My cunning plan to hope for dry weather and then back No Safety Car at around 2.4 was dealt a blow when two wise fellows form the main site (one personally in Malaysia and the other with friends there) warned me that a tropical storm was highly probable. Unfortunately the weather forecasts this morning agree there’s a pretty high chance of rainfall, so I’m not betting on the safety car either way.
Q3 was more or less as expected, with the three backmarker teams (HRT, Marussia and Caterham) all going out, along with Toro Rosso’s Vergne.
Q2 was very tight, with the seven eliminated separated by just half a second. Slightly surprisingly both Williams were out, and (less surprisingly) so was Massa. Both Force Indias, Kobayashi and Ricciardo also failed to reach Q1.
Q1 was very exciting. Hamilton got another stellar lap, though I think the set he achieved it on was subsequently flat-spotted (this can be very minor or cause vibrations so bad [as happened to Vergne] that a change is needed). Button came second, again, and Methuselah Schumacher was third. Webber did well to get fourth, although we’ll have to wait and see whether he’ll have one of his rubbish starts again. Raikkonen had the 5th fastest time, but will start 5 grid slots further down due to his gearbox change. Vettel is next, and he’s been quite cunning (possibly). Instead of trying to beat the McLarens on the faster but less durable medium compound he went for the hard tyre. More on this below. Then came Grosjean and Rosberg, again out-qualified by his team mate, followed by Alonso and Perez.
In Australia the prime (in that case the medium) tyre was clearly superior. Any speed loss was fairly small but the increased durability was far more important. Vettel is clearly reckoning on this being likewise in Malaysia, and a number of radio transmissions complaining of tyres going off would seem to back this up. However, it’s worth pointing out that this is not a certainty.
It might be rainy at the start. If so, everyone will be on intermediates or wets (I hope we don’t have a safety car start). Secondly, softer tyres start better, and everyone around Vettel will be on the medium (softer/option) tyre.
My own feeling is that it’s probably a good idea for Vettel.
Mr. Putney’s top 6 bet on Grosjean looks like it might well come off, if he has a reasonable start.
It’s a very exciting but rather difficult grid off of which to make predictions, coupled with the possibility (but not almost certainty) of precipitation. Vettel’s tyre choice in Q3 will also make the race more exciting, but at the same time more unpredictable.
In the end, I decided to back Button for the win at 3.35, with a hedge set up at 1.4. I was tempted by quite a few other potential bets but it’s a difficult race to predict so I just went for the single bet.