Saturday, 26 April 2014

Predicting the Hamilton-Rosberg tussle

We're four races into a probably 19 race season (there's still a chance the inaugural Russian Grand Prix, due in October, could be suspended or cancelled for political reasons). Intriguingly, every single qualifying session and race, excluding Australia where Hamilton suffered a DNF due to reliability failure, has been identical to 2013 in terms of which Mercedes driver was faster.

Now, that could be coincide but it's 7/7 which suggests that even if last year isn't a perfect guide, it's at least worth bearing in mind. However, there were a few DNFs last year. In addition, the Indian Grand Prix has gone (huzzah), we see the return after some time of the Austrian A1 Ring, and the probable first race in Russia. Upon checking, we also lost Korea.

So, even though we have 15 races still ahead, not all of them can be considered for predictive purposes. Here's how they stacked up in 2013 (first name is qualifying 'winner', second the highest placed in the race):
Spain – Rosberg Rosberg
Monaco – Rosberg Rosberg
Canada – Hamilton Hamilton
Great Britain – Hamilton Rosberg*
Germany – Hamilton Hamilton
Belgium – Hamilton Hamilton
Italy – Rosberg Rosberg
Singapore – Rosberg Rosberg
Abu Dhabi** - Rosberg Rosberg
USA – Hamilton Hamilton
Brazil – Rosberg Rosberg

*Hamilton suffered a tyre explosion, the race result could easily have been different

** double points this year, of course. Bloody stupid rule, but one we must consider.

So that gives:
Rosberg: Spain, Monaco, UK*, Italy, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Brazil
Hamilton – Canada, Germany, Belgium, USA

That's 8 (counting Abu Dhabi double) for Rosberg to 4 for Hamilton. If Mercedes maintain their dominance and all else is equal (ie neither driver is more disadvantaged by misfortune than the other) then that would give Rosberg a lead of 28 points (4 x 7, the advantage a winner has over second place).

However, the Silverstone race was bad luck on Hamilton's part. If we shift it to Hamilton's column, we get 7:5, a Rosberg advantage of 14 points.

There are also other races we need to consider, namely: Hungary, Russia, Austria.

I've glanced at the circuits, and would guess Rosberg might do better as Austria and Hamilton Russia. Not sure about Hungary. Very hard to pass there, so it could well come down to the start.

Now, if the above is vaguely accurate, the title race will be on a knife-edge. Happily, we'll get a pretty quick indication whether or not the 7/7 is a coincidence, or whether it really does point the way of things to come. Rosberg has to win either Spain or Monaco (or both) to keep his hopes alive. If he does, then I would make him marginal favourite.

Hamilton is driving extremely well, and he's rightly considered favourite for the title. But if the pattern persists, it'll be very close and will go down to Abu Dhabi.

However, as well as the relative performance of each driver we need to consider whether or not Mercedes will maintain, lose or even increase their advantage over the rest of the field. A large part of it comes from having the best engine and having configured it in a way which is (if you are an engineer and understand this sort of thing, which I'm not and don't) fantastic. Improved software will see Ferrari and Renault engines improve, but they won't match Mercedes.

Aerodynamically Red Bull remain top dog, but Mercedes aren't too far behind and are probably ahead of everyone other than Red Bull.

It's possible Red Bull, Ferrari, Force India and McLaren might nab the higher spots now and then. Pushing a Mercedes driver down to third would cost him an extra 3 points to his team mate (assuming the other wins), and down to fourth would cost 3 more on top of that.

But, if other teams won (followed by Mercedes 2-3) that would push them down to getting 18 and 15 points, decreasing the advantage the lead driver would get.

We might well have the title decided by reliability of the car and consistency. Spain and Monaco will be useful. If Rosberg loses both, it's pretty much goodnight Vienna. If he wins one the game is afoot (especially if it's Monaco). If he wins both then it's advantage Rosberg.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 20 April 2014

China: post-race analysis

The Alonso bet came off, which I'm quite pleased about. The hedge was matched, but I suspect it would've been green even if Ricciardo had passed him near the end. Obviously it was better to do without hedging, for the second race in a row, but I'll never complain about a green result.

Unfortunately, Raikkonen continues to struggle with the Ferrari, and Vettel (possibly due to strategy errors) was again outclassed by his team mate, so Mr. Putney's tips did not, alas, come off.

It's fair to say the race was not a classic, particularly after the excellence of Bahrain (feels odd typing that).

Before the race the assumption was it would be dry, there'd be a fair bit of tyre degradation and the number of stops could be 2 or possibly 3.

Off the line Hamilton retained the lead, Rosberg left the handbrake on, and Massa made a flying start (again) only to collide with Alonso and drift back. The Spaniard, meanwhile, leapt into third and was very nearly into second. Rosberg went back to about sixth (behind Hulkenberg) after the first few corners.

Rosberg then began an inexorable climb through the field as his Silver Arrow flew past lesser cars. However, Hamilton spent the whole race cruising. He used less fuel than everyone else, his tyre wear was usually less, and he was never truly challenged. It was a rather lovely day for him.

Hulkenberg found himself in a Williams sandwich (behind Massa, ahead of Bottas). Massa had a very slow pit stop (the pit crew apparently had the wrong rear tyres) and was dead last when he finally left the pits, removing him from the equation. Hulkenberg and Bottas stayed close to one another for the whole race, but the German just squeaked across the line ahead of the Finn.

Ahead of them, the Red Bulls again had some interesting radio chatter. Vettel was asked to let Ricciardo past, asked what tyres the Aussie had and, upon learning they were the same compound but fresher due to an earlier pit stop, replied “Tough luck.” He later let Ricciardo past, after a message suggesting the Aussie was on 2 stops (implying Vettel was on 3, but if this was the case he converted to a 2 stop). Ricciardo ended up 4th and Vettel 5th.

Alonso had driven superbly to acquire second in the race but could not keep Rosberg behind him. In third, Ricciardo was narrowing the gap but not enough, and Alonso secured Ferrari's first podium of the season. It does seem the Prancing Horse has made a substantial performance gain over most others.

Raikkonen scraped 8th, a mile behind Alonso, Perez got 9th, and Kvyat continues to impress as he nabbed the final point.

However, the Silver Arrows remain in a league of their own. Of the 4 races to date they have 4 wins and 3 second places. It might be tedious, were it not for the absence of team orders. Things are looking very good for Hamilton, but Rosberg retains the lead, and if he can win in Monaco that could bode well for Abu Dhabi, where double points could yet determine the victor.

I've had a quick check, and so far in the three more or less fair races (not counting Australia where Hamilton had a reliability-related DNF) the result (between Hamilton and Rosberg) has been the same as 2013. Not only in the race, but qualifying as well (Rosberg got Bahrain pole in 2013), including Australia. That may well be worth keeping an eye on.

After four races the drivers are as follows:
Rosberg 79
Hamilton 75
Alonso 41
Hulkenberg 36
Vettel 33

And the teams:
Mercedes 154
Red Bull 57
Force India 54
Ferrari 52

So, it's pretty tight in the battle to be the third driver or the second team. Ferrari have taken a leap forward in Shanghai, and I think Red Bull have also improved a bit, although it's worth noting both Red Bulls went backwards in the race. With three out of four qualifying sessions so far in the wet they may not necessarily be indicative of how qualifying will go from now on.

More importantly, with the quartet of initial fly-aways over and a three week gap to the European portion of the calendar, teams will be rushing to get updates to their cars as often as possible. The pecking order will almost certainly change, although Mercedes would probably have to work hard to lose their immense advantage (until later in the season, and I'd be surprised if they lost it even then. Brawn only did in 2009 because the firm had been gutted in a bid to make ends meet when Toyota pulled out).

Races after that are very regular, a fortnight apart save for Hungary (one week after Germany), after which there's the mid-season interval to give everyone a rest.

Three weeks until we visit Spain. It'll be interesting to see whether Red Bull can challenge for pole and the win there.

As always, do feel free to leave questions, queries, witticisms and general comments below.

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 19 April 2014

China: pre-race

I missed the first five minutes or so of qualifying. It turned out Maldonado starts last, because an oil leak on his car meant he could not set any laps at all. He had a 5 place grid penalty for ramming Gutierrez in Bahrain (too lenient, if you ask me). There was some dispute as to whether this will be carried on to the next race or not, so we'll have to wait and see.

Qualifying was wet throughout, slowly drifting from full wet to intermediate territory.
Q1 went largely as you would expect, and we lost the pointless teams, absent Maldonado and Gutierrez.

Q2 saw the slightly surprising departure of both McLarens, as well as Raikkonen, who was only 11th. In the Finn's defence, he has had limited running in practice, but it was still something of a surprise. We also lost Kvyat, Perez and Sutil.

Q3 was quite interesting. Hamilton was faster by miles than everyone else. Rosberg may have challenged, but fluffed one lap with a locked brake and a second by spinning at the final corner (many drivers made errors during qualifying on that corner, but he did it at his last chance to get pole and ended up 4th). Pressure may be telling, but you don't gain points or lose them in qualifying. The Red Bull team will be delighted to have Ricciardo and Vettel 2nd and 3rd respectively.

Alonso got 5th, which is reasonable, particularly as the Ferrari is probably (relatively) faster in the dry than the wet. Could be on for a podium. Massa and Bottas should be delighted with 6th and 7th, one of the stronger qualifying sessions for Williams, especially given they seem to lose more than most in wet conditions.

Hulkenberg was about average in 8th, Vergne's 9th was reasonable and Grosjean will probably be glad just to nab the final place in Q3, the first time the gremlin-ridden Lotus has reached the last part of qualifying this year.

It's important to consider a few things about qualifying. For a start, it was wet. Weather forecasts indicate the race will be dry. Not only that, the rain will have washed away the rubber laid down in practice, increasing degradation and making life trickier for Williams and Ferrari, I would suggest. It may help Force India, who tend to be a little kinder to their tyres. It remains to be seen whether degradation will be significant enough to cause some teams to require an extra pit stop, but it's something that ought to be considered.

The run down to the first corner is fairly short, but the first couple of corners are absolute buggers. This is because they're based on the Chinese character for making corners stupidly rather than on making corners that produce good racing. Expect much bunching up and places made/lost (the corners really are rubbish). It could provide an opportunity for a sly fox, such as Alonso, to take advantage of poor decision-making by others.

So, potential bets are:
Red Bull to top score
Alonso podium
Perez to get points

Perez's odds are too short at just 1.45, and he has two McLarens and Raikkonen in front of him.

Alonso's odds of 4.5 (at the time of betting) for a podium were a bit longer than I'd expected. He looked very good in the dry (which the race is likely to be) and I backed him for a podium, hedged at evens. Potential pitfalls are high degradation or Red Bull being good in the race, but in his favour is a habit of quick starts, fantastic racing and that Ferrari appear to have taken a step forward in performance.

I was intrigued by backing Red Bull to top score, given Mercedes' slightly creaky reliability (not very creaky, more an unoiled door hinge rather than a nonagenarian's knees) but as Ladbrokes didn't have the odds up three and a half hours after qualifying I grew bloody tired of waiting.

So, just the one tip: Alonso to get a podium at 4.5, hedged at evens (if 4.5 isn't up I'd accept 4 or higher).

The race is from 8am tomorrow. It's the last before a three week break which marks the end of the fly-away first part of the season and the start of the middle European portion of the calendar.

Morris Dancer

Friday, 18 April 2014

China: pre-qualifying

I was intrigued by the top 3 drivers' market, but there are a huge number of potential candidates for the third spot all with good reasons for backing them, so I've decided not to bother.

Earlier this week Stefano Domenicali announced a surprise resignation as team principal of Ferrari. Whether he resigned or was resigned is not clear, at the time of writing, but it was a shock. I quite like Domenicali. He started off his F1 career working in the car park and worked his way up to being team principal of the sport's most famous name. But for a bad strategy call in 2010 and two pieces of bad luck in 2012 he would have been in charge for one or two more Alonso titles. His replacement, Marco Mattiacci, appears to be a car salesman. Many think he's an interim leader, whilst Ross Brawn (huzzah!) or Flavio Briatore (boo hiss!) are talked into taking over.

On Tuesday we found out the result of Red Bull's appeal against Ricciardo's disqualification in Australia. Apparently for all but 4 laps he was over the fuel flow limit, and Red Bull initially followed instruction to reduce the flow, but lost 0.4s a lap and so cranked it back up again. Without the extra flow rate it's believed he would have lost second to Magnussen.

Thankfully, the appeal was thrown out and the disqualification stands. That's rough on Ricciardo, but he was ill-served by the team, which just ignored a direct instruction. I'm glad this is out of the way, but it doesn't reflect well on Christian Horner or Red Bull as a team.

Anyway, the tyres are soft and medium. Degradation was an issue for Williams and Ferrari in Bahrain, with both teams requiring one more stop than those ahead of them. Given what happened with Mercedes in previous years I wouldn't expect this to change much during the season, and (if it seems like they're suffering high degradation) it has betting implications (laying points finishes or top 6 finishes could be possibilities).

P1 had Alonso fastest, ahead of Rosberg. Then came Ricciardo, Button, Hulkenberg, with Magnussen, Vergne, Hamilton, Vettel and Massa rounding out the top 10. In P1 Raikkonen didn't complete a single flying lap. I wouldn't read much into Hamilton's low position.

I caught the last half an hour of P2. The Ferraris looked more competitive on pace, although it sounded like there was some tyre degradation (tyres going after 10 laps, presumably the soft compounds) which could hamper them.

Hamilton was top in P2, followed by Alonso and Rosberg. Ricciardo, Vettel and Massa were next, followed by Raikkonen, Button, Grosjean and Kvyat.

According to the forecast there's an 80% chance of rain for qualifying. This will probably harm Williams and help Red Bull.

I looked at several bets. Laying Bottas to reach Q3 and backing Vettel, Ricciardo or Alonso to get pole.

Bottas had only a little available at evens, and I'd probably want 1.5 or similar.

Vettel, Ricciardo and Alonso had odds of 14, 16 and 14 respectively with Ladbrokes (each was 1/3 the odds for the top 2). If it rains that'll help the Red Bulls, and I'd more inclined to back them than Ferrari, but I have a feeling Mercedes haven't been showing their true pace, and it's pretty hard to guess which Red Bull would be faster. Unlike Malaysia, where Vettel got within a tenth of the fastest time in practice both Red Bulls have been a bit off the pace (for pole, they've been a bit closer than has been the case lately).

So, I suspect, wet or not, we'll have another Mercedes front row, but a Red Bull up there would not be a shock. If qualifying's wet that could hamper Alonso, who has been performing well in practice, and annoy Williams (excepting Bahrain qualifying this year has been wet). Force India and McLaren seem a little behind the Prancing Horse and Red Bull so far, but we'll have to see how they change things for qualifying.

Qualifying is at 7am, UK time.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Bahrain: post-race analysis

Blimey. It took 10 goes, but Bahrain was transformed, not unlike a frumpy librarian who turns out to like latex catsuits. An absolutely fantastic race from beginning to end, action throughout, huge amounts of passing, great excitement etc etc ad nauseum.

It was also the first race I've watched on Sky, which was a bit unexpected. I must say the commentary team are a cut above the BBC (in fairness, they are all ex-BBC and would probably be current BBC if the aforementioned organisation didn't have the loyalty of Judas and the common sense of a drunken bull terrier).

On bets: one red, one green, and I'm content with that. It was the first race so far that was better not to hedge (overall there's not much difference). I'm considering doing Early Bets. These would be mentioned on pb.com and maybe over Twitter (and referred to in pre-qualifying pieces), but would not count towards the records. The reason for this is that I've made a couple so far this year, and they're doing reasonably well, but I don't want to spend any more time writing articles. Anyway, let me know what you think of that idea.

The race was almost decided at the start. Hamilton got a slightly better start and passed Rosberg. Massa stormed into third and Bottas went backwards. Immediately the Silver Arrows drove away and engaged in a private duel.

It's extremely hard to summarise the race. The Mercedes battled with each other closely early on, then Rosberg settled down a short way back. The pair went onto differing tyres for the middle stint (Rosberg medium, Hamilton soft) and (aided by 4s or so gained by pitting first) Hamilton built up the gap to around 9-10s.

Behind them there was constant passing, cars running nose to tail, team mates frequently battling one another. It was excellent. The Ferraris spent the whole race getting passed by other people, and neither McLaren finished, both retiring late on due to reliability issues. A few others retired, the most dramatic of whom was Gutierrez. The Mexican was minding his own business, turning at the first corner, when a Venezuelan lunatic exited the pits and attempted to occupy the same co-ordinates in time and space. Maldonado rammed the side of Gutierrez, and the Sauber went upside down before landing the right way up, albeit wrecked. The collision had also strewn the track with debris, and the safety car, for only the second time in the circuit's history (odds 9/4, considered it pre-race) made an appearance.

This harmed Williams, who (unlike just about everyone else) were trying a 3 stop strategy, and reduced Hamilton's advantage over Rosberg to almost zero, though the Briton still led. However, in the middle stint it was apparent the advantage of the softer compound (which Rosberg, unlike Hamilton, was now on) was much less than expected, only a few tenths a lap. The stage was perfectly set for a mighty clash.

And so it was. Rosberg tried over the last 13 laps or so to get past Hamilton, and very nearly made it, but in the end the Englishman retained the lead for a famous win. A very big boost for Hamilton's title hopes, but also a warning. Rosberg was immensely close, and had he kept the lead at the start I suspect he would've won.

Further down the field the Red Bulls suddenly remembered what pace was and started attacking those ahead of them like half-starved sharks. Ricciardo got past Vettel and managed to pass Hulkenberg late on. Very good driving by the Aussie, and although Hulkenberg did well considering he started 12th he'll be disappointed not to finish higher up than 5th.

Williams and Ferrari took places 7-10, and will be pretty disappointed with that. The Williams seemed to punch below its weight and the Ferrari just didn't look good.

Perez is a contender for driver of the day, as he nabbed the final podium spot. Ricciardo was very close at the end but the Mexican kept his cool, drove well and thoroughly deserved his 15 points. The Force India lineup is pretty strong. They're in danger of being the best of the rest.

But only one team is top dog. Mercedes finished over 20 seconds ahead of everyone else, and that after a safety car reduced the gaps to almost nothing with only about 13 laps to race at the end. It is hard to see anyone challenging them.

But it doesn't matter, because the two team mates are free to race and went at it hammer and tongs. The race was bloody fantastic, and this season could be a cracker.

On a less happy note, Maldonado only got a drive-through penalty for his ramming of Gutierrez. It was very stupid and completely avoidable. I've said before I think the Venezuelan's a thug, and I still think so now. A stronger punishment was warranted.

Driver standings after Bahrain:
Rosberg 61
Hamilton 50
Hulkenberg 28
Alonso 26
Button 23
Vettel 23
Magnussen 20
Bottas 18
Perez 16

We have a class apart at the top, but after them it's very close. Positions 3-6 are occupied by drivers of different teams.

Constructor standings after Bahrain:
Mercedes 111
Force India 44
McLaren 43
Red Bull 35
Ferrari 33
Williams 30
Same sort of story. There may well be opportunity for a cunning bet around the driver/team to finish behind the Mercedes pair. I'll have a look at this ahead of China, which is in a fortnight.

So, I'm pretty delighted. The race was utterly fantastic, probably the best since Canada 2011, and it was green too. Huzzah!

Morris Dancer

Bahrain: pre-race

In Q1 everyone save Mercedes had to put on the soft tyres (about a second or more faster than the medium tyres) to make it through. Caterham and Marussia failed to escape, as did Sutil and Maldonado.

In dry qualifying drivers start on the tyre they qualify on in Q2 (with an extra set provided for Q3). This is to stop people in Q3 not bothering to run, or trundling about lazily.

During Q2 James Allen remarked that the Red Bulls were quite short-geared, which echoed an earlier comment that Ricciardo (unlike almost everyone else) was running in 8th gear at a certain part of the track.

Q2 saw the following (from 11th to 16th) eliminated: Vettel, Hulkenberg, Kvyat, Vergne, Gutierrez and Grosjean. Vettel and Hulkenberg were outshone by team mates, with Ricciardo (in this session) 3rd and Perez 6th. Bit surprised Hulkenberg did not make it, frankly.

Rosberg ended up with pole, ahead of Hamilton. Ricciardo qualified 3rd, but will go back 10 places as per his grid penalty. Bottas was next, followed by Perez, Raikkonen, Button, Massa, Magnussen and Alonso. (Alonso apparently had an engine issue which meant he lost power each lap. In Q2, Vettel said he had downshift problems, which would be due to a software issue).

Incidentally, Sutil got a 5 place grid penalty for forcing Grosjean off the track in Q1.

McNish reckons Perez will end up with a podium place.

It's important to try and predict how the differing cars (due to aerodynamic and engine power) will behave on circuit. Fuel efficiency may also become really important for the first time this year. In terms of fuel efficiency, Williams are best, followed by Force India and Mercedes. Ferrari and Red Bull come next (not sure about McLaren, but Button did express concerns that they were thirstier than they should be). 

Aerodynamically, Red Bull are top, then we have Ferrari and Mercedes. Williams are a bit rubbish in this regard. And if you don't know which engine is best and which is worst you haven't been paying bloody attention. 

Sectors 1 and 3 are, broadly speaking, just straights connected by tiny corners. There, engine power paves the way to victory. Sector 2 is a bit more squiggly and aerodynamically superior teams will be faster here. However, passing is harder in a squiggly section, whereas it's much easier on the straights in 1 and 3. So, on-track, I would expect Red Bull and Ferrari to have some difficulty moving far up the running order. However, all is not lost for them. Because they do have decent pace (enough to beat a few ahead of them, at least) they can pass them during the pit stops. A potential issue might be that, off the line, there's a pretty long run to the Schumacher corner (the renamed turn 1) and I suspect non-Mercedes cars might end up having difficulty making up ground. 

The bets I was initially interested in were Perez for a podium, Bottas to be fastest after Rosberg/Hamilton and Hulkenberg to be top 6.

Hulkenberg's odds were less than 3, and given he has both Williams, his team mate, both Mercedes and both McLarens ahead of him this doesn't seem like value. It wouldn't be a shock for him to climb that high, but it wouldn't be a surprise if he did not. [On a side note, this is a great opportunity for Perez to put in a cracking performance. He's suffered a first lap puncture and a DNS so far this season, whereas, until now, Hulkenberg has been qualifying and racing very well].

Perez for a podium was 5.1, and Bottas to be next after the Mercedes cars was 11/4 (or 3.75, I think, in new money). In qualifying, Perez's speed trap time was about 4-5mph faster than Bottas', which may help the Mexican in the race. On the other hand, the Williams is more fuel efficient and will be able to run faster for longer.

It's quite hard to call between the two bets. In the end I decided to back both. It's unlikely both will come off (it would require one of the Mercedes' drivers to suffer a reliability failure) but it could happen. I backed Bottas to win without Rosberg/Hamilton (3.75, Ladbrokes) and Perez to get a podium (5 with Betfair, hedged at 2.2).
So, the ideal result for me (including title bets) would be Rosberg, Bottas, Perez, Massa.

As an aside, I thought I'd check the winner's market. Rosberg and Hamilton are practically identical, at just over evens. Bottas is third at, er, 40.

So, two exciting race bets:
Bottas to be winner without Rosberg/Hamilton (3.75, Ladbrokes)
Perez to get a podium (5, hedged at 2.2, Betfair)

Morris Dancer

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Bahrain: pre-qualifying

I'd forgotten this is a night race this season. So, it'll be on at a civilised hour. The tyres are soft and medium.

The circuit would seem to be one dominated by straights. In short, this should help the Mercedes-powered cars and hinder the rest. As qualifying's likely to be the first to be dry this year it'll be interesting to see the pecking order, particularly whether or not Williams can do a little better.

There's an interesting article below about why and how the running order shifted from Australia to Malaysia:
http://www1.skysports.com/f1/news/22058/9243392/how-mclaren-and-williams-dropped-down-the-order-as-the-2014-pendulum-swung-at-sepang

Basically, aerodynamics matter more in Malaysia than in Australia. Bahrain is more about power than Malaysia. At the moment, we seem to have the following order for aerodynamics:
Red Bull
Ferrari/Mercedes

For power, it's simpler, Mercedes are top, followed by other Mercedes-powered cars. So circuits where aerodynamics play a bigger role should see the Red Bull and Ferrari improve, and where aerodynamics don't matter as much the two teams may well slide backwards (after P1 and P2, however, Alonso looks pretty good whereas Red Bull seem to be further back. This may be because the Ferrari has less downforce than the Red Bull, and so loses less when it doesn't matter, and the Prancing Horse has more power).

In P1 Hamilton and Rosberg were fastest, followed by Alonso, Hulkenberg and Button. Raikkonen, Magnussen, Kvyat, Perez and Vettel rounded out the top 10.

In P2 Hamilton, Rosberg and Alonso again led the way, followed by Ricciardo, Massa, Button, Vettel, Kvyat, Magnussen and Perez.

On Inside F1 (BBC F1 mini-programme usually on at 6.45pm during race weekends) Allan McNish, when asked by Lee McKenzie why Hamilton wasn't as cheerful as she expected, said that whilst Hamilton appeared to have the edge over a single lap, Rosberg was both faster and more fuel efficient over the long runs (Hamilton apparently being told he had to both drive more quickly and use less fuel). Something worth considering, although an F1 viewer on pb.com reckoned that was overplayed and Hamilton looked strong on long runs. McNish also reckoned Williams were a dark horse on race pace but needed a decent qualifying (sounds like Sauber in 2012).

During P3 it was reported that McLaren may be the worst of the Mercedes-powered teams on fuel consumption (this was the view of Button).

Grosjean said he had absolutely no grip anywhere on the car. Lotus are really in a bad place.

In P3 Mercedes had easy dominance again, with Hamilton leading Rosberg once more. Perez was a very impressive third, some way ahead of his team mate. Bottas and Massa followed, with Button sixth, then Alonso, Hulkenberg, Kvyat and Raikkonen.

It's worth recalling that Ricciard has a 10 place grid penalty. Vettel spun in qualifying and failed to put in a qualifying simulation.

Very hard to see any car other than Mercedes on pole, with Hamilton likelier to get it (although he was barely a tenth faster so a Rosberg pole would not be a shock). However, even if Rosberg starts second that still gives him a good shot, as he's tended to have slightly better starts, I would say, than his team mate. There's a long(ish) run down to turn 1 as well.

I considered backing Kvyat to be top 10, but his odds were just over evens, and there were a few drivers clustered around that sort of time, so decided against it.

Laying Vettel or Ricciardo to be top 10 and backing Bottas to be the winner without Rosberg/Hamilton were also bets I looked at. Ricciardo at 1.75 was tempting, but there was very limited money available, and Vettel at evens was too long.

The winning without Rosberg/Hamilton market still wasn't up over an hour after P3 ended, so I obviously couldn't back that.

So, no tips for qualifying. Mercedes seem nailed on for 1-2, but behind them it's close.

Morris Dancer