Sunday, 29 August 2010

Spa: post-race analysis

A staggeringly brilliant race. Almost non-stop action, whether passing, crashing or raining, Spa was a stellar racing spectacle.

My tip was wrong, again. However, it was 15, and I got a lay matched at 4 and finished ahead (with a £10 stake I’d be up £5 for the weekend with hedging, and down £20 without, exemplifying why I’m a strong advocate of hedging. In fact, I just checked, and over the last few races hedging would have you £50 better off, with £10 stakes, than not).

The circuit, like Monza which is next, is a high speed, low downforce affair, and I expect the McLarens, Renaults and Force Indias to excel at Monza as they did here.

Webber had a shocking start, passed by about five people. Red Bull seem to have a bad habit of qualifying superbly and then leaving the handbrake on for the race start. However, he was most fortuitous when Vettel cocked up/was unlucky and torpedoed Button’s car. He then enjoyed a second piece of good luck when Kubica parked like a woman and missed the box entirely, allowing Webber to overtake him in the pit and secure second. Good damage limitation for his title hopes, especially as only one of his rivals scored points.

Hamilton had a near perfect race. He passed Webber straight away and then kept the lead throughout, easily outpacing everyone else, all the time. His only wobble was when he took a scenic diversion through a gravel trap (if he’d gotten stuck there I bet more of my Kubica lays would’ve been matched), but recovered and took a wholly deserved third victory.

Button had a race of woe. He did well to pass Webber early on and then Kubica to gain second, but Vettel’s incompetent/unfortunate overtaking effort put him out of the race. As happened last year, he failed to finish because of another car ramming him. Damned unlucky, for him and McLaren.

Vettel is the fastest driver in the sport, but he really does need a refresher course on overtaking. For my money, the Button move was a combination of misfortune on spots of rain and incompetence, but the Liuzzi move, when he cut off the front of the Force India’s front wing with his tyres and gave himself a puncture, was not very impressive. Vettel did not get any points, and that’s mostly his own fault.

Alonso amused me today. After a rubbish Q3, finishing 10th, he made an error of judgement and went for intermediate tyres for the first spot of rain, which was brief and light, and ended up retiring after spinning and hitting a barrier. His slower team mate picked up a surprisingly impressive 4th.

Rosberg and Schumacher both did very well for Mercedes, notching up 6th and 7th respectively, despite starting 14th and 21st. Petrov also had a great race, starting on the back row of the grid but picking up 9th.

So, where does this leave the title races?

Excitingly poised, is the answer.

Constructors’ first. This is easy. Ferrari are a clear third with 250 points, but at the sharp end Red Bull lead McLaren by just 330 points to 329. As Whitmarsh said, post-race, if Vettel hadn’t rammed Button then McLaren would lead both title races now.

The Drivers’ title race has changed a bit. Before Spa, the top five were all within one race win (25 points) of one another. Now, Hamilton and Webber have moved slightly clear and lead with 181 and 179 points respectively. Third-placed Vettel is on 151, more than a win away of catching Webber, with Button one 147 and Alonso on 141.

There are still six races left, and every one of the top five has a chance of winning. However, the top two are in a good position. I think Webber has the advantage. Monza is high speed and will probably be a case of damage limitation for the Red Bulls, but after that the circuits suit them more.

So, my tips were useless if you didn’t lay (although, frankly, if you follow my tips but not my laying advice you’re a bit of a plank), and neutral/positive if you did. I am a bit irked at myself that I failed to back a Red Bull for pole (usually a safe bet), but I do finish the weekend slightly ahead.

Morris Dancer


Nigel said...

Have a look at the replay of the crash, and look closely at Vettel's front wing from about 50s onwards:

As he moves to the right of Button, and the right side of his front wing comes out of the slipstream, the right side turns down, and the left side up. A huge amount of flex.
Did this cause him to lose control ?

In any event, the authorities should take a close look.

Morris Dancer said...

You must have better eyes than me, but I'll take your word for it.

On the flexi-wing, James Allen reckons that it was (in general) flexing less than at Hungary, possibly due to the new tests:

Speaking of Allen, Spa must've been excellent, I didn't even notice Legard being a twerp.

Nigel said...

Take another look.

It's only very brief, as he immediately cuts back to the left, but if you catch it (and I had to look at it a two or three times) the movement is quite dramatic. It almost looks as though the front wing is on a pivot.

I'm only guessing, but I think that the asymmetric downforce generated might be quite significant.

Morris Dancer said...

Had another look, but those squares from FOM have had the video pulled.

What you say makes sense, however. Hmm. I wonder if a car just ahead of them could shift half a car width deliberately to generate differential downforce and make the Red Bull behind go crazy. Obviously it'd be risky [Button didn't continue after the collision] but an interesting thought.

Nigel said...

You can also see the clip here (55-58s):

Easiest if you use the pause button quite a bit.

Don't know if I'm seeing things, but Vettel's steering inputs look odd.

Nigel said...

James Allen is picking up on it, too:

I think this will impact on the final races, as it's a very good bet that the FIA policing of the wing flexing rules is going to get much more determined.

(No axe to grind, as I'm now equally well positioned for a Hamilton or Webber championship win.)

Morris Dancer said...

I was just about the post that link, but you beat me to it :)

I'd prefer a Webber win. I'm red on Hamilton, though not too much, and a bit green on Webber.

I wonder if the front wing (as I vaguely pondered before) helps explain why neither Webber nor Vettel, in particular, are good over-takers. That instant when the car is half in a slipstream could be causing serious handling difficulties.

If the FIA do seriously tighten the matter up, that'll help McLaren out, but it'll also damage Ferrari.