Qualifying was definitely exciting, and every bet I’d considered (for qualifying) proved utterly wrong, so it’s a good job I didn’t back any of them.
In Q1 Button’s dire fortune continued, with his third immediate car failure this weekend. One suspects his hopes of finishing the race must be thin indeed. Naturally, both Manor Marussia’s exited at this stage (Stevens again substantially faster than Merhi). Kvyat, oddly, also failed to escape the first part of qualifying, though it’s unclear if it was some sort of problem or he was just slow [on that point, Eddie Jordan, who is mad as a box of frogs but also hears rumours from many places, suggested that whilst the Renault engine is a bit weak, Red Bull has other problems entirely unrelated to the engine]. Maldonado was the fastest of the five departing drivers, and he had some sort of power issue.
Q2 was very close, and featured the slightly odd sight of Rosberg going off-line on the main straight to perhaps check the braking point. However, that also meant he got dust all over his race tyres. Verstappen’s been a bit off-colour all weekend and starts 15th, with Alonso right ahead of him. It’s the first time McLaren have escaped Q2 and, more importantly, he was within three-tenths of 11th-placed Perez. Progress is being made and after the fly-aways (for the next race) he and Button may see themselves battling for points. Nasr and Ericsson start 12th and 13th, with Perez 11th.
This session was also notable for the Williams suddenly becoming incredibly fast, making it appear that Q3 might be a three-way contest (or a two-way contest behind the Mercedes).
In Q3 the Williams fell back a little, adopting their traditional positions of 5th and 6th (Bottas a tasty four-tenths ahead of his team mate). Ricciardo got a decent 7th, ahead of Hulkenberg (surprisingly quick in 8th, Sainz’s 9th and a perhaps disappointing 10th for Grosjean).
At the sharp end, Hamilton put in a stonker to claim pole by four-tenths, ahead of Vettel, who was two-tenths ahead of Rosberg. Raikkonen starts just a tenth behind Rosberg.
I think Vettel has a decent shot of beating Hamilton, and Raikkonen Rosberg. The Renault reliability still looks suspect, and Ricciardo may get swamped off the line again.
Early betting thoughts:
Lay Ricciardo top 6
Ferrari top score
Vettel win each way
And Championship winner – Ferrari 18.5 (Betfair)
Lay Ricciardo top 6 was only available at 4.1. Whilst I think it’s pretty unlikely, I’d want probably 3, or 2.5 (to lay).
Ferrari are 4 to top score. That requires either a Vettel victory [if the top four on the grid finish in the top four] or a Mercedes problem. Barring a mishap, it’s effectively the same as a Vettel (or Raikkonen) win. It’s worth considering.
Raikkonen is 1.9 for a podium. I do think he has a good chance. This is probably value.
Vettel to win is 4.1 with Betfair (where it’s hedgeable) and 4.33 with Ladbrokes (more for winning and can be converted to top 2 with an each way bet at 1/3 the odds [NB there is a top 2 market on Betfair but Vettel’s only 1.5 for that, he’s over evens on Ladbrokes, if you go each way]). I quite like this, although I think Raikkonen has a better chance of getting one over Rosberg.
Grosjean’s just 1.5 for points, which is rubbish. Alonso’s 3.5. Mildly tempting, but given how unreliable his car is, not tempting enough.
Vettel and Raikkonen are very evenly matched. I think it makes more sense to consider betting on them taking the Constructors’ than the Drivers’, at 18.5, if you feel that way inclined. I only raise it now rather than post-race because if Ferrari do well in the race the price will drop like a whore’s drawers.
Oddly, then, my problem isn’t a dearth but a surplus of tempting bets.
Best value for me is Vettel, each way, to win at 4.33 [NB when I do an each way bet I make it so the total bet is one stake (a theoretical £10) rather than two bets of £10 each]. Even if he starts badly I think he can pass Rosberg during pit stops, and if he has a great race he could win it. Update: and as I write this the odds fall to 3.75. That’s pretty frustrating. The odds had already dropped from from about 5 to 4.33. And Ferrari are down to 3 to top score (if they’d still been 4 I would’ve tipped that instead). On balance, I think 3.75 is still value (each way). But it’s a tight call. (Pre-qualifying it was 7). If it falls any lower, I’m not backing it.
Raikkonen for a podium at is sound [Betfair’s odds just improved]. He’s simply a better racer than Rosberg, and has (according to all reports) a car that’s faster on race pace.
So, two tips:
Vettel, to win (each way), 3.75, Ladbrokes [when the site decides to allow me to log-in]
Raikkonen, podium, 2, Betfair
Obviously I’m relying on all the mood music about race-trim pace of the Ferrari being sound. If it isn’t, then I’ll be out of pocket and the race will be rather less interesting.
The race is very nicely poised.