Saturday, 4 July 2015

United Kingdom: pre-qualifying

The survey results are in. Over 215,000 fans from 194 countries completed the exhaustive question, which ran for a fortnight after the Monaco procession. I was one of them, and am slightly surprised how many finished it, given how enormous it was (took me about 30 minutes).

The findings, as reported by the BBC, are as follows:
Around 90% want the sport to be more competitive
A majority (60%) want refuelling to return
Technical rules should be relaxed for more diverse cars and technology (74%)
Tyre wars are desired (80%)

A couple of interesting findings there (for the record, I agree with all the above positions). Tyre wars are unlikely in the immediate future as I think Pirelli have the gig this season and next, and then it’ll be a decision between them and Michelin for 2017 onwards (NB Michelin will only do it if the wheel size is increased from 13” to 18” rims, which would have a substantial impact on car design, including suspension).

Refuelling is popular with fans, but not with teams, who seem set against it (due to safety and cost).

Technical changes are coming, though I forget if it’s in 2016 or 2017. Essentially, the front wing will be widened and the rear narrowed, which, it’s hoped, will reduce the impact of dirty air unsettling the aerodynamics of one car closely following another, allowing for closer racing and more passing without the nonsense gimmick of DRS (which should be banned, but I doubt it will be).

In other news, there are some rule changes coming. Electronic aids and team instruction via radio will be reduced, which should have an impact on the start. This change is effective from the Belgian Grand Prix. We’ll see how big an impact it has on starts. Engine performance might be one key factor, but perhaps tyre choice will also be more significant.

Anyway, to Silverstone. The circuit’s more about corners than the recent tracks in Canada and Austria, although there are a few straights so power isn’t irrelevant. I’d expect cars without a Mercedes in the back to do better here (Red Bull and Toro Rosso especially). Force India could be an exception as I think they’re due for a B-spec car and will finally get some upgrades.

It’s been very hot in Blighty over the last few days, and rain is forecast for Sunday, so that’s well worth keeping an eye on. Chaps who have shown good rain form include Button, Hulkenberg and Bottas.

The tyres are hard and medium.

In P1 Rosberg was fastest by a tiny margin ahead of Hamilton (but it was still very impressive given the German had an early hydraulic issue and spent most of the session having his car mended). Verstappen was third but over a second down the road, followed closely by Raikkonen, Sainz, Vettel, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Hulkenberg and Massa.

In P2 Rosberg was again fastest, a third of a second ahead of Raikkonen. Vettel was very close behind his team mate, with Hamilton only fourth (the Briton complained about his car’s handling and aborted what should’ve been a long run). Kvyat was four-tenths back in fifth, then came Ricciardo, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Sainz and Massa.

Looking promising for Rosberg right now. The Mercedes has a massive advantage over the field, although potential rain on Sunday could throw the cat amongst the pigeons.

It also looks better, as expected, for Red Bull and Toro Rosso, but we’ll have to see how that plays out. I think Williams have been keeping their powder dry, as is often the case. The Force India updates seem to be working, so they also stand a chance of Q3/points.

The McLaren continues to be as reliable as a French ferry worker.

P3 had Hamilton quickest, half a second up on his team mate, who was a couple of tenths up on Raikkonen. Vettel was three-tenths back, and followed by Verstappen and Sainz. Massa was a smidgen ahead of Bottas, with Kvyat and Maldonado rounding out the top 10.

Rosberg had a problem with his gearbox during P3 which prevented him doing much of a qualifying simulation run. He finally got in a last minute single flying lap. I’m not convinced the half-second gap is reflective of reality.

Alonso was unable to do a qualifying run because of hydraulics failing him.

Toro Rosso looked pretty damned tasty in P3. Lotus and Force India perhaps a little lacklustre. Aerodynamics are mattering more than having a Mercedes in the back.

Potential bets:
Rosberg pole [NB, came to mind prior to P3]
Verstappen Q3
Sainz Q3
Kvyat Q3

Rosberg’s 2.75 for pole with Ladbrokes, and 3.35 with Betfair. The latter is actually quite tempting. It’s clearly a two horse race, Rosberg’s in with a shot.

All the Q3 odds on Betfair were under 1.5, which is too tight (big circuit but twisty so getting stuck behind another car’s a serious issue, and there’s always potential for going off). It took a while for Ladbrokes to get their Q3 market up, but it did come up at 11.49am. Not that I was getting aggravated waiting. Anyway, it wasn’t worth the wait, 1.33 for Kvyat and 1.2 each for the Toro Rosso chaps.

The Rosberg bet is tempting. I went back to check if he had traffic (also causes aerodynamic issues) and he had some at least, particularly near the end of the lap. So, I’ve backed him for pole at 3.65, hedged at 1.8 [Betfair, obviously].

Morris Dancer

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