News and views on motorsports

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Thoughts For The Weekend

Its no secret that I loathe the Bahrain track despite some drivers saying that its good fun. Two items of big news for this Sunday's Grand Prix. Juan Pablo Montoya is confirmed to be out for the next five weeks due to a hairline fracture on his shoulder blades. The Colombian is out for five weeks and Pedro de la Rosa, finally after an age, will once again drive in a race.

The Spaniard must be extremely excited. After all, the last time he had race driving duties was with the Jaguar team back in 2002. And we all know what a dog that must have been to drive. Now he has equipment that potentially could challenge his illustrious contrymen, Fernando Alonso's Renault. A tall order to be sure but despite the lacklustre start to the season, I still believe the McLaren does have pace. Hidden somewhere deep, deep in the Mercedes engine and the monocoque but its there. Senor de la Rosa is another matter though and his performance remains a mystery. Though judging from that other stand in Anthony Davidson, the replacements usually have an overwhelming time.

The other big news of course is the debut of the F2005. If history teaches us a lesson, cars rushed into service have the potential to be a disaster. However, modern day Ferrari are exceptional. So lets not take that for granted. I'm not sure what magical brew Bridgestone might come up with this weekend. But note carefully that the tarmac on the Bahrain circuit is identical to the one used in Fiorano. Yes, both tarmacs supplied by Ferrari lubricant supplier Shell. Despite it being hot and sandy in Bahrain, Ferrari naturally have the advantage there. Don't you just hate them?

Some bookmakers on the internet and placing Alonso as joint favourites with Michael Schumacher, with Fisichella as 3rd favourite. I'd say its too tough to call. Ferrari's F2005 has not been testing alongside the other teams' challengers (have they?), so there really isn't any basis of comparison. All shall be revealed on first qualifying.

Now I'm going to be jeered for this but I think the new qualifying format does have its advantages. Don't get me wrong. To me the best format ever is to let the driver's loose over any number of laps at any time during a one hour period. The current format is bollocks compared to that. But consider this. This year, at least you get to see the cars running on low fuel. At least for one session. And its nice to be able to see which cars have the absolute raw pace. And during the second session, you get to see who's likely to perform in the race. Which is better than a single shot session.

Of course, this depends on the weather holding and not turning qualifying into the lottery that was Melbourne. In Sepang, I rather thought it worked out quite well. I do agree with Michael Schumacher on one thing though. They ought to stop tinkering about with it all the time. Yup. Just use the format of the 1990s I say.

A weekend of anticipation then. The performance of the F2005 in Bahrain will be crucial. Secretly I think, everyone is hoping its a dog. If it isn't one can thank Ferrari for having the most time to test their cars, breaking all testing agreements.

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