News has broken of a 10 year deal for a new Grand Prix in New Jersey, around the streets of New York City. I must confess to being less than enthused. I’m not a street circuit fan, and fear that a decent or excellent circuit (I hope it isn’t Spa) will end up making way for another money-spinning procession. There’s also the fact that we now have two Grands Prix in Spain and the US, but none in France and the brilliant Belgian GP has an uncertain future. Hopefully vile Valencia will be axed.
Well, that shows the folly of tipping pre-P3 (my habit is to do so afterwards). Backed Hamilton for fastest Q3 time at 3.7 with a hedge set up at 1.6. Irritatingly, he had a great chance of [briefly, at least] getting the fastest time in the dying moments of Q3, but chose to pit. I think Vettel would’ve still gotten pole, but the lay may very well have been matched.
In Q1, strangely, Button had to go out and use/waste another set of the soft tyres (this time the compounds are soft and hard, yellow and white respectively) and he was also significantly off the pace at the sharp end.
Schumacher disappointed in 12th, but it’s probably a better place than 10th as he has more fresh tyres than he would have and can choose which tyres he will start the race with. Hamilton, Alonso and the two Red Bulls were all very, very close (Vettel did pull a 0.3s gap but that was partly because Hamilton aborted his final run. Not sure if the Ferraris/Webber did likewise).
The Ferrari has looked pretty good in practice, but the Red Bull is, apparently, the only car that can make the white tyres work quickly. However, given the very low levels of degradation and the yellow tyre’s speed advantage this may not be an enormous help in the race.
So, disappointed somewhat for a few reasons. Bad tip, obviously, but it may’ve been laid if Hamilton had completed his final lap (though it’s understandable why he didn’t).
A brand new circuit presents both a great challenge and opportunity for those of us betting on the sport. In commentary for qualifying it was remarked upon that the track doesn’t really have a clean side, and that, coupled with the enormo-straight in the first sector made me wonder whether or not Vettel would retain the lead. I also, unusually, checked the speed trap standings and found Vettel almost at the very bottom (the speed trap being near the end of the enormo-straight).
In the end I went for two tips, the only ones I ever really considered. Backed Alonso for the win at 8.6 (lay at 3), and laid Vettel to lead lap 1 at 1.42 (with a suggestion *not* a tip of backing him at long odds with a paltry sum, as I could see him getting passed but retaking the lead).
In the end, the race was disappointing in terms of both action and betting. Webber actually started alright, but he bottled/lacked the speed to try and pass Vettel but managed to hold up Alonso as well. Once Vettel had the lead he never lost it.
I thought my form had improved a bit after the mid-season lull but recently (admittedly at a brand new circuit and one that was used in the dry for the first time) it’s dipped again. After this article, perhaps next weekend, I’m going to write another piece examining why that is.
Back to the race. Schumacher continued his excellent starts, leaping to around 8th. Alonso buggered up the first corner, possibly due to Webber braking too early, and ended up 4th, whereas Button had a great start, passing first Alonso and then Webber on lap 1. Thereafter, the Briton was a permanent fixture in the number 2 slot.
Hamilton got passed by Massa at the start. In the latter half of the race, just for a change, the two decided to have a collision. Surprisingly, the Brazilian got penalised, and after the crash Hamilton (possibly in a car suffering damage) never threatened the Mercedes ahead of him and brought it home in seventh.
There was surprisingly little action at the sharp end. Quite a few passes and close battles occurred further down the field with Force Indias, Toro Rossos and so forth, but Vettel and Button proceeded serenely to another podium. The closest fight at the top of the field was between Webber and Alonso, with the latter passing the former at a pit stop and then retaining 3rd to the end. The Ferrari occasionally has bursts of excellent pace but was mostly slower than the Red Bull.
Schumacher, by staying out longer than his team mate, passed him during the last pit stop and claimed 5th, having started 12th. After Massa’s contact and subsequent penalty his day got a little worse when he thumped over the curbs and snapped his suspension, ending his race altogether. Perez did well to climb from 17th to 10th.
Hopefully next year there’ll be a bit less dust and more tyre degradation to encourage cunning plans and overtaking. Even more importantly, hopefully there’ll be some winning tips. Note for next year: the safety car never appeared despite quite a few collisions and off-track excursions. The track is often wide and the marshal did a good job of quickly clearing away beached cars and so forth.
The lack of tyre degradation meant that, despite an apparently decent circuit layout, the race saw track position as a dominant factor, removing cunning strategy, effectively, as a serious option for winning the race (contrary to the early races of the season). I’ll comment more on this in the next article, but given that Abu Dhabi has been very processional, this may play a big role in the next race (NB Yas Marina has been modified to encourage overtaking for this season).
Hamilton was again off the pace. After the collision that could be due to damage, but he followed up a poor start with a lacklustre performance. Button, meanwhile, is clearly the second best driver at the moment. Alonso has the skill but his car is simply not good enough, and Webber continues to drift backwards through the field.
Mercedes: Schumacher’s been more impressive than his team mate for a few races now. I really, really hope they can produce a podium- and race-winning car next season, both to challenge Red Bull and so that we get a good intra-team rivalry.
Pretty disappointed with this weekend, but philosophical. Gambling is, after all, inherently risky, and it’s a new circuit. I’ve made some mistakes but I think I can see some lessons in them.
Abu Dhabi and Brazil are the only remaining races. As I said above, Abu Dhabi has been ultra-processional since it started hosting GPs a little while ago, but has been altered to try and boost overtaking. This will be critical when assessing bets (including for what happens if cars get stuck behind a slower driver following a poorly timed pit stop). Interlagos, by contrast, is spectacular, with overtaking eminently possible.
So, this has been a bad weekend, but there are two more to come and opportunities to make up for the disappointing performance at India. Before the Abu Dhabi race I’ll put up an article examining recent poor tips, and hopefully draw some useful conclusions for the forthcoming two races. Abu Dhabu is 11-13 November and Brazil is 25-27 November.