Saturday, 24 July 2010

Hockenheim: pre-qualifying

A note on the German Grand Prix: I was doing some reading up about it, and it turns out it alternates between Hockenheim and the Nurburgring. Quite handy to know that. Anyway, the last winner at this track was Hamilton, in 2008.

Another important snippet of news is the fact that the tyres available for this race will be the hards and supersofts. This could well result in a scenario similar, or at least comparable, to Montreal (one of the most exciting but least profitable races this season).

However, having watched most of P1 and P2, I don’t think there’ll be the same huge levels of degradation of the soft in Germany that we saw in Canada, so I anticipate the typical one-stop strategy from all teams.

P1 was pretty damned wet, and saw a large number of drivers engaging in not entirely intentional off-road rally action. Of these, Hamilton did some damage to his car by running into a gravel trap (bit unlucky, most of the track has big run-off areas). Hard to take the times too seriously because it was torrential, but here’s the top 10: Sutil, Massa, Button, Barrichello, Petrov, Rosberg, Buemi, Hulkenberg, Liuzzi, de la Rosa. For qualifying predictions, I think this almost certainly useless (unless it rains) but it could prove a handy pointer in case rain seems likely for the race.

P2 was a bit wet but mostly damp-and-drying. Hamilton got out briefly, his mechanics having worked to repair his car. The order was: Alonso, Vettel, Massa, Webber, Rosberg, Schumacher, Hamilton, Kubica, Barrichello, Hulkenberg.

At this stage (Friday afternoon) a few things stand out. The Ferraris look competitive, perhaps even pole position is up for grabs for them. Both Williams were top 10 in both sessions. In P2 Button was 15th. The Mercedes are looking good for middling points but probably not a podium spot.

As always, the end of P3, when teams do qualifying simulations, will be the primary guide to qualifying predictions. Right now I’m looking at whether Alonso could be in with a shot of pole and whether Button could be laid for Q3. Unfortunately the rain’s made it difficult to assess how good or bad the McLaren upgrade is.

P3 showed that the track gets substantially faster as time goes by and the track rubbered in. So, later runners will have an advantage due to that. The order was: Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Massa, Rosberg, Hamilton, Schumacher, Barrichello, Kubica, Hulkenberg. The session started off damp and was mostly dry by the end (although turn 6 stayed wet for much longer than the rest of the track).

Again, both Williams made the top 10.

The weather forecast is for showers, though they’re not certain.

I do think Alonso will run Vettel close, but I think the German has the best chance of nabbing pole. This is difficult, because the deciding factors will be traffic (which we can’t predict, but will probably affect at least one driver badly), weather (which we can’t predict) and the order of running (which we can’t predict). What I do feel confident of is that Alonso stands a reasonable chance, especially with a little luck, but that Vettel is the favourite (2.1 is not very long though).

Given that, I’m tipping Alonso to win qualifying, at 6.6 (presently). I think with raw pace he has a chance, and there are, for me, only 3 chaps who have a realistic shot at pole: Vettel, Alonso and Webber, in that order. With bad luck or an error on Vettel’s part (or Alonso going last) I think the odds are reasonable.

As always, I’m going to set up a pair of lays (one at evens to cover losses, another shorter so I’m green either way, if it gets matched).

Ha. Nervous about this. The wetness means that it’s very difficult to tell. If the conditions were guaranteed I’d’ve bet and tipped against Button (if dry) and for Sutil (if wet). But, they aren’t. So, just a single tip: Alonso at 6.6 for pole, with lays.

Morris Dancer

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