Saturday, 3 November 2012

Abu Dhabi: pre-qualifying

Some driver market news: as was very widely expected, Hulkenberg's gone from Force India to Sauber. Kobayashi's fate remains uncertain, but the mood music is a bit glum.

Toro Rosso, having rather discourteously fired both Buemi and Alguersuari last season so late they had no hope of finding another drive, has decided to keep both newcomers Vergne and Ricciardo. Hard to assess how good they've been as both are new drivers (Ricciardo drove a few races last year in an HRT, but still).

No word yet on Williams, but it seems likely Maldonado will remain, Senna will be tossed overboard and Bottas may well get his seat.

The tyres this time are soft and medium. Suggestion is that one and two stops are equal in terms of time, but that two stops will be preferred because it's more flexible.

In the first qualifying session it was a McLaren 1-2, with Hamilton fastest and Button second, followed by Vettel, Alonso and Webber. Schumacher was sixth, and next came Maldonado, Rosberg, Bottas, and Raikkonen.

The second session had Vettel fastest, followed by Hamilton, Button and Webber. Grosjean and Raikkonen were fifth and sixth, ahead of Alonso, Massa, Maldonado and Perez. Mercedes and Force India will be disappointed to be outside the top 10 there.

After P2 the BBC's Andrew Benson tweeted some info which may be of interest:
Long-run pace, fastest laps first: ALO 1:47.074; BUT 1:47.432; HAM 1:47.557 (all soft tyre); VET 1:47.636 (medium) 1:47.896 (soft)

Long-run pace averages: ALO 1:47.193; BUT 1:48.114; MAS 1:48.153; HAM 1:48.296; VET 1:48.359. Obviously that ALO time is anomalous

Cannot believe the Alonso average is representative, but the fastest lap was better than all others, so in race trim the Ferrari might be the fastest. However, if he qualifies 7th (behind Red Bulls, McLarens and Lotuses, as seems possible) then he'll have a hard time in Abu Dhabi making it work. One possibility could be for him to use a one stop strategy rather than a two stop. If he's as low down as 7th on the grid then that might well be his best option.

The mood music from Vettel in an interview and Eddie Jordan during Inside F1, however, both point to McLaren being top dog on race pace (albeit likely still behind Red Bull in qualifying).

In P3 Vettel only did a few installation laps and then got out with four and a half minutes of the session left. Hamilton dominated the session, especially on the prime tyre, and was fastest, with Button second. Vettel, despite only having a couple of hot laps, was third, Webber fourth and Hulkenberg was impressive in fifth. Grosjean was sixth, and Maldonado, Alonso, Raikkonen and Di Resta round out the top 10.

Ominous for Alonso, but at the same time if McLaren can beat Vettel in qualifying the Red Bull might go backwards and the prancing horse forwards. I think it's immensely hard to tell whether Hamilton or Vettel will end up on pole.

Annoyingly the two bets that tempted me most, Hulkenberg to reach Q3 and Button to be top 3, both had little cash and short odds available. Judging between Vettel and Hamilton for pole is nigh on impossible. In earlier sessions he was around 0.5-0.7s faster than Webber, which would put him just ahead or just behind Hamilton's P3 time. The Red Bull's also much better at getting its soft tyres switched on (but the McLaren looks very good on the mediums).

I had hoped to bet on qualifying, but with Vettel's serious lack of running and the poor odds on the other potential bets I've decided against it.

Morris Dancer


Anonymous said...

Hi Morris -

Rushing to get my bet on before the qualifying session.

A simple bet for me this weekend - I'm lumping on one or other McLaren being the winning car at Bet365's great odds of 15/8 (most other bookies go 11/8 and Hills are odds on would you believe).

Both Hamilton and Button look fast this weekend and the law of averages dictates that it's time for anyone other than Vettel to win, plus McLaren badly need the points.

Peter from Putney

Nigel said...

Don't forget the P3 practice times were set when the track was over 10 degrees hotter than it will be for qualifying.

The McLaren still seems to have real problems switching the option on, and Vettel's time in P3 was hardly representative, so I think Vettel is strong favourite for pole unless he makes a mistake.
Hamilton seems to share that opinion.

As for the long run pace averages, of the leaders only Button ran a long unbroken stint (18 laps); Vettel and Alonso only five.
The McLaren definitely looks fastest on the prime, and Hamilton ought to be just about favourite for the race.

I laid Vettel for pole at 1.6 on Betfair a couple of days ago. I've now reversed that position. Vettel looks value at 2.42 (though my judgment might be skewed as it's a 'free' bet for me).

Anonymous said...

For the avoidance of doubt, my bet is on either McLaren winning the GP, not qualifying on pole.

Peter from Putney

Nigel said...

Superb lap by Hamilton - happy to be proved wrong, and our cash on a McLaren win looks pretty safe tomorrow.

Vettel parked out on the track... Alonso must be hoping it's bad (alternator ??).

Morris Dancer said...

Very sound tip, Mr. Putney. Hamilton not only slaughtered his opposition on the softs, the McLaren looks even tastier on the primes.

For the sake of the title race, I rather hope Vettel ends up getting a massive penalty a la Hamilton in Spain. Alonso 6th and Vettel 24th would make for a bloody exciting race.

Beginning to write up qualifying now, but I might leave it a little while to see what happens regarding Grosjean, Perez, Senna and Vettel.

Nigel said...

Got to wonder if Vettel stopping had anything to do with his earlier confrontation with the track wall.

Morris Dancer said...

Hmm. Not sure.

It could be the alternator, or lack of fuel. My issue regarding his argument with the wall is that it didn't slow him down, or seem to, during qualifying and the team must've had a chance to give it a quick once over. He was pretty close to the pits too, and just cruising when going around the circuit, so it must've been pretty urgent.

Nigel said...

Pretty good lap by Rosberg, too, in a car which is not handling particularly well.

Morris Dancer said...

Yeah, lots of teams had very differing results from their drivers. Red Bull obviously line up together but Hamilton was miles ahead of Button, Rosberg likewise Schumacher and the same thing with Maldonado and Senna.

Still no word on Vettel. Speaking of whom, did he basically say in the press conference that Webber would just move over? Jordan and Humphrey insinuated as much but I didn't hear it myself.

Nigel said...

Vettel - there is a 'fuel issue' according to Horner.

Equally interesting - speed trap times:

F. ALONSO 319.7
S. VETTEL 311.4
M. WEBBER 311.2

Maldonado will be worth watching in the early laps.

Nigel said...

re - the Vettel delay...
Apparently the cars are scrutineered in the order they come back to the pits - and Charlie Whiting has now gone off to dinner.

Morris Dancer said...

Maldonado was (not checked lately) 4.5 for a podium. I'm tempted, but the team is rubbish on strategy and there's always the risk of him crashing.

That bodes well for Alonso and poorly for Webber. May lay Webber for a podium, but I want to know what's going on with Vettel, first.

Morris Dancer said...

I'm bloody bored of waiting.

Maldonado got to 6.6 for a podium. Given he starts either 3rd or 4th, that seemed quite long (he's a bit shorter now).

Hamilton seems to have the win all but sewn up, but 1.5 for him to get it or for McLaren to top score is not great (always the possibility of a reliability failure).

Could be a very exciting contest between Raikkonen, Button and Alonso. I think the DRS zone has been increased, but overtaking will still probably be very hard.