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:
And the Constructors’:
Red Bull 383
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.