Tuesday, 28 October 2014

America: Early Thoughts

I had intended not to post anymore early thoughts this season. However, given the significant occurrences recently, and the slightly lengthy three week gap, I thought it’d be better to have a place to discuss such things ahead of the race weekend, rather than making the pre-qualifying piece bloody enormous.

The back of the grid is not so much in serious turmoil as missing, fallen from the heavens of F1 to plunge into the Bermuda Triangle of financial woe. For years, many have complained that the way the money flows in F1 is nuts and, worse, unsustainable. Now we have proof, were it needed. Two non-team examples of this are that Monaco (dreariest circuit on the calendar, possibly excepting Singapore) pays no race fee, whereas fantastic Spa is at risk of folding because it can’t afford the race fees. Even more bonkers, mega-rich Ferrari get more cash (before points are totted up) than any other team, for ‘historical’ reasons.

Anyway, to the current quagmire of woe and doom. I’ll probably be vague, as the situation for Caterham is complicated, I’m not a financial expert, and I don’t want to accidentally libel anyone.

Tony Fernandes was the first owner of Caterham (originally Lotus) and has been looking to sell for a little while. This year he did, to a then unknown (and deliberately anonymous) consortium of Middle Eastern and Swiss investors. It seemed good for everyone. He got out of a game he had tired of playing, Caterham got a shiny future, and the team was injected with some delicious money.

It didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off. A number of employees were axed, and are in the process of taking legal action against the firm (which I believe is counter-suing). The seat was effectively sold to the highest bidder at one race, and Kobayashi expressed concerns on Facebook about racing with suspension in which he did not have full confidence.

But the weirdest, murkiest and most serious developments have happened in the last couple of weeks. It’s very tangled so I’ll only use the broadest of brushes to paint the picture. The new owners may not own the team. Despite signing a contract and paying the running costs. Fernandes, despite not wanting to own the team, may. It has emerged, and is a rare point of agreement between the two sides, that he still possesses the relevant shares. Their transfer was contingent upon a number of conditions being met. Fernandes says they have not been met, the new owners disagree vehemently. It’s not the most dignified way to conduct business, and whilst the money men bicker the engineers, support staff and drivers are left high and dry.

Marussia’s case seems more simple. They’ve run out of money. This may be related to lacking a second driver currently, following Bianchi’s crash and ongoing intensive car, or may just be because lots of people have warned the flow of money was unfair and unsustainable and it’s just come to a head. On the plus side for Marussia, there isn’t the legal wibbling that we’ve seen at Caterham, and unless Sauber scores soon the team will end up 9th in the Constructors’, which reportedly will get them £60m or so for next year.

Unfortunately, this may not be the end of the story. A number of other teams are in some degree of financial trouble. Caterham and Marussia going into administration will mean (unless both situations are resolved swiftly, which seems unlikely) that suppliers will find themselves having to tighten their belts and get quicker payment from the remaining nine teams. This in turn may worsen the financial state of other teams teetering on the brink. We’re very near the end of the season (three races to go), so hopefully they’ll all be alright for now, but we really do need some more teams.

Of course, there is a solution. Stop giving Ferrari, Red Bull and some other teams preferential financial treatment. Why should a team owned by a billionaire get a cushier financial deal than a plucky new team? Give every team a small percentage of F1’s income so that nobody ends up flat on their back or scrabbling to survive. By all means let points win prizes, but as extra cash on top of a basic minimum.

The greed at the top and short-sighted Scrooge McDuck approach has seen two out of 11 teams enter administration. Sadly, I think any changes in this field will be marginal. Too many bean counters, not enough racers.

Oh, and we have a race this weekend. America’s a great circuit, but there will only be 18 cars on the grid. More drivers will score points than won’t, which is faintly ridiculous.


Morris Dancer

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Russia: post-race analysis

Well, the Kvyat top six tip looks bloody stupid now. After Vergne got a top 6 somewhere recently and with Red Bull looking ropey I thought it worth a shot. It appears Toro Rosso screwed up their set-up so it was stellar in qualifying and appalling in the race. Disappointed, and although the qualifying tip means the loss is minimal, it’s still another red race and (in the latter half) I’ve had a single winning race tip from seven attempts, which is just rubbish.

The race itself wasn’t the best, although my prediction of it being mostly processional at the sharp end and more competitive in the lower points positions was accurate.

Kvyat had a shocker of a start, Magnussen had a good one and Alonso also flew up the order. Rosberg just about got the jump on Hamilton but braked badly, flat-spotting both tyres so he had to pit on lap 1.

Massa also pitted on lap 1, although he went for softs, with Rosberg opting for mediums.

For Hamilton, it was a lovely day at the seaside, cruising around serenely on his way to a destined triumph. Bottas drove well but the car wasn’t quite up to challenging the Mercedes. In fact, Rosberg managed to do 52/53 laps on his medium tyres and passed Bottas, showing just how great the Silver Arrows were (if he hadn’t cocked up the first corner, Rosberg may have had the pace to beat Hamilton on track, but we’ll never know for sure).

Kvyat had an atrocious first lap after a bad start and slipped well back, Vergne also sliding down the order. Button’s race was a strong but boring one, finishing 4th, with Magnussen working his way up to 5th, for McLaren’s best finish since the first race this season.

Alonso’s 6th was impressive, and largely due to a great start. If he’d done worse off the line I imagine he would’ve been behind the two Red Bulls, who followed him. A poor performance for Red Bull, who today also lost the Constructors’ title to Mercedes.

Raikkonen was 9th, and Perez deserves great credit for 10th, which he achieved despite fuel seeming to be critical and Massa right behind him on fresher tyres (the Brazilian did two stops, unlike Rosberg). Pretty poor from Massa, given his car.

Kvyat ended up 14th. Stupid bet for him to be top 6, in hindsight, but I’m very surprised just how badly wrong Toro Rosso got their race set-up.

Constructors:
Mercedes 565
Red Bull 342
Williams 216
Ferrari 188
McLaren 143
Force India 123

I think it’ll end in that order. Williams could lose third to Ferrari if they cock up in Abu Dhabi or are very unlucky but I don’t think that’ll happen. McLaren’s strong finish in Russia appears to be the end of Force India’s realistic hope for fifth. They’ve been out-developed and I can’t see them regaining the place.

The win means Hamilton has a 17 point advantage over Rosberg. That’s good but not insurmountable. There are three races remaining, the last of which, Abu Dhabi, has double points on offer (so, 50 for a win). If there are no reliability failures I would feel confident predicting a Hamilton title. But, if he suffers a reliability failure in Abu Dhabi that could hand the title to Rosberg.

Pre-season I tipped Rosberg (16 or so with Ladbrokes and about 23 with Betfair), and a few races ago advocated backing Hamilton at around evens. Although I’ll be disappointed if the German fails to win, I am green either way and am pretty pleased with the bet.

It is theoretically possible for Ricciardo to win the title. In the same way it’s theoretically possible Scotland will become independent and make its patron saint Margaret Thatcher.

The next race (the excellent circuit in Austin) is three weeks away.


Morris Dancer

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Russia: pre-race

Qualifying was quite unexpected. The bet came off, thankfully, but (top three aside) the grid is ordered pretty different to how I expected.

Because Marussia only ran one car, five rather than six drivers left the stage in Q1. As well as the Caterhams and Chilton, as expected, Maldonado (who seems to have had an ERS issue) and Massa (who had some sort of pressure problem with his engine) failed to escape to Q2. This was particularly rough on Massa, whose car has been looking rather tasty.

Q2 was mostly as expected. The two Force Indias, who have been losing the development war with McLaren quite badly of late, left, as did both Saubers. Grosjean likewise. Most unexpectedly, however, was Vettel in 11th. He was a tenth off being in Q3, but failed to make the cut. The Red Bull’s looked a bit ropey, certainly compared to how it should be, all weekend, but the fact is his team mate got through and he did not.

Q1 was a mix of the routine and the remarkable. Hamilton pole, Rosberg 2nd. Nothing too shocking. Except that Bottas was on for pole until his tyres gave up on the very last two corners (he still claimed a strong 3rd). There’s a chance Mercedes may face a Finnish challenge in the race. Button got 4th, the McLaren performing better than I’d expected after a somewhat dodgy P3. Kvyat delighted the home crowd with a best ever qualifying of 5th, lining up alongside Magnussen, who did very well to claim 6th with his only proper lap of Q3.

Ricciardo was next, and 7th for the better Red Bull just isn’t good enough. Alonso and Raikkonen came next, which is not impressive, and Vergne was 10th, eight-tenths off of his team mate.

So, a bit of a weird grid, except at the sharp end.

The circuit looks like overtaking will be tricky and a safety car may well appear. Forecast is for no rain.

Initial bets that spring to mind:
Bottas to win (either each way or hedged)
Massa to score
Kvyat top 6

Bottas to win is 13 with Ladbrokes (1/3 the odds each way) or 14 with Betfair. The problem he faces is that Mercedes can split their strategy, if necessary, and beating both Hamilton and Rosberg will be tricky. The odds are reasonable, so I’ll consider this further.

Massa is just 1.44 to score. Whilst likely, the odds are too short to tempt me.

Kvyat’s 2.5 to be top 6 (Ladbrokes). Not sure. Hmm. The Russian tends to finish roughly where he starts, I think, and the circuit may be hard to overtake on. Throughout qualifying he was about four-tenths up on Ricciardo but was perhaps fortuitous Magnussen didn’t get a decent run in Q3. Given the possibility of a safety car and many concrete walls to run into (or just having a bad start) the odds are too short to tempt.

Which leaves Bottas to win. The circuit Russia has been compared to most is Australia. Worth recalling both McLaren and Bottas went very well there (Bottas would’ve finished even better if he hadn’t had a small crash there). But could he realistically challenge the Mercedes?

Having contemplated it, I don’t think so. Yes, he was on for pole, but at every other session Mercedes was ahead, and the race will be many laps, not just one. I expect Bottas to have a strong race, but not a first win.

So, after mulling it over and waiting for Ladbrokes to get their markets up, here are some other potential bets:
Highest scoring team – McLaren – 17
Number of classified finishers – under 17.5 – 1.83
Bottas – podium – 1.66
Both teams to have a points finish – Force India – 3.25

The McLaren bet sounds crackers. Worth mentioning they did top score in Australia, and if a Mercedes fails then they’re in prime position to claim most points. Hmm. Although, now I think of it, Magnussen gets a grid penalty, so it’s not so great.

The classified finishers bet is based on a few things. First off, there are only 21 cars this weekend, so if only 4 fail to finish, it wins. Secondly, there’s a lot of concrete barriers around the track. On the other hand, there’s quite a bit of run-off as well and the tyres last a long time (although they can fall off a cliff, as Bottas showed in qualifying). Whilst tempting, I don’t think I’ll back this.

Bottas, all else being equal, is very likely to get a podium. But 1.66 is bloody short.

The Force India bet was also based on me forgetting Hulkenberg has a five place grid penalty which puts him down to 17th. Which is a shame, as I was giving that serious thought.

Bearing in mind Magnussen’s penalty, I’ve decided to back Kvyat to be top 6 at 2.7 with Betfair. No hedge, because the odds are so low. I ruled that out before, but I think he’s got the pace and perhaps a slightly more comfortable chance of succeeding without the Dane and the rather good McLaren right next to him.

So, just the one bet:
Kvyat, top 6, 2.7 (no hedge)

I suspect at the sharp end the race may be a bit of a procession, but there could well be a good scrap around the lower half of the points positions.


Morris Dancer

Russia: pre-qualifying

The main news in F1 is that Bianchi, who had that horrendous crash in Japan, has suffered diffuse axonal injury. It is an incredibly serious injury, and let’s hope Bianchi can make the fullest recovery possible. Marussia are (as a mark of respect) only running Chilton this week, and have not replaced Bianchi.

As well as by all accounts being a tremendously popular driver, Bianchi was also a real talent. Like Grosjean and Hulkenberg, it was very easy to see him in a top team, and the sport may have lost one of its great starts of the future.

Lotus will have Mercedes engines next year. A great coup for the beleaguered team, who were reportedly struggling to find, essentially, the cash for a deposit. Mercedes engines are cheapest, most efficient and fastest, so that’s a nice plus for Lotus which hasn’t had much good news of late.

First race in Russia. My impression of the track isn’t great, to be honest. Anyway, grip’s fairly low, medium and soft tyres appear to last forever so a one-stop strategy could work (two might be better, not due to degradation but pace difference between the compounds).

In P1 Rosberg was less than a tenth ahead of Hamilton, with Button only a tenth or so further back. Alonso was fourth, then came Magnussen, Perez, Kvyat, Raikkonen, Vergne and Bottas.

In P2 Hamilton was eight-tenths up on Magnussen, with Alonso, Rosberg and Bottas close behind the Dane. Button, Massa, Kvyat, Vettel and Vergne round out the top 10.

The McLarens looked good. Not good enough to challenge Mercedes but certainly capable of troubling the top 6. Red Bull look a bit off the pace, quite literally, and Ricciardo suffered some variety of power unit failure in P2. I imagine they’ll improve their game, but the question is: how much?

Entirely a guess on my part, but I do think we’ll have a safety car.

In P3 Hamilton was fastest by about three-tenths (see note below), with Rosberg and Bottas very close to one another in second and third. A little further back was Ricciardo, Massa, Kvyat, and Raikkonen, all close, and then Alonso, Vergne and Vettel.

Hamilton had a spin fairly late on in P3, and could’ve gone quicker. Magnussen had some sort of failure during P3 and never got in anything like a fast lap. The Williams was looking feisty, and the Red Bull a bit below par. Ferrari seem off the pace and McLaren’s early promise appeared diminished in P3. Not awful (I expect both Button and Magnussen to make Q3) but they may struggle to make the top 6.

Overtaking should be pretty difficult, so qualifying’s pretty important (in relative terms), especially given there may well be a single pit stop per car.

All else being equal I expect Hamilton to get pole relatively comfortably. Rosberg’s really off the pace, which is a little surprising. Bottas could challenge for second place.

Don’t bet on qualifying at every race, but two potential bets whose odds I thought worth checking were:
Lay Vettel Q3
Bottas top 3

The Vettel lay odds were evens, which was far too long, but Bottas was a surprising 1.85 to be top 3. Bear in mind, he was seven-tenths ahead of the chap in fourth. I think that’s worth a bet (with Betfair).

So, a qualifying tip:
Bottas to be top 3 in qualifying at 1.85 (Betfair)


Morris Dancer

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Japan: post-race analysis

A quite entertaining race, book-ended by tedium at the start and concern at the end. Frustratingly, when it seemed the race might be a 2 lap trundle behind the safety car (making my bet a winner), not only did it not come off, the 1.5 hedge didn’t get matched. To be honest, given it was red-flagged after barely a lap I was surprised it didn’t get matched, and a bit disappointed.

It was wetter than expected at the start. So much so that everyone started not only on full wets but behind the safety car. After completing a single lap, the safety car led the whole field into the pit lane. (Technically, this meant they ‘completed’ lap 2, making half-points available for award, when crossing the line in the pit lane).

Later, the rain eased, but was still heavy, and all departed the pit lane, once again following the safety car. Alonso suffered some sort of electrical failure and his car ground to a halt, taking him out of the race before it got really underway.

When the safety car came in, the Mercedes drove away from the rest of the field at an alarming rate of knots. For a time it was pretty much formation flying. Button and Maldonado came in first for intermediate tyres, and were shortly followed by pretty much everyone. Maldonado, for whom track limits are a challenge rarely to be refused, left the circuit twice, but Button kept his car on the track and ended up much higher up the order due to his good call.

When the track was still wet but drying it became quickly apparent that the Red Bulls were a good margin faster than the Williams (directly ahead of them). This was at least partly due to setup, which appeared to be very wet for the former team, but they have typically been better in the wet anyway. Once past Bottas, the two Red Bulls pulled ahead by roughly a second a lap.

At the front, it was weird. The gap was about 1.5-2s for quite a while, going up and then down but staying roughly the same. When Hamilton passed Rosberg I thought it was because the German’s tyres had degraded more. Certainly, he then lost about 2s a lap to Hamilton, and pitted the sooner. But afterwards, he was also substantially slower. Not sure if he had a small technical fault or what, but the second bout of slowness was peculiar.

For a time the Red Bulls (and Button, who was driving very well, and as fast as any on circuit at various times) seemed to pose a potential threat to Rosberg, but they had to pit again and they didn’t get much glory in the end.

Late on the rain increased once more, Sutil and Bianchi appeared to have crashed (same place but separately) and Bianchi is, at the time of writing, still receiving medical attention, and may be seriously injured. Let’s hope he’s ok.

A second and final red flag appeared, and the race ended about six laps early.

Hamilton and Rosberg got the one-two, extending the former’s lead to 10 points, the largest it’s been all season. However, the race for the title is far from over.

Vettel got his second podium of the year, one spot above Ricciardo. Button’s excellent wet weather driving and good tyre call enabled him to achieve an impressive 5th. If he does leave the team after 2014 (and probably the sport) they will miss him on days like today.

Bottas and Massa were next. Neither drove badly, they simply lacked the grip cars with more downforce enjoyed. They’ll be disappointed as, in the dry, they were probably on for a much better result. On the other hand, they strengthen their grip on the third spot in the Constructors’, which is important.

Hulkenberg and Perez got 8th and 10th respectively. I was surprised to hear (after reading Twitter rumours yesterday Hulkenberg might leave Force India for Porsche sports car racing) that the team are apparently dissatisfied with Hulkenberg and more impressed with Perez. Whilst Perez got the team a podium and Hulkenberg has not, the German is on 76 points, a long way ahead of Perez’s 46.

Vergne got 9th, which will hopefully help him get a seat next year. He does have the pace for it.

Kvyat was 11th and Raikkonen a lacklustre 12th.

So, when the switch to intermediates occurred the Bottas bet looked unlikely. But given the race was super-wet to start and got red flagged early on I was disappointed and, frankly, surprised it didn’t get matched. The forecast I checked (and which is generally highly accurate) significantly underestimated the rainfall. However, with special circumstances (such as a typhoon) that’s understandable and I should’ve probably considered that.

Annoyingly, this means my poor run in the latter half of the season continues.

After the race Hamilton leads by 10 points, with four races left (including the double points nonsense at season finale Abu Dhabi). I expect the title to be decided in Abu Dhabi. The other circuits are the new track at Sochi in Russia, the excellent Austin track in America, and perhaps my favourite, Interlagos in Brazil. I do not expect Ricciardo to be in a position to tilt at the title in Abu Dhabi (he’d need to be within 50 points).

The Constructors’ standings:
Mercedes 522
Red Bull 332
Williams 201
Ferrari 178
Force India 122
McLaren 121

The top two will finish as they are. Williams has a hefty lead over Ferrari. It’s not insurmountable but I do not think the Prancing Horse will manage to get ahead. I believe Williams were 9th last year, so to move to 3rd is a very impressive achievement indeed. Button’s excellent drive today narrows the gap to Force India to a single point. The McLaren looked better today, and that battle with Force India will continue until the last race. I think McLaren will end up winning it. Their car looks better right now.

The next race is Russia, a new circuit, and is the very next weekend. Let’s hope it’s a great and profitable race, and that we see Jules Bianchi driving there.


Morris Dancer

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Japan: pre-race

Woke up just in time to catch a fairly interesting qualifying session, and to hear the even more interesting news. It is confirmed that Vettel is leaving Red Bull and will be replaced by Kvyat. The German’s destination is currently unknown (officially) but everyone seems to think it’ll be Ferrari. Alonso, in turn, is expected to move to McLaren, but that is also unconfirmed (replacing Button, it seems).

Q1 saw the four backmarkers assume the position. Lotus’ woes continued with both their drivers leaving at this stage. To make matters worse, an engine change means Maldonado has a 10 place grid penalty and because there aren’t 27 cars on the grid some of that will carry over to the next race.

In Q2 neither Force India managed to escape, Perez 12th and Hulkenberg 14th. Likewise Toro Rosso, with Vergne 11th and Kvyat 13th. Perhaps unsurprisingly the Saubers also left the stage, bringing up the rear in 15th and 16th.

Q3 unfolded in a slightly unexpected manner. In the first two sessions the two Mercedes drivers had been, as anticipated, a long way ahead of the rest, but very close (less than a tenth) to one another. In Q3 Rosberg’s first lap was three-tenths ahead of Hamilton. Both men improved on the second, but the German was still a surprisingly large two-tenths ahead to claim pole. Hamilton did have a P3 crash, which some are using to explain his lack of pace. I’m not so sure.

As I suspected before the weekend got going, Williams were also tasty, locking out the second row. Bottas was nearly half a second off Hamilton, but about the same ahead of Massa. If it’s dry, he might have a lonely race in a clear but isolated third.

Alonso and Ricciardo came next, and McLaren have the fourth row. A better performance for the team, which says something about how far McLaren have fallen since having the fastest (but unreliable) car in 2012. Vettel and Raikkonen finish off the grid, two rows behind their team mates.

The race is planned to start at 7am and there’s still uncertainty as to just how wet it will be. There’s a chance it’ll consist of trundling around behind a safety car and then half-points being given out (due to not that many laps being completed). Hopefully that won’t be the case. If it were, Rosberg would have a lead over Hamilton of half a point.

If it is wet to a large (but not race-ruining) extent this will disadvantage Williams and help Red Bull. Barring accident or reliability, I can’t see anyone beating Mercedes. We might have a relatively rare duel between the two drivers, and they could finish miles ahead of the rest.

It’s tricky to overtake on the circuit so strategy could play a significant role. It also punishes small mistakes (gravel traps and grass line the track, rather than tarmac run-off everywhere). A safety car seems pretty likely, but I suspect the odds will be prohibitively short.

According to the all important forecasts there’s an 89% chance of rain (but only a few millimetres to fall over the entire race). In addition, Sunday night (local time race start is 3pm) could see 83mm of rain, so if it arrives early that could basically end the race.

Bets I considered early on:
Force India drivers to score
Safety Car
Vettel top 6
Ricciardo podium

The Force India bets are based on the drivers being good and the car performing better over a race distance than in qualifying.

Safety Car is up there for obvious reasons, and the two Red Bull bets are on the basis of superior downforce giving them a relative advantage over everyone (perhaps excepting Mercedes) in the wet.

Since 2009, when the race returned to the Suzuka circuit, safety cars have appeared at all but one (I think) of the races. The odds available with Betfair are 1.19. Normally I’m loathe to back such short odds, but that may actually be value.

Perez and Hulkenberg are 1.72 and 1.83 for points, respectively. Not long enough, especially given the potential for rain causing problems.

Vettel’s only 1.5 for a top six finish (given, if it’s mostly dry, the Williams and Mercedes will walk away with the top four spots I think this is tight) and Ricciardo isn’t even out to 3 for a podium. Too mean to tempt me.

Bottas to win without Hamilton or Rosberg, 3

Just spotted the above Bottas bet on Ladbrokes. It’s tempting. At the time of writing 2.94 is available on Betfair but the lay is 5.3, so I’m going to wait a little while and see if the odds improve. An alternative is the similar podium bet for Bottas (2.52 with Betfair, better than Ladbrokes’ 2.25) but which would be handier if one of the Mercedes breaks down or crashes. It would also cover a race entirely behind the safety car.

After a bit of a wait, the odds on Bottas to be winner without Hamilton/Rosberg increased marginally on Betfair (all the way to 3). In the end, I decide to back this with Betfair and set up a hedge at 1.5 (equal winnings for this coming off or not). That way, if it starts dry and he gets away (eminently possible) but rain comes later, it’ll still pay off.

So, just the one tip:
Bottas to be winner without Hamilton/Rosberg 3 (hedged at 1.5)

The rain could make the race very tedious, or very exciting. It’s a 7am start.


Morris Dancer

Friday, 3 October 2014

Japan: pre-qualifying

There was an interesting Q&A with Eddie Jordan which can be read here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/formula1/29422678

The line that really caught my eye was this:
"Honda and McLaren want to hit the ground running. They want Alonso or Sebastian Vettel and it's possible both could wind up there.”

That sounds incredible, but it’s worth noting that Jordan was months ahead of the curve when it came to Hamilton jumping to Mercedes.

In other off-track news, Simona De Silvestro will not become a Sauber driver. It was a credible possibility but, for financial reasons, has not happened. I feel this may (financially) be a mistake, as being the only woman driving in F1 (and the first for decades) would be good for sponsorship and Sauber’s profile.

Caterham have been visited by bailiffs, but has sworn it will race on. This is rather weird. The firm was acquired in-season by a Swiss-Middle East consortium, so one would’ve thought they’d be at least financially stable for the near future.

Anyway, the tyres in Japan are medium and hard. One imagines wets and intermediates stand a chance of some use, as there’s an off-chance of a typhoon affecting the circuit (tiny chance the race may be cancelled). So, check the forecast.

I didn’t watch either P1 or P2, as usual, because the timezone difference means they were rather early.

In P1 Rosberg was a tenth and a half ahead of Hamilton, with Alonso half a second off the top time and Bottas half a second behind the Spaniard. Raikkonen, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Button Vettel and Kvyat were next up.

In P2 the Mercedes drivers swapped positions, Hamilton nearly a quarter of a second ahead of Rosberg, and over a second ahead of Bottas. Button, Vettel and Raikkonen were next up, with Alonso, Magnussen, Kvyat and Ricciardo rounding out the top 10.

Interesting that both McLarens were in the top 10 in both sessions, and a little odd Bottas was at the sharp end and Massa was 11th and 14th. Equally interesting, their rivals in the Constructors’, Force India, did not trouble the top 10 with either car in either session.

Too close to call between the two Mercedes drivers, but if both cars finish I expect they’ll be a day and a half ahead of the rest (if it’s dry. A wet race could throw things up in the air).

I did check the odds on Magnussen reaching Q3 but they were a mean 1.28 on Ladbrokes and although 1.5 was up on Betfair that’s still a bit tight, and there was only £11 available.

So, no tip.

Qualifying starts at 6am tomorrow morning. I’ll try not to repeat the sin of seasons past and sleep in.

Morris Dancer