This is up a bit later than expected due to some minor technical issues.
Glad I didn’t back that 2.87 on a small gap between the top two cars now.
In case you missed the corrective comment, apologies for a cock-up on my part: qualifying started at 6am, not 5am. The race will start at 5am.
Sadly, neither Manor Marussia was in shape to participate. The cars seem to be fine mechanically, but there are software issues, and, unlike with the old KERS, if the electronics aren’t working then losing the ERS will cost seconds a lap and there’s little point running without it. Hopefully they’ll be ready for Malaysia.
Sauber finally got some good news. Van Der Garde voluntarily dropped (for Australia, at least) his claim on a seat, enabling Ericsson and Nasr to race as planned, with the Dutchman hoping to reach a mutually acceptable agreement with Sauber in the coming days and weeks.
Q1 was notable for the McLaren being terribly slow, finishing last (17th and 18th, Button ahead). The only other car to drop out was Ericsson’s Sauber, in 16th. He was five-hundredths ahead of Button.
The second part of qualifying was rather tighter. Both Force Indias dropped out last (Hulkenberg was one-thousandth faster than Perez). Red Bull’s engine-mapping appeared a bit wonky, with Kvyat departing in 13th. Verstappen could’ve gone faster, but 12th isn’t bad, and Nasr was an impressive 11th.
At the sharp end of Q3 were vast yawning chasms of time. Hamilton was a day and a half (0.6s) ahead of Rosberg, who seemed to suffer a weird issue at turn 15 (some reckon it’s an engine mapping problem, as, earlier, he’d reported a loss of power at the same place). Eight-tenths behind the German was Massa, who got a tasty 3rd for Williams, ahead of Vettel and Raikkonen (the team mates separated by a mere four-hundredths from one another, and Vettel a similar margin behind Massa). Bottas, who made a few small errors and seems to have a bad back, was another two-hundredths behind Raikkonen.
Seventh for Ricciardo was probably the best that Red Bull could hope for. Sainz got a nice 8th, with Grosjean and Maldonado rounding out the top 10 (after Lotus’ 2014 season one suspects they’ll be very happy with that).
Hamilton was in dominant form, but the Mercedes’ advantage is such that Rosberg was an easy 2nd even so. It’s immensely close between the Ferraris and Williams. Toro Rosso have made a very good start, and their two newcomers appear on the ball right from the off. Red Bull have ground to make up, and Sauber look good for points during the season.
Early on, betting thoughts are:
Ricciardo top 6
Lay Button/Magnussen/Bottas points
Nasr was just 2.5 or so for points. Too short to tempt.
I rate Ricciardo highly, but his car is not in top three, so 1.5 or so for top 6 is a bit ungenerous.
Hard to pick a podium chap. Massa and Vettel are both 2.5 with Ladbrokes, but 3.1 and 2.7 respectively on Betfair. Massa’s odds are tempting.
Sainz has been a bit overlooked given Verstappen’s age, but he’s driven very well throughout the weekend so far. However, 1.66 is a little short for me. Likewise Hulkenberg at 2.25 [I rate him as a driver, but the car may be lacking and that’s barely over evens to make up at least five places].
With Ladbrokes, Button and Magnussen are 1.8 Not To Be Classified, whereas Bottas is 4.5. I’m not tipping this, but the Finn has a bad back. He may sit the race out. The problem is if he does, the bet may be null and void (as happened to me with a similar Alonso bet) and if he doesn’t he’s highly likely to be classified. May be worth a shot, but I’m not tipping it.
As always with the first race, tipping’s tricky. But I’d be inclined to back Massa at 3.1 (Betfair) for a podium, no hedging.
Unlike yesterday, when I got the start times wrong, the race does actually start at 5am. [I don’t have an alarm clock, so it’ll be interesting to see if I wake up in time].