Sunday, 23 September 2012

Singapore: post-race analysis

Well, the race was pretty tedious, and generally unprofitable too. I do believe Maldonado had the pace and car to get a podium, but a mistake on a first lap corner allowed Vettel through, which slowed Maldonado down enough so Button passed as well. Late on Maldonado was third, but stupid strategy meant a podium was off the cards and his car failed anyway. The hedge, alas, was not matched.

Green-line tips: Hamilton for a fastest lap could've come off had his car lasted the distance, so that was unfortunate. Hulkenberg, rather unpredictably, got the fastest lap, so the Alonso tip also didn't come off.

Early tip by Nigel: the 9 on Vettel to win was a cracking bet. After qualifying it looked a bit ropier, but a good start and Hamilton's car dying saw it come good.

I'm sure I wasn't alone thinking Maldonado would have either crash or glory, but his start was just alright. However, one of the very first corners he buggered up and got passed twice, putting him fourth.

The first lap was also notable for Massa getting a puncture and pitting immediately. Given he started 13th, that was not an auspicious start.

There was quite a bit of passing during the race, which was nevertheless tedious as it was generally people with significantly faster cars or on brand new tyres against those with slower cars and/or older tyres.

Hamilton looked to have the race sewn up. He was clearly the fastest early on and although he was getting caught by Button (then third, behind Vettel) towards the end of the initial stint he still had a comfortable gap and led after the first pit stops.

However, McLaren seems to have shed reliability just at the moment it's achieved a clear pace advantage. As Button's car died in Monza so did Hamilton's expire in Singapore. Vettel was gifted the lead which he never relinquished, and Button likewise held station in second.

The contest for third was more intriguing. Maldonado led Alonso, but after the second stops the Venezuelan went to supersoft tyres, which immediately proved foolish as the safety car (predictably) emerged. Maldonado pitted again and went down to 10th, but even had that not occurred his strategy (making another stop essential) and a reliability failure meant he had no hope of achieving 3rd, alas. For once, his retirement was due entirely to misfortune.

Schumacher's brakes went on strike and his car thundered into the back of Vergne's Toro Rosso (I think he was in a points position at the time). The safety car came out again and the race became limited by time rather than laps (for those wondering, an uninterrupted race is limited to 2 hours, and a total race, including red flag breaks, to 4).

Senna was unlucky not to score. I think he had a car problem which ultimately led to his retirement. Massa did tremendously well to get from last (as he was after lap 1 due to the puncture and pit stop) to 8th at the flag. I might even give him driver of the day.

It's also worth mentioning that the ropey Renault alternator worked very well in the prolonged heat and humidity.

So, betting-wise this is the worst weekend of the season to date, with two bets that failed by any measure. I'm not sure how I feel about it. Not happy, obviously, but the Vettel for pole (and win/fastest lap) made sense based on the available information and Maldonado definitely had the pace for a podium. They could be argued to be a bit unlucky, but Hamilton was about 4 in a two horse race for pole, so maybe I should've gone for that. I've also had some very lucky results before this weekend, so I can't complain too much.

That said, it was a tedious and unprofitable two hours and I'm very glad we're off to a proper circuit (Suzuka) in a fortnight. Korea is just a week later.

Congratulations to Nigel for a very early and highly profitable bet on Vettel to win at 9.

So, how is the title race shaping up?

Alonso 194
Vettel 165
Raikkonen 149
Hamilton 142

Webber and Button are on 133 and 119 respectively, but I don't think they're still in it. Unless Alonso has one or more DNFs and his three closest rivals likewise.

The biggest winner today was Alonso. Yes, Vettel took a big bite out of his lead, but Hamilton is the man with the fastest car right now, and he failed to score a single point. The lead over Hamilton is now 52 points, more than two race wins. Raikkonen's Lotus will, probably, have its rear wing device finally installed at Suzuka. If that works very well it could bolster his hopes of a maiden victory.

Vettel is nearest, just 29 points behind (still more than a race win, though). The next few races will determine whether he'll stay in the hunt. He needs to beat Alonso, but also Hamilton, and I'm not sure that the Red Bull is a match for McLaren. There's also the potential for Lotus' upgrade to change the game.

Alonso's still doing well, but if his Ferrari doesn't gain some relative pace and maintain its reliability he could yet lose. He has a cushion, but it is quite thin and not as comfortable as he might like.

Red Bull 298
McLaren 261

This is simple: if McLaren can get both cars to the end of all (or nearly all) of the remaining six races I think they'll take this. The poor reliability of recent races is concerning, though. It could scupper both their title hopes, and help Red Bull in both as well.

Morris Dancer


Nigel said...

Nice to make some cash, but apart from that I found it a bit disappointing too.

A Hamilton win would have kept the title race more interestingly poised. As it is, I'm skeptical about Vettel's chances, as I don't think Red Bull will have the pace in coming races and Hamilton will need a slightly improbable number of wins now to beat Alonso.

Anonymous said...

Morris is right - it was a dull, tedious race, certainly not helped by the two safety car stints - can anyone explain why its first appearance lasted so long, i.e around 12-14 minutes, which seemed totally unnecessary as the offending car was cleared in less than half that time and the cameras kept showing the scene where no activity was taking place - but for this the race would have run its full 61 lap course.
Apart from the dubious attraction of it being a night race, plus the dramatic Singapore skyline, the race track itself seems to have little to commend it.
Two losing bets for me but I feel I was a tad unlucky since had Hamilton finished the race he was probably the favourite to drive the fastest lap.
I wonder if his failure today will hasten the end of his time with McLaren ..... the answer is probably probably.

Peter from Putney

Morris Dancer said...

An Alonso DNF could reignite Hamilton's hopes.

I'm not sure, but commentary suggested the prolonged first period was to allow out-of-sequence lapped cars to pass the safety car and approach the back of the grid.

The track is tedious as hell. It's Monaco without the history.

On the title: Alonso remains in pole position. I share Nigel's view that Vettel probably will lack the pace to beat Hamilton and Alonso in later races but reliability failures, crashes and the like could yet see a twist. As it is, I'm not planning to hedge any bets.

It's always irksome when bad luck means a bet either fails for certain or might've come off but you'll never find out.