Saturday, 1 November 2014

America: pre-qualifying

The tyres this time are soft and medium, a bit softer than previous years. This is because the two races to date on this circuit only had a single pit stop and the intention is to increase this number.

Only four cars will be dropped from one session to the next, due to both Caterham and Marussia entering administration. Neither team will, it seems, be at Brazil either, but Abu Dhabi is a possible final appearance. Even if neither enters that race, the last of the season, they will still (if financially secured) be able to compete in 2015 with no problem as a team can miss up to three races in a season and still have an active entry on the grid for the following year. Marussia may well return (it’s got circa £60m of prize money coming unless Sauber can score a few points), Caterham seems unlikely to come back.

Neither Frank nor Claire Williams will be present. He’s in hospital (sounds routine rather than anything especially sinister) and she wants to be with him. Claire Williams is expected to be at Brazil, in a week’s time.

In P1 Hamilton and Rosberg were fastest with three-tenths between them, and Button only a tenth off Rosberg. Kvyat, Alonso and Magnussen were next, with Vettel, Nasr (Williams third driver), Hulkenberg and Verstappen (Toro Rosso’s new driver for next year) rounding out the top 10.

In P2 the order at the top was the same but Hamilton was a mere three-thousandths ahead of his team mate. Alonso was third but over a second down the track, followed by Ricciardo, Massa and Raikkonen. Kvyat, Magnussen, Button and Hulkenberg round out the top 10.

In the preamble to P3 it emerged that both tyres were degrading a bit, and that the soft might be the better race tyre, making it likely multiple stops could be the way to win. There’s apparently 1.5s (for new) between the tyres. McLaren has been somewhat concerned about lack of grip on the soft (which has not bothered other teams).

Kvyat is changing his engine, meaning he takes a 10 place grid penalty. Vettel is replacing even more bits (the whole power unit), and will start from the pit lane (he’s also changing his gearbox, just because he can’t start any further back so he might as well change the gearbox as well). Button is changing his gearbox, which means a 5 place grid penalty.

In P3 Hamilton was fastest by eight-tenths of a second, with Rosberg second and Massa three-tenths further back. Bottas, Alonso and Ricciardo were next, followed by Hulkenberg, Sutil, Raikkonen and Button.

Rosberg’s final time in P3 is not representative because he was held up by Vettel, and his tyres were not hot enough. He also had a glazed brake.

Hulkenberg seems to be doing reasonably well, and if Sutil could reach Q3 that’d be a boost for Sauber and make Marussia even more nervous.

Initial betting thoughts:
Rosberg pole
Hulkenberg to reach Q3

Decided against backing Rosberg despite the tempting odds of 3.25. I checked the two races, and both times (one as team mate of Hamilton, one otherwise) he was some distance off. It may be worth a crack, but the glazed brake and tyre issue makes it hard to assess his pace and past performance would indicate a Hamilton pole. It is a two horse race, though.

Unfortunately there was only a pittance available at Hulkenberg 2.5 to reach Q3. The Rosberg bet had both more money and value available, though, for reasons explained above, I decided against it.

So, no tip for qualifying.

Incidentally, the race is at 8pm tomorrow (BBC highlights start at 10pm). The pre-race piece may be this evening or tomorrow morning, and the post-race piece is likely to be Monday morning.

Morris Dancer

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