Sunday, 8 April 2018

Bahrain: pre-race 2018

The Raikkonen bet came off, but only the each way aspect so the profit was modest. But it’s still much better than being red. As an aside, the Betfair hedge also came off.

In Q1, Verstappen lost control and his front left suspension when he crashed into the barriers. He’d already set a time fast enough to proceed, but (all else being equal) he’ll start 15th. Eliminated in Q1 were the two Williams, with Stroll slowest of all, both Saubers, and, very surprisingly, Grosjean in the much-fancied Haas. A stark turn around for the Williams team, which a few years ago was very much a frontrunner.

In Q2, it was McLaren that underwhelmed, with both cars failing to proceed. Hartley and Perez also left at this stage, with just over a tenth covering the Kiwi, Mexican and Alonso.

And so to Q3. All through qualifying it had looked very close between Ferrari and Mercedes, with the Prancing Horse seemingly just ahead of the Silver Arrows. Would the Mercedes engine get turned up and enable Bottas to steal pole? Would Hamilton get the time but not the position? Would Ferrari get their first pole in Bahrain in over a decade?

Yes, but only for the last one. After the first runs, Raikkonen was a tiny margin ahead of Vettel, who was a tenth ahead of Hamilton. In the second runs, Bottas improved to grab 3rd, and Vettel achieved pole, though Raikkonen was unable to go faster and had to settle for 2nd.

Hamilton qualified a mere 4th, and with his grid penalty will start 9th. It may be a long day tomorrow for him. Ricciardo was a couple of tenths back but about a second ahead of the midfield. Gasly, who put in a cracking performance in his Honda-powered Toro Rosso, will feature on the third row, with Magnussen alongside him.

The fourth row will be Hulkenberg and Ocon, whilst Sainz starts in 10th.

Hamilton and Verstappen start 9th and 15th respectively. But passing may (shockingly) be rather difficult. A one or two stop strategy could work. Clear air will be the best friend of a driver.

Before checking the markets, the bets that appealed to me most were:
Lay Hamilton, podium
Ricciardo, podium

I think Hamilton will struggle to pass cars like the Haas, Red Bull or his team mate (possible Mercedes will have a helpful strategy, though). His lay odds are around 2.48, and I was expecting something a bit shorter.

Red Bull’s pace looks good and they’re always better in the race, relative to others, than in qualifying. Also worth noting the Mercedes looked very good on the soft (yellow) tyres but struggled much more with overheating the supersoft (red). Ricciardo is 2.1 for a podium, which looks reasonable but not outstanding.

Perusing the markets, a few things caught my eye.
Ricciardo, winner, 13
Bottas, to beat Hamilton, 1.95
Ricciardo, winner (without Ferrari), 3.75

I think the Red Bull is going to be tasty in the race. Coming through to win would be significant, but those on pole have a weird tendency to fail to win in Bahrain. In the last four races it’s happened just once. That said, Ferrari have the front row locked out. I do think if anyone can beat them, it’s Ricciardo. Bottas has looked ok this weekend but the Mercedes tends to excel in qualifying, whereas the Red Bull has better (relative) pace in races. 13 is not as long as I’d like.

Bottas to beat Hamilton is simply based on them starting 3rd and 9th respectively. On-track, Hamilton may struggle to pass the upper end of the midfield. But not super long odds.

The winner without Ferrari market is an interesting addition to Ladbrokes’ usual assortment (I still want Top Scoring Team back, though). It is available each way but for 3.75 (third the odds, top 2) it doesn’t make much sense. Given Ricciardo’s 2.1 for a podium, this is quite a similar bet for nicer odds.

Unfortunately, whilst a few bets look interesting. Nothing really grabs me. But, I’ve offered a tip on every race for a long whilst now, so, the one that appeals most is:
Ricciardo, winner without Ferrari, 3.75 [3.9 with boost]

I think he’s driving very well, the Red Bull will be impressive in the race and he stands a good chance of passing Bottas. I’d like longer odds, but there we are.

Post-race may be delayed a bit, could be up tomorrow.

Morris Dancer

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