Saturday, 24 November 2018

Abu Dhabi: pre-race 2018

Well, I got that wrong. Raikkonen was some way off, so it was plain misjudgement on my part. Very surprised just how big the Mercedes advantage was, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the pace running order reversed in the race, as happened to a large extent in Brazil.

Alone of the top six, Verstappen starts on the hypersoft. This may harm his prospects, but that didn’t really happen much at the last race. And the Red Bull is pretty kind to its tyres.

In Q1 there was no surprise to see the Williams slowest. This year’s car has been horrendous, harking back to the blue days of yesteryear and making the recent relative revival under Massa and Bottas seem a long time ago. Vandoorne also failed to progress. Somewhat more surprising was a double Toro Rosso departure. Gasly would’ve escaped but just before the last corner he suffered a reliability failure that robbed him of power and booted him from qualifying. Very bad luck for the Frenchman.

Q2 had one or two notable features. Every departing driver was from a different team (fastest to slowest): Sainz, Ericsson, Magnussen, Perez, and Alonso. Only Alonso outqualified his team mate, of those. Also worthy of note is that there’s a massive performance gap between the hypersoft and ultrasoft, yet the top three teams were so dominant they still made it through on the ultrasoft. With one exception. Verstappen was slow (I think he just screwed it up) on his initial lap and, for safety’s sake, had to set a quick time on the hypersoft. Will this compromise him? Maybe. It didn’t seem to happen last time, when everyone thought it would.

In Q3, Hamilton seemed on another planet, especially in the third sector. Bottas managed to get within a tenth and a half, sealing a record fifth consecutive front row lock out for the Silver Arrows. Ferrari may be a bit grumpy on the second row, Raikkonen behind Vettel and just three-hundredths ahead of Ricciardo. Verstappen, perhaps surprisingly, was nearly two-tenths off his team mate.

However, given the flattering effect of the ‘party mode’, I think Red Bull could be very tasty in the race. Assuming they finish.

Grosjean was best of the rest, a tiny margin ahead of Leclerc. Ocon starts 9th, qualifying two-thousandths of a second ahead of Hulkenberg.

Initial betting thoughts were:
Verstappen/Ricciardo podium
Sainz points
Leclerc/Grosjean winner outside top 6

Verstappen is 2.9 and Ricciardo 2.87 for a podium. They’re both pretty tempting.

Sainz is 1.61 for points. Too short, given he starts (just) outside the top 10.

No market for winner outside the top 6 went up within my time (I’ll check tomorrow morning, if I’m able to. May be busy).

Perusing the markets didn’t throw up much, although Verstappen to win each way at 12 looked tempting.

Decided to back Verstappen/Ricciardo for a podium at 2.9 and 2.87 respectively (splitting one stake).

Race starts at 1.10pm. Let’s hope the season ends rather better than it started.

Morris Dancer

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