Between races I put a little on Williams for the Constructors at 34. I think this is too long and will shorten to layable odds for an all-green result. McLaren was also too long at 12.5 or so. Ferrari and Red Bull were both too short, Ferrari especially (they were about 8.6 and 5.6 respectively). The Prancing Horse has a great driver pairing but a car that simply isn't up to scratch on pace, Raikkonen seems to be struggling and it may well be thirstier than other cars.
It was also suggested on the Sky F1 site that Hamilton might end up with a penalty for his reliability failure in Australia. That would be utterly ludicrous, as he likely lost 25 (and probably at least 18) points from the incident itself. From a purely betting perspective it would, however, be handy for my Rosberg bet.
On Monday Dietrich Mateschitz (Red Bull owner) warned that Red Bull could leave the sport if it were run in a way he disliked (NB he also owns Toro Rosso). This came as Red Bull awaits (on 14 April, I think) the appeal on their disqualification for ignoring FIA guidance on the fuel-flow rate.
Red Bull were seen by some to use political manoeuvring to try and alter (or gerrymander, if one were being unkind) the rules in 2013. After the tyres were hardened up and the construction altered Vettel went on to win a record 9 races in a row. Right now Horner's behaviour is deeply unimpressive.
On Thursday the weather forecast was for a 70% chance of a thunderstorm during qualifying. This would be very bad for Williams, based on Australian qualifying in the wet, when the white car was (relatively) far more adversely affected than the others. If the forecast persists then I might lay Williams' cars to reach Q3, contingent on the odds being right, of course.
The tyres for the weekend are hard and medium.
Both the first two practice sessions were dry. At present (8.49am Friday) there is a 50-60% of a thunderstorm, but the overall amount rain is expected to be relatively light (1mm). This could have a dramatic impact, or none whatsoever, depending when it falls, and if it's all at once or just drizzle.
P1 had Hamilton fastest, a tenth and a half ahead of Raikkonen, with Rosberg third. Button and Magnussen were next, followed by Vergne, Vettel and Hulkenberg, with Massa and Bottas rounding out the top 10. [NB all times here were set on the hard tyres].
In P2 the top three were covered by less than a tenth of a second. Rosberg, Raikkonen and Vettel led the way, Hamilton less than a tenth behind Vettel. Alonso was fifth, then Massa, Ricciardo (three-tenths down on Vettel), Button, Bottas and Hulkenberg.
Lotus had a terrible time, again retiring both cars in both practice sessions. Maldonado failed to set a time all day. McLaren brought substantial updates but, whilst they're still in the hunt, they do not appear to have delivered the performance boost that was hoped for.
By contrast, Ferrari are suddenly looking very racy. Importantly for the team, Raikkonen, who had a very hard time in Australia, has really picked up his game. Red Bull are also doing much better in terms of pace. It's surprising that Mercedes' advantage (a second a lap) over the others appears to have evaporated already. However, we do not know fuel loads used in practice, and the different track and temperature (nearing 40C) will have a significant impact. If you have backed either Mercedes driver (or the team) for the title and have yet to lay, I would advocate doing so now.
On practice times Williams appear to be a bit behind Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari and maybe McLaren, but that was also the case in 2/3 of Australia's practice sessions, do I don't believe we can conclude they've gone backwards. For whatever reason [could be as simple as high fuel sandbagging], they may be much better in a race situation (as we saw with Bottas) than practice (and perhaps qualifying, but as we haven't had a dry qualifying yet that's hard to tell).
There were a few bets I was tempted by. Laying either Williams driver at 1.6 to reach Q3 (I'd put down a little at 1.2, which are silly odds, but nobody bit).
I also considered Hulkenberg for Q3, but his odds were only 1.6, which is too short.
The other bets I looked at focused on the surprisingly swift chaps. Alonso or Raikkonen to be top 3 in qualifying (at 3 and 4 respectively). According to a snippet of commentary I heard on the BBC highlights, Alonso (and Hamilton) both had the capacity to beat their team mates but buggered up a certain sector. Both the Ferrari bets were tempting (I would've made it a single stake split evenly between the two), but the odds were a little on the short side given the advantage the Mercedes seem to have (leaving one place) and Vettel, or even Ricciardo, springing a surprise. Plus, if it's wet that would further advantage the Red Bulls, who may be the biggest threat to a Prancing Horse starting in the top 3.
The final bet I pondered was Vettel to take pole. The odds on Ladbrokes were 13, on Betfair 11.5 (but, of course, you can hedge on Betfair. Hmm. Actually, you probably can on Ladbrokes, but I've not tried using that exchange, yet). He was third in P2, but less than a tenth (about 0.06s) behind Rosberg. In addition, if it is wet the Red Bull seems to have a performance advantage (relative to others), as we saw in Australia when Ricciardo surpassed all expectations to take second on the grid.
I was only going to consider Vettel if the odds were right and, to be honest, 13 is enormous. He's got a cracking record of delivering pole positions and, as mentioned above, would probably (relatively) benefit if it is wet. The question of whether to back with Ladbrokes at 13 (and, if so, whether to make it each-way, which offers a fifth the odds for the top 3) or with Betfair at 12 (it increased as I wrote this piece) and hedge is a tricky one.
After much pondering I'm tipping Vettel for pole at 12 (Betfair), hedged at 5. It's probably at least a three-way scrap, perhaps five-way. I rank Vettel perhaps Hamilton's only equal in qualifying and suspect it'll come down to the two of them. If he is competitive then hopefully the hedge will get matched. [You could also opt for the Ladbrokes 13, each way, but that's not my tip].
Betting on qualifying without P3 is somewhat risky, but I think Vettel's worth backing. He has a great pole record, the Red Bull was more competitive than expected in both qualifying and the race in Australia, and inclement weather could prove advantageous.
Sky reports Mercedes has fears of tyre durability (medium, the faster), and that the Ferrari and Red Bull can both run for longer on it. This could present an opportunity for the latter two teams to top score, but I'm not betting on that pre-qualifying (for those interested I believe they're 8 and 9 respectively with Ladbrokes. At this stage I'd be more predisposed towards Ferrari).
So, that's just the one tip: Vettel for pole, 12, hedged at 5.
Qualifying is at 8am tomorrow.