Sunday, 31 July 2011

Hungary: post-race analysis

Since Germany:

Well, this season had been going pretty well, until I found out today that the BBC has not bothered to wait until its F1 deal ends in 2013 before shedding coverage. From 2012 to 2018 the BBC will cover just half the races, with Sky showing all of them. I’m undecided as to whether this is better or worse than no TV coverage at all. I also think it’s the first time that F1 has not been shown on free-to-air TV in the UK. Given BBC Three and BBC Four both appear to be safe, despite BBC One and Two being crammed with repeats, I am significantly unimpressed. For a broadcaster that has guaranteed funding of £3bn plus a year the BBC manages to show bloody few programmes I actually want to watch.

I feel particularly sorry for the BBC F1 team, who have been excellent (indeed, BAFTA-winning) and deserve better than this limp-wristed halfway house.

At this stage, I think (from a betting perspective) I’ll be able to continue offering tips. Nevertheless, I’m pretty livid. The BBC’s managed to infuriate every F1 fan, spend a load of money and fail to secure a real season of F1 for the next 7 years. Takes a special sort of genius to come up with that.

Qualifying summary:

I agonised a bit over my qualifying tip. Considered di Resta and Perez for Q3, but decided the odds were against it, and the lack of a racey lap from Hamilton in P3 made judging it hard. I thought Vettel had the measure of Webber and pole would be between him and Hamilton, and opted for the German at 1.8.

Qualifying was a bit of a surprise. Hamilton looked tremendously fast in the first two sessions and got the fastest lap in the first phase of Q1. I was surprised that Vettel wasn’t faster, and Webber was well off the pace, ending up sixth on the grid.

The Ferraris, especially Alonso, were also less competitive than I imagined, and Massa out-qualified his team mate for the first time this year. The pair line up 4th and 5th.

At the sharp end, yet more surprises. Button forgot he’s rubbish at qualifying and blitzed the Ferraris, putting in a fastest lap just 0.046s slower than Hamilton.

Vettel, unlike Hamilton and Alonso, improved with his second run to snatch what had become a seemingly unlikely pole position, which was a great relief (particularly given I’d said I was tempted by Hamilton’s odds of 9.5 earlier in the week).

The Mercedes does not look in good shape. It had lagged a long way off full-fuel pace in practice, due to severe tyre wear, and I suspect both drivers will do poorly. For the race, I can see any of about four drivers winning it, so it’ll be fun trying to tip.

Race summary:

I offered a pair of race tips: No Safety Car at 1.65 (odds increased to 1.78ish later) and laying Vettel for a podium finish at 1.39. I really wanted to bet on the race winner, but I could see any one of four drivers (Hamilton, Alonso, Button and Vettel) getting it. Sadly the long shot didn’t come off, though the odds-on one did, making this a rather pale green race weekend.

Contrary to the weather forecast, there was drizzle and a wet track at the start, and again later in the race.

It started with all cars on intermediates, and the top 3 stayed in formation early on. The Ferraris got bad starts, and both were passed and held up by the two Mercedes for quite some time.

After the early pit stops Vettel exited behind both McLarens, and it was clear the British drivers were the fastest. Webber and Alonso were capable of catching Vettel, but circumstances prevented them.

Halfway through the race Nick Heidfeld’s Renault burst into flames and then literally exploded just outside the pits. Thankfully, the race director judged that an exploding car is no justification for a safety car, so that bet at least came off.

Meanwhile, the cars had split on tyre strategy. Button, Vettel and Webber were on the slower but longer lasting primes (soft yellows) and Hamilton and Alonso were on the faster options (red supersofts) but had to stop again. Given the soggy track, this looked bad for Hamilton and Alonso. Then it started raining again. The McLarens duelled for the lead, and Hamilton got it before diving into the pits, as Webber had done so, for intermediates. However, their action proved premature, the rain dried up and both men had to stop again for the primes.

This gifted Button the lead, and Vettel was unable to make any headway against him. Alonso, having stopped for primes but not wasted time with the intermediates, was in a clear third.

Hamilton had to serve a drive-through penalty and came out just behind Webber. The pair were 4th and 5th, and some heavy traffic afforded the Briton an opportunity to pass which he pulled off.

Further down the field, di Resta scored a great 7th, both Toro Rosses got in the points and Rosberg came 9th for Mercedes.

On track, it was a reasonably good race, but the result was not what I was hoping for. Any one of the top 5 could’ve been on the podium, and Hamilton was rather unlucky not to finish higher.

Musings: does provide free qualifying and race coverage, I think. It’s in German, which isn’t ideal (unless you’re German, obviously) but it’s better than paying through the nose due to the BBC’s epic shafting of British F1 fans.

Bit displeased with the result in two ways. Firstly, the rain was very unlikely (20% of trace amounts according to one forecast) and that had a huge impact on the end result. However, F1 is, as I’ve said many times, especially prone to unpredictable factors, which includes weather.

Worse was my own indecision on who to back for race winner. Initially, I thought Vettel, Button, Hamilton and Alonso all had a decent chance. I was pretty confident that the McLaren would be fastest in the race and considered the 9.8 for Button and 2.2 for McLaren, but decided against it. I shouldn’t be too disappointed, but that was a clear misjudgement on my part.

Vettel’s lead grows again, thanks to this result. He is now 85 ahead of his team mate, with Hamilton 3 points behind Webber, Alonso 1 point behind Hamilton and Button 11 points behind Alonso.

There’s a bit of a break now, and the next race is the fantastic Spa on 28 August. I’ll do a pair of mid-season reviews to fill the gap, one about the season from a betting perspective, and another from a race perspective.

Morris Dancer

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