Saturday, 16 September 2017

Singapore: pre-qualifying 2017

Bottas has signed a new deal with Mercedes and will drive for them next year. Not too surprising, to be honest. After a slightly iffy start, he’s been driving very well. That said, it sounds like a one year deal which is a bit shorter than I’d expected.

In more surprising news, an engine rumour is making the rounds. But not the Toro Rosso-Honda/McLaren-Renault one. It seems Renault may ditch Red Bull at the end of 2018, forcing Red Bull to take on Honda engines. A season or two ago, Red Bull were whining excessively about Renault. The engine then was a bit lacklustre, but nothing like the horror show of Honda (which McLaren have been extremely patient about). With the Renault-McLaren deal apparently already signed, Red Bull might just regret not exercising their veto over Renault taking on McLaren and opting for Honda engines for Toro Rosso. Not only that, unless Honda narrow the performance gap swiftly, Ricciardo and Verstappen will be looking for new teams. [The confirmation of this came on Friday].

This may explain the surprisingly short deal for Bottas. Mercedes may have an eye on the Red Bull drivers. Speaking of which, Sainz has moved to Renault, displacing Palmer.

The Singapore circuit has extended its agreement to be on the calendar until 2021. Not unexpected.

I offered three early tips on PB (all each way): Verstappen to ‘win’ FP1 at 7, Verstappen and Ricciardo to win the race at 8.5 and 8 respectively. The each way aspect of the practice bet came off, mildly. [Ricciardo’s got lay odds just under 4 on the exchanges. Personally, I’m not hedging just yet, but thought I’d flag it up for those interested].

In first practice Ricciardo was a tenth ahead of Vettel, with Verstappen close behind. Hamilton was fourth but some way back, then came Perez, Bottas, Raikkonen, Alonso, Hulkenberg and Kvyat.

Second practice was even better for Red Bull, with Ricciardo top and over half a second ahead of his team mate. Hamilton was third, with a large gap back to Bottas. Hulkenberg, Vandoorne, Alonso, Perez, Raikkonen and Ocon rounded out the top 10. It’s worth noting Vettel was on a very competitive lap but got held up severely by a Sauber, so his absence from the top half of the time sheet is not representative of his pace.

Right now it’s looking rather good for Red Bull. I think Vettel will be ahead of Verstappen and behind Ricciardo, if all goes smoothly in qualifying. McLaren’s looking good too.

In third practice it was ultra-tight, with Verstappen fastest, then Vettel and Hamilton, but the gaps under a tenth each. Alonso and Vandoorne were next, but Ricciardo’s 6th was not representative of his pace and he should be right there in qualifying. Hulkenberg was next, ahead of Bottas and Raikkonen, with Perez 10th.

Ricciardo’s failure to clock a proper lap is interesting because he was the class of the field in earlier practice. Hard to say if he would’ve retained that advantage.

It’s looking like a four horse race for qualifying.

Elsewhere, Mr. Sandpit tipped Hamilton on Betfair for pole at 20, but this has collapsed, at the time of writing, to 9 (still might be worth a look).

There’s no tip that’s outstanding for me, so I’m not betting on qualifying (beyond a tiny sum I put on Hamilton at Mr. Sandpit’s suggestion, but that’s not my own tip and won’t count in the records). The 3.7 on Ricciardo for pole was quite tempting, but it’s a four horse race, so I decided against it.

Incidentally, it’s just one week until Sir Edric’s Kingdom comes out. Pre-order here:

Due to time constraints I’m not sure if the pre-race ramble will be up this evening or tomorrow morning.

Morris Dancer

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