In the time since the last race, Jules Bianchi has sadly passed away. The young driver was critically injured in the last Japanese Grand Prix when he crashed into a recovery vehicle trying to move Sutil’s stricken Sauber. The serious brain injury sustained meant he was in a coma until he passed away recently.
Bianchi was talked of as a serious talent with a strong prospect of ending up at Ferrari. He also scored the only points Manor (then Marussia) have ever had, in Monaco 2014, which may have proved vital to the team making it to 2015.
His death is the first of its kind since Senna, over two decades ago. F1 is far, far safer than it was in the past but it will never be an entirely safe sport. Nevertheless, efforts to protect drivers (and others) must not relent.
Since Hungary there’s much speculation that Bottas will replace Raikkonen next year. I like both Finns, but would’ve preferred Hulkenberg to get the seat. It’s possible the German will go to Williams (if Bottas goes to Ferrari) but I’ve also heard of Nasr as a potential Williams driver [update: Sauber have confirmed both drivers will remain with them next year]. If Hulkenberg can’t get a better seat now then he may well leave the sport, which would be a shame as he’s a top chap and a very good driver. It may also be indicative of the crackers approach to finance affecting half, or more, of the grid.
The tyres this weekend are medium and soft.
In P1 Hamilton led his team mate by a tenth, with Raikkonen over half a second down the road. Ricciardo and Kvyat posted almost identical times, and Vettel was about three-tenths back (worth noting Vettel’s never actually won at this circuit, which is unusual). Sainz, Perez, Bottas and Verstappen rounded out the top 10.
This session was notable for a sizeable crash that Perez suffered due to a suspension element breaking. This ended up with his car upside down, although he was entirely alright, thankfully. However, the lack of certainty over what had precisely broken led the team to avoid P2 altogether.
In the second practice session, Hamilton was fastest again, albeit over Kvyat (by four tenths), with Ricciardo and Rosberg next. Raikkonen was half a second back (again), with a sizeable gap to Sainz, who was less than a tenth ahead of Vettel. Alonso, Bottas and Massa complete the top 10.
Given Hamilton’s record I think he may ace this weekend. However, Vettel’s slightly dodgy record and the importance of aerodynamics [relatively harmful for Williams in their fight with Ferrari] might mean Raikkonen has a shot at the podium.
Before P3, it emerged the Force India wishbone was to blame for the suspension failure. The team believed they’d solved the problem for the final practice session, which hopefully will prove to be the case.
Surprisingly, on the soft tyres Alonso was three-tenths off of Hulkenberg but six-tenths faster than Perez. In P3 commentary it was suggested by Ben Edwards that Renault’s decision to buy back Lotus, or not, will be taken soon, perhaps in the next week or two. The Force India and McLaren soft tyre laps were done much earlier than other teams, so their times may be a little slower due to track evolution. Raikkonen had a water leak which prevented him doing a qualifying simulation run. Bottas’ qualifying simulation was slowed by traffic, and Ricciardo’s time was compromised by a mistake in the second sector.
P3 had Hamilton fastest but less than a tenth ahead of his team mate. Vettel was next but eight-tenths down the road. Kvyat was four-tenths further back, followed by Sainz, Hulkenberg and Verstappen. Alonso Ricciardo and Grosjean round out the top 10.
Early bets that came to mind were:
Really quite surprised, but McLaren do appear to have taken a step forward. Alonso I think will end up 9-12th. Raikkonen, the Williams and Ricciardo could all have beaten his time, probably, but against that is that he set it early and track evolution means he’s faster than the time indicates. 2.1 for top 3 on Betfair is ridiculously short. 4 would tempt me a lot, 3 would be tricky, but barely evens does not appeal.
Hulkenberg, provided the car stays together, seems very likely to reach Q3. I was greatly surprised 1.8 was available, and backed it immediately.
I happened to see that No Safety Car was 1.75 on Betfair. Even though it’s early, I’ve backed that. Hungary is the circuit least likely to see one. Although it’s short odds, it seems value (the only doubt is that poor reliability from some teams could see a car become stranded in an area that necessitates a safety car. However, Betfair does not count a Virtual Safety Car, which is helpful).
So, two tips (both Betfair, but not hedged):
Hulkenberg to reach Q3 at 1.8
No Safety Car at 1.75
I’ll put up the pre-race piece as usual, whether or not I offer a second race tip remains to be seen.