Saturday, 5 April 2014

Bahrain: pre-qualifying

I'd forgotten this is a night race this season. So, it'll be on at a civilised hour. The tyres are soft and medium.

The circuit would seem to be one dominated by straights. In short, this should help the Mercedes-powered cars and hinder the rest. As qualifying's likely to be the first to be dry this year it'll be interesting to see the pecking order, particularly whether or not Williams can do a little better.

There's an interesting article below about why and how the running order shifted from Australia to Malaysia:
http://www1.skysports.com/f1/news/22058/9243392/how-mclaren-and-williams-dropped-down-the-order-as-the-2014-pendulum-swung-at-sepang

Basically, aerodynamics matter more in Malaysia than in Australia. Bahrain is more about power than Malaysia. At the moment, we seem to have the following order for aerodynamics:
Red Bull
Ferrari/Mercedes

For power, it's simpler, Mercedes are top, followed by other Mercedes-powered cars. So circuits where aerodynamics play a bigger role should see the Red Bull and Ferrari improve, and where aerodynamics don't matter as much the two teams may well slide backwards (after P1 and P2, however, Alonso looks pretty good whereas Red Bull seem to be further back. This may be because the Ferrari has less downforce than the Red Bull, and so loses less when it doesn't matter, and the Prancing Horse has more power).

In P1 Hamilton and Rosberg were fastest, followed by Alonso, Hulkenberg and Button. Raikkonen, Magnussen, Kvyat, Perez and Vettel rounded out the top 10.

In P2 Hamilton, Rosberg and Alonso again led the way, followed by Ricciardo, Massa, Button, Vettel, Kvyat, Magnussen and Perez.

On Inside F1 (BBC F1 mini-programme usually on at 6.45pm during race weekends) Allan McNish, when asked by Lee McKenzie why Hamilton wasn't as cheerful as she expected, said that whilst Hamilton appeared to have the edge over a single lap, Rosberg was both faster and more fuel efficient over the long runs (Hamilton apparently being told he had to both drive more quickly and use less fuel). Something worth considering, although an F1 viewer on pb.com reckoned that was overplayed and Hamilton looked strong on long runs. McNish also reckoned Williams were a dark horse on race pace but needed a decent qualifying (sounds like Sauber in 2012).

During P3 it was reported that McLaren may be the worst of the Mercedes-powered teams on fuel consumption (this was the view of Button).

Grosjean said he had absolutely no grip anywhere on the car. Lotus are really in a bad place.

In P3 Mercedes had easy dominance again, with Hamilton leading Rosberg once more. Perez was a very impressive third, some way ahead of his team mate. Bottas and Massa followed, with Button sixth, then Alonso, Hulkenberg, Kvyat and Raikkonen.

It's worth recalling that Ricciard has a 10 place grid penalty. Vettel spun in qualifying and failed to put in a qualifying simulation.

Very hard to see any car other than Mercedes on pole, with Hamilton likelier to get it (although he was barely a tenth faster so a Rosberg pole would not be a shock). However, even if Rosberg starts second that still gives him a good shot, as he's tended to have slightly better starts, I would say, than his team mate. There's a long(ish) run down to turn 1 as well.

I considered backing Kvyat to be top 10, but his odds were just over evens, and there were a few drivers clustered around that sort of time, so decided against it.

Laying Vettel or Ricciardo to be top 10 and backing Bottas to be the winner without Rosberg/Hamilton were also bets I looked at. Ricciardo at 1.75 was tempting, but there was very limited money available, and Vettel at evens was too long.

The winning without Rosberg/Hamilton market still wasn't up over an hour after P3 ended, so I obviously couldn't back that.

So, no tips for qualifying. Mercedes seem nailed on for 1-2, but behind them it's close.

Morris Dancer

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