Saturday, 23 August 2014

Belgium: pre-race

There was significant rainfall prior to qualifying, but the sun emerged before the session started.

Q1 was very wet. Some went out on full wets, most on intermediate. Both Caterhams went out, as did Gutierrez (who had a reliability failure, again), Chilton, Maldonado and, surprisingly, Hulkenberg. Bianchi did a great job to get into Q2, and, somewhat surprisingly, the Williams were (after Mercedes) the fastest. Would’ve expected Red Bull to be a bit faster. Lotterer (replacing Kobayashi this weekend) did well to beat Ericsson, although both are rooted to the bottom of the grid.

Kvyat, Vergne, Perez, Sutil, Grosjean and Bianchi left the stage during Q2, which was another persistently wet session. Mercedes were untroubled at the to, with Ferrari and Williams vying for best of the rest, and Red Bull a shade slower.

In Q3 Rosberg put in an early great lap, good enough for pole, and improved a little to get it by two-tenths over Hamilton. The Mercedes was in a league of its own, about two seconds better than everyone else. Vettel got third, Alonso fourth, Ricciardo fifth. Bottas, Magnussen, Raikkonen, Massa and Button rounded out the top 10.

Weather forecast for tomorrow is a likelihood of a dry race, although rain remains possible.

The bets I considered immediately after qualifying were:
Alonso podium
Bottas podium
Vettel podium
Hulkenberg points

Alonso for a podium tempts me quite a lot. The Ferrari seems to have been improved a bit, the Williams was a shade lacklustre and Alonso’s a great driver. On the other hand, his odds with Betfair are just 3 (I really wanted 4), and 3.5 with Ladbrokes, but no possibility to hedge.

Bottas was about the same (2.75) with both. He’s a very good driver and the Williams’ top speed should help a lot, but he starts sixth and if the Ferraris or Red Bulls can make enough of a gap the top speed advantage won’t matter (unless the Williams is faster over the whole lap).

Vettel was roughly the same odds. I fear that in the dry he might get mugged by just about everyone on a top speed section, though.

Hulkenberg was just 1.3 for points, which is taking the piss (Ladbrokes didn’t have this market up nearly an hour and a half after qualifying ended).

The markets weren’t really going so I decided to leave it a bit and check back after tea.

After tea:
Hulkenberg’s points odds were just evens on Betfair. Realistic as a possibility but not tempting at those odds.

In the end I decided to back Alonso for a podium at 3.25, hedged at 1.5. If a Mercedes (or both) fails that’ll help, but I also think he’s the most talented driver chasing, and Ferrari appear to have taken a step forward.

I suspect the fight for the win will be a prolonged duel between Hamilton and Rosberg. The former, starting second, claimed it was the better position based on recent history (with potential to pass early on).

It’ll be fascinating to see how Red Bull, Ferrari and Williams compete for the scraps. Rain’s unlikely but it could happen, and that would make things even more interesting.

Morris Dancer


  1. Rain is looking quite likely now. Very overcast and looking ominous.

    There are occasional drops visibly falling in the puddles on the tv feed.

    I've largely followed you in on your ideas today as I've got some new loose change following the cricket yesterday but haven't done any serious thinking about Spa. So good luck to both of us!

  2. Alas, the penalty cost him dearly. Podium possible without it, though I suspect not. Writing the post-race piece now.