Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Australia: post-race analysis

Apologies for the absence of a pre-race piece and the delay to this. My computer was taken away at short notice and has only just been returned.

The odds on Williams to top score (Ladbrokes) were up to 7.5, from 5.5, after the first two practice sessions.

I’ve laid Bottas and Massa at 50 and 36 respectively for the title, having earlier backed them at 65 and 40. I had intended to hold on until the third or fourth race then lay, but I suspect Williams will underperform compared to my previous expectations. So, I'm ahead if Rosberg or either Williams wins and flat if anyone else does.

Although Williams were unlucky with Massa's retirement, Bottas made a driver error so his finishing point cannot be considered unfortunate. However, I am fairly sure that even had Massa not been taken out early on he would not have scored enough points for Williams to top score. To tie, he would have had to finish ahead of Button, and to win outright, he would have had to finish ahead of Magnussen. I just can't see that having happened (and it would've pushed Bottas down a place, now I think of it).

Anyway, lacking ye olde computer I resorted to pen and paper to make notes on the race. Given the unexpectedly long delay between the race and this article, it's perhaps as well I did.

Both Marussia engines went on strike, necessitating two formation laps and a queue at the end of the pitlane (Grosjean, having been due to start near the back, opted to fiddle with the car to improve its setup, at the cost of starting from the pitlane for breaking parc ferme). However, Grosjean immediately got a drive-through penalty (even before the race started) for leaving the garage too early.

The start was dramatic, with Rosberg taking off like a rocket and moving from third to first. Hamilton, having started on pole, looked sluggish and almost immediately lost another place to Ricciardo. On the opening lap Hulkenberg passed Alonso, Kobayashi left the field by crashing into Massa and taking both of them out, and Vettel was down to 15th (probably due to an issue with lack of kinetic energy).

Hamilton and Vettel both had to retire very early on, due to reliability failures.

Bottas had a stellar start, up from 15th (due to a penalty for changing his gearbox) to 8th within about 15 minutes (8 laps or so). At the front Rosberg pulled a nice gap on Ricciardo and the pair were moving away steadily from third-placed Magnussen.

Sadly for Bottas, an entirely unavoidable error was made. He hit a wall whilst following Alonso, and had to pit for new tyres (and was perhaps fortunate not to suffer race-ending suspension damage). Prior to this he was absolutely flying and, excepting Rosberg, the fastest man on the track. The pit stop put him all the way down in 16th.

The Bottas incident caused a safety car, and just about everybody pitted. Button was first, and really benefited from it, ending up about 3 places higher up because of it.

The Mercedes really was dominant, and around 45 minutes into the race was 0.9s faster than everybody else. I do not expect such dominance to be maintained throughout the season, but right now it would seem to be a Hamilton-Rosberg duel.

Marcus Ericsson was forced to retire due to a problem with his engine oil pressure.

At a later stop Button did very well, leapfrogging both Hulkenberg and Alonso. Alonso managed to pass Hulkenberg but because of Button's antics he remained in the same place and Hulkenberg slid down two spots.

Fears of excessive fuel-saving appear wide of the mark, but it's worth mentioning that two formation laps and about four safety car laps will have helped this quite a bit.

Early on McNish observed it was difficult to get heat into the tyres, but considered Toro Rosso to be good at it (relatively), and Ferrari poor.

My guess on race pace performance at the minute is:
Mercedes (by miles), then Williams, Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Force India. The last two could be the other way around. Hulkenberg and Alonso were pretty close.

Raikkonen appeared very uncomfortable in his Ferrari, and whilst Alonso wasn't exactly flying he was miles better than the Finn.

The 24 second margin of victory for Rosberg will be both good and bad news for Hamilton. He knows he's got the best car on the grid by a mile, right now, but his biggest rival (probably) has stolen a march.

After the race Ricciardo was disqualified for exceeding the 100kg/hr fuel flow rate limit. It appears Red Bull was contacted by the FIA during the race and told to turn it down slightly and all would be well, and the team decided obeying the governing body was optional. If that's the case, it's their own damned fault, and a great shame for the Aussie who had a very good race.

Kobayashi acknowledged the first lap crash was entirely his fault and said he would apologise to Massa, which was good to see.

Maldonado retired, as did Grosjean, ending the weekend as badly as the rest of it went. The Lotus appears to have all the stability and speed of a one-legged unicyclist.

Magnussen and Kvyat both had very good races. The Russian helped Toro Rosso to a double points finish, and Magnussen acquitted himself well. Perhaps the Dane lacked a slight killer instinct against Ricciardo, but a third place finish (promoted to 2nd a little later) for a first ever race is very good indeed. Right now McLaren top the Constructors' title race.

So, my bet was a bit rubbish. Not miles wrong, but a misjudgement. However, the two chaps I backed for the title are currently 1st and 2nd.

Malaysia is just over a week away. I'm rather looking forward to it.

Morris Dancer

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the write-up.

    It was an interesting race, and the first time I've got to watch it on Sky.

    Some thoughts:
    1) The Williams is fast and bulletproof. Bottas hit the wall hard, and did not damage the suspension. I'd have expected a retirement. I'd say they'll win at least one race in the first half of this season.

    2) Red Bull deserve Ricciardo's penalty. Sadly, Ricciardo does not. But given that he could have got a large performance advantage, I cannot see what they can do except exclude him.

    3) Magnussen is one to watch. I never really rated his father, but he seems the real thing (tm). He's already got more points than his dad ever got. :-)

    4) It's going to be a brilliant 2014 season.

    5) Sky F1 coverage is annoyingly good.

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  2. Np, Mr. Cotton. Just sorry it was delayed.

    1) I am pondering backing Williams for the Constructors. Currently 30 on Betfair.

    2) I agree with that entirely. Red Bull were arrogant and deserve the penalty. Ricciardo's been let down by the team.

    3) I think he might've passed Ricciardo, but that's a slightly harsh criticism for his first ever race. Very good qualifying and race performance. A cool customer.

    4) I suspect that's the case, although there's still the potential for Abu Dhabi to be a pain in the arse or serial fuel-flow penalties.

    5) Yeah, I've heard the commentary's better than the BBC. Not an option for me, though, and the BBC deserves (figuratively) crucifying for their Judas Iscariot approach to F1 coverage for the British public.

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