Well, qualifying did not go quite to script. The grid is unexpected in a few ways, which may hopefully create opportunity.
In Q1, the Manor Marussias of Stevens and Merhi were at the back, but the other three cars all had misfortune of one kind or another. Ericsson suffered a reliability failure, Alonso could’ve reached Q2 but got a puncture and Vettel/Ferrari simply believed the German’s lap was good enough, didn’t go out again, and ended up 16th. Of course, Vettel had to start from the back due to disqualification in 2012, and ended up on the podium (I think), so he may yet have a good race.
In the second session, Grosjean’s Lotus failed him, so he starts 15th. Ahead of him as Nasr, Maldonado, Button and Verstappen, who qualified a tiny margin behind his team mate and loses (10-9) the qualifying head-to-head against Sainz, who I think is a bit overlooked.
Q3 was quite exciting for a few reasons. After the initial run, Perez was ahead of Raikkonen, in 3rd. Rosberg was ahead of Hamilton for pole, but it was very tight. After the second runs, Hamilton got the top spot only to lose it moments later. That’s six consecutive poles for Rosberg, and he got this one by nearly four-tenths, which is a huge margin.
Perez, alas, got pipped by the Finn and starts 4th, but that’s still tasty and Force India look in good shape. It’ll be an intriguing contest, as Raikkonen was the only chap to escape Q1 on soft tyres, so he has an extra fresh set of supersofts for the race (optimal strategy is thought to be 2 stops, with 2 stints supersoft and 1 soft). Perez may try and make what should be a dead cert 2 stop into a 1 stop (and he’s achieved such things before).
Behind the Mexican are Ricciardo and Bottas, as well as Hulkenberg, half a second back from Perez (as Interlagos is a Hulkenberg circuit, I think Yas Marina is a Perez playground). Massa is behind Hulkenberg, as are Kvyat and Sainz.
I think Williams, despite having good top speeds, may suffer with tyres. Red Bull and Toro Rosso will not enjoy the straights. Mercedes and Force India should have a nice day, and it’ll be interesting to see how Raikkonen and Vettel do.
Only on one occasion has the chap on pole converted that to victory, though that stat is bedevilled by reliability misfortune, rather than reflecting the characteristics of the circuit (passing is historically tricky, but some cars this season are a cut above others).
Initial betting thoughts were:
Vettel top 6
Lay Ricciardo top 6
Hulkenberg top 6
For a podium, Raikkonen was 1.61, and Perez 5. That seems a silly contrast to me. (1.75 and 3 on Betfair).
Vettel was an unattractive 1.3 for top 6, Hulkenberg 2 and Bottas had a lay value of 3. None tempt.
Button was 3 for points, which is too short.
So, the Perez bet looked interesting, but I’m not sure about it. Although, upon checking, he was better than Raikkonen in Q1 and Q2. Hmm. Anyway, I decided to idly browse the markets and see if anything leapt up at me.
Grosjean, points, 2.37, was the only thing that made me think. So, there’s that, Hulkenberg at evens for top 6 (I know I said that didn’t tempt, but when famished even cabbage begins to resemble food) and Perez at 5 for a podium (I’d prefer that on Betfair to hedge but at the moment only 4.3 is available).
In the end, I opted for a Perez podium at 5. I think the Ferraris and Force Indias are ahead of the Williams and Red Bulls, which makes it a Perez-Raikkonen duel (Hulkenberg is outmatched at Yas Marina by his team mate).