Most interesting qualifying session. Vettel got pole, as tipped, after the Red Bulls opted for a series of laps on the soft tyre (which, unusually, seems to need that to get optimum pace) instead of an early run on one set of tyres then a late run on softs. Hamilton and Alonso did well to get 2nd and 3rd, and Button was unexpectedly racy in 4th. I never rated Webber’s chances of pole but was surprised he only got 5th.
For Alonso, it’s good, likewise Vettel. Despite a great 2nd place, Hamilton remains very unlikely to get the title back. Webber had the worst of the lot though. 5th in a car fast enough for pole when fighting the final battle for the crown is simply not good enough.
The lower half of the top 10 were Massa, Barrichello, Schumacher, Rosberg and Petrov. I was a little surprised the Mercedes didn’t get higher up the grid, and Petrov did very well to oust Kubica from the top 10 for the first time this season.
Once again, rain seems unlikely for the race. Bit of a shame, as it would’ve thrown a spanner in the works and made things even more interesting. If the race finishes as it starts Alonso will win the title, by 5 points, less than the 7 extra he gained when Massa entirely of his own accord pulled over during Hockenheim.
Each driver in the top 6 has a particular mission. Massa must try and get ahead of Webber, to prevent him having any hope of passing Alonso. Button must try to pass Alonso and keep the Spaniard and Webber behind him, so Hamilton can battle Vettel for the win without interference.
Webber simply must pass Alonso. If he doesn’t, he can’t win the title. Vettel has to win, and hope other results go his way (he could theoretically win if he got 2nd but that’s even less likely. Alonso needs a 1st or 2nd to guarantee the title, but if the grid remains unchanged, he is the champion. Hamilton’s got to win and hope the other 3 do appallingly badly.
Here’s the complete set of permutations:
Hamilton and Massa came close to colliding during Q2, but both got through and came 2nd and 6th respectively in Q3, but a grid penalty is possible for the Briton, which would be a great shame.
Unfortunately Yas Marina is one of those tracks where overtaking is not very easy or common, unlike Spa or Interlagos. This makes the qualifying result even more important (and likewise the penalty or lack thereof for Hamilton). Last time round only two cars retired so the final result will probably be very similar to the starting grid. The key moments will be the start (as ever), any safety cars and the pit stops.
No action to be taken regarding the Hamilton-Massa incident, which I’m very pleased about.
Quite hard to spot any value. Vettel’s 2 to win the race, and I’m more tempted to lay than back at those odds. He’s had good starts recently, but the lap 1 leader market does offer a 1.46 lay value or 5.6 to back Hamilton.
Last time round there was very little change at the sharp end. Hamilton got pole and was on for the win until his car broke down, and the Red Bulls got a formation 1-2. Button went from 5th to 3rd, passing Barrichello who stayed 4th.
Decided to back Button for a podium at 3.15. My thinking is thus: he starts 4th, so a good start could see him in the top 3. Unlike Webber and Hamilton-Vettel he doesn’t have to go bananas trying to beat Alonso/secure a win, so is less likely to make a silly error (Button’s made very few of those this season anyway), whereas a daring/mad overtaking manoeuvre from another driver could end that man’s race. He was also just three-hundredths off of Alonso’s time and was very competitive throughout qualifying (much moreso than I expected). Last but not least, Vettel’s car does have a habit of exploding just as he seems certain to win a race. Even if they hold station, Button would get 3rd if this happens yet again.
So, a single tip: Button to get a podium at 3.15 (set up a hedge at 1.4).