No bets on this, due to the timezone difference and the added difficulty of assessing a brand new season. It was interesting for several reasons. The tyres held on longer than expected, Heidfeld failed spectacularly with 18th and a Q1 exit whereas his supposedly inferior team mate got an excellent 6th, and the KERS failed for Schumacher (costing him a Q3 place), Hamilton and Vettel*. The latter two slaughtered the rest of the field, and Vettel was tremendously impressive, effectively a second ahead of Webber.
The qualifying session was also notable for the very good improvement for McLaren, and the lacklustre performance by Ferrari and Mercedes. Toro Rosso did well, and Sauber will be thrilled with Kobayashi’s 9th. Hard to assess the Williams as Barrichello uncharacteristically slid off and ended Q2 in a gravel trap which put him 17th.
*Later information indicates Red Bull simply aren’t bothering with KERS.
Well, the tip for Hamilton to win at 5.8 didn’t come off. Hamilton was clearly better than everyone save Vettel, but the Wunderkind was in a class of his own. The McLaren driver impressed hugely by doing so well with a broken floor, but frankly Vettel had the entire weekend sewn up. He dominated qualifying, he was never in danger of losing the race and these are ominous signs for the rest of the field. Nor can his success be ascribed solely to the ingenuity of Adrian Newey, Red Bull designer, as he also wiped the floor with his Australian counterpart.
On bets considered but not tipped, Schumacher for top 6 and Button for a podium would’ve proved losers (due to an accident and a deserved drive-through respectively), the 10.5 for Petrov to get a podium would’ve won. Irritating, as always, but it is at least a sign that my eye is in, which is nice.
The start saw some interesting things. It cannot be definitively stated that this represents each team/driver’s true starting form as it’s just one race, but useful pointers may’ve been seen. Schumacher and Petrov started brilliantly, as did both Red Bull drivers. Surprisingly, the McLarens had poor starts, as did (I think) the Ferraris.
Petrov did staggeringly well to get a deserved podium. If I’d believed in him more I would’ve tipped the 10.5 I considered, and that was clearly an error of judgement on my part. Meanwhile, Quick Nick qualified a pathetic 18th and achieved a paltry 14th in the race.
As for Alonso, he ended the race as he ended 2010: behind Petrov. A good solid 4th, nothing spectacular, aided by his team mate getting out of the way and Button getting a drive-through. Ferrari are the third-placed team right now (or possibly fourth, after Petrov’s Renault).
Webber finished 5th, 38 seconds down the road from his team mate. Button recovered well from his drive-through to nab 6th, with an excellent 7th for Mexican superstar Sergio Perez who stopped but once. His team mate, the popular Kobayashi, got overtaken quite often but managed to finish 8th. A lacklustre Massa came in 9th with Buemi 10th.
Tyre degradation was substantially more than last year but not farcically high. As a result we got some interesting strategic divergence, from Perez’s 1 stop to the 3 stops of Alonso and Webber and the 2 stops of Petrov. It may be worth keeping an eye on Perez’s odds, because if he can put in 1 or 2 fewer stops per race than his competitors then he is likely to climb the standings from the grid to the result (he went from 13th to 7th today).
We cannot assess Mercedes. Both drivers were victims of other people crashing into them. Williams likewise failed to finish, although that is better than HRT, who failed to start.
It is worth saying that reliability generally was excellent. Most retirements seemed to be due to accidental damage. It’s disappointing to get my tip wrong, but it is nice to get the season underway and we now have some concrete information.
Betting earlier affords better prices but higher risk. Scott P cunningly backed McLaren for the win at 6/1, pre-qualifying, with Coral. After qualifying, the odds were halved (with Betfair). Occasionally last year (usually with tiny stakes) I bet on winning teams pre-practice, but I usually prefer to have more information available before betting, at the cost of shorter odds.
I’ve found it a bit weird only writing one article this weekend. Less work though. Do people prefer this, with tips offered on the main site and a review on pb2, or think the old three articles per weekend system was better?
Already Vettel is evens for the title and Red Bull are shorter than that for the Constructor’s. We’re 1 race into a probably 19 race season, so I think this may be a little bit of an over-reaction. That said, Vettel absolutely slaughtered his opposition today. The question is, will he be able to repeat that on a circuit with many straights and slow corners?
The next race is in a fortnight’s time, in Malaysia. The qualifying and race start at 9am. It’ll be a bit earlier than I’d like, but I’ll try to offer qualifying as well as race tips.