Sunday, 24 March 2013

Malaysia: post-race analysis

Another exciting race, from the sounds of it, but the bet didn't come off. Massa had a poor start, went backwards rapidly and never really seemed in a position to get a podium. So, a significant misjudgement on my part. However, given that my seasons typically start with a sequence of red races, one green and one red isn't too bad.

The race itself was odd. In fact, I think we learnt a lot about relative pace but the final result didn't necessarily bear too close a relationship to that.

It was wet on part of the track at the start so everyone began on intermediates. Alonso tagged Vettel early on, broke one of the Ferrari's two nose-struts and opted not to pit (still too wet for a tyre change so he wanted to eke out a few laps). His nose ended up snapped and he beached the car in gravel shortly after declining to enter the pits.

Massa, annoyingly, had a very bad first few laps and went inexorably backwards. Raikkonen also fell to 13th, but Button had a better start.

The Mercedes were fast. They ended up 3rd and 4th, but that was at least partly because Hamilton was under-fuelled (the team may've expected more rain and possible safety car appearances) and had to drive carefully to the end and Rosberg, despite appeals on the radio, was told to hold station in 4th (this was near the end of the race). At stages Hamilton seemed like he'd be fast enough to take second (from Vettel, at the time) and Rosberg also had good pace.

The Ferraris are hard to assess as Alonso exited early and Massa never seemed up to the pace of the front-runners. It may simply be that the car didn't like the half-wet, half-dry conditions of the first few laps and that losing so many places (and with only one dry line initially) made it hard for the Brazilian to recover.

Sauber had a nice racy day. Hulkenberg was impressive, particularly when the track was in its awkward half-wet, half-dry phase. He ended up in 8th, and drove well. Gutierrez was 12th, which is ok for a rookie in his second race.

Force India seem to have taken to copying McLaren from last season. Good pace from their cars but two weird pit stops took ages (one per car). Each was subsequently retired, perhaps because the long stops had damaged them (could be an issue with the single wheel nut. If that fails then the car becomes a three-wheeler and it's safer to just retire it). Strong pace, good drivers, no points.

Lotus had a steady rather than spectacular race. Grosjean and Raikkonen made progress, but it was slow, and 6th and 7th (the Frenchman leading) is alright but no more than that. It may be that being soft on the tyres in the dry means they struggle to get heat into them when it's slippery.

McLaren had a bad points result (Perez got 2 for being 9th) but their performance was actually better than that. Button was in 5th, on pace, and would've almost certainly kept that had he not had a pit stop problem (the team only fit 3 wheels). He stopped in the lane, got pushed back and the 4th added, but a minute was lost and the car was later retired (probably so they can fiddle with bits for the next race without paying a penalty). However, make no mistake, the car was off the pace of the front-runners but still significantly improved from Australia. With 3 weeks to the next race there's every chance they'll close the gap a little more.

Of the other teams, Ricciardo was near and in the points for much of the race but retired, and Bianchi continues to impress in the Marussia. So much so there's talk of Kovalainen being re-employed as a driver by Caterham, who are worried they'll lose the estimated £30m for 10th in the Constructors' to their Marussia rivals.

However, the story of the day was Red Bull. Fastest at the front and only occasionally troubled by Hamilton's Mercedes, Vettel was told to stay behind Webber. He didn't, there was much tussling and eventually he got ahead and stayed there. I think Webber had been told (whilst leading) to turn the engine down and that Vettel would stay second. Not a happy camp, despite a 1-2 finish.

Not seen the highlights at the time of writing, but apparently the driver reactions were:
Vettel - bit ashamed of himself
Webber - pissed
Hamilton - bit embarrassed, felt Rosberg should've had the podium

Here's the Drivers' standings after 2/19 rounds:
Vettel 40
Raikkonen 31
Webber 26
Hamilton 25
Massa 22
Alonso 18

Red Bull 66
Lotus 40
Ferrari 40
Mercedes 37

So, it's very tight, especially for second in the Constructors'. I hope it's bone dry in China so we can get an even better handle on who's where in terms of pace. With luck, I'll also have moderator powers then so I can axe any spam comments.

We visit China in 3 weeks.

Morris Dancer


Peter said...

A podium for Lewis and therefore a winning betting suggestion from me!

An absolutely awful turn of events for Red Bull in general and for Vettel in particular and despite the team's 1-2 finsh - he'll have lost millions of fans worldwide today for his arrogant words and behaviour.

It's difficult to see how this clearly open warfare between the two drivers is going to get resolved.

Morris Dancer said...

Congrats, Mr. Putney!

Sorry, I thought you'd tipped him to win, otherwise I would've mentioned that. Tasty odds, weren't they?

This may help firm up Webber's desire to jump ship to Ferrari. The only potential problem there is that Massa's form has recently been very good.

Peter said...

I suggested backing him ew with Stan James at 15.0 for the win and 3.8 for the podium place.

I doubt we'll see any major drivers moving before the end of the season - the financial implications are just too huge, but you never know.

On R5L this morning, it was reported that Red Bull's management were keen to sign Hamilton to replace Webber, but this was blocked by the team's owner out of loyalty and respect for the Australian.

Probably nothing will happen as a result of today's goings-on, Vettel is just too big for any punishment to be meted out.But my guess is that he'll suffer considerable oppobrium at the hands of F1 fans and just maybe he'll grow up as a result.

Morris Dancer said...

On Betfair the win bet may well also have been hedgeable. Good thinking, Mr. Putney.

I expected the Ferraris to be a racier, and still had concerns over Mercedes' reliability.

I've read Horner assert that Hamilton and Vettel could not be team mates at Red Bull.

Vettel's comments will play into the line he's a good driver but has been flattered by having a Newey-designed car.

Nigel said...

"...just maybe he'll grow up as a result."

Doubt it.
I think his initial reaction - "I'm on the middle step & that's what counts" - is the real one.
The rest is PR.

Glad I didn't bet on the race - I might have been tempted to put a couple of quid on Alonso.
(I managed to close out my lay Vettel for pole position at a decent profit.)

Morris Dancer said...

I wonder if Mercedes will be as good at China as they were last year.

If so, a top scoring/double-podium bet could be the way to go.