Sunday, 26 September 2010

Singapore: post-race analysis

A bad qualifying prediction was followed by a bad race. Alonso and Vettel were a class apart, aided slightly by McLaren showing all the strategic brilliance of Crassus at Carrhae.

On qualifying, briefly, I think I know why I’ve been getting it wrong lately. Earlier in the season, I spotted Webber’s improved qualifying, and backed him a few times and generally did ok. I’ve become a bit stuck in a rut expecting Vettel to do well and ignored Alonso’s recent excellence.

The race was rain-free, and had a number of safety car appearances. It was processional rather than thrilling, and somewhat notable for the way in which I got everything wrong. Vettel suddenly decided to accelerate at the start, instead of putting the handbrake on, neither McLaren was anywhere near the leading pair, and neither Hamilton nor Button ever had a chance of winning. Meanwhile, Vettel decided the time for driving in the style of Dastardly & Muttley was over, and drove extremely well and consistently for second, behind Alonso.

There were a number of crashes, including Bruno Senna, who got P3 yellow flagged at the end and slowed both McLarens as they exited the pits. Kubica had a great final few laps, passing numerous cars to finish 7th despite pitting twice.

Massa climbed from last to 10th, and would’ve done better had the first safety car not compromised his strategy of pitting almost immediately. Barrichello didn’t feature much in the TV coverage but did get an unexpectedly good 6th.

Hamilton’s DNF (did not finish) may prove critical. He was 4th at the time, behind Webber and ahead of Button. He’d just about passed Webber, but didn’t leave the Red Bull enough room. Webber had nowhere to go except into Hamilton, ending Hamilton’s race.

Bit of a shocker of a weekend for me. I just checked my account and found that almost all my 2.5 lay for McLaren to win actually got matched. So, undeservingly, I made almost no loss on that tip, but obviously got Vettel wrong in qualifying and in the race. [I must admit I’m staggered anybody matched that, but that’s the point of hedging].

For the title, things are still evenly poised, but the momentum is clearly with the world’s grumpiest man. Here are the contenders:
Webber 202
Alonso 191
Hamilton 182
Vettel 181
Button 177

And the Constructors’:
Red Bull 383
McLaren 359
Ferrari 316

Webber is still in a strong position, perhaps the strongest. Hamilton’s had a few DNFs lately, and I imagine they’ll end up costing him the title. Vettel’s excellent second is of great importance for two reasons. Firstly, he’s still in the fight. Secondly, because of that Red Bull will be unable to line up clearly behind Webber. If Vettel had smashed into a wall, Webber would be 39 points ahead. With so few races left the team may have had to back the Aussie wholeheartedly. As with McLaren, Red Bull must continue to try and back both drivers, whereas Alonso is clearly Ferrari’s only hope.

Were it not for Hamilton’s retirement the Constructors’ would still be very close. As it is, Red Bull are looking decent favourites.

The next race is Japan, in a fortnight. P3 ends at 4am, and qualifying starts at 6am. Undecided as to whether I’ll do a pre-qualifying post containing tips.

I’ve really enjoyed this season from a fan’s perspective, but my tipping has been pretty woeful. I’ll wait and see how the final few races pan out before deciding whether to do a similar series of posts in the 2011 season.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Singapore: pre-race

Well, Vettel made one mistake all weekend, and brilliantly did it in Q3. Alonso got pole, with Vettel second. Then it’s Hamilton, Button, Webber, Barrichello, Rosberg, Kubica, Schumacher and Kobayashi.

Massa had a gearbox failure in Q1, and starts last.

I must admit I’d never have backed Alonso, so congratulations to Mr. Eagles on the sister site for getting that right.

As of 6pm on Saturday, the weather forecasts aren’t that helpful, with showers possible. So, they need to be considered, but might well not occur at all.

Hmmm. Recent starts have shown a slight pattern. McLarens have great starts, Ferrari ok starts, and Red Bull have developed a habit of leaving the handbrake on.

I checked the two most recent races, and Hamilton and Alonso both have a win and a third place. Last year, Vettel got 4th.

Also worth considering is Massa. He starts last, and the circuit isn’t great for overtaking. However, the Ferrari is a very fast car, and he may opt to get a new engine (he can’t be demoted to 34th for exceeding the 8 engine limit). With a very early or very late pit stop, he might yet spring a surprise.

Had a quick look, and see little value with Massa. He’s only 1.8 to get points, and on a street circuit with many barriers, possible rain and little run-off that’s not very appealing.

Of more interest is the 5.7 to back McLaren for victory. Starting 3rd and 4th, with possible rain, they may go for a split strategy in the event of precipitation, and Button showed earlier this year a very good feel for on-off rain conditions. In addition, I think it likely one or both Britons will pass Vettel at the start.

I also think it’s worth laying Vettel for a podium at 1.46. He’s had poor starts recently and the two cars behind him have had good starts. Of the last 3 races he’s gone backwards in 2 of them.

I’ll only be hedging the McLaren bet (at 2.5).

Found this a bit tricky to call. On the other hand, I was pretty confident in Vettel’s pole until Q3, so maybe my doubts will prove more accurate.

With any luck, the race will be a cracker, and we’ll finish ahead.

Morris Dancer

Singapore: pre-qualifying

In the run-up to this race, McLaren were sounding bullish about improvements to their car after Hungary. They’ve had pretty good weekends at Spa and Monza [although only one car finished each race with a win and a second place] and will be very keen to see if they can match the Red Bulls in the latter part of the season.

They also raised the issue of whether the new loading tests on the flexi-wing and floor of the Red Bull would damage its performance. This was hard to tell at the last two races because they followed a perfect circuit for Red Bull (Hungary) and Spa and Monza are not suited to the Red Bull. So, it was difficult to tell whether the performance drop-off was due to wing and floor alterations or just the natural contrast between a circuit the car loves and circuits the car loathes.

Pre-practice weather reports suggest a likelihood of black clouds, heavy rain and lightning storms throughout the entire weekend. Sounds like fun.

P1 was damp, and as such, not much use for learning who’s quickest. However, here’s the top 10: Webber, Schumacher, Sutil, Vettel, Alguesuari, Button, Liuzzi, Buemi, Kubica and Petrov.

P2 was dry (mostly), but this session is the one where heavy fuel runs are done after a period of lighter fuel driving, so the times don’t necessarily reflect real pace. However, it is notable that the Red Bulls were miles ahead of their competition, Vettel 0.6s ahead of Webber, who was 0.4s ahead of Button, Alonso and Hamilton, who were all very close to one another. Following them were Barrichello, Massa, Rosberg, Kubica and Schumacher.

P3 was disappointing, because the end was ruined by the pointless HRT of Senna yellow flagging the session and preventing almost everyone (save the Red Bulls and Alonso) getting in proper laps. The order was Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, Massa, Rosberg, Webber, Hulkenberg, Kubica, Sutil and Buemi.

Weather forecasts suggest a one in three chance of rain showers. My view is that if it’s dry Webber has no chance, despite him alone having a fresh engine. Likewise, Massa and Button, barring wet weather freakiness, have no chance of pole in my opinion.

As has been the case recently, there are three chaps I believe have a good chance. Favourite is Vettel, then Hamilton, then Alonso. A problem is that Hamilton’s early timesheet-topping time was beaten by Vettel and Alonso (by 0.25s and 0.1s roughly) on a track that was rapidly drying and therefore naturally faster. Hamilton never really got a flying lap, yet still came third overall. It’s my judgement that he was better than Alonso and equal or just slower than Vettel.

It’s extremely difficult for me to call. I do think Vettel is clear favourite for victory at evens, but there is no comparable Hamilton time. I’m going to tip Vettel at evens for pole.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Monza: post-race analysis

A very interesting race, more tense than exciting, from my perspective. A very mixed bag regarding the tips. Button didn’t win, but came close enough to be laid. Alonso did fail to lead lap 1, so that came off. Hamilton’s kamikaze move on Massa meant a podium was impossible for him.

The tension was enormous at the front for the first 30 odd laps. Button got the jump on Alonso at the start, which also saw Hamilton pass Webber (who went backwards rapidly, to about 9th). However, Hamilton’s cack-handed efforts with Massa saw his race end on lap 1. Button managed to keep Alonso behind him until the pit stops. McLaren moronically telegraphed their stop, Ferrari responded, held out a lap longer, and passed Button.

The Red Bulls had excitement of a different kind. Webber slipped to 9th from the start and then fought through the field, eventually passing Hulkenberg, despite some chicanery, to get 6th.

Vettel’s race was weird. He was 7th to Webber’s 8th, but suffered a temporary engine problem (during which he let Webber past). He then kept racing, and had his pit stop on the last lap to achieve a surprisingly good 4th.

The race was incredibly important for the titles, most especially the Drivers’. After Monza, here are the top 5:
Webber 187
Hamilton 182
Alonso 166
Button 165
Vettel 163

With 25 points for a win, it’s incredibly tight. Webber really is in pole position, as the next 5 tracks are more Red Bull-friendly than Spa and Monza. Hamilton and Webber are a bit ahead of the other three, but it’s too close to call.

For the Constructors’, it’s also very close, but will probably be a Red Bull win, with McLaren the closest challenger:
Red Bull 350
McLaren 347
Ferrari 290

A strange weekend. My pole tip was really off, first time for a while it’s been miles off, and I managed to be ahead on the race. Overall, with laying, a small profit was had. Without laying, it would’ve been red.

There aren’t many races left now, just five (assuming Korea goes ahead). Spa and Monza saw Webber and Hamilton pull ahead, but the other three contenders have cut the gap down again.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Monza: pre-race

Blimey. I got back to discover not only was I enormously wrong, with Vettel sixth and my lay umatched, the entire top six seemed jumbled up.

Alonso snatched pole, with Button second, then Massa, Webber, Hamilton and Vettel. The top 10 was completed by Rosberg, Hulkenberg, Kubica and Barrichello.

Red Bull must hate Monza, it’s the first grid for ages when they haven’t been on the front row. Staggered Vettel wasn’t closer to pole. Next year, I’ll have to bear this in mind.

For the title race, this is tremendously exciting. The two strongest contenders are 4th and 5th, two slightly adrift are on the front row, with the third adrift fellow sixth. It looks like the race could be pretty tasty.

Caught up with a little of the BBC coverage, and it seems like Button’s gone for downforce over raw straight line speed, which could give him the advantage in breaking zones, for overtaking, and make it easier on his tyres. It certainly proved a better choice than Hamilton’s, which sees the title leader half a second down the road from Button.

The weather’s going to be nice and sunny, so the weather shouldn’t play a part.

I’ve decided to go for a trio of bets this time around. Firstly, I’ve laid Alonso to lead lap 1 at 1.46. I think both Button and Massa will be very keen to get ahead and stand a decent chance.

Secondly, I’ve backed Button for the win at 4.7. He was doing very well at the somewhat similar circuit at Spa, with a broken front wing, before Vettel wrecked his race. He’s got good pace, and lower downforce will make it easier on his tyre and afford him overtaking opportunities.

Lastly, I’ve backed Hamilton for a podium at 1.95. I imagine he’ll ice Webber on lap 1, and stands a decent chance of getting past Massa later on.

Unusually, hedging will be at a minimum. For the first lap leader, it’s not really possible/sensible, and Hamilton’s odds are so short for the podium you’d need to lay at 1.1 or suchlike.

Pretty shocked Vettel was so far down the road in qualifying. Let’s hope Button takes Alonso before the end of lap 1, and the McLarens have a great day out.

Morris Dancer

Monza: pre-qualifying

First up, a little advanced notice. Assuming I managed to get this out after P3 and before qualifying, the next article (pre-race) will be delayed because I’ve got some family business to attend to.

The Italian circuit is well-suited to McLaren (and also Renault and Force India). High top speed paves the way to victory at Monza. However, Red Bull still took the Spa pole and got second in the race, so they’re not exactly going to slip down to the mid-field here.

In P1 Button was fastest, followed by Vettel, Hamilton, Kubica, Rosberg, Webber, Liuzzi, Alonso, Massa and Schumacher.

I heard an interesting snippet during qualifying coverage, suggesting that the extra downforce McLaren ran (cutting straight line speed but giving a good advantage into corners) was promoting stability under braking. This, in turn, really helps out Button, who likes an even keel, more than Hamilton, who is quite happy sailing in a storm (as it were). This is borne out, perhaps, by Button leading P1. I’ll certainly have my eye on him for pole, if he keeps up his form.

P2 had Vettel the fastest, followed by Alonso, Massa, Hamilton and Button, then Webber, Barrichello, Kubica, Hulkenberg and Rosberg. The McLarens did, however, do their fast times earlier than everyone else, so may have not enjoyed a track quite as rubbered in.

P3 had the timesheets led by Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso, all very close. However, this is moderately misleading. Alonso’s flying lap, destined to be fastest or veeery close, was blocked. Hamilton got a tow in slipstream from Sutil, somewhat embellishing his time. They were followed by Massa, Button, Rosberg, Webber (who suffered an engine failure of some variety), Hulkenberg, Kubica and Sutil.

Pole seems to be a Hamilton-Vettel-Alonso affair. I’ve decided to back Vettel at 4.4 (naturally, I also advocate hedging this). My grounds for this are that:
Hamilton’s lap was just 0.047s faster than Vettel’s, but achieved with a slipstream advantage.
The Red Bull shines in qualifying, and has only failed to capture pole once.

A strong case can be made for any of the three (or, even, for Button, who lost his shine in P3). Bit of a rushed article, but hopefully the tip’ll come off. As mentioned at the start, pre-race post will probably be delayed.

Morris Dancer