Saturday, 19 July 2014

Germany: pre-qualifying

Rosberg's week of wonder has seen him sign a new contract, Germany win the World Cup and the driver himself get married. Can he top it off with winning his own home race, and thereby stretch his lead (now just 4 points) over his team mate?

FRIC suspension is front-rear interconnected suspension. This has been banned after the FIA limply said it could be retained for the season if all teams agreed. As all teams agree on nothing, ever, this didn't occur so the teams are not running FRIC. This will disadvantage almost every team (Force India least of all, Marussia quite a bit and it may also help Williams), but won't have a critical impact, I feel. In Hungary the effect may well be more pronounced.

It's going to be hot until race day, when rain is forecast, and it could absolutely piss it down. Well worth comparing the probably dry qualifying pace with the wet qualifying in Silverstone and Malaysia (the former's more recent but Williams/Ferrari cocking it up makes it of somewhat limited utility).

Tyres are soft and supersoft.

P1 had the two Mercedes top of the timesheets, unsurprisingly. Rosberg was 0.065s ahead of Hamilton. Then came Alonso, Ricciardo, Button, Vettel, Magnussen, Raikkonen, Kvyat and Sutil. Worth mentioning the Williams may have been high on fuel (they were more or less on pace with the Sauber, which is a bit of a dog of a car). In addition, the McLaren's being upgraded at a more rapid rate than expected, so could be tastier this weekend than it might otherwise be.

In P2 it appeared that the Mercedes' brakes were getting really rather hot. Whilst other cars seemed to be near(ish) on single lap and initial long run pace, over the course of a longer run the Mercedes was in a league of its own.

James Allen suggested Force India (and Williams) tend to do better when the softer tyre compounds are used. Rosberg seems to be a tenth ahead of Hamilton. Then the Red Bulls, Massa and Alonso clustered together, according to analysis from McNish and Benson. The Ferrari appears a bit slower on race pace than in qualifying, but if the race is wet that changes things.

In P2 Hamilton was two-hundredths of a second ahead of Rosberg (apparently Rosberg made a mistake, suggesting that, on pace, the German is the faster). Ricciardo was close behind and Raikkonen a distant fourth, followed by Magnussen, Massa, Button, Vettel, Alonso and Bottas.

A day before putting this piece up I tipped Rosberg for pole at just over 3 on Betfair, hedged at 1.5. His odds have since declined to about 2.3/2.4, and I'm not tipping at those odds (the 3.1 bet won't count towards my records).

In P3 Rosberg was a day and a half ahead of Hamilton (or so it seemed...), with Alonso a close third, then Massa and Bottas also close together. Magnussen, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Vettel and Hulkenberg round out the top 10.

Hamilton reported a slight vibration in his tyres and was 0.6s off the pace. However, apparently it was said at the start of the session they were on different programmes (be a bit weird not to do a qualifying run at the end, but perhaps Hamilton had higher fuel. Short lap, though. Hamilton didn't sound disappointed on the radio, suggesting a fuel effect).

Raikkonen seems to have a car issue which makes it uncertain whether he'll be able to participate in qualifying. On the plus side, his 47G hit a fortnight ago doesn't appear to have caused any lasting damage.

The supersoft tyres are clearly the faster but in the very high temperatures may not last long at all, so it'll be one fast lap per set, it seems. The Red Bulls are looking nice over a single lap, though fuel may mean they can't match the Mercedes over longer runs. In P3 the Red Bulls were much slower but that may well be sandbagging. Williams perhaps a shade slower than expected, but still solid.

The McLaren's got a lot of upgrades. Button got them later (only in P3) than Magnussen. Could mark another step forward for the team.

Although not an issue for the qualifying, it's worth noting the climatic conditions are going to be very different from qualifying to the race, so don't make race bets using qualifying as a strong guide. The race is highly likely to be wet.

I still think Rosberg's favourite, but only marginally, for pole. The odds are too short to back him now, I feel. Red Bull probably sandbagging and Hamilton either well off the pace or, more likely, having his speed obfuscated by a higher fuel load makes it tricky to tell who'll be making up the top three.

So, no proper tip, though obviously I hope Rosberg gets pole.

Morris Dancer


  1. Germany: pre-race

    Due to yet more computer woe, I'm playing it safe and not accessing some accounts I use often. If all's well for a week then normal service will be resumed for Hungary. However, this piece and the post-race will be up as comments on the pre-qualifying piece. I also will not be backing any tip I offer here, as happened at Spain.

    Less than pleased with the BBC. Qualifying listed on 5Live, instead we got golf. I tried the Sports Extra channel, but that was cricket. By the time I got online the first session had been red-flagged due to a heavy crash for Hamilton.

    It may have been a brake failure, and whilst he seems more or less ok he may have harmed his knees. Let's hope he's fit to race.

    Q1 saw the departure of Sutil, Bianchi, Maldonado, Kobayashi, Ericsson left at this stage. Fairly competitive, despite that, for Bianchi, who beat Maldonado, and good for Gutierrez who was 13th fastest in Q1. Hopefully Sauber are making a little progress at last.

    Hamilton 'got through' to Q2, but because the crash will probably start 16th (if he's signed off by the doctors). The team could choose to fiddle with the car's setup and start last/from the pit lane. Not entirely clear at this stage what the problem with his brakes was some sort of reliability failure.

    Mercedes confirmed between Q1 and Q2 that Hamilton suffered a right front brake disc failure, which is a bit odd given it was a brand new disc.

    It's worth noting he and Hamilton use brakes from different firms (nothing unusual about this, the same was true of Hamilton and Button when they were team mates).

    A penalty for Gutierrez promotes Hamilton to 15th.

    Q2 saw Button, Raikkonen, Vergne, Gutierrez and Grosjean failed to reach the final session (obviously Hamilton also went out). The first three all had team mates who made it through, whereas Gutierrez and Grosjean are ahead of Sutil and Maldonado.

    In Q3 Rosberg, seemingly inevitably, got pole, and was followed by the rather competitive Williams of Bottas and Massa. Seems the wily whites were sandbagging all along. Magnussen got an impressive 4th, but that does make Button's 11th look all the worse. Given that and the Dane getting the new parts first I'd be interested in seeing the odds of Button leaving the team this year.

    Ricciardo was only 5th, just ahead of Vettel in 6th. Surprised Red Bull didn't do better. Alonso and Kvyat were next. The Russian's a very impressive driver. I'd expect him to get a better drive in the next couple of years.

    Hulkenberg and Perez finished the top 10. Perhaps a little better than average for the team, but to be last in Q3 won't be what they hoped for (having reached it), particularly with a Toro Rosso ahead of them.

    The weather forecast tomorrow is for it to be cooler, with rain probable and heavy rain possible. Today it was very hot, so it doesn't necessarily follow that qualifying performance will be a useful guide. The McLaren may perform better in the cooler conditions and I'd expect Vettel, Hulkenberg, Button and (perhaps) Bottas to benefit from rain.

    After all the talk of rain, forecasts suggest the actual chances tomorrow are pretty low. So, although it should be cooler, don't bank on the weather shaking things up after all.


    1. The decision on where Hamilton starts (critical as it permits set-up changes) is to be made late on the evening of qualifying or on the morning of the race. There seems to be uncertainty as to whether changing not merely discs but shifting from one manufacturer to the other would be counted as a safety change. It's also possible he'll need a new gearbox (5 place grid penalty) which may well prompt a move to the pit lane.

      Before learning of Hamilton's fate, the bets that first occurred to me were:
      Magnussen podium
      Williams top score [twice a losing bet]
      Williams double podium finish
      Safety Car
      Hamilton top 6/podium
      Hamilton top 6 and Williams to top score as a combination

      Magnussen's odds on a podium were 8, which is fairly long. Cooler weather should help him and Button stayed fairly well up the field at Silverstone, surprisingly, finishing 4th. Against the Dane is the fact that (barring reliability issues) the Williams and Mercedes are faster and it's not a circuit where overtaking is easy.

      Williams are 5.5 to top score. If we assume the top three stay in flight formation then Hamilton would need 10 points for the bet to fail and 8 for it to be a dead heat between the Silver Arrows and Williams. That's 5th and 6th respectively.

      They're 3.25 for a double podium finish. Too short for me.

      A check of recent Hockenheim races suggested a roughly 50/50 chance of a safety car, and part of my interest in that bet was rain, so I've decided to leave the market alone.

      Hamilton's 1.57 for a podium is not remotely tempted. Yes, it's realistic, but numerous problems (difficulty overtaking, midfield tussles, reliability) could easily throw a spanner in the works. Even with smooth sailing, the Williams is look pretty good and starts a long way up the road. He's 1.22 for top 6, which tallies (annoyingly) with the Williams to top score bet. I think he's highly likely to end up in the top 6, but the odds are far too short.

      Sunday morning: still no word as of 8.33am regarding Hamilton's starting position.

      Went through Ladbrokes and Betfair looking for potential bets, and saw:
      Winner without Hamilton/Rosberg, Magnussen, 17 each way (1/5 odds top 3)
      McLaren to have a double points finish, evens
      Magnussen top 6, 2.5 (3.05 Betfair)

      Magnussen was a bit tempting, but with the Mercedes and Williams faster and the possibility of Hamilton carving his way through the field I decided against it.

      McLaren should be able to get a double points finish, but Button's been a little lacklustre and with rain seemingly off the menu that won't help him.

      The odds on Magnussen surprised me on Ladbrokes, and even more on Betfair. If he holds station or even loses two places the bet's a winner. I think Magnussen's a good driver, the McLaren's been more competitive of late and Button did surprisingly well to get 4th in Silverstone. So, this is the tip: back Magnussen at 3.05 to be top 6, hedged at 1.5 [NB I'll be reliant on others to let me know if the hedge gets matched, assuming he doesn't finish top 6 easily in which it obviously will be].

      Early this morning it seems Hamilton has a 5 place grid penalty for a gearbox change (bit rough given it was due to the crash), so he starts 20th or from the pit lane.

      Hamilton being out of position (again) could make things interesting, but overtaking is hard at Hockenheim so he may struggle more than at Silverstone. It'll be intriguing to see how the Williams and Magnussen can do, and whether Vettel can thwart his Aussie team mate.

      I hope normal service can be resumed in time for Hungary, which is next weekend.

      Morris Dancer

  2. I couldn't resist what I consider is an outstanding value bet ....... Hamilton for a podium finish at 2.10 (1.045/1 net) with Betfair.
    Incredibly, this provides a return 137% greater than some bookies who are offering 0.44/1. As far as I am concerned if Lewis finishes, he finishes top three.

  3. Mr. Putney, I'm not so sure. The Williams are pretty tasty and with Hamilton likely to start from the pit lane he may have his work cut out. I do think it's a realistic possibility, but the odds don't tempt me.

  4. Morris - we'll just have to fundamentally disagree on this one. I've been back for another bite of the cherry at 2.12.
    Frankly I'll be surprised if he isn't in the first three by the half way stage of the race. Bet of the season for me so far.

  5. Congrats, Mr. Putney. I suspect even if Massa had finished Hamilton would have ended up third.

    I'll set about writing up the post-race piece promptly.

    Incidentally, I had planned to give an Early post a go for Hungary, but given paranoia/sensible precautions over computer issues the first new article will probably be pre-qualifying (hopefully), but do feel free to offer any Hungarian ruminations on this thread.

  6. Germany: post-race analysis

    If a bet's going to fail, I'd rather it fail immediately so I can pay attention to and enjoy the rest of the race. Magnussen and Massa came together at the first corner. Probably a racing incident rather than anyone's fault, but it took Massa out and put Magnussen at the back of the field. It also compromised Ricciardo, who did not suffer damage but did end up down around 15th by the end of lap 1. Could Magnussen have been top 6 without the crash? I'll discuss that below.

    Mr. Putney's bet on Hamilton getting a podium came off, and I suspect it would have even had Massa not suffered yet another DNF. I significantly over-estimated how hard overtaking would be at Hockenheim.

    Magnussen had a good start and nearly got both Williams from the line. He had to tuck in behind Bottas, who retained 2nd, and clashed with Massa (neither man's fault, in my view). This brought out an immediate safety car.

    The crash also put Ricciardo, who had to take avoiding action, well down the field, though fortunately he did not suffer any damage.

    Rosberg spent most of the race doing a crossword, though his team were polite enough to give him a call on the radio when he'd sailed to victory. I'm not sure a race leader has got less coverage in recent times. Caps a perfect week for him.

    Anyway, after the crash Hamilton was a man on a mission, easily cruising by lesser cars. It seemed like he might have an issue with Ricciardo (who was also out of place) but he wasn't really delayed much. Unlike almost everyone else, Hamilton had started on the soft tyre, with the intent of ending the race on the supersoft (short-lived but superfast) and challenging for the win.

    Alonso and the Red Bulls spent the whole afternoon tussling for position. Ultimately, Vettel got 4th and was followed by Alonso (who passed Ricciardo after an intense and exciting duel on track) and then Ricciardo.

    Kvyat had a day to forget. An ill-judged mood to pass Perez saw him spin off, and lose about 5 places. Later on his car burst into flames, ending his race.

    Sutil also retired. He spun on the final corner, and the car's engine went on strike. Slightly surprisingly, there was no safety car (this was about lap 51/67).

    Bottas spent the entire race in 2nd. However, Hamilton was looking in good shape to at least take that place and perhaps force Rosberg to take a break from his crossword. During Hamilton's second stint (also on the soft tyre) he was having great difficulty making it last, but there were 26 laps to go. Having not used the supersoft yet, this put him in a tricky position. The team decided to try two sets of supersoft stints. Raikkonen had had major issues with the tyre after just 15 laps, so 13 laps per stint was still not looking easy.

    It was after about 10-11 of the first stint that Sutil's engine fell asleep. A safety car seemed probable so Mercedes pitted Hamilton early (sensible, I feel). But no safety car emerged. Undeterred, he passed the few cars between him and Bottas and set about chasing the Finn down.


    1. Hamilton took over 2s per lap out of Bottas lead, then a second per lap, but by the time he was within DRS range the supersoft had gone off just enough to make it difficult. The Williams had better traction, and although Bottas' soft tyres were old (he had done two stops to Hamilton's three) they were in good enough shape to hold off Hamilton, the Briton spending several laps less than a second behind him. A very cool performance by Bottas to hold Hamilton off, and although Hamilton cut through most of the field like a hot knife through butter the failure to pass Bottas means he loses 10 points to his title rival.

      And as for Rosberg?

      New contract, watched Germany win the world cup, got married and won his home race [well, one of them] for the first time. Not a bad week.

      Hulkenberg was, like Kim Jong-Il, a little bit ronery, spending most of the day destined for 7th. Decent drive, but Force India has lost the cutting edge it enjoyed earlier this year. Button's 8th was so-so, he slid rapidly down the order towards the end. Magnussen's 9th, given he was at the back after the first lap, was pretty good, and Perez got the final point, ending where he started.

      Raikkonen failed to score. I do wonder if he'll leave this year. He can't be enjoying himself, and he clearly doesn't need F1 the way some seem to.

      So, Mr. Putney was spot on with Hamilton getting a podium. But would Magnussen have been top 6 without the crash?

      If there had been no crash the first lap would likely have ended Rosberg, Bottas, Magnussen, Massa. Hard to say if Hamilton would've benefited from more first lap passes or from the field bunching up. Ricciardo would've been further up the field. It's very hard to tell whether Magnussen could gotten 5th or 6th (the Mercedes and Williams, I feel, would've been ahead of him). Button did struggle to make much progress, but the Dane was significantly faster in qualifying and would've enjoyed a much better track position. It's hard to say either way, and disappointing that I didn't get to find out (it's important to consider whether bets win or fail due to judgement or luck).

      Rosberg is now 14 points ahead of Hamilton. It's still very tight, and I'd be surprised if Hamilton doesn't regain the lead at some point. The title race could well go down to Abu Dhabi (damned shame it's not finishing at the far superior Interlagos circuit this year).

      In the Constructors, Williams have leapfrogged Ferrari for third, 121 against 116. Force India are on 98, McLaren 96. I think Williams are unlikely to lose third. Red Bull are on 188, which is some way up the road, but if bad luck stops afflicting Massa it is entirely possible they could yet challenge for second. Mercedes would have to work bloody hard to lose first (they're on 366).

      Just one more race until the mid-season interval. Hungary's next week. I hope to have the pre-qualifying piece up as usual, assuming I'm unaffected by more/worsening computer woe.

      Morris Dancer