So, the race that hung by a thread is indeed going ahead. This is doubleplusgood news for McLaren for two reasons. Firstly, sector 1 is a large collection of straight lines, which will suit their car, equipped as it is with top notch straight line speed. Secondly, both their drivers are just about still in the title race but need the three remaining races to close the gap. If there were only Interlagos and Yas Marina left, it would be almost impossible for them.
A week before practice started my eye was on the possibility of a McLaren pole. There are also two overtaking places in sector 1 (slow corners following straights) which bodes well for the Britons if they’re competitive.
I backed Hamilton with small stakes at 8.2 for pole, and laid at 6.2 [which he fell to pre-practice]. He’s presently 4.7. Next season, I’m looking at possibly betting for qualifying pre-practice [if I can get a handle on how the cars’ particular characteristics interact with a given track and use that to buck the prevailing view on the market]. If I do go down that route and keep on writing articles for pb2 as well, I’ll offer pre-qualifying tips on the main site and reiterate them at the start of pre-qualifying articles [4 articles per weekend would be a bit over the top].
As with Japan, Korea is in a bloody annoying place when it comes to timezones. P3’s at 2am and I am not getting up then to offer tips for qualifying. So, let’s look back at P1 and P2:
P1 saw Hamilton top the timesheets. Even as a Hamilton backer I was moderately surprised to see this. He was very closely followed by Kubica, then Rosberg and Vettel. A half-second gap led to Button, Schumacher and Webber, with Heidfeld, Hulkenberg and Barrichello completing the top 10.
P2 was quite different, with Webber fastest, then Alonso and Hamilton. The top three were followed by a 0.4s gap then Kubica, Button, Massa, Vettel, Petrov, Rosberg and Kobayashi.
Without P3, a decent guide to qualifying practice, I’m not going to offer any tips at this stage. P2 tends to be when teams do heavy fuel running, and P1’s a sighter to spot any flaws with the car setup. P3 is the most telling.
I’ve not read any reports of the track surface degrading, which is quite handy when cars are travelling at over 200mph. Rain is possible for race day but I’ll wait until writing the pre-race post before checking the forecasts.
So, how do I see qualifying going? Almost impossible to say, given it’s a new circuit and between the two practice sessions there are 5 drivers in the top 3. If I had to guess, I’d go for Hamilton, still. I really should try and use the off-season to assess whether P1 or P2 has greater predictive power when it comes to pole.
I think it’ll be tight between Hamilton, Vettel, Webber and Alonso [in that order], with Kubica a serious threat to them.
The pre-race post will be sometime tomorrow [in the morning if possible].