Saturday, 18 April 2015

Bahrain: pre-qualifying

The tyres this time round are soft and medium. It’s a night race, again [well, sunset is three minutes after the start time], which, unfortunately, may decrease tyre wear. That said, Ferrari are looking good on long runs, although unlikely to trouble Mercedes in qualifying.

Although it’s less likely to have an impact during qualifying compared to the race, the engines do seem a bit wonky (especially Renault), Vettel had brake issues in practice, and Button’s McLaren failed in both sessions (Alonso’s was looking reasonable).

Speaking of McLaren, they reckon that, correcting for the power deficit, it’d be 0.6-0.7s or so off the Mercedes, which is more or less Ferrari territory. Something to consider if/when they get their arse in gear this season, and for 2016.

In P1, Raikkonen was fastest, two-tenths up on Vettel. Then we had Bottas, Sainz, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Alonso, Nasr, Kvyat and Massa. The Mercedes were working fine, but given it’s much warmer at that time of day than either qualifying or the race the team decided to test some potential new parts rather than try and work on pace issues. This irked me a little, as I’d considered backing Raikkonen at 15 to be fastest (each way for top 2) in P1. However, Mercedes may adopt a similar tactic in certain comparable races (maybe Singapore/Abu Dhabi), so I’ll try and remember for then.

In P2, normal service was [almost] resumed. Rosberg was a tenth up on Hamilton. Neither got a perfect lap, however. Raikkonen was next, again a tenth ahead of Vettel, who was a tiny margin ahead of Bottas. Ricciardo and Maldonado were separated by twenty-five thousandths, with Nasr, Kvyat and Massa rounding out the top 10.

P2 may, unusually, be more indicative of pace than P3, because it occurs at the same time of day as qualifying/the race, and therefore is of more use for the teams. From watching the summary video, it also seemed the track wasn’t as cool as expected, which may mean tyres are an issue.

During P3 an engineer from Williams played down the prospect of them beating Ferrari in qualifying, and suggested Vettel was very fast indeed.

Vettel was on average 0.6secs a lap faster than Rosberg when they were both running the 'soft' tyre, which will be the main one used in the race.”

In P3, Hamilton was less than a tenth ahead of Vettel. Rosberg was a few tenths further back, a tenth ahead of Raikkonen. A more substantial gap led to Bottas and Massa, with Maldonado next up, then Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and Nasr.

Maldonado’s been faster than his team mate all weekend (admittedly, Grosjean missed P1) and Nasr’s been top 10 in every session. The Ferraris and Mercedes look close, though I suspect the Silver Arrows will still dominate qualifying. The race might be different.

Right after qualifying, bets that sprang to mind were:
Raikkonen top 3
Rosberg pole
Nasr to reach Q3
Maldonado to reach Q3

I also considered the following race bets:
Ferrari, highest scoring team 4.5
Vettel each way win 6
Raikkonen each way win 10

Raikkonen top 3 (in qualifying) is 2.16. Not tempting, as, although he has a crack, I suspect the familiar trio of Hamilton, Vettel and Rosberg will get there.

Rosberg’s only about 2.8 or so for pole. Too short, given Vettel seems to have a realistic chance and Hamilton is favourite.

There’s only a pathetic 1.55 for Maldonado to reach Q3 (the Red Bulls, Saubers, his own team mate and maybe Toro Rossos/Hulkenberg could prove troublesome, so this is the least tempting so far). There’s 1.6 for Nasr, again, not very intriguing.

I was briefly tempted by the winning margin, but if Mercedes are slightly sandbagging they could be a fair way ahead of Ferrari, which makes things hard to tell (time-wise) when it comes to the winning margin.

I considered laying Rosberg at 1.14 to be top 3 in qualifying, but the money disappeared the moment I looked at it.

So, no bet on qualifying.

Ferrari are 4.5 to top score. If all four Ferraris/Mercedes finish then, assuming there’s no huge problem, they’ll be in the top four. Therefore, winning the race = being the top scoring team (1st and 4th yields 37 points, 2nd and 3rd 33 points). I think Ferrari has a realistic prospect of doing this, their pace seems to have worried Mercedes and Williams appear to think (in the race) the prancing horse is too much for them to handle.

Vettel’s available at 6 to win, Raikkonen 10 (each way is 1/3 the odds for top 2). The Finn shouldn’t be underestimated. But for the safety car he might’ve beaten Vettel in China, or run him damned close. On Betfair, they’re 6.8 and 13.5, respectively.

Whilst I’m tempted by those driver bets, and the Top Scoring Team bet, I expect Mercedes to get a 1-2 in qualifying. If they do, the odds will lengthen. If you think Rosberg or Hamilton will start behind one or both Ferraris, the top score bet is probably the first one I’d look at.

So, no tip, but the qualifying and race look like they could be pretty exciting.

Morris Dancer

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