Must admit to being rather disappointed how the bet turned out. Retirements were few, and with just three laps left Verstappen’s engine blew up on the pit straight, guaranteeing a safety car. However, I do put this down to bad luck rather than ill-judgement, and luck should even itself out over the course of a season. This is also why I dislike short odds bets. I had one red and one green this weekend, but because of the short odds I finished very slightly down. Not awful, but red’s never good.
The race start was notable for Raikkonen dispatching both Williams on the first lap and Ricciardo leaving the handbrake on, sliding from 7th to 17th.
From then on, the top 6 stayed as they were (Hamilton, Rosberg, Vettel, Raikkonen, Massa and Bottas), although at time the gap covering the top 4 fell to just 10 seconds. It was close between the Mercedes and Ferrari, but not quite close enough (China’s fairly difficult to overtake on). However, further down the grid there was some fantastic racing.
Both Lotuses were comfortably in the points, 7th and 8th, and keeping pace with the Williams (although some way down the road). Then Maldonado cocked up his pit entry, and emerged about 14th or so. He got in a fight with Button and Alonso, and very entertaining it was too, until the Briton hit Maldonado from behind, which caused the Venezuelan to retire. On pace, the Lotus was good. Late on, the McLaren seemed reasonable.
Verstappen was tremendously impressive, passing cars with great skill and on for good points before his engine died with just three laps to go. It was on the main straight, and he considerately parked it right by a gate. As the Sniff Petrol Twitter feed noted, the Chinese marshals were unwise to hire the Chuckle Brothers to manoeuvre the stricken Toro Rosso into the pit lane.
Verstappen’s bane was Ericsson’s boon, enabling the Swede to claim 10th. Ericsson and Ricciardo spent half the race duelling, and it was great entertainment. Nasr had another impressive race, and claimed 8th, giving Sauber some more tasty points.
Ricciardo’s race was compromised by the terrible start he had (and not aided when Kvyat was instructed to let him past, and then spent a lap or so obstructing him). However, he fought back, although with a few uncharacteristic mistakes, and got 9th.
Retirements were few and far between. Hulkenberg peeled off with a gearbox problem, and Kvyat’s engine died. Late on, so did Verstappen’s. Maldonado had to retire after Button hit him from behind (entirely the Briton’s fault).
All McLarens and Manor Marussias were classified, which will help them improve reliability and pace yet further. Perez was the fastest chap outside the points, with Alonso right behind him.
After the race, Button and Maldonado were summoned by the stewards to explain their collision.
The most interesting thing about the top 6 was that it appears Hamilton deliberately backed up Rosberg to make his life (with Vettel) more difficult. Mercedes told Hamilton to speed up or they’d pit Rosberg first (risking Rosberg overtaking Hamilton due to the undercut) at which point Hamilton suddenly remembered where the accelerator was. It’s also worth noting that Rosberg was far closer to Hamilton in both qualifying and the race than he has been so far this year.
So, I’m a bit frustrated with the way the bet went. I do think it was just bad luck but, as I said, that’ll hopefully even itself out over the course of the year. On the plus side, Hamilton won. He still needs 12/16 wins over the course of the season to break the record, though.
Red Bull 13
Toro Rosso 12
Force India 7
I don’t think this is sewn up, yet. Mercedes were faster today, but Ferrari was snapping at their heels. Williams were lonely, in a league of their own. Behind, it’s close enough for lots of exciting racing and uncertainty. Nasr was impressive again, as was Verstappen. The Sauber’s pretty good this year (they’re ahead of Red Bull in the title race).
I’ll be keeping my eye out for long-term bets on Verstappen (to get a world title or similar), and I suspect, if things stay as they are, he might take Kvyat’s seat sooner rather than later.
This was a third red race in a row, but because of the way things worked out I’m only down about a stake and a half overall. Not happy about that, obviously, but it’s also far from a calamity.
Bahrain is next weekend, a race that tends to be dreadful. Last year was a classic, though, so we’ll see whether it’s a beauty or a beast of a race. Overtaking has (last year aside) been very difficult there, so I expect a premium on qualifying, plus substantial woe for Red Bull (Ricciardo seems to be starting horrendously this year). If tyre wear is high, that may help Ferrari, who have often run well there when they’ve been competitive.
Bahrain’s the last fly-away at the start of the season, after which there’s a three week wait until Spain.