Saturday, 18 April 2009

Predictions for the race

Unaccountably, I omitted my post-qualifying predictions from the previous post.

Here goes:

Win: Rubens (outqualified Jenson with more fuel, started better in Malaysia)
2nd: Webber (that Red Bull is quick, even if, fuel adjusted the Brawns were faster in Q3)
3rd: Button (May struggle in the early laps, unless he gets a good start)
4th: Trulli (Mustn't forget those Toyotas, they've been quick in every race)
5th: Alonso (His short 1st stint might help him to a top 5 finish)
6th: Hamilton (Has gained places at every race so far, and more than most/KERS will help)
7th: Heidfeld (Heavily fuelled, may benefit from rain, or else short soft-tyre stint/KERS will help)
8th: Glock (Might just fight his way through the field, as he did in Melbourne)

Hon mensh: Vettel (limited running imply reliability issues), Rosberg (anonymous in qualy, but still has a quick car), Kovaleinen (KERS will help, might last longer than a lap).

China GP grid and post-qualy views

The grid listed below includes the estimated laps worth of fuel, with which the cars will start. Williams estimate consumption of 2.55kg/5km, which is the equivalent of 2.78kg/lap. Naturally, some excess weight is left in (drivers lose eight during a race, cars need fuel to get to grid and do formation lap). For this reason the numbers aren't a simple "car weight-minimum allowable/fuel consumption" function. I'll assess my accuracy against the BBC and James Allen after the race tomorrow.

The grid:
Front row: Vettel (11-12) Alonso (9)
2nd row: Webber (12-13) Barrichello (17-18)
3rd row: Button (17) Trulli (19)
4th row: Rosberg (14) Raikkonen (22)
5th row: Hamilton (24) Buemi (22)
6th row: Heidfeld (24) Kovaleinen (30-31)
7th row: Massa (28) Nakajima (25-26)
8th row: Bourdais (28) Piquet (31)
9th row: Kubica (17) Sutil (13)
10th row: Glock (14) Fisichella (24)

KERS cars in bold, Glock penalised 5 places for gearbox change.
Also note that Piquet does not have the same car upgrades as Alonso, and that Alonso's front row spot is entirely due to having the lightest fuel load.

Tyre choice: In qualifying many drivers were getting a better second lap time than first out of the super-soft tyres, so they shouldn't be as bad as they were in Melbourne. However, a 40%-40%-20% two-stop strategy may still prove popular. That would leave 22-24 lap stints on medium tyres and 10-12 laps on super softs. By this reckoning Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Rosberg, Sutil and Glock are all likely to start on softs.
Barrichello, Button, Trulli and Kubica are on neither here-nor-there tyre strategies, in that their fuel loads should take them to about 1/3 distance, which isn't an obvious level for either tyre. Of course, rain may interfere.

Of the 5 forecasts I viewed (the first five from google) all show a fair chance of rain (though probabilities, where offered, vary from 30% to 90%, though these don't specifically relate to the race period. The BBC predicts heavy rain, but doesn't offer hourly forecasts for non-UK cities.

If it rains mid race, advantage to those about to stop anyway, and to those who have yet to use the softer tyres (as they would no longer have to). If the race starts wet, then advanatage to those who cope best with a drying track (if it dries at all) through timing of stops and car balance. Fuel consumption is slightly less in the wet, so that may affect stop times (as would any early safety car).

Markets this week 14-17 April

Another short week, in that Easter Monday reduced the available time for trading on either side of the Atlantic. No major changes in any of the measures I follow, details below:
FTSE: 4092.8 (up 109.09 or 2.74%)
DOW: 8131.33 (up 47.95 or 0.59%)
£: $1.4797 (up 1.36¢ or 0.93%)
£: €1.1345 (up 2.17¢ or 1.95%)
Oil: $53.3 (down 76¢), £36.02 (down 85p) or €40.87 (down 16¢) per barrel of Brent Crude
Gold: $870.5 (down $9.50), £588.29 (down £11.94) or €667.42 (down 54¢) per Troy oz.

Below is a graph showing trends in the value of oil and gold. The methodology for my indexing is as follows:
(1) The weekend price of each commodity is calculated in each currency by dividing the dollar price by the appropriate exchange rate.
(2) These commodity prices are then indexed, such that the mean value over the recorded period is 100.
(3) The weekly value for each commodity is calculated by a simple average of the three index values for that week (the value for $, £ and €).

Two main points to note:
1) From December through to February, the gold price was consistently rising, whilst the oil price was much more volatile, with a slight upward trend interrupted by big falls. This reflected a general lack of confidence in the world economy, and in the currencies, too.
2) The highest value gold achieved was in the same week as a trough for oil. This correlation is more than mere coincidence. The timing doesn't coincide with any *particular* announcement (it happened before the G20 summit, for instance) but Obama's mortgage bailout plan was annouced the following week, and one of the UK's bank support schemes was also announced around that time. Neither seems to have "turning point" power to it, so perhaps I'm forgetting something. Nonetheless, ever since, oil has been rising and gold falling - both sure signs of confidence increasing.
Thoughts on the week: no news is good news.
Google hits count: "because of the credit crunch" scores 237,000 whilst "despite the credit crunch" manages 305,000. Take that, pessimism.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Obama and the Nuremberg defense

Obama has released memos detailing the interrogation techniques allowed to the CIA under the Bush administration.

Those agents who tortured suspects without exceeding the limits of the guidelines, will not be prosecuted. To me, this is the thoroughly demolished Nuremberg defense.

How is this acceptable to anybody? This "the past is over and can now be forgotten" attitude fundamentally undermines justice, since it brings the expectation that any incoming President would pardon anyone who acted "within the guidelines" in place at the time. Whatever those guidelines happened to be.

China - Friday preview

Friday practise comes and goes, and things appear a little clearer. Of course, Friday times are usually misleading, so caveat lector. Team-by-team updates below:

Brawn: (First session (FP1): P2&P3, Second session (FP2): P1&3) Unusually strong Friday performance from the team. This was put down (partly) to the fact that their car looks after the super-soft tyre best (Jenson put in the fastest times in the final sector). Look exceedingly strong for this weekend.

Toyota: (FP1: 6&8, FP2: 6&8): There or thereabouts. Should maintain their strong early season form. If anything happens to the Brawns, Toyota would be the team to beat.

BMW: (FP1: 16&18, FP2: 17&18) Always slow on Fridays (probably due to different testing schedule. However, this performance is terrible, even by their standards. Will need chaos to score points.

Renault: (FP1: 9&20, FP2: 16&19) Alonso was not running KERS, but did have a new diffusor. That left him 9th and 19th in the two sessions (was the 9th place a so-called glory lap?) Not looking great for the team, but perhaps they are sandbagging. We'll know tomorrow, but I suspect they are in trouble. Nul points, I predict.

Williams: (FP1: 7&19 FP2: 2&7) Rosberg finished just 0.025s away from Button's time, but Williams usually run away with the Friday sessions, so unless they are running more fuel than usual, they've dropped back a little.

Toro Rosso: (FP1: 10&13, FP2: 10&15) Mid table, they did run an adjustable front wing, something Red Bull haven't done, but don't expect them to race with it (5 live's commentary team understood it to be a test run for the senior squad). A race like the 2 most recent might lead to points, a normal one wouldn't.

Red Bull: (FP1: 5&12, FP2: 4&5) Vettel had some problems in the second session, but they don't appear to be too major. Should maintain their place in the top 4, probably as the 3rd fastest car. Racecraft and strategy (and coping with super-softs) will determine whether they end up with podiums, points or nothing.

McLaren: (FP1: 1&4, FP2: 9&13) Aero upgrades appeared to be working in the first session, but if form from the second session (usually better representative of Qualifying form) is repeated, they'll struggle to get into Q3. Better than I expected.

Force India: (FP1: 14&17, FP2: 11&20) A better than usual showing from the team, but this probably reflects the problems of others, more than any improvement by them. Another team who might benefit from chaos.

Ferrari: (FP1: 11&15, FP2: 12&14) Running without KERS (for "reliability" reasons) they are no better, in fact worse than they have been so far. Nul points, most likely.

Updated predictions:
Win: Button (seems to be quicker than Rubens this weekend)
2nd: Barrichello
3rd: Glock
4th: Vettel
5th: Trulli
6th: Rosberg
7th: Hamiton
8th: Webber

That is, I've moved Jenson up, replaced Alonso and Kimi (cars too slow) with Trulli and Webber (not dropping them for "bad luck" any more).

Further updates tomorrow.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

China preview

Another Thursday, another set of predictions.

Team-by-team (now in championship order, rather than my view of their performance):
Brawn-Mercedes: Jenson won both of the opening races, Rubens suffered much mishap on his way to 2nd in the championship and the approval at the Appeals Court of their diffuser. All told, Brawn are in good shape for this weekend. The question remains "have the opposition managed to catch up?"
Toyota: Finished 3rd and 4th in Australia, after starting from the pits (and after Lewis' disqualification). Were in good shape before the rain (Trulli) and during the rain (Glock) in Malaysia. I'm sure that they will manage at least a podium, and will probably lead the race on Sunday. Brawn, in my view, are only just ahead of them.
BMW Sauber: Heidfeld used good tactics, more than good speed, to get his eighth second place finish. However, Kubica is now being given a try at KERS, which implies that the team have found a way to lighten the car. This will only help (because they wouldn't use it if they didn't feel it was worthwhile). Rumour has it that their new diffuser will be ready for Spain. In the meantime they should be scrapping for points, if current reliability trends continue, otherwise 10-14th.
Renault: Along with McLaren, they have a new diffuser for this weekend. This should help them make the leap to the front running pack (joining Red Bull and Williams slightly behind Toyota and Brawn). Alonso to be in a podium place at some stage, finish about 5th. Piquet to finish a race without crashing (well, maybe).
Williams-Toyota: Will push as hard as they possibly can this weekend, as they will find their advantage slowly slipping away. Having said that, I feel they would be contending for the win, were it not for the fact that their car took VERY unkindly to the super softs at Melbourne. I doubt they've fixed that, so that they only suffer as much as everyone else. We'll see. Predicition: points if they finish.
Toro Rosso-Ferrari: Umm. Got lucky for their points. Don't have KERS or a new diffuser. Will struggle. 9th out of 10, in my view. At least one, probably both drivers will drop out in Q1.
Red Bull-Renault: Vettel to secure shock pole position. More realistically, they'll both be in the top 4 rows, with one interrupting the Brawn/Toyota hegemony at the top of the grid.
McLaren-Mercedes: New diffuser (see Renault). One of the best drivers (see his performance in a bad car at Melbourne). I'd say, barring disqualification, that the McLaren will drop out in Q2, and will somehow score good points. Credit KERS (I think it is a slight disadvantage in qualifying, big advantage in the race).
Force India-Mercedes: Rumour has it they are further advanced than Ferrari in their diffuser design, but since they haven't got it yet, expect nothing from them this weekend. Only chaos exceeding what we've seen so far this season will help them get any points.
Ferrari: Last in the standings. Major managerial reorganisation. Surely things won't get worse? They've dropped KERS until Spain (due to reliability issues, apparently). Expect Q3, but few, if any points.

Thursday predictions:
Win: Barrichello (his turn to avoid bad luck, methinks)
2nd: Glock (that Toyota is good)
3rd: Button (some misfortune will strike)
4th: Vettel (something to go wrong for Trulli)
5th: Alonso (that new diffuser will help, along with KERS)
6th: Rosberg (all that effort, and still Williams won't win)
7th: Hamilton (fighting through from 14th on the grid)
8th: Raikkonen (benefitting from others' misfortune)

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

China highlights 2004-8

The BBC provide highlights of their 5 favourite examples of each Grand Prix, in the week preceding the event. This week, due to the 5 year history of the Chinese Grand Prix, that means that they are offering highlights of every F1 race ever held in China.

For 2004 (Barrichello's last win): click here (and what price a repeat podium of Barrichello, Button, Raikkonen- ok, the Ferrari has no chance).
For 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 click the links as appropriate. 2007 won their "vote for your favourite" competition, featuring, as it did, the classic image of Hamilton losing control of a 30mph McLaren on tyres that were beyond completely shot.

My pick? 2004, but only because Rubens won. They were all fairly good, but none were superb. Let's see what the weekend brings.


I know I usually claim that daily movements are misleading and that a weekly view is a better way of viewing markets. However, thresholds are thresholds, and I'm glad to see that the pound has surpassed $1.50 in trading today. In fact, the pound has risen today against EVERY currency that the BBC tracks. So bully to us.

To be clear, this won't help the British economy much. The weak currency was helping quite a lot. However, it is a strong signal that the markets generally have a lot of faith in the world economy (and by proxy the British one). This is the good news I'm celebrating.

The pound has been consistently rising in value against the Euro, too, which is a good sign (for me as a potential tourist, if nothing else). Currently it is approx €1.13 to the pound.

Difffusers legal

Phew. The FIA have confirmed that the Brawn, Totota and Williams diffusers are legal. This isn't a surprise, but many fans were nervous. After all, the decision making process has never been predictable. They promise more details later. The most convincing argument of the hearings was provided my Renault, who claimed that the FIA had banned them from using something similar - I assume theirs was illegal on some other grounds.

The race is now on to get double diffusers onto the other 7 teams' cars. Rumour has it that BMW and Force India are best placed. That would be fun, and might put BMW in race winning contention, with FI entering the points (and certainly Q2).

Weather update:
Most sources (MSN search) show clouds and around 22C (or slightly below). However, the BBC differs - it predicts heavy rain. Can't we get something in between?

Tyres: The softer options have been chosen for China, as in Melbourne, unlike Malaysia. Bridgestone are confident that the teams now understand the tyres better so we won't see a repeat of the Melbourne chaos. Predict a couple of Q3 competitors going v. light.