No bets offered for this, as P3 was from 3am to 4am and I didn’t get up to watch it and bet.
The first two practice sessions were notable for a few reasons. Firstly, Vettel outpaced Webber twice, suggesting he’ll get pole without serious challenge. Secondly, Button (who has been driving very well of late) beat Hamilton twice, and, last and probably least, the Williams’ drivers took three out of four opportunities to finish a session due to crashing or mechanical failure.
Qualifying was defined by the reluctance of the teams to use up their tyres. They’re all afraid of significant tyre wear, which may hamper some teams (Mercedes, alas) but help others (Ferrari).
Q1 was notable for Rosberg failing to get out at all and therefore starting 23rd. Button very narrowly missed out on pole to Vettel, and I feel Hamilton may have taken it had he not fallen asleep during his out-lap and missed the boat. They line up Vettel, Button, Hamilton, Massa, Alonso, Webber, Schumacher, Senna, Petrov and Kobayashi.
I’d offered an early tip (after P2, pre-P3) on Schumacher to get a top 6 place at 2.75, with Ladbrokes. Rosberg going out in Q1 was handy, but high tyre wear was not. I also offered what I consider a single tip for Button or Hamilton to win (I avoided the McLaren to win bet because the odds were less favourable and advocated splitting a single stake to give equal profits for either McLaren driver to win) at 4.9 and 5.9 respectively, hedges at 1.4 each. Because of the nature of the bet I’m considering the Button-Hamilton bet to be a single tip rather than two.
At the start Vettel decided to emulate Herr Schumacher and introduced Button’s tyres to the grass as he pushed him wide, enabling Hamilton to nab second. Surprisingly, the Ferraris did not start as well as we’ve grown used to, and Schumacher made up a single place, largely due to Kobayashi having a dire start.
The first few laps were displeasing, as the top cars all seemed to develop a few seconds between themselves, and I was worried it would turn into a procession with sizeable gaps between frontrunners. Happily, I was wronger than the thirteenth Duke of Wrongcaster.
Hamilton suffered a puncture, freeing Button into second and necessitating an earlier than desired pit stop. Shortly thereafter Button made his tyres last better than Vettel, who pitted first, and managed to reduce the gap to the World Champion Elect during the initial pit stops.
As has become customary on these occasions Hamilton and Massa were scrapping over a place and there was contact. It was nothing serious, but a pointy bit of carbon fibre littered the track and, some laps later, prompted a safety car to appear.
After another pit stop Button emerged ahead of Vettel, who had suffered bad traffic when he rejoined the track. All the top chaps except Schumacher had pitted twice when the safety car came out, and the wily old German ducked into the pits and got almost a free stop.
Button seriously backed up the pack when the safety car came in and then bolted, adding a healthy half second to his advantage over Vettel. By the time (2 laps later, as per the start) DRS was re-enabled he had over a second lead.
Then came the third and final stops. As Schumacher pitted last he led the Grand Prix whilst the others pitted, and his team-mate helpfully held up Massa long enough for the necessary lead to be built. Schumacher pitted and came out in 6th, ahead of his former Ferrari team-mate. Although the gap was always small fresher tyres and the mighty Mercedes top speed meant Schumacher held onto the place until the end.
At the front, meanwhile, Alonso had come out ahead of Vettel. For many laps the German, not content with a mere third place, sought to pass the Spaniard. However, traffic issues (provoking a shaken fist of disgust from Vettel) put paid to any serious hopes of getting second. Worryingly, Alonso then started closing on Button, who benefited from the Ferrari and Red Bull tussle.
Happily, the Briton decided he wanted to win after all, sped up a little bit and got the victory by a small margin.
I’d put the Button-Hamilton tip down to sound judgement, and the Schumacher one down to pure luck.
After some lacklustre results since the mid-season interval I can’t complain about getting two from two. That said, I did consider backing Alonso for a podium at 2.7 but thought the Ferrari incapable of such a feat versus the McLarens and Vettel.
Regarding my longer term bets (Button top 3 and Alonso/Hamilton to finish 2nd) this result is pretty helpful. I’m green either way due to cautious hedging, but right now the former seems quite likely and the second is not yet impossible.
The race was interesting for a few reasons, one of which was the divergence within teams between drivers. Button, Alonso and Vettel had good races, but Webber never threatened a podium, Hamilton was clearly inferior to Button, and Massa was well off the pace.
Now that the title race is over it’s worth saying that it has not been the most thrilling, especially in the wake of the fantastic 2010 season. Vettel has crushed his opposition with ruthless ease.
However, individually, the races have been almost uniformly excellent. Yes, Valencia was as much fun as a distressing bowel movement and Singapore was less than super, but we’ve also had some truly epic races. China was thrilling and Canada was perhaps the finest race I can recall seeing, with the truly glorious (and profitable) victory for Button.
Bit early for 2012 season thoughts, although I would say that Alonso may be best placed to challenge Vettel as he enjoys number 1 status at a rival team.
Betting-wise, it was better not to hedge. Assuming £10 stakes you would be a whole £4 better off.
The next race is Korea in just one week’s time. I hope it isn’t quite as soggy as last year.