Saturday, 26 July 2014

Hungary: pre-qualifying

Tyres for this weekend are soft and medium. The Hungary track is very hard to overtake on, typically, but so's Bahrain and Hockenheim, so maybe we'll see more than usual this year. It's nature (not many straights) may help out Red Bull. McLaren and Williams are both bringing upgrades, and Bottas has reported that whilst the team's providing fewer this year, they're actually working, unlike in 2013.

Hamilton's got a great record in Hungary, so he'll be confident of winning, if reliability doesn't harm him.

The circuit's also notable for being the least likely to see a safety car on the calendar. If it's dry, I might well back that. The reason is the lack of barriers near the circuit and the wide run off areas. It's also quite hard to follow a car (for aerodynamic reasons), meaning you rarely get multiple cars abreast.

In P1 Hamilton was two-tenths up on Rosberg, with Raikkonen almost half a second down the road. Then came Alonso, Vettel, Magnussen, Vergne, Ricciardo, Button and Massa.

P2 also had Hamilton ahead of Rosberg, by just over two-tenths. Vettel was four-tenths further back and followed by Alonso, Magnussen, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Bottas, Button and Massa.

I missed both the first two practice sessions. My instinct is that Williams are seriously sandbagging, Magnussen and Alonso will do fairly well and Red Bull will struggle to beat the Williams for best of the rest.

Hamilton was again fastest in P3, but Rosberg was less than half a tenth behind. Vettel and Ricciardo were next, followed by Bottas, Alonso, Raikkonen, Magnussen, Vergne and Kvyat.

There's a small chance of a shower during qualifying, but a higher chance of thundery downpours during the race tomorrow.

More than one lap will be gotten out of tyres (bit conservative this time) which will enable multiple fast laps and perhaps makes hedging, if possible, wise. In the race it'll mean strategy will probably play less of a role.

During practice Vettel and Magnussen have gotten the better of their team mates, and the Force Indias have looked a bit off the pace.

After qualifying a few potential bets presented themselves for inspection:
Vettel top 3
Lay Button Q3
Lay Perez/Hulkenberg Q3
Vergne Q3

I think Vettel's favourite to be top 3. Essentially that means fastest non-Mercedes driver, and as there's just one slot available for that the odds have to be tasty. Ricciardo could get it, but I think his team mate has been better so far this weekend. Vettel's odds were 2.5, which is too short to tempt.

The McLaren has apparently (along with the Ferrari) suffered most from the FRICectomy the sport has undergone. I think there's a good chance Button could fail to make Q3, and likewise the Force Indias. Button's lay odds were around 1.7, which is fine, but there's not enough liquidity there, unfortunately. The Force Indias were much longer (around 6).

Vergne, on the other hand, has been pretty good in practice. He was 7th in P1, 12th (one place behind Kvyat) in P2 and 9th in P3, a colossal one-hundredth of a second ahead of his team mate. His odds were 1.9, which is ok, but not great.

After checking, I was very surprised Rosberg's odds were 3.6 for pole. Hamilton's favourite but it's very slight. In a two horse race, 3.6 is just too long, I feel. So, I've backed Rosberg for pole at 3.6, hedged at 1.6. I wouldn't be surprised if it were a bit of a see-saw pole fight.

So, let's hope Rosberg either gets pole or gets close enough for the hedge to get matched.

Morris Dancer

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