My record of predicting things that very nearly but don’t quite happen remains intact, as Button was 12th by a tenth of a second. Glad the odds weren’t there now.
In Q1 it was no surprise to lose the Saubers and Manors, although Ericsson being last must be slightly alarming for the Swiss team. The Renaults, who remain woeful this year [but may bounce back fairly well next] also exited the stage here.
In Q2 Haas were the slowest to depart, the team continuing their terrible Chinese form after a great first two races to the season. Bit perplexing, to be honest. Both McLarens failed to reach Q3, though Button came close, and Hulkenberg and Sainz also failed to progress.
Hamilton suffered yet more bad luck. One can only imagine he killed a witch’s black cat with a mirror then made his escape under a ladder repair shop. His engine failed to work, meaning he starts 10th (unless there’s a penalty).
As you might expect, this made Q3 as climatic as an ascetic’s meditation chamber. Rosberg strolled to pole, Vettel seven-tenths behind him (the Ferrari starts in 7th, of course, due to a five place grid penalty for changing a gearbox). Bottas was next, surprisingly a tenth up on Raikkonen. Massa and Ricciardo complete row three, then come Perez, Kvyat and Verstappen.
I said in my pre-qualifying piece that the Sochi circuit is one where it’s hard to pass, so I expect changes from grid to flag to be relatively small. The major potential exception, of course, is Hamilton.
In addition, there’s very low wear on the tyres, so expect little tyre management and just one pit stop per driver.
Without checking any odds, bets that sprung to mind were:
Lay Rosberg lead lap 1
Williams top score
Hamilton is a 1.57 for a podium. Now, his car is substantially faster than the others. However, it’s tricky to overtake in Sochi, he won’t make strategy gains (because everyone will one stop), and at times the barriers are very close, so getting caught up in an accident is possible (as is more bad luck).
Bottas is 3 for a podium, which is a bit shorter than I expected.
Oddly, there’s no Betfair market for the lap 1 leader. The Ladbrokes market has (from Rosberg to Bottas to Raikkonen) 1.36, 5, 8. Raikkonen might be worth a look, likewise Bottas (Rosberg, if he doesn’t get away well, will play it safely. He has no need for heroics).
Williams are 11 to top score. Now, this is a deserved long odds shot. There are three teams likely to be in with plausible victories here. Rosberg I expected to cruise to victory. If Bottas is second then Massa needs 7 points more than Hamilton for this to come off. There’s also Ferrari to consider (but Vettel also has potential reliability issues). Ferrari are 4.5. Hmm.
Perusing the markets reminded me that Raikkonen and Vettel are 6 and 6.5 not to be classified. Tempting. But then, when I gave in to temptation last time they had their first double finish of the year, the swine.
Perez is 3 to finish top 6. He starts 6th (Vettel’s right behind him). He also got a podium here last year, I think, when Bottas and Raikkonen collided.
After the (undeserved) confidence last time, I’ve returned to normal and have no idea what to bet on. Things that I’m still considering are:
Bottas, podium, 3
Raikkonen/Bottas, lead lap 1, 5/8
Williams, top score, 11
Perez, top 6, 3
The first one I’ll reconsider is the top score for Williams bet. They start 2nd and 4th. That’s 30 points, if they hold station (I think they’d be able to keep ahead of a Ferrari but not pass one). Rosberg starts 1st and is highly likely to win, although he may start badly. If he wins, that’s 25 points. So, if the top 4 hold station then Hamilton must finish 8th or lower (or not finish) for the bet to come off. And that’s assuming Raikkonen and Vettel don’t make monster starts. Must admit, I lack confidence in Williams to get things right.
I think Rosberg’s been passed twice at starts (could be wrong). That makes the first lap leader bet quite tempting.
Bottas for a podium is credible. But the odds are a bit short, and Williams seems to have had a history of going backwards more than forwards.
Perez for top 6 is a bit tricky. He’s got Vettel immediately behind him and Hamilton a few places further back. I rate Perez and he’s driven well around the Sochi circuit in the past, but I’m not sure his car’s up to the job.
So, by a process of being less confident in everything else, here’s my one tip (split equally between two options):
Bottas, lead lap 1, 5
Raikkonen, lead lap 1, 8
Wish I had something a bit better, but there we are.
Whilst not a fan of the circuit, it must be said every race so far this year has been pretty entertaining, so let’s hope the trend continues.