Sunday, 2 September 2012

Belgium: post-race analysis

An eventful and entertaining race, though I can't help but feel a shade disappointed as a spectator. Anyway, the race was green (and very slightly greener if you followed the identical but earlier and slightly longer Button tip from Nigel rather than the tardy one by myself). With hedging, the weekend as a whole was red to the tune of 12 pence (assuming, as always, £10 stakes) or green for a few pounds. So, not very exciting either way.

The major story of the race happened in the first 20 seconds. Maldonado got a suspiciously fast start, but the real incident of importance was Grosjean stupidly heading into Hamilton (who had nowhere to go), causing a very significant crash. Grosjean and Tweety-pie*  were out, as was Alonso. The championship leader saw his very long run of points finishes come to an end and was fortunate not to sustain a nasty injury. Both Saubers were also caught up in the incident. Perez was out straight away, and though Kobayashi managed to struggle on his car did sustain damage and he was unable to make any headway.

Maldonado survived a crash that had nothing to do with him, only to break his front wing a few laps later and fail to finish. He still hasn't scored a point since his win.

At the front it was quite simple. Button slaughtered everyone, with ease, and won by miles and miles. Not since the Canadian Grand Prix last year has he appeared so at home in a McLaren, although this win did lack the drama of the other.

There was, especially in the first half of the race, a lot of overtaking for podium positions and further down the field trains did develop (typically behind Mercedes' drivers). However, the real deciding factor in the race wasn't on-track passing but strategy and tyre management. It may be no coincidence that Button and Vettel, two men very skilled at looking after their tyres, did so well.

The misfortune for others was an opportunity for Force India who suddenly found both their cars at the sharp end. Di Resta lost his KERS and gradually slid down the order to 10th but Hulkenberg managed to finish in 4th. Considering the team's been a bit of a poor relation in the midfield battle this great result will really boost their confidence.

Raikkonen's tyres weren't holding up as well as might be expected, and whilst the Lotus was fast it was never really in contention for the win. However, the fact that Alonso failed to finish and the Finn got 3rd is a double bonus for his title prospects.

If Button hadn't smote the field so comprehensively Vettel might've been driver of the day. He started 11th, lost places in the crash and fought his way through the field to a clear 2nd. Along with Button he was probably the only chap who made a one stop really work (the Mercedes and Senna tried and failed to make the strategy work). The same medium-hard combination will be used in Monza in a week's time.

Further down the field Massa got a handy 5th, which does make me wonder where Alonso would've come. Webber got 6th, and Schumacher 7th. For a time the German seemed in a position to compete for a podium but his car wasn't quite good enough and the effort at a one stopper didn’t work.

Toro Rosso will be delighted to have a double points finish, in 8th and 9th, for Vergne and Ricciardo respectively.

*On Tweety-pie: apparently Hamilton's been sending out lots of tweets he shouldn't, and these have been promptly deleted. According to Coulthard one of those tweets included telemetry of his and Button's qualifying laps which is confidential information. I'm also unconvinced that that's clever behaviour whilst contract renegotiations are ongoing.

I do think we shouldn't get too carried away based on Spa. The thing is that Friday's rainfall meant lots of new pieces couldn't be tested properly and there was very limited scope to do setup for the race and qualifying. Hopefully Monza will be dry and we'll get a clearer read of things there.

However, it does seem clear that Ferrari and Red Bull may be lagging somewhat (in qualifying at least), and that Sauber have come out all guns blazing. But for terrible luck Sauber could have gotten one or possibly two podiums (podia?). Hulkenberg's grasping of opportunity must give heart to himself and his team, and I don't doubt that Vettel will be delighted to not only climb from 11th to 2nd but to do so ahead of all of his title rivals.

Here's how the drivers' title race stacks up:
Alonso 164
Vettel 140
Webber 132
Raikkonen 131
Hamilton 117
Button 101

And the Constructors':
Red Bull 272
McLaren 218
Lotus 207

I did say beforehand that I'd laid Red Bull for the Constructors', and even though they extended their lead by a point today I'm pretty comfortable with that. The pace in qualifying seemed off (may be due to lack of setup time but we'll find that out later) and whilst that didn't cost them much today (because Spa enables overtaking and half the top 10 failed to finish) that won't be the case at places like Singapore and Yas Marina.

The drivers' is harder to forecast because we don't know how Alonso and Hamilton would've done in the race. Could Button pull himself back into contention? Well, if he keeps driving like that, yes, but I'd be surprised if he did. It's possible, but not probable, I think.

After one great classic circuit, we've got another in just a week. We're off to Monza next weekend.

Morris Dancer


Nigel said...

Well I can't see Hamilton using the high downforce setup at Monza...

Back to back with Spa means little time for development. The Lotus might run better on the hotter track, and it's possible they'll be using their DDRS. if they are going to use it at all, then we'll se it there.
(Will Grosjean get a one race ban ? Niki Lauda was suggesting two...)

Saubers might also be in the mix again.

It's going to be a crucial race, and I think Red Bull and the Ferrari might struggle a bit. Raikkonen/Hamilton/Button could steal a load of points if the Saubers get ahead of Alonso and the Bulls.

Morris Dancer said...

Didn't Vettel have high downforce though?

Nobody made Hamilton go for the old wing either, it was his own choice.

Lotus might also benefit from P1 and P2 (if dry) for long runs. After Raikkonen tumbled from 2nd to 14th they've become a lot better at using practice to get their car well-set for the race, but couldn't do that in Spa.

Be interesting to see if Grosjean gets banned.

I hope that the Saubers can enjoy a nicer race next weekend. After that it's Singapore, where the starting grid and final result will probably bear a striking resemblance to one another.

Congrats on your tip, incidentally.

Morris Dancer said...

Grosjean's got a 1 race suspension:

Nigel said...

Grosjean and Maldonado (multiple penalties...) both out of the way.
Hopefully no unpleasant first lap surprises like today.

Vettel did indeed have a high downforce setting, but I still get the impression that McLaren have stolen a march on Red Bull.

A podium with the two McLarens and Raikkonen would make for an interesting championship position. Better still if the Saubers could get in front of Alonso.

Anonymous said...

Laura Robson loses in straight sets - does this make up for my losing bet on Rosberg on your Green Line tally?

Thought not.

Peter from Putney.

Morris Dancer said...

D'Ambrosio might make a mistake (rather more understandable for a first start) and Maldonado could still bugger up the middle/back of the grid.

I also concur that McLaren is over the hills and far away. However, keeping Button comfortable may be tricky at varying circuits and Hamilton needs to get his head together and sort out his wing.

Interestingly, Alonso was third by the time of the crash. Given what happened with Hulkenberg, I think he might well have ended up on the podium and, if not, 4th. The Ferrari might be too slow but their driver certainly isn't.

Mr. Putney, it covers my loss on the title bet but I play tennis with smaller stakes than F1.

Nigel said...

D'Ambrosio might be the mistake.

According to James Allen, they ought to give the drive to his commentary partner Alguersuari :"He’s much faster than D”Ambrosio, the reserve driver..."

Lotus won't be using their DDRS at Monza. They don't think there will be sufficient benefit -
-which surprised me initially, but when you think about it, makes sense.
It's going to be of most use on circuits where there slow/med corners and fast straights, rather than fast everything.

Time to bet on the race now, rather than Saturday ?
I'm a bit chary of betting so early, having been bitten a couple of times when weather/gearboxes etc. made a nonsense of my calculations, but for Monza ?

Nigel said...


"...where there ARE slow/med corners..."

Morris Dancer said...

I fear this DDRS is becoming Lotus' deficit reduction plan (cf Labour's 2010 GE campaign), which keeps getting mentioned but actually never arrives.

I'd be loathe to bet so early. If I did, I'd be looking at Raikkonen and Perez for a podium, probably.

Nigel said...

Well, so long as it doesn't rain in Singapore throughout practice (not a foregone conclusion), they'll run it.

I've just put a few quid on Hamilton. The podium market hasn't really got going yet.

Morris Dancer said...

Be interesting to see if Lotus can get their car sorted. Raikkonen sounded unhappy with it, but that might just be because lack of setup time meant it wasn't quite right.

Despite that, his race was reasonably good.

Nigel said...

Trouble is, it's difficult to say whether a sorted Lotus will be faster than (say) Vettel's sorted Red Bull.
And Alonso could be quick, too.

I still think McLaren is the smart bet for Monza. They won in Canada (which is similar-ish), and they're now the first team to win two races back to back.

...Keeping an eye on Button's odds, as well.

Morris Dancer said...

Button also got second in the antepenultimate race, so that's three strong performances in a row (after the major update arrived, of course).

Hard to say how much the wing and setup cost Hamilton. Last year Button kicked everyone's arse save Vettel's in the latter half of the season, so he might beat Hamilton in Monza as well.

Morris Dancer said...

No Lotus DDRS until Suzuka:

Nigel said...

Will be interesting to watch around 130R....

Nigel said...

If they run it.
I'm beginning to wonder if it's a con to try make their competitors waste development resources.

Morris Dancer said...

Ha, that would be cunning and sly.

It would explain why they've had it but not used it in anger for three Grands Prix.

Considering slightly hedging my Alonso title bet at about 2.4. Finding it hard to say how he'll do. I think he's behind the McLarens now, but the McLarens are ahead of his closest rival, so he could still end up slipping through the middle.

Nigel said...

"Considering slightly hedging my Alonso title bet at about 2.4"

I think those are fairish odds at the moment, though that could easily change after Monza.
I'm leaving my drivers' championship bet alone for now, as I'm green for all of the possible six contenders (backing & laying Hamilton over the last couple of races worked out nicely - just had to react fast - and finally getting green on Button at 40/1 wasn't expensive).
None of the odds are now far enough out of whack for me to lean in a particular direction.

I put a half bet on Button as well, for Monza, at 7.2 (I think McLaren should win there).

Nigel said...

Latest on DDRS is that Lotus could have benefited significantly at Monza, but getting tuned for the circuit would have been too much work.

That seems to be the trouble with the system. It's potentially very useful, but as a passive fluidic device it needs tuning exactly to each circuit's characteristics, and they simply haven't had enough testing.

Morris Dancer said...

McLaren could do well again, but with time for testing I imagine Sauber, Red Bull, Alonso and Lotus could provide a sterner test.

Mind you, it'd be harder for them to offer a weaker test to Button.

Nigel said...

Button looks good value at 7.4 on Betfair this morning (considering the Hamilton shenanigans, which might disrupt his side of the garage this weekend).

Had another nibble.

Morris Dancer said...

I'm sticking with my approach of waiting for P3, but if I did bet early that would be tempting.

Incidentally, d'you want the 7.4 tip to count for the green line? I'll clarify in the pre-qualifying piece whether I'll include early tips in the future.