Bahrain GP: Race Preview

Posted on March 14, 2010

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The first race of 2010 is finally here and it should be a corker, with an unexpected grid, fancied cars a little out of position, a fundamental regulation change and Michael Schumacher on the grid for the first time in three years.

McLaren have admitted their car is neither as quick as it should be or being exploited to its maximum. Team boss Martin Whitmarsh said last night: “Based on the evidence today we don’t look quick enough to deserve a victory here, but that doesn’t mean we will stop trying to get on – but we are realistic about it as well.”

That said, you’ve got to fancy Lewis to make passes and Jenson is probably one of the best placed drivers to exploit the shift to no refueling. His smooth style will use less gas than many of his rivals and will be much less hard on his tyres. If there was a fault in Jenson’s car for qualifying, presumably that will be fixed too. If the McLaren’s ok in race trim they can both make progress.

It’s tough to look past the Ferraris for the win. I think Fernando will probably pass Felipe on the road. I’ll be surprised if Vettel’s Red Bull has the race pace for the win, despite surprising pace in qualifying yesterday. Both Ferraris have new engines after a precautionary change by the team.

Schumacher has said he needs time to get back up to speed. Presumably at some point over today’s 49 laps then. The old master won’t be off the pace for long and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him challenging the podium late on today.

The midfield will be full of good battles, with Force India, Renault and Williams looking sharp. I’m also expecting to see Kamui Kobayashi make progress from 16th. He was sensational in the couple of races he ran last year, especially in Brazil.

Among the backmarkers, it’s frankly tough to see any of the six new cars making it to the finish. Lotus have had the best reliability so far and they’ve experienced drivers on board but Bahrain is a tough place for the machinery to be broken in. HRT and Virgin have spent more of their track time in the garage assembling cars than putting on any mileage. Simply getting a car to the end will be a victory for any of the three squads, which is not what Formula One should be about.

The biggest unknown is tyres. Mark Webber said yesterday: “There is not a team in this pitlane [not] worried about their tyres tomorrow.”

In practice, I won’t be too surprised if we see a number of cars two stopping – at least. Lewis told the team in practice his tyres were “destroyed” after just a handful of laps. Radio 5Live commentator David Croft is reporting on Twitter he’s been told the top six will pit on about lap 15. The next 34 laps are a long way on one set of tyres. I can’t see a one-stop strategy working on that basis myself, but we’ll see.

Podium prediction for Bahrain?

1. Fernando Alonso

2. Lewis Hamilton

3. Felipe Massa

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Posted in: Race