Saturday, 6 September 2014

Italy: pre-qualifying

The compounds in Monza will be hard and medium.

Mercedes have indicated they may have to drop one of their two drivers if they can’t get along. I think that’s a gross over-reaction, as was their condemnation of Rosberg during the Spa race. Drivers including Vettel, Hulkenberg and Alonso have since said they believe the collision to have been a racing incident, a view that I subscribe to.

The FIA will not have a look at it, something Hamilton’s questioned. The Briton (whether you believe the incident to be mistake or malice) currently has a lot of sympathy but such utterances may lose him some.

Anyway, the circuit in Italy is rather nice. It’s a collection of straight lines with very few proper corners, so straight line speed is what matters most. This will help cars powered by a Mercedes and probably hinder Ferrari-powered cars the most. The Parabolica, which is a proper corner, has been emasculated this year by the removal of a gravel trap outside the track limit and its replacement with weak-kneed tarmac. Damned shame.

In P1 Hamilton was over half a second ahead of Button, with Rosberg third and almost a whole second behind his team mate. Then we had Alonso, Magnussen, Vettel, Raikkonen, Perez, Kvyat and Hulkenberg.

McLaren look surprisingly tasty, and the Mercedes drivers’ difference I would put down to fuel loads or suchlike. Neither Williams is in the top 10, which either means my early bets are the most stupid thing since George Lucas thought of Jar Jar Binks, or they’re sandbagging and were bursting with fuel.

In P2 Rosberg was fastest, but less than a tenth ahead of Hamilton. Surprisingly, Raikkonen was third, barely a tenth off the pace and two-tenths ahead of Alonso. Bottas, Button and Vettel were separated by four-thousandths of a second, with Magnussen, Massa and Ricciardo rounding out the top 10.

Hamilton missed about an hour of P2 due to a problem with the car (getting the engine fired up, I think). He came very close to Rosberg’s time but never seemed at ease (can take that either way, as it could mean he’s got extra speed in his pocket, or that he’s on edge). McNish reckoned the Mercedes was fastest over one lap but on race pace Williams were top, with Mercedes second and Ferrari/Red Bull about the same. However, overtaking can be tricky and a single stop is expected during the race so that might yet be advantage Mercedes.

In P3 Hamilton was fastest by over four-tenths, with Alonso second, a little way ahead of Bottas and Massa (whose times were very close). Button was next, then came Vettel, Raikkonen, Kvyat, Ricciardo, and Hulkenberg.

During P3 the commentators referred to rumours that the Ferrari engine has been somewhat improved in power terms. This would explain them being more competitive than might’ve been the case. The Ferrari team also changed their gear ratios (which you can only do once this season). From next year ratios will be fixed for all year long.

In P3 Rosberg had a gearbox problem which prevented him getting much running. The team was hoping to get it sorted without needing to replace it for qualifying, and we’ll see whether that’s the case or not [if not he’ll get a grid penalty]. Perez also suffered a gearbox problem which caused his car to stop on track. Neither got to have a run at qualifying simulation.

Brakes and DRS were not working that well, Hamilton claimed. Hopefully that won’t recur during qualifying/the race.

P3 also saw Vettel complain the K was misbehaving, (kinetic energy). That’s very significant as it could mean a loss of power which would cost him dearly, as well as altering brake balance and causing potential brake failure (see Mercedes in Canada). Rocky, Vettel’s race engineer, suggested it was a one-off sort of problem.

Mercedes has a long ratio (barely using 8th gear), with Force India close to that and the other teams shorter. A longer ratio may help the gearbox (fewer gear changes) but won’t boost performance.

Kvyat gets a 10 place penalty for being on his sixth engine (season limit is five).

Potential bets -
Alonso top 3 in qualifying
Lay Kvyat points
Lay Rosberg podium (if he gets a grid penalty)
Hamilton pole
Rosberg pole

I’m not sure about Alonso being top 3. His odds were 3 (there was a tiny amount at 4.5), which is too short. I think Raikkonen or the Williams could pose a risk, so no bet there.

The Kvyat points bet is based on a probable qualifying of around 8th and starting 18th with the penalty. However, as there was £10 available at 21, which is horrendous, no bet.

Laying Rosberg for the podium was based on a race competitive Williams and Red Bull coupled with a potential grid penalty. But the odds were a downright stingy 1.43.

Hamilton’s likely to get pole, but 1.66 isn’t that tempting given Rosberg’s strong record. Rosberg was 3.4, but if he did get a grid penalty he might well alter his car set-up to maximise overtaking potential at the expense of overall pace, compromising qualifying.

So, no bets at all. I do expect it to be very tight between Williams and Ferrari after the Mercedes, with Red Bull and McLaren also close together.


Morris Dancer

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