In this series of posts, which will be published the friday before each race weekend, I will attempt to predict the top 10 of both the qualifying session and the race ahead based on previous form and the individual performances in the first two free practice sessions on friday ahead of the weekend. I will enter these predictions on GuessTheGrid, a website which takes your top 10 predictions and ranks them against other’s. Feel free to sign up and battle me for the title of F1 Oracle – but first, read on what my prediction will be for the 2017 Australian Grand Prix and why I think this prediction will ring true come sunday afternoon (local time).
‘GTG’ is a very lightweight, ad free and easy-to-use website. Rankings are purely based on your prowess to predict races. You predict two top tens: one for quali and one for the race. You can drag and drop the drivers to the place you think they will land for that session, up until the minute before the session starts. After the session (ranging from 1-4 hours) the guy running the website updates with the scores. You get four points if you predict a driver’s place exactly right, two if you are one spot off. You get one point if the driver you named finishes in the top 10, regardless of his place. Registration is easy and free – register now and see if you can beat me over the season! (note: I am not affiliated with this website in any way)
In 2014 (my first year taking part on the website) I was leading the leaderboard up until the final race where I dropped the ball to finish 3rd. In 2015, I had some good individual results but finished 9th overall at the end of the season. In 2016, I improved to 7th. This year, I fully intend to run for the title – and I invite you to challenge me along the way!
Before I’m going to reveal my prediction, I will link some resources on which I based my prediction:
As you can see, Mercedes (especially Hamilton) look comfortably ahead of the competition. Yes, Vettel was a few hundreds of a second faster than Bottas in FP2, but I reckon Bottas can inch past Vettel during Qualifying – when it counts. In FP2, Red Bull acknowledged they messed up their set up which saw them come in at 5th and 6th behind the Ferrari’s, while they were ahead of the Ferrari’s during FP1. This leads me to believe they are on about the same level as Ferrari, albeit a bit slower. That is why I reckon Vettel will come in 3rd, and Ricciardo in 4th. I think they will be within .2s of each other at the end of qualifying, so it is a coin toss to decide whether Raikkonen or Verstappen will come in 5th. I went with Raikkonen based on historic performance – Max hasn’t shown his proverbial muscles in Melbourne yet.
Behind the top teams, I actually went to spread my chances. I put Massa in 7th, since I believe Williams to be the #4 team this year. I did not put Stroll in, because I think he still needs some more time to adjust. Behind Williams, it is very close between Force India, Renault, Toro Rosso and Haas. Historically, Force India is not a strong qualifier. Last year they often came in 11th/12th on the grid, despite taking 4th spot in the Constructor’s Championship. Therefore, I did not put in Perez or Ocon, but instead put up the strongest qualifiers of the other three teams. Again, I think it will be pretty close between #7 and #10, within .4s or so.
“WHERE IS MAX?!”, I hear my countrymen yell furiously. Before I explain my reasoning, I will run down the top five. I think Hamilton – barring any mechanical issues – looks dead set to take victory here. Bottas will be able to nab 2nd from Vettel’s Ferrari who comes in 3rd. Raikkonen will use his Ferrari power to comfortably overtake Ricciardo, placing 4th and 5th respectively.
Now, on to Max. I have a couple of reasons to not rank him in the top 10. The first being that I’m still unsure on the Renault engine’s reliability. Second, there is a nigh statistical certainty one driver in the original qualifying top 10 to DNF. Taking out Max from my prediction will free up the spot otherwise left by the guy failing to finish. A third reason to take out Max from my race prediction is insurance. As a Max fan, I would be sorely disappointed if he drops out – but then I will still have made the right prediction!
As for the number six and onwards, I think Massa will be able to keep his spot (and move up one by Max leaving the classification). Based on Ferrari’s power plant and its advantage over the Renault engine, I gave Grosjean a 7th spot. Mercedes’ engine is reportedly still the strongest, so Perez will make a strong comeback during the race to finish in 8th. Hulkenberg will lose two spots (including Max’ DNF) but hold on to grab a few points, just like Sainz Jr. using the same engine.
This is the prediction for my alternative account (FelixDicitDotCom) on GuessTheGrid. On the website, you are able to predict right up until the start of qualifying and the race. I suggest you use the information gained from FP3 to change your prediction for the Qualifying session. And, you can use Qualifying to adapt your prediction for the race. This is a strategy I will employ on my main account (FelixR1991). Some might think this is cheating. Ultimately, it does not matter – since I have no knowledge ahead of the session about the result. Spreading my options between the accounts won’t work for the grand tally, as I won’t know which is the better prediction.