Sunday, 29 July 2012

Hungary: post-race analysis

The race was not all that exciting, but somehow turned out to be profitable. I only checked Betfair for the sake of certainty, but it turned out that the 3 hedge against Grosjean got matched, which I found really surprising. Anyway, for the race hedging was obviously better, and over the course of the weekend it was about one stake better than not doing so.

There was an incident even before the race started when Schumacher stalled his car on the grid. This meant we had a second formation lap whilst the veteran driver went to the pit lane, from whence he would join the back of the pack when the race actually started.

It was initially formation flying. Vettel tried to pass Grosjean but failed and this left him vulnerable to an early pass by Button. Somewhat surprisingly Grosjean managed to keep pace (with a 2.5 second gap, give or take) to Hamilton in this phase of the race.

Webber, who not so long ago had a tendency to leave the handbrake on when starting, had a great getaway and was up to around 7-8th after the first lap.

Things were looking quite good for both Grosjean and McLaren generally (running first and third as they were). However, after Button's pit stop he got stuck behind Senna for a prolonged period. Hungary is a bit rubbish in that overtaking is too difficult, and this allowed Vettel and Webber to easily pass Button during the pit stops.

After the first stops Grosjean was very fast, easily hauling in Hamilton, yet could not get past him. A few over-eager mistakes meant he dropped back slightly, and he never had a serious chance to take the net lead (he did lead, I think, for a time but only due to a difference in the number of pit stops).

However, Raikkonen was greatly aided by a strategic blinder his team played. The Finn found himself in clear air and used this to full advantage, putting in fast lap after fast lap. When he pitted and emerged he was (just) ahead of Grosjean. He was also able to close to Hamilton, but, like his French team mate, found himself entirely unable to actually pass him.

An item of interest was when Vettel, whilst stuck behind Button earlier in the race, got on the radio and basically stamped his foot and demanded the team did something to help him get past the Briton. It sounded rather petulant, to be honest (and I say that as someone who appreciates Vettel's tremendous talent). He ended up fourth.

Alonso will probably be relatively happy with damage limitation in fifth. Because Hamilton's so far back in the title race and Alonso beat Webber (eighth) this actually extends the Spaniard's lead to 40 points (over Webber, who just retains second place).

Worth giving a mention to Senna as well. The Brazilian got a pretty impressive seventh, although his team mate got a drive-through penalty for hitting a Force India and ended up 13th.

It was another day to forget for Schumacher. He must have retired from about seven of the 11 races to date. He stalled on the grid and then had a drive-through for speeding in the pit lane and then had to retire for uncertain reasons.

I've got to say that I think getting that hedge matched was really very lucky. Grosjean did have better speed, I feel, than Hamilton overall (as did Raikkonen) but his lack of experience and judgement led to small mistakes and I underestimated just how hard overtaking would be at Hungary. I'm pretty happy the race ended up green, even if it was a fluke.

Thanks to Messrs Nigel and Putney for each offering an early green line tip. Although neither came off it is worth pointing out that both were at long odds (30/1 and 8/1 respectively).

Going into the long mid-season break the drivers' standings are as follows:
Alonso 164
Webber 124
Vettel 122
Hamilton 117
Raikkonen 116

The long break to Spa will almost certainly see the pack shuffled a bit, but a 40 point lead with four closely matched competitors behind him is a pretty solid position for Alonso. He also has the strategic advantage of being the clear number one driver at Ferrari, whereas that isn't the way McLaren and Red Bull do things. (Well, Red Bull sometimes does, but Webber ignores them).

Alonso's barely over evens, which I think is about right (maybe a tiny bit short). Vettel's 4, Hamilton 7.4 and Webber 14.5, which is too long. Interestingly, Raikkonen's down to 16. If I hadn't already bet on the market quite a bit I'd probably go for Webber and maybe Hamilton, with the intention of hedging later.

I'll be writing a second mid-season review, focusing on the driver/team situations and how I think they might do in the latter half of 2012, between now and Spa. Not sure how long I'll leave it but it'll probably be in the next week or two. The next Grand Prix begins on 31 August.

Morris Dancer


Nigel said...

Unexciting, but interesting race.

I successfully hedged my Grosjean bet at 4, and am quite pleased with having put a bit more pre race on Hamilton for the championship.
It's right that Alonso is the favourite (although I'm not sure he should be just about evens), but I really don't understand the disparity between Vettel and Hamilton's odds - almost double.

Lotus have incredible race pace on the hot tracks. We'll have to see how they do at Spa, but I wouldn't write them off as championship contenders just yet.

Morris Dancer said...

Mr. Nigel, I must admit I haven't entirely lost hope of the Lotus team, especially regarding the Constructors'.

I think Alonso's short odds are for a few reasons:
40 point lead (obviously)
Team leader status
Multiple competitors close to one another but some way behind him
Very strong consistency this year

I don't think his odds are too far wrong.

Now you mention it that is a pretty enormous and puzzling disparity between two very good drivers in competitive cars with almost the same number of points.

Nigel said...

Even bigger is the disparity between Webber's and Vettel's odds.

One thing I wondered about in the race is whether Webber's 'differential problem' really did require him to three stop.
Cal me cynical, but I can't help a nagging doubt about the odds being fixed in the battle between the two Red Bull team mates.

Perhaps this particular disparity is not so puzzling ?

Morris Dancer said...

Maybe, but I think doing that at this stage would be foolish. If Webber thinks he's being treated as a number two driver that'll probably spur him on to win races (again).

I think Vettel is a cut above Webber, but psychologically the German seems less sturdy than in recent seasons. He's complained a lot and the radio hissyfit was a bit unseemly. Alonso and Hamilton seem the most content/confident right now.

Nigel said...

You're probably right, but this kind of spin from Christian Horner doesn't help:

"Mark had made good progress, but we felt it was a better option for him also to go to onto a three stop once he had cleared Alonso..."

Morris Dancer said...

That's not even spin, although it's better than McLaren's hilarious force majeur[sp] argument for why Hamilton should've kept pole in Spain.

The thing is he wasn't ahead of Vettel then, so if it were a cunning plan then it didn't gain the German anything but cost the team points.

Unless, of course, Webber would've been ahead of Vettel after the latter's late pit stop.

Nigel said...

Final thought - it occurs to me that Hamilton could probably have run his second stint on the soft tyres without much of a problem.
He ran 18 laps on used softs from the start with a full fuel load, so 22 laps with a much lighter load ought not to have been too challenging.
Not bad for one of the hottest tracks of the year.

That might have shown the McLaren's true race speed relative to the Lotuses (Loti ?).

Morris Dancer said...

That's hard to say. In P3 he was just 0.1s faster on softs than mediums (everyone else gained half a second) because he was so fast on the medium compound.

Whilst Hamilton will've known full well that the Hungaroring is a processional circuit I can't imagine he would not have preferred a more sizeable gap to the Loti (especially Grosjean, who could've passed him at the pit stops).

The circuit did provide a useful reminder that teams like Sauber (fast but in a poor qualifying position) find it very hard to do anything about it on such a track.

Nigel said...

But in qualifying, the softs were clearly faster for Hamilton.
It shows that McLaren are still suffering for bringing their big upgrade a race later than everyone else. They still haven't managed a full weekend of practice in good weather since then.

With the benefit of hindsight (or a bit more experience) it does look as though Grosjean should have won the race by leaving a gap to Hamilton and nursing his tyres for lengthier second stint with a charge at the end (au Raikkonen).
But equally, I think McLaren should have gambled on the softs. They got lucky this time, but can't afford too many more conservative strategy calls if they want to win the drivers championship (or plain idiotic strategy calls for Button if they want to win the constructors').

Morris Dancer said...

Incidentally, I've just put a small sum on Raikkonen at 16 (he's now down to 14.5). I still think Alonso's the clear favourite for various reasons, but the Finn could win.

Nigel said...

"I've just put a small sum on Raikkonen at 16 (he's now down to 14.5). I still think Alonso's the clear favourite"

Your thinking is scarily similar to mine.

Morris Dancer said...

Great minds think alike.

Then again, fools are never far apart.

It all depends how they stack up in the second half of the season. For Alonso to lose Ferrari has to lose the development war and there probably has to be a single winner from McLaren, Red Bull and Lotus.