Sunday, 7 October 2012

Japan: post-race analysis

Well, if a bet goes wrong then sometimes it's best if it's wrong immediately. On lap one Alonso got a puncture courtesy of Raikkonen (I bet Ferrari hate Lotus this season) and immediately crashed out. I haven't even bothered to check the hedge because it happened so early on there's no chance of it having been matched.

Mr. Putney's Button podium tip was agonisingly close, but Kobayashi's selfish refusal not to let the Briton past meant it didn't quite come off, and Mr. Nigel's 40% bet on Vettel for the win at 4.2 was the only green part of the weekend.

Lap one was exciting, but not in a good way. Webber was in the wars, and both Rosberg and Alonso crashed out. In an unremarkable turn of events, Grosjean was involved and got a drive-through penalty. One trembles at the thought of his car insurance premiums.

Massa had a blisteringly good start, as did Button, and Kobayashi moved up to second (I believe he passed Webber prior to the Aussie's entanglement with another driver).

Vettel decided to party like it was 2011, and was over the hills and far away for the entire race. His engineer repeatedly asked him (I paraphrase) to stop dicking about with fastest laps when he was ahead by 20s, which I believe the German ignored.

Lower down the field Perez had passed Hamilton, lost out in the pit stops and was trying to pass him again when he overcooked it and discovered that gravel traps are not always easy to escape from. Suzuka is a circuit where a small mistake can lead to a serious penalty very easily (as I said in the comments of the pre-race piece) and the Mexican will be kicking himself.

Raikkonen and Hamilton had a very close fight when the latter emerged from his final pit stop (then up to 5th) and the Briton just managed to retain the advantage. Given Hamilton cocked up his car setup to get such a result is something he must be fairly happy about.

Hulkenberg wasn't really mentioned too much but did very well to climb from 15th to 7th and Webber staged something of a recovery to get 9th. Ricciardo did well to hold 10th, with Schumacher less than a second behind, having started 23rd.

Button was 4th after the final pit stops and leaving his team mate behind, whilst catching Kobayashi very rapidly. However, the Japanese driver kept him out of the DRS window until the last lap and just managed to retain his podium spot, the best ever finish for a Japanese driver at the Japanese Grand Prix (and it might be Kobayashi's first ever podium). Just goes to show that whilst Perez is a talented chap the car the team provided him with is pretty tasty too.

Massa got his best result since… er… ages, frankly. He got 2nd, never really challenging Vettel but also never under threat himself once he got that place. It was a very impressive drive, especially given concerns that were raised regarding apparently bad blistering on Ferrari's tyres during long runs in practice. It also won't hurt his chances of retaining his seat in 2013 (I've backed this with a small sum at 4 with Ladbrokes).

However, there was nobody to touch Vettel today. Had Webber not suffered in the first lap he might have been able to provide a challenge, but I'm not so sure that would have been the case. Vettel had a perfect race, getting the full 25 points with his title rival getting none and those further back not even on the podium.

I have to say that it's unfortunate Alonso went out so soon, through no fault of his own, as it makes assessing whether or not the bet was sensible (let alone whether it would have come off) rather difficult. Massa had a great race, suggesting the Ferrari could have delivered Alonso a podium, but we'll never know. I do think the bet was a reasonable judgement on my part, with bad luck robbing us of the chance of finding out if it would've been green.

Mr. Putney came as close as possible to profitability without it happening (did you set up a hedge?) and Mr. Nigel got one bet wrong and one right. So, a generally red race, but kudos to Mr. Nigel for the tip on Vettel.

In related news, I'm very glad I hedged Alonso for the title at 1.56, although I wish I'd done it with more money.

Here are the title standings for the drivers:
Alonso 194
Vettel 190
Raikkonen 157
Hamilton 152

It'll be a big ask for Raikkonen or Hamilton to win from here, with just the five races left. They'll probably need failures for the top two, who now seem set to duel for the crown between themselves.

Alonso has been monstrously unlucky. Whilst everyone, save Raikkonen, has had a DNF neither of the Spaniard's were of his own making (I include the car in this). I agree with the consensus that Vettel is now the man to beat, but disagree that it's an absolutely done deal.

We saw that Hamilton buggered up his setup and Button qualified in 3rd but had a grid penalty. Otherwise, the McLarens could've been far further up the field. Similarly, Massa had a staggeringly good race, going from 11th to 2nd, suggesting the Ferrari was actually pretty good and that Alonso could've also made the podium.

It won't be the case at every race for Vettel that his rivals get taken out in lap 1 or suffer penalties and cockups in qualifying. It's also worth mentioning that Japan is a track he loves and is well-suited to, as he's had 4/4 poles and 3/4 wins here in recent years.

However, I do think it's now down to him and Alonso.

Annoyingly, McLaren appear to have squandered the massive speed advantage they had for about 5 races, during which time they could've and should've overhauled Red Bull in the Constructors' title race. They could still do it, but I now think Red Bull may retain this (which would annoy me as I bet against them):

Red Bull 324
McLaren 283
Ferrari 263

Korea is just next week, and we'll even have fancy moving pictures to watch. Whilst not a Legard fan, I've got to say that radio coverage was improved greatly by the presence of Sam Bird, Mercedes' test driver.

I think that Korea might be a track where hedging the pole-sitter to lead lap 1 *might* make sense. I'll check my old articles before committing to that, however.

Let's hope Korea is more exciting and profitable than Suzuka.

Morris Dancer


Anonymous said...

No Morris, no hedge on my Button Podium bet, I thought Christmas had come early when Jenson found himself elevated from 8th on the grid to 3rd within seconds of the start of the race, a position he seemed certain of being able to maintain or even improve upon.
I listened to a somewhat boring race on steam-powered Radio 5 Live (I wasn't impressed impressed, but at least they seem to have dispensed with that commentator with a very limited knowledge of English, coupled with a most annoying accent ..... Haime someone or other?).

I still don't understand how first Kobayashi and then Massa managed to overtake him - both as a result of pit stops iirc.

My down bet on Button's points for the season is still in reasonable shape, although his recent succesess suggest he'll finish on around 190 points resulting in a profit of around £400 which is around half what seemed in prospect 5 or 6 races ago.

Oh well, mustn't grumble.

Peter from Putney.

Morris Dancer said...

Jaime Alguersuari. He'll not be at Korea or the race after that as he's training to get fit for F1 (reckoned to have a Sauber drive).

Easy to spot profitable moves with hindsight. I very briefly looked at a Vettel hat trick at 6 with Ladbrokes, but immediately dismissed the idea.

Bit disappointing to have two unprofitable weekends in a row, but at least this bet went wrong for what can only be considered bad luck.

Nigel said...

I rather liked Alguersuari - slight accent indeed, but capable of providing useful insight, and teamed up well with James Allen.

Everyone is now going to assume Vettel is favorite for the next race, which may throw up some profitable opportunities.

Morris Dancer said...

Alguersuari can offer useful insights and observations, but he's also often unwilling to get off the fence. He and Allen are a decent team, but Bird was good to listen to (although Legard remains bloody irritating).

Gary Anderson, at the end the highlights, reckoned Red Bull are now using the rear wing to channel airflow down to the diffuser to enhance rear end grip. Not sure how easy that will be to copy, but I'd guess it won't be all that hard. However, doing it in time for Korea would probably be impossible, unless it were already in the pipeline.

Nigel said...

Interesting watching the highlights.

The Ferrari's probably not quite as fast as we thought - Massa benefitted greatly from the first lap chaos, gaining a lot of places, and starting on new tyres enabled him to run a couple laps longer before his first stop, while Button and Kobyashi were held up in traffic after they pitted.
Running on slightly newer tyres thereafter and clear of traffic, he was always going to be faster than them.

Don't know what was going on with Hamilton's car. He claimed to hear a thud during the race, after which the handling improved (along with his speed). Very odd.
Button's new gearbox had problems, and it was inexplicable that he didn't go out on softs for the final stint. That cost Mr P. his bet.
McLaren's race management was not impressive this weekend (although their pit crew was).

Using DRS to blow the beam wing is neat - and explains why Red Bull were dominant in qualifying. It ought to be pretty simple to implement - though not by next weekend. Possibly won't help as much in Korea anyway.

Final thought - didn't realise Kobyashi was quite so short until he appeared on the podium...

Morris Dancer said...

Yeah, Korea's more slow corners and long straights, whereas Suzuka's full of high speed corners.

McLaren often cockup strategy, it seems.

On Massa, whilst I can't disagree with your points it's worth adding another: Alonso is faster than Massa. If he'd gotten just behind his team mate he would've been gifted an extra place, and if he were ahead Massa would've been a rear gunner.

Nigel said...

Gary Anderson's race report is up (probably the most informed of all):

Morris Dancer said...

Gary Anderson's maybe the only positive change to BBC coverage this year. He knows his beans, and it shows.