Sunday, 13 November 2011

Abu Dhabi: post-race analysis

Since India:

Both Mercedes’ drivers are to extend their stay with the Silver Arrows. Rosberg’s signed a multi-year deal, with Schumacher extended his stay until the end of 2013. I really hope they can put together a race-winning car that can compete for the title in that time, so that we can see whether Rosberg can cut it at the sharp end and if Schumacher’s still got what it takes to win.

Update: read later that no decision’s been made by Schumacher, so the 2013 deal seems to be rumour, for now at least.

Qualifying summary:

I offered no tip on this. I was tempted by Hamilton, but thought he’d be 3.75. When I checked he was evens, and Vettel was around 2.4. I thought it not worth betting on Hamilton, and in the end Vettel won.

Barrichello didn’t even leave the pits in possibly his penultimate qualifying session and starts 23rd, ahead of his team mate Maldonado who suffers a 10 slot penalty for using 9 engines.

Force India were the best of the rest, after the customary top teams assumed the top 8 grid slots, with Toro Rosso slightly underperforming given their recent level of achievement.

There is, contrary to earlier reports, no change to the circuit itself. There had been plans to amend it to encourage overtaking but instead the organisers are relying upon the two DRS zones for this. Button and some others fear there’ll still be sod all overtaking. To make matters, possibly, worse the tyres seem to be lasting a long time (more like the Bridgestones and less like the excellent early season Pirellis that crumbled not unlikely certain types of cheese).

Race summary:

I rather nervously backed both McLarens, counting it as a single tip (effectively as McLaren to Win, but going for drivers as the odds were better) based upon very good qualifying pace. More confident was the tip for Schumacher to be top 6 at 2.5. He started 8th, makes up 2-3 places on average per race, and Massa has recently had a habit of buggering things up.

Lap 1 was damned exciting for one big reason: one of Vettel’s rear tyres deflated with immediate and permanent consequences. Although he managed to (eventually) get the car back to the pits his tyre had effectively become a flail that had wrecked any hope of continuing. The invincible Weltmeister was out.

Shortly thereafter Alonso, who maintains his habit of fantastic starts, passed not only Webber but also Button, becoming second to Hamilton’s first. It was to remain thus until the end of the race, with Hamilton untouchable and Alonso being the only man anywhere close (almost like Button has typically been to Vettel since the mid-season interval). I must say that it’s great to see Hamilton back to his old self, but I found Alonso’s performance even more impressive.

Button soon found himself with more problems, as his KERS stopped working. This affects not just the 11 seconds (or however long it is) of the power boost, but the brake bias, and resetting the system (which we learnt in the press conference he had to do multiple times) takes quite some time. His third place was fantastic given those circumstances.

Webber had a bad start (yes, again), but was also hampered by bad luck when he had an unusually long pit stop. He did gain some luck, however, as Massa had a spin later on that meant Webber was all but guaranteed fourth. Despite that mistake, Massa actually drove a pretty good race.

My confidence in Schumacher was misplaced (come the end of the season I might try checking to see if he’s usually bad at street/processional circuits). He tussled with Sutil’s Force India after being quickly repassed by Rosberg (whom he had overtaken on lap 1) and basically deserved the 7th he ended up with. Not his circuit.

The Force Indias had a good day with a double points finish, although di Resta was understandably grumpy about the one stop strategy he had adopted. Rounding out the top 10 was Kobayashi, who was followed by his Sauber team mate Perez.

It’s worth taking a moment to seriously criticise Maldonado, who behaved like a bloody clown on the track. He got a drive-through penalty for holding up a faster car under blue flags, and then got another one for the same offence! Some other drivers were also tardy in getting out of the way. I’m not a Maldonado fan, and haven’t been since the unforgivable and stupid side-swipe on Hamilton’s car in Spa this year.

So, this race was a lot more entertaining, but rather less tense, than last year’s four-way title decider. I think the DRS zones should be a shade shorter as both were a bit too easy for passing.


A green race, but only just. However, after the woeful Indian result I’m very happy with how things turned out. It’s true that Hamilton’s win may have been down more to luck than judgement (we’ll never know if he could have beaten Vettel) but that works both ways and is part of both betting and F1.

Next up is the season finale in Brazil, at the brilliant Interlagos circuit. It’s one of my favourites, and is not only a great racetrack but also often has tons of rain. The Brazilian Grand Prix is in a fortnight and both qualifying and the race start at 4pm.

The result in Abu Dhabi was almost perfect for my season bets, which will shortly come good (or not). Button’s highly likely to finish second, which is good for my Top 3 result but less so for my Winner Without Vettel bets. An Alonso win in Interlagos with Button 4th or lower would go down nicely.

Morris Dancer

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