It wasn’t a classic. Whilst it was red, it was to the tune (using my £10 comparison stake approach) of a whole 50 pence. So, every race has been red, but I’ve got 3/7 bets this season right, and if I get a 2/1 winner next time it’ll push me green overall. It’s a little odd, really.
Button did not start, when his car refused to even make the hundred yards he made in qualifying. I don’t know if the DNS counts as the first constructor retirement, and Ladbrokes won’t let me log-in, so when they slay their gremlins I’ll find out and report back (as per Mr. M’s cunning tips, I backed Toro Rosso [winner if Button doesn’t count] and Red Bull to fail first). Update: on checking, Ladbrokes scored it a winner, so kudos to fair play for that. Yet again, Mr. M’s tips (including two losers on Hulkenberg points and Grosjean top 6) proved more profitable than me.
Massa failed to get away for the formation lap, but was able to manage a pit lane start. Sainz got a really weird penalty (5s), apparently for exceeding the maximum time permitted on the reconnaissance lap.
After the first few corners I was hopeful. Hamilton led ahead of Vettel and Raikkonen. Unfortunately, Rosberg remembered what this racing business is about, and his car was, during the first stint, simply faster than the Ferrari. He passed Raikkonen relatively easily, and then passed Vettel, despite the difficulty of running in turbulent air (the key was the Mercedes being much faster on the straight than the Ferrari, which seemed better in the corners).
Then we got an interesting strategy shift. The top 3 went onto soft tyres for the second stint, but, counter-intuitively, Raikkonen went medium. And he matched the pace of Hamilton (who was on the allegedly far faster soft tyre) and narrowed the gap to Rosberg and Vettel.
However, Ferrari did leave Raikkonen out too long on the medium tyre, which probably cost him circa 6s. It may have ended up costing him the win. That said, the soft tyre on his final stint did enable him to catch and pass Rosberg and get close(ish) to Hamilton.
What of Vettel? He pitted a third time, for a new nose. He emerged very close behind Bottas, but over a dozen or so laps simply couldn’t pass the Finn. Good for Bottas, who reportedly had the first race of the year without back pain. Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that it was also the first race in which he out-qualified his team mate.
Vettel seemed weirdly out of sorts. He went wide a few times, locked his brakes rather a lot and never really looked comfortable.
Ricciardo got 6th, beating Grosjean to 7th, which I found slightly surprising. Still, fairly solid for Lotus. Ricciardo’s engine exploded as he crossed the line.
Perez snagged 8th, impressive, and a cut above Hulkenberg’s disappointing 13th (perhaps due to strategy?). Kvyat recovered from a lacklustre qualifying for 9th, and Massa held on for the final point.
However, Alonso was 11th, and given this is just a week after China that’s pretty good. I think McLaren for points in Spain could be interesting. They need to unlock more horsepower and, perhaps even more importantly, sort out the reliability which struck Button four times this weekend and gave him a DNS.
Alonso was ahead of Nasr, Hulkenberg, Ericsson, Maldonado (who had an issue which caused a long pit stop) and the Manor Marussias.
It was a bit disappointing in terms of the race, the title and the betting. The Mercedes was just a little bit ahead of the Ferrari, and, crucially, faster on the straight. Both cars suffered a late problem with braking, which may have cost Rosberg 2nd, but Hamilton’s lead was sufficient for him to retain the victory.
Unless Ferrari make a great leap forward after the fly-aways, this season is gone for them. However, for next year they could be set fair. James Allison is probably the best designer, Vettel and Raikkonen (if the Finn stays) are a great partnership and Arrivabene seems like a serious team principal.
Looking good for Hamilton.
Incidentally, something I forgot to mention before is that Maldonado may be in trouble. His sponsorship comes from PDVSA, a big Venezuelan firm. However, with the Venezuelan economy about to explode and the IMF preparing the dustpan and brush, this funding may either fail to be renewed or disappear. If so, this will imperil Maldonado’s position in F1 next year. So, consider this when/if driver markets appear (I’ll also be watching for the odds on Kvyat leaving Red Bull and, perhaps, Verstappen taking his place [Hulkenberg possible if they want to give Verstappen another year in the theoretically junior team]).
Betting-wise, I’m 3/7, and scarcely one a half stakes red. Which is a bit weird. I’ve failed at every race this season, but ¾ of those have been pocket money. I may try just offering the one tip per race, and see if that works (still a bit irked by Verstappen’s engine dying in China, guaranteeing a late safety car).
The next race is Spain in three weeks’ time, just after the excitement of the General Election.