Alonso.

I missed Q3, as I was out, but decided to watch it on the iPlayer to see what tyres the runners and riders qualified on. This season every driver (in the top 10) must start the race on the same quartet of tyres that they qualified on. This introduces a tactical element, as softer tyres are often faster, affording superior grid position, but hard ones are more durable, extending the time a car can run with heavy fuel and thus heavy workload on the tyres before pitting is necessary.

This matters because a car still needs a substantial window to pit and be out ahead of the back markers. If a top 8 driver is behind a Lotus, HRT or Virgin they’ll lose a great deal of time. The Ferraris and Button may be best-placed in this regard throughout the season.

It seems all the top 10, save Sutil, got their laps on soft tyres which will degrade rapidly but be faster initially in the race.

In the last 3 years there has been relatively little movement from the starting lineup to the final positions in the race. It’s not an Interlagos, where there can be tons of overtaking. The first corner is the slowest, and into it will be going 24 cars that are longer and slower than any the race has seen for many years. I would be surprised if there were not several drivers running off the track and even a couple out of the race from corner 1.

As well as Vettel, Massa and Alonso are the best here. I have grave doubts about Hamilton. The McLaren is not as fast as might have been expected and he is known for shredding tyres. There are some concerns regarding the reliability of the Red Bull. The Ferrari is fast and is thought to be reliable.

Barrichello is also interesting. He can manage tyres but as he’s 11th he doesn’t have to start the race on the set he qualified on.

Bear in mind we have no idea just how the fuel loads will work regarding tyre wear, number of pit stops, brake wear, reliability etc. I was tempted to try and sit this one out, so if you’re unsure because of all the rule changes you might prefer to just watch the race rather than risk your money.

After sleeping on it and letting the markets get up to speed, here are my tips:
Massa to win at 5.2. Vettel torments me. He’s the fastest driver, I believe, and has a good car but the Red Bull may well be unreliable in the long run and Massa is very very good at Bahrain. I do believe 4/1 is too long for a second place man who won the race in 2008 and 2007 and outperformed his much favoured team mate in qualifying.

I’ve also decided to have two bets on Barrichello, following what Ted Kravitz said (something I was prompted to recall at Barrichello starts 11th, which means he gets to use whatever tyres he likes. The top 9 are all on softs, and Sutil’s on hard, but used, tyres. It really is very difficult to see how this will play out, so the cautious amongst you may prefer to just watch Bahrain and see how tyre degradation and the changing fuel loads affect things.

For those with money to burn or who are feeling more adventurous, I’ve backed Barrichello at 1.95 to get points. For that, he needs just to make just a single place, so if any of the top 10 crash, have tyre wear issues or have a bad start it’ll pay off.

I’ve also put a smaller amount on him to get a podium at 18. This is pretty speculative, but there are a few ways it could work out. A safety car could bunch up the pack, and as he’s on hard tyres I imagine heat would be less of an issue, likewise degradation, and he’s unlikely to have pitted before most others so he won’t be at the back of the queue. Turn 1 may well see a pile up (a lot of long, slow cars in a slow, tight corner) which could collect Barrichello, but he’s a veteran driver and hopefully he’d stay clear whilst others get an early shower. We also don’t know just how advantageous the hard tyre (if they are advantageous) will prove for Barrichello, but having the choice of a new tyre will undoubtedly help him.

Bit of an inauspicious start yesterday. Miffed Massa came second, but I did have an uncertain start to 2009 as well, and that was easier to predict than the start of 2010. Let’s hope there’s a great race, with Massa winning and Barrichello second.

Morris Dancer


Anonymous said...

You've made me think I should have given this first one a miss, as you say, we really don't know how things will work over a race distance.

Alonso has got to be worth laying for a podium at 1.48, the same price as Vettel.

Morris Dancer said...

Tempting to lay Alonso, but I'm not confident he'll fail to get a podium.

Well, at least can keep each other company in the Brotherhood of Nervous Punters :P