Sunday, 3 April 2016

Bahrain: post-race analysis

A cracking race to watch, bit mixed on the betting front. One came off. The other didn’t due to a DNS (some mishap caused the engine to explode on the formation lap, which hampered Vettel’s chances of winning the race quite substantially).

The formation lap was interesting, as it featured two retirements. Vettel’s hopes and engine faded in a puff of smoke, and Jolyon Palmer pulled into the pits due to a reliability failure. With Magnussen (Palmer’s team mate for Renault) starting from the pit lane anyway, a mere 19 cars were on the grid.

The start and first corner were dramatic. Raikkonen had a slightly dodgy start, Hamilton likewise. Rosberg had a clean get away and passed Hamilton. The Williams cruised past Raikkonen. At the first corner, Bottas struck Hamilton, and the Briton fell to around 7th or 8th.

Raikkonen took a while to get past the Red Bull of Ricciardo and the Williams, and this allowed Rosberg to scamper away. Although the Finn (later on) closed within 6s or so, Rosberg was never truly under threat.

Hamilton had suffered some damage to his car, but how much this affected things is difficult to guess. It didn’t look major, to be honest. However, he had even more early traffic to clear than Raikkonen. Late on in the race he got close to Raikkonen, but the final pit stops (he was inexplicably kept out whilst 2-3s a lap slower than the Finn, due to old tyres) ended any prospect of him attaining 1st or 2nd.

There was more change behind. The Williams had briefly been 2nd and 3rd, but inexorably drifted down the order (Bottas got a drive-through for the first lap collision). The pace was pretty unimpressive, to be honest.

Ricciardo did better than expected in the Red Bull, and was the best of the rest, with Kvyat climbing to 7th.

Grosjean adopted an odd approach. He three-stopped, but did the first three stints on the supersoft. This may have been a strategic master stroke, and he fully deserved his excellent 5th finish. Gutierrez failed to reach the race’s end (I think it was a reliability failure).

Sainz also retired in the pits, but Verstappen got a good 6th. Massa and Bottas ended up 8th and 9th. In relative terms, the Williams has definitely gone backwards.

A great 10th was had for Stoffel Vandoorne on his debut (Button’s ERS died and he retired). I would not be at all surprised if the Belgian replaced Button for 2017.

Worthy of an honourable mention is Pascal Wehrlein for a very fiesty race. He was only 13th, but that’s a step up for Manor and he was mixing it with Renaults, Force Indias and Saubers. I would be unsurprised if he scores a point or two this year.

The Force Indias were terrible. They finished 15th and 16th, despite Hulkenberg having started 8th. I’m not sure why this was.

The result leaves the Drivers’ title race, after 2/21 events, like this:
Rosberg 50
Hamilton 33
Ricciardo 24
Raikkonen 18
Grosjean 18
Vettel 15
Massa 14

However, worth noting both Ferraris have only finished one race apiece. If they sort the reliability they may well be a match for Mercedes. If they can’t, the Silver Arrows will win. Again.

Constructors’, after 2/21:
Mercedes 83
Ferrari 33
Red Bull 30
Williams 20
Haas 18

On the bets: the Grosjean bet was well-judged. He was 1.9 for points and ended up 5th, having started 9th. It’s quite hard to judge the Vettel bet. It was obviously unlucky, losing due to a formation lap engine death, but had he run normally it’s certainly a viable possibility that he could’ve won, or gotten close enough for the hedge to be matched.

The overall result, with a £10 stake per tip, was a loss of £1. So, not the end of the world, if a bit disappointing.

The Chinese Grand Prix is in a fortnight.

Morris Dancer

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