Saturday, 3 November 2012

Abu Dhabi: pre-race

Just as well there wasn't money available for Hulkenberg top 10 or Button top 3, as neither happened. Hulkenberg was very close, but Button was never in with a shot. Qualifying was, however, highly entertaining and threw up a few surprises.

Q1 was largely predictable, with Vergne joining the pointless teams in the traditional 20 minutes of wasted time before competitive qualifying begins.

The second session saw both Saubers eliminated and both Force Indias. Rosberg put in a strong lap to escape to Q3, but his team mate was unable to do so and languishes in 14th. Senna and Ricciardo also got dropped.

Q3 was quite exciting for many reasons. Hamilton is better than everyone else by a mile on primes and he won by a clear margin on options too. Assuming he gets a clear start and suffers no reliability issues he stands a fantastic chance of the win. Vettel failed to beat Webber and starts 3rd, behind his team mate. Maldonado put in a stunning lap to get 4th (Senna starts 15th) but I'm not sure Vettel will be delighted to see the fast but volatile Venezuelan beside him. Raikkonen and Button pushed Alonso all the way down to 7th, which is a nightmare for his title hopes. Rosberg, Massa and Grosjean fill out the remaining top 10 grid slots.

After qualifying a number of investigations began, into a Perez-Senna issue (presumably blocking) and a possible unsafe release of Grosjean into Alonso's path. Vettel stopped his car off-track for reasons as yet unknown. My mind drifts back to Spain, where Hamilton did likewise due to lack of fuel and started at the back of the grid. A race with Alonso starting 6th and Vettel 24th could be rather tasty.

Perez got a reprimand for impeding Senna in Q1, but as both got through there was no penalty.

A decision on Vettel took almost five hours, but for having less than a litre of fuel aboard he's been put to the back of the grid:

Maldonado was as long as 6.8 for a podium, and has since dropped to about 3.7. Tempting, but he started second in Singapore, I backed him at 3.5 for a podium and a combination of stupid strategy and reliability failure meant it didn't come off.

Very hard to try and predict what'll happen. Abu Dhabi's a circuit where it's very hard to overtake, but the 1 and 2 stop strategies being almost identical in terms of time means that cunning strategy could help drivers leapfrog one another during pitstops.

I think Webber might go backwards. His starts can be ropey, he seems to be harder on soft tyres than others (was in India, anyway) and he's already had some KERS failure at Abu Dhabi (again, this happened in India). Maldonado's hard to predict as I think he has the pace to perhaps be second, but Williams are quite poor at strategy and he can be erratic. Hmm.

Raikkonen and Button were both solid but a little dull last time out, whereas Alonso has been climbing the ranks (and has good top speed and DRS). I strongly suspect Rosberg will go backwards and fail to score but there's no money there, alas.

After such a long wait it's bloody frustrating to have no clear idea of what to bet on. Very tempted to lay Webber at a little over 1.5 for a podium, but that's exactly what I did in India.

In the end I backed Raikkonen for a podium at 3.5, and hedged it at 1.5. I backed him because he's an extremely reliable driver, his car is also very reliable, it seems to suit the circuit, he needs to make up just one place and he's experienced enough to keep other drivers behind him for many laps.

The podium market's very interesting and a bit weird. Maldonado, Raikkonen and Button all start ahead of Alonso but are longer odds than Alonso (just 2.1) to get a podium.

In addition to this tip, which comes with a health warning as I'm not endowed with unlimited confidence in it, there was a much better one in the comments of the pre-qualifying piece from Mr. Putney, who tipped McLaren at 2.9 to win (now easily hedgeable). Sadly I didn't get on that, but it does look good.

Vettel's penalty should make the race more exciting than usual (it's a bit of a dog of a track) as he tries to slice his way through the backmarkers. In Spain Hamilton went from last to eighth, but that's a better circuit. Vettel should be aiming for a few points, though. It also means the title race could close up dramatically, and would be especially painful as Alonso's 7th (now 6th) starting position was perfect for the German to deal a critical blow to his Spanish rival.

So, an exciting race, a Hamilton win and a Raikkonen podium would be perfect tomorrow.

Morris Dancer


Nigel said...

The Vettel penalty makes things interesting (though after Hamilton got so harshly penalised for being underfuelled, it's strange that anyone else would make the same mistake).

I'll stick with my Hamilton FTW bet, as I suspect we might see some collisions among the podium contenders.

Morris Dancer said...

Aye, I'd be very surprised if Hamilton didn't get the win.

I think Raikkonen could get on the podium a few ways (off the line, reliability failure of Webber or Maldonado, perhaps strategy).

It is very odd. However, it also means the race and title have become more interesting.

Nigel said...

There is some suggestion that the problem in providing a fuel sample might have something to do with the alleged* breach of the rules relating to moving fluid around the car to alter weight distribution - there was enough fuel in the car, but it was inaccessible.

*request by Ferrari for Red Bull to be investigated.

Morris Dancer said...

I think I heard something like that on Inside F1, but Gary Anderson reckoned that probably wasn't the case. Of course, he could be wrong.

I wonder what would happen if the allegation were true. I'd guess the FIA might be reluctant to investigate, because if the penalty were serious it'd hand Alonso the title (or make the Constructors' a tasty Ferrari-McLaren duel).