Friday, 25 September 2015

Japan: pre-qualifying

Quite a lot of important off-track stuff to consider before we come to the race weekend. Most obviously, a few days after Volkswagen buying Red Bull became a story it emerged the car maker has been cheating on emissions tests. This has led to multi-billion dollar fines being mooted in the media, and the CEO’s resignation.

Naturally, this throws into significant doubt the potential deal with Red Bull. It may yet happen, or be delayed, but we shall have to wait and see.

On a related note, Ferrari has indicated it will offer Red Bull engines. This would probably be for a couple of years whilst VW [perhaps] develops their own engine. However, Red Bull, maintaining its deserved reputation for entitled whining, now wants a works deal (parity with Ferrari, rather than with Ferrari’s other customer teams). If not, they’re threatening to quit the sport.

Given that Ferrari has offered at very short notice to provide engines (a not inconsiderable undertaking due to the staffing/infrastructure requirements, not to mention Red Bull’s treatment of Renault), this is yet more pathetic dummy-spitting. For four years Red Bull had total dominance, winning every title. They barely mentioned Renault. After one ‘moderate’ year (they had 3 wins) and one ‘poor’ year (they’ve had a number of podium finishes) they’re in open warfare with their engine supplier.

It’s pathetic.

Lotus’ financial woes continue, as they were locked out of their own hospitality in Japan. It seems the Renault deal is more or less done for the team, though, and hopefully that’ll resolve everything.

Perez is to remain at Force India. There had been murmurings he might go to Lotus, to take a seat which may be vacated if Grosjean goes to Haas, as is rumoured. Button has said it’s McLaren or nothing for him, and it’s expected his future will be confirmed in the near future.

Both qualifying and the race may be wet, so check the forecast. In the wet, I’d expect that to relatively help Red Bull and hinder Ferrari, and do significant harm to Williams. Verstappen was looking pretty good in an early wet session (perhaps practice) this season, and Button’s excellent in wet-dry conditions.

P1 was very wet, to the extent only 12 drivers set flying laps. For the sake of completeness, the top 10 were: Sainz, Kvyat, Rosberg, Vettel, Hamilton, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Massa, Ericsson and Bottas.

P2 was also pretty soggy, but some times were set on intermediates. Kvyat was fastest, ahead of Rosberg and Hamilton, followed by Ricciardo and Vettel. Raikkonen, Sainz, Verstappen, Nasr and Maldonado rounded out the top 10.

Hamilton seemed a bit off Rosberg’s pace in both sessions, but they were both wet which means that it’s difficult to draw a firm conclusion. Kvyat looked good in both.

Given there are just 2 practice sessions to go on (I’m not getting up at 4am to see how P3 went) and both were wet, it’s unlikely I’ll offer a tip, but I’ll peruse the markets anyway in case something leaps out.

It seems qualifying may well be dry, which further complicates matters. As well as paying a modicum of attention to the saturated practice, I thought it useful to cast an eye over the Silverstone grid, as there are some similarities between Japan and the UK (in terms of F1 circuits, as well as constitutional monarchy).

To my surprise, I found something that tempted me.

Tip: Sainz, reach Q3, 3.5

He was competitive in the wet and has (in dry qualifying) a recent history of about 50/50 reaching the top 10. The Toro Rossos are roughly on a par with Force India at recent qualifying, but the Force Indias are 1.5 (Verstappen is 3.25, but I went for Sainz as he was faster in practice and at Silverstone).

I was also tempted by the 4.5 (each way) for Rosberg to win, but thought that a stretch too far.

Oddly, it appears qualifying starts at 7am. Hmm. Not quite sure what to make of that. Thought it was 6am, but the BBC coverage is 6-8.30am, and Twitter seems to agree it starts at 7am. Bit odd.


Morris Dancer

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