Ahead of qualifying I offered no tip on it, but the ones I had a fuzzy idea about (before declining due to lack of certainty over weather and necessarily missing third practice) were the Ferraris. Vettel was just under 3 and Raikkonen was 13. As it turns out, they had quite contrasting results from qualification.
In the first session of qualifying there was a reliability failure. For the first time this year, it afflicted Ferrari. Vettel lost power and though he managed to limp back to the pits, his car could not be fixed in time. He will start last, likely changing everything he can to take the penalties, as it were, when they don’t alter his grid position. To Vettel’s credit, he was calm throughout, thanked the engineers and was very cool and relaxed when taking questions even whilst qualifying was ongoing.
Unsurprisingly, both Saubers exited at this stage, as did both Haas cars.
In the second session, the Toro Rossos were slowest, but Gasly got very close to Sainz and looked impressive throughout qualifying. Both Williams failed to progress, as did Palmer. This meant both McLarens got through on merit, as did both Force Indias and Hulkenberg. At this stage it was very close between Hamilton, Raikkonen and Verstappen for pole.
And so it remained. Hamilton did get the top slot on the grid, but only by half a tenth ahead of Raikkonen. Can’t help but feel Vettel would’ve nabbed pole, but there we are (had Hamilton’s engine not exploded last year at this circuit, he would’ve retained his title). The Red Bulls rather fell off, and though they have the second row to themselves (Verstappen half a tenth ahead) they were almost half a second off the first row.
Yet that isn’t as odd as Bottas’ performance, which was lacklustre throughout. He ended up 5th, seven-tenths off his team mate. Quite peculiar.
The rest of the top 10 was very tight, with places 6-10 covered by just three-tenths. Ocon did well to be top of this group, just ahead of Vandoorne. Hulkenberg was two-hundredths off the Dutchman, and five-hundredths ahead of Perez. Alonso was last, which is interesting as McLaren brought lots of chassis upgrades but only his car has them.
Heavy rain showers remain possible for the race.
I did tip Verstappen not to be classified yesterday at 3.75 (Ladbrokes, 3.8 with boost) which means I may not offer a new tip. However, based on the grid, ideas that sprung to mind were:
Lay Vettel podium
Ferrari top score (if that market reappears)
Raikkonen win each way
Vettel has a lay value of 4.7 for a podium, which is so excessively long the 3.1 back for him to get it looks more appealing.
The top scoring team market again appears to be missing, alas.
Massa is evens for points. That seems so-so. He’s a reliable driver with a reliable car but this would depend, most likely, on some DNFs ahead and could be scuppered by inclement weather.
Raikkonen is 3.75 to win. Hmm. I’d hoped for something a bit longer.
No value jumping out, I perused the markets and saw:
Raikkonen, fastest lap, 11 (Betfair Sportsbook)
Vettel, not to be classified, 7 (Betfair Sportsbook)
Vettel, podium, 4.33 (Ladbrokes)
Raikkonen quite likes racking up fastest laps and he’s in the joint fastest car. He also doesn’t need to worry too much about thrashing the engine a bit (unlike Hamilton who won’t want to incur penalties later in the season).
I’m a bit surprised the odds have fallen (8 to 6 for both Hamilton and Vettel, 8 being usual but they’re 6 each for this race). Maybe due to the weather, otherwise it seems inexplicable, certainly for Hamilton. Vettel’s had reliability troubles and could get caught in congestion. Incidentally, if you believe he’ll fail to finish lap 1, Ladbrokes has a special for that at 21 (was 41 pre-weekend).
If Vettel does get around ok and his engine doesn’t explode, he’s got a very fast car, all the motivation in the world, and Malaysia is a wide circuit which should ease overtaking. Long way to climb, but he could do it. If it’s wet, that could help or hinder, but as he’s starting last anyway it’s likely to be on the upside.
Of the above bets, the most tempting is Raikkonen for fastest lap at 11 (Betfair Sportsbook). I was in two minds about tipping it, but 11 is excessive given Bottas is off the pace, Vettel will spend most of the race in traffic, and Hamilton will want to conserve his engine.
So, two tips:
Verstappen, not to be classified, 3.75 (Ladbrokes)
Raikkonen, fastest lap, 11 (Betfair Sportsbook), hedged at 3 (Betfair Exchange)
Race starts at 8am UK time. May be wet early on, likely dry towards the end.