Sunday, 17 March 2013

Australia: post-race analysis

That was a very exciting race, and one that did not run to plan. I'm writing this before the highlights, which I intend to watch.

On the betting front, I was more nervous even than usual (I'd only made the bet because I didn't want to break over 3 years of continuous tipping). Ferrari started 4th and 5th, which gave me some hope, although the Red Bull lockout of the front row was displeasing. Happily, Alonso got 2nd and Massa 4th, giving the Prancing Horse the most points and heralding a profitable start to the season (unusually).

Unhelpfully (possibly due to lime jelly poisoning) I fell asleep 2 minutes into qualifying. I therefore heard it was wet, and little else. The grid had the boring presence of Vettel on pole, with Webber by his side. Hamilton had a great third slot, with Massa next to him, and Alonso and Rosberg shared row three. The Lotuses (Loti?) of Raikkonen and Grosjean were next with Di Resta and Button rounding out the top 10.

Hulkenberg qualified 11th, but a major problem with his car meant he couldn't start, and the slot was left empty.

Worth mentioning that Perez started a pretty abysmal 15th. Looks like Hamilton jumped ship just before it hit an iceberg.

The start went almost as I expected. Webber left his handbrake on and the Ferraris had good starts. Within a lap or two Vettel was first (boringly) and was followed by Massa and Alonso. Interestingly, Massa, who has significantly recovered his form, was allowed to race properly and his gearbox was left unmolested.

Webber's start was atrocious. He was back to something like 8th after the first lap. This pretty much ruined his race. Raikkonen had a decent start and soon passed Hamilton to run just behind the Ferraris. 

Happily, the Red Bull pace in the race was not equal to their dominance in qualifying. If anything, the Ferraris looked a little faster, and Mercedes and Lotus were also very similar.

After the first round of pit stops Alonso had leapfrogged Vettel (who was trapped behind Sutil). It worked less well for Massa, who had stayed out a bit longer, though he was still in the hunt for a podium.

Both the Mercedes and the Lotus of Raikkonen attempted a two stop strategy. Rosberg was foiled by his car breaking, and Hamilton could not make the tyres last well enough. Raikkonen, however, managed to combine strong pace with great tyre management.

Sutil did manage a two stop strategy, but he started on the medium tyre. Force India had a good day at the office, with Sutil leading Di Resta to 7th and 8th.

The one fewer stop meant Raikkonen led Alonso in the latter stages. Briefly, the Ferrari driver was significantly faster but then his tyres started to grain. Happily, Vettel's (then 3rd) suffered likewise, and the running order remained unchanged.

Massa got 4th, a great improvement in terms of both points and performance from last year. Hamilton, despite having to change strategy late on, got 5th and Webber recovered somewhat to 6th.

Button could only manage 9th, which is pretty poor for McLaren. Their best hope of still mounting a title challenge might be the very tight nature of the battle at the sharp end, which should prevent anyone dominating early on and building an unassailable lead.

Grosjean was strangely anonymous in 10th (having started 8th). He was on a three stop strategy, unlike his team mate, but given the concerns over his starts I imagine a quiet day will not be the worst thing that could've happened to him.

So, I was wrong not to go for the Raikkonen podium at 2.75, but given Ferrari top-scored at 5.5 I'm not complaining.

It's very likely both Mercedes would've been top 6 had Rosberg's car not broken, as The WPT suggested. Reliability does seem to be an issue for the Silver Arrows (Rosberg in particular).

However, let us not get carried away. It's a 19 race season, after all.

Obviously, the finishing order and Drivers' standings are identical. Raikkonen, the Mercedes, Red Bull, and Ferrari drivers are all pencilled-in as contenders right now. Have to wait and see how Grosjean does. He is fast, but if he's retreated into his shell and playing it safe he'll get left behind.

Nightmare start for McLaren. Turns out massively changing the fastest car on the grid has the potential to bugger it up.

Next stop: Malaysia, next week.

Morris Dancer


Nigel said...

First off, I bow in admiration for your Ferrari call.

(Of course, had Lotus followed my suggestion to not run one of their cars in Q3, and started Grosjean from P10 on fresh mediums, they might have had a 1-2....)

Ferrari and Lotus seem pretty well matched on race pace, with Mercedes just a little way behind along with Red Bull. Could Alonso have run the same strategy as Raikkonen, as Gary Anderson seemed to suggest ?

Qualifying is obviously a different matter.

I'm not reading too much into this result, as teams will get more on top of the tyres within two or three races. Raikkonen could grab a big early lead if they can repeat something like this next weekend, though.

I don't know if we're going to have a close season just yet, but it certainly looks more promising than it did after free practice.

Morris Dancer said...

Cheers, although it's hard for me to know how much was luck and how much was insight. Making a bet on the race pre-qualifying necessarily requires some luck, but the start did go more or less as I anticipated.

I'm not so sure Ferrari could have. Early on they were obviously pushing, but even in the last stage Alonso, knowing he could not afford a pit stop, ended up with grained tyres (as did Vettel).

I share your relief that Red Bull do not appear to have absolute dominance this season. I like Vettel, but I like variety and competitiveness more.

Malaysia may be pretty different. The race could be wet, temperatures should be higher and the compounds are medium and hard. That might make it easier for other teams to try and do fewer pit stops.

Nigel said...

If Hamilton had ignored instruction to defend his position from Alonso, and so avoided flat spotting his front, could the Mercedes have also managed the two stop strategy ?

Clearly the Lotus is a bit easier on its tyres than the rest (and that costs them in qualifying), but it's not clear to me just how much.

It could be crucial for predicting Malaysia (as indeed could the weather, which isn't great at the moment).

Nigel said...

"That might make it easier for other teams to try and do fewer pit stops."

Indeed - but might we be looking at 1 vs. 2, rather than 2 vs. 3 ?

Morris Dancer said...

Very hard to tell regarding Hamilton.

Can't remember from last year but I think you might be right about it being 1/2 rather than 2/3 stops. However, if it's wet there could be a silly number.

It's also worth pointing out that the McLaren was far more competitive in the wet. Ferrari and Mercedes also look good, and Red Bull seem to take a step back when it's wet. If we do have a wet race then we might see (as last year) an unexpected result.

Nigel said...

But to some extent, wet pace is the result of setup, which can readily be altered.
Rosberg for instance, who was mightily quick in the wet was pretty ordinary in dry conditions. A really good setup for wet conditions hinders dry performance.

Again, it's a bit early to draw conclusions.
We might have a very competitive season - equally, it's still possible that Red Bull will run off into the distance after the first three or four races.

Nigel said...

Couple of other points...

Webber had no KERS at all at the start (and no telemetry), which explains just how bad it was:

Very interesting comments from Lotus team principal about Grosjean's lack of performance - basically, in traffic, the car is little better then anyone else at preserving the tyres:

As in previous seasons, it seems as though the performance premium to running in clear air is huge. A point in Red Bull's favour with their qualifying advantage going ahead, I think, as I don't believe they won't sort their race tyre issues (though probably not by Malaysia).

Morris Dancer said...

Sounds like Webber was a bit unlucky. I can't remember, but I think they might have had a KERS issue during testing.

Anonymous said...

Well done Morris - a well-judged (and unusual) bet which came good at decent odds.

In view of his second place on the grid, I felt my 11/1 bet on Webber was vindicated - who knows how he might have fared in the race itself, especially with Vettel under-performing, but for technical problems of his own.

The saving grace for me was that by virtue of his gaining (only) third place, Vettel's seasons points spread should moderate by around 15 points taking him back to around his 240-250 point starting position.

Peter from Putney.

Morris Dancer said...

Cheers, Mr. Putney.

Yeah, given his starting place a pre-qualifying 11/1 shot for the win looked nice.

I'd add that the Red Bull's race pace appears to be perhaps marginally less than Ferrari's, and comparable to the Lotus (of Raikkonen, at least).

Thinking back to spread-betting, the ones I mentioned pre-season seem mixed. Bottas seems like he'll be hampered by a surprisingly bad Williams, but both Raikkonen and Rosberg look to be in a position to exceed pre-season expectations.

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Anonymous said...

I thought it said a great deal about Raikkonen that he chose to pull out all the stops to set a new lap record just 2 laps before the end of Sunday's GP - as if to rub Alonso and Vettel's noses in it!

Most drivers ease up in the closing few laps to time their win typically by around 4-6 seconds so as to minimise the risk of anything going wrong driver or car wise, but not this fellow.

With confidence (some would say arrogance)such as this, perhaps he should be backed at 4.5/1 to win the Drivers' Championship, notwithstanding that his odds have already shortened from around 17/1. The bookies already consider it a three horse race, with Hamilton in fourth place almost disappearing off the radar screen.

Peter from Putney