Saturday, 22 September 2012

Singapore: pre-qualifying

Between Monza and Singapore Professor Sid Watkins, who was instrumental in making F1 immensely safer than it had been, passed away. He was 84, and during his long involvement in the sport saved the lives of numerous drivers including Barrichello and Hakkinen.

The likes of Maldonado and Grosjean should reflect upon the fact that the sport can never be 100% safe, and part of reducing risk of death or serious injury is having respect for the danger of driving and for oneself/other drivers.

In other off-track news, Jake Humphrey, the BBC's main presenter since the organisation got the rights from ITV, is leaving at the end of this year. Can't blame him, given the despicable and stupid decisions made by BBC executives. We can only hope that Sky and BBC F1 audiences continue to dwindle so that sponsors put pressure on for full free-to-air coverage (as always happened before Judas Iscariot became the BBC's F1 decision-maker) to maximise exposure.

In addition, Lotus have updated their rear wing, but the upgrade is not the swanky DRS expected in Japan:

Mercedes are going to try running a new exhaust system, which, if it works, should decrease their tyre-shredding significantly. Likewise, Ferrari and the other big beasts are all bringing updates so that, and the very different nature of Singapore to Spa and Monza, may well se McLaren's dominance end.

I've just (on the 10th) had a quick check of what happened last year, and the grid/result bear an even closer resemblance to one another than I'd expected. The top five were Vettel, Webber, Button, Alonso and Hamilton at the end of the race, with the top five at the start being Vettel, Webber, Button, Hamilton and Alonso. So, second and third swapped, as did fourth and fifth, and that was the limit of the movement.

The only real mover was Di Resta, who went from tenth to sixth and the only man who started in the top 10 and did not finish there was Schumacher (who retired from the race). Di Resta did well by qualifying on the harder (soft) tyre and doing one fewer stop (2 rather than 3) compared to most others. Two to three stops are expected this year.

Incidentally, in the four recent races held in Singapore every single one has seen the safety car make an appearance.

With temperatures of over 30C and a very long race (typically close to 2 hours) the alternators of the Renault cars (Red Bull and Lotus) must be a concern. Renault believe they've got this sorted, but we'll find out this weekend. The tyres for the race are supersoft and soft.

In P1 was slightly soggy, so early times were set on intermediate tyres, but a threatening thunderstorm never arrived and the final times were set on the soft tyres. Vettel was fastest, less than half a tenth ahead of Hamilton. Button and Alonso were about nine-tenths down the road, followed by Maldonado, Webber and Hulkenberg. Di Resta, Ricciardo and Perez round out the top 10.

Incidentally, during P1 James Allen asserted that his sources believe Ferrari are looking for a one year stopgap replacement for 2013, replacing Massa with someone to keep the seat warm until Vettel can take it in 2014. That's why Kovalainen was equal favourite with Massa at 4 to get the seat. I would've thought that Hulkenberg, Di Resta or Kobayashi might be better bets myself.

In P2 we saw that whilst Lotus lack top end qualifying pace their long runs (well, Raikkonen's) were practically the same as McLaren. So, cunning strategy could see them improve. Likewise, Ferrari race pace was good and Vettel was highly consistent on his high fuel run. Force India also appear to be punching above their weight.

P2 was entirely free of rain and saw good running on both compounds. The supersoft does seem to have more than one fast lap in it for qualifying. The top 10 were: Vettel, Button, Alonso, Webber, Hamilton, Di Resta, Hulkenberg, Rosberg, Massa and Grosjean.

Although not a green line tip, Mr. Nigel cunningly put a little on Vettel at 9 for the win before the weekend got underway. As of now, that looks rather clever. Every Singapore race (3/4) has been won from pole except for the dodgy one involving Piquet Junior crashing.

Unfortunately P3 was red flagged with 2 minutes to go after Petrov cocked up, broke his suspension and came to a halt in the pit entry. However, the likeliest frontrunners did get to put in qualifying simulation runs. Vettel was three-tenths ahead of Hamilton, who was followed by Alonso. Hulkenberg put in a very strong lap for fourth, and was a teensy bit ahead of Raikkonen. Massa was sixth and followed by Di Resta, Rosberg, Senna and Schumacher.

The weather forecasts indicate that qualifying should be entirely dry.

It's a Vettel-Hamilton duel for pole, but I think 1.78 is too short for Vettel (who is likeliest to get it). I've backed Hulkenberg to be top 3 at around 14, but there isn't enough there for it to count as a tip (hedged at 2.14).

I've backed Vettel for the treble (pole, winner, fastest lap) at 12.5. If he gets pole then his odds for the win should be below evens, at which point I'll hedge. He's just 3.5 for the pole/winner double, and he does love collecting statistical records (including fast laps).

I was tempted by Senna to be in Q3 but there wasn't much money there and I think he was flattered by a few drivers, such as Webber, being unable to get in a hot run in P3. He may edge it, but we'll see.

So, the one tip: Vettel for the treble at 12.5, to be hedged after qualifying *if* he gets pole (for the record, this'll count as a qualifying tip).

Morris Dancer


Nigel said...

Nice (& smart) bet, but the market's too thin for many to follow it I think.

I laid my Vettel bet a bit early (but still profitable), and put some cash on Hamilton for qual/winner double.

Hamilton had a bit of traffic in P3, so it could be a bit closer between him & Vettel. Nice to see that I was right about the Red Bull competitiveness, but I'm still slightly surprised by just how quick Vettel looks.

Nigel said...

Maldonado on the front row ....

Starting to worry about my quali-winner double.

Nigel said...

Whitmarsh looking pretty miserable for a man whose driver just took pole.

Morris Dancer said...


Disappointed, but also slightly surprised that Vettel wasn't closer. I'll leave it an hour or so before checking the markets. Mercedes might do alright, but I share your concern regarding Maldonado and Hamilton.

Also worth checking the weather forecast.

Nigel said...

The other thing which bothers me is Hamilton using two sets of options in Q3. I was quite annoyed when I saw him go out for the second time.

Any idea who in the top ten has a clean set of options left ?

Am on Hamilton at 5 - laying now at 1.78... just in case.

Anonymous said...

What has this got to do with politics?

Surely there are hundreds of F1 blogs better suited toi this blether?

Morris Dancer said...

Pretty sure both Mercedes have lots of options (as it were). Cunning bet and hedge, Mr. Nigel.

I think the Di Resta might've used just one set in Q3, but he probably used a set in Q2 as well.

Nigel said...

Alonso ?

Morris Dancer said...

Hmm. Not sure.

The thing is, fresh tyres need to be coupled with clear air. Otherwise they'll not just be wasted but the chap with them on will lose time, so it might be tricky to use such a strategy. The Mercedes may have the advantage of being out of step with the rest of the top 10 by going deeper into the race, which should give them some clear air after the first (earlier) pit stops and then afterwards when they'll slot in behind the early stoppers but ahead of everyone else on a similar strategy.

Of course, that also requires their car not to eat tyres.