Qualifying was indeed entertaining, for unexpected reasons.
In the first session it was not too surprising to see Vandoorne slowest and Stroll barely faster. More surprising, somewhat, was losing both Toro Rossos. Ocon also failed to progress, which was not great, considering Perez would end up in the top 10. However, the real sting came late on. Hamilton was circulating when suddenly his hydraulics went on strike. He was instructed to stop (unsure if he disobeyed that or not as radio messages can be delayed) and tried pushing the car to the pits but it was too far out. Having reached Q2 and with Ricciardo enduring an engine penalty, he’ll still start 14th or so, but not a good day for the Briton.
It’s believed the problem was caused when he went wide and decided to keep his foot on the accelerator, going over very bumpy ground and potentially causing the failure.
With Hamilton out and Ricciardo not running in Q2, there were only three ‘real’ eliminations: Alonso, Sirotkin, and Ericsson. Alonso and Sirotkin both qualified a long way ahead of their team mates.
And so into Q3. Would Verstappen, who had seemed competitive earlier, be able to go toe-to-toe with Ferrari and Bottas?
No. On the first run, Vettel was the fastest and Verstappen was about three-quarters of a second off the pace. On the second, Bottas went faster than Vettel, only for the German to put in an even faster lap to get pole by two-tenths, a pretty hefty margin on such a short circuit. Raikkonen and Verstappen will be on the second row, with Magnussen and Grosjean claiming the third row for Haas.
Hulkenberg edged out Sainz to lead the way on row four, with Leclerc finishing half a tenth ahead of Perez.
Weather, for what it’s worth given the forecasts have been continually wrong, is deemed likely to be dry for the race. So it may well tip it down.
Anyway, immediate betting thoughts are:
Raikkonen/Verstappen win each way
Hulkenberg top 6
Hamilton not to be classified
Verstappen is 6 for the win, Raikkonen 10. Each way is a third the odds for top two. The Red Bull looks significantly more competitive on race pace than qualifying, and would only benefit (in pace terms) if it does rain. The Ferrari may well be the fastest car, and a 1-2 is possible. It’s also eminently possible that Vettel and Bottas will get a bit too close to one another early on and Raikkonen might pick up the pieces. Not sure if 6/10 represents value. Need to think about it.
Hamilton is 1.33 for a podium. That tempts me zero percent. Yes, it’s credible, but he has four fast cars ahead of him and potential for early trouble, starting surrounded by the midfield. Ricciardo is 5.5, which may be worth looking at. Safety car timing is likely to help rather than hinder him (he has nothing to lose) and he can start on whatever tyre he likes. Plus, early tangles at the front are eminently possible. It’s not odds on, but is a realistic possibility, especially as Mercedes has recently had a spot of gremlin bother.
Hulkenberg is 4.33 to be top 6. I do think this requires one of the top six to fail and for Hulkenberg to be best of the rest. Haas have recently been impressive, so this might be tricky. Of course, if we have a smash-up at the front, he could be second best of the rest and still be top 6.
Hamilton is 8 not to be classified. I like this quite a lot. Car trouble, off-colour, surrounded by the midfield, grumpy, chance of rain. Could happen.
Annoyingly, the odds then changed. I think Ladbrokes might have accidentally put them up too early, without changing them from pre-qualifying.
Ricciardo became 7.5 for a podium, which is more tempting. Hulkenberg fell to 4 for top 6.
Incidentally, the 2.3 safety car and 2.2 no safety car (Ladbrokes/Betfair respectively) bet I mentioned elsewhere isn’t counting in the records. But it’s still a nice spot.
Anyway, once the markets woke up properly, I perused them for value and so forth. And thus:
Hartley, not to be classified, 2.5
Safety car, 2.3
Finishers under 15.5, 2.2
Hartley has a 50% DNF rate. So, 2.5 looks like value.
I think there’s a reasonably high chance of a safety car, so it being odds against seems a little unusual, and tempting.
DNFs and the like making under 15.5 classified finishers at 2.2 intriguing too. That requires 5 chaps to fail to be classified. Obviously there’s a bit of overlap with the idea of a safety car bet.
At the moment, the bets I like most are Ricciardo podium, Raikkonen each way for the win, Hamilton to DNF and a safety car to appear. The track’s pretty narrow so I think a reliability failure is relatively likely to bring one out, though the VSC could scupper it. There’s also the chance of a big crash, of course.
Upon meditative reflection, Raikkonen to win each way at 10 seems the best value to me.
Anyway, the race commences at some stupid minutes after 2pm because Liberty decided to bugger about with the start times of the European leg of the season. Daft sods. Let’s hope the race is entertaining and profitable.