Qualifying was thoroughly entertaining as a fan but rather infuriating as a gambler. Raikkonen squeaked into Q3, finishing Q2 in 10th.
The first qualifying sessions was more frantic than usual, as many of the teams went out on the medium compound, possibly to try and find if and how the grip had changed due to increased temperatures compared to P3. As it happened it didn't affect the eliminated much, although Marussia did well to beat Caterham (the former lacking KERS and the latter possessing it) and Ricciardo joined the pointless teams.
The second session of qualifying was as competitive as usual. The Saubers seemed very off the pace, and so did the Mercedes until Schumacher put his Silver Arrow into 5th. Weirdly, Rosberg was just 17th. Button got only one 'hot' lap in before he lost power and didn't get out again, and so starts a rather lowly 12th. Senna was 11th. I think Senna, Rosberg or Button could have beaten Raikkonen, based on their team mates' performances. Hard to say if Button would've or not. Hulkenberg did well to get into Q3, unlike Di Resta, and Vergne was also eliminated.
With tedious predictability (although he was run closer than usual) Vettel got pole. He was narrowly ahead of Hamilton, with Webber third. Grosjean was next but will suffer a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change. Raikkonen will therefore start 4th, Schumacher an impressive 5th and Massa a surprising 6th. Hulkenberg starts 7th and Alonso qualified a lowly 8th (and, perhaps even worse, is on the even-numbered and dirty side of the grid. More on this below). Grosjean starts 9th and Maldonado, surprisingly, came last in Q3.
Some reckon being on the even side of the grid will cost as much as a second on the start line. If so, that would put the likes of Hamilton, Raikkonen, Massa, Alonso and Maldonado far back. However, it would also make things easier for Webber, Schumacher, Hulkenberg and Grosjean.
Tyre wear, despite the many laps needed to get heat into the tyres, could yet be an issue. So, it's still possible we'll see two stops as deliberate strategy.
If the start really is going to see the even side suffer a huge penalty that presents the opportunity for trading bets to be swiftly hedged.
This is the point at which I stopped waiting to see if the betting markets would get going last night. Between then and now Mr. Putney offered a tip on Grosjean for a podium. I think that's sound, and I'll be backing it (albeit with a hedge set up at 3).
I've decided to back Hulkenberg for a top 6 finish at 3.35. He starts 7th, the clean side of the track, and since Singapore (where he failed to finish) he's made up ground at every race (save Abu Dhabi, where he also failed to finish). I've set up a hedge at 1.4.
The other bets I was seriously considering was Grosjean to be top 6 (2.68, and I think Mr. Putney's podium tip sounds better as Schumacher may suffer tyre wear and the Force India is perhaps not as good on race day as the Lotus) and laying Hamilton or Raikkonen for a podium. The odds on the latter two were not great, though.
So, from me, just the 1 tip: Hulkenberg to be top 6 at 3.35, hedged at 1.4.
The race starts at 7pm. Let's hope it's entertaining enough that the highlights are worth tuning in to at 10.25pm.