News and views on motorsports

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Bahrain GP Notes

Scorching tempratures and absolute fun on the racetrack. The big highlights of the race must have been Michael Schumacher's exit and Pedro de la Rosa's looney driving.

Second qualifying saw Michael Schumacher in the brand new F2005 pushing hard and gaining second on the grid ahead of Jarno Trulli in the Toyota. His team mate Rubens Barrichello, with a replacement gearbox flown in from Italy managed 15th on the grid. Clearly, Rubens having hardly had any running over the weekend was struggling. Eventually he started from the back. Schumi by contrast was flying in the F2005. Although if you look closely, he's working very hard in the car to do that. There were suggestions though that Schumi was running a lighter fuel load for the race, hence the extra pace.

Extra pace or not, Fernando Alonso pulled another blinder to add to yesterday's time and managed once again to capture pole position. His team mate clearly having problems. Giancarlo Fisichella's aggregate time being 1.8 seconds off the Spaniard. That translates to an average loss of roughly 0.9 seconds per lap. Not good at all. Fisichella's problems saw him start in tenth.

Kimi Raikkonen had a horrible second qualifying losing massive time in the third sector of the Sakhir circuit and in the aggregate lost out to the replacement, Pedro de la Rosa.

Disappointing for Narain Karthikeyan though. I simply think his enthusiasm got the better of him and he made too many mistakes in second qualifying and paid the price. Ending up behind his team mate.

In the race, Alonso made a very good start from pole. The Renault's rear weight bias obviously helping traction despite having no launch control. Trulli managed to get alongside Schumi but lost out in turn 2. Behind them the grid panned out. Notable losers include de la Rosa and notable gainers included Rubens Barrichello.

Throughout that first stint, Michael Schumacher keeping a menacing watch behind Alonso's Renault. Trulli also, keeping a watchful distance between himself and the Ferrari. Fisichella meanwhile suffered some sort of engine related failure and retired. The first of many in this race.

As I said, both Alonso and Trulli were under the impression that Michael's car was running lighter on fuel. Whether or not that be true we won't know. But as pitstops were coming due, Michael turned up the pace and tucked right up with Alonso. I doubt if he could do anything about passing though. Whatever it was, something obviously went horribly wrong with Michael's car and he lost it going into turns 9 and 10. Sakhir circuit's vast run off areas ensuring no serious crash ensued. But Michael limped to the pits to retire.

Turns 9 and 10 caught out many today. Ralf Schumacher, Friesacher, even Mark Webber who lost out to Kimi Raikkonen after flying off at turn 9 and into the run off. Turns 9 and 10 are obviously a tricky trail braking sort of corners. Much like Turns 13 and 14 at Sepang. Except more so.

Once Schumi retired, Alonso simply went on cruise mode. But not before pushing hard to discourage Trulli from thinking of giving chase. In the end Trulli gave up having realised his Toyota simply could not comfortably maintain Alonso's scorching pace.

The fun in the race was provided by de la Rosa. The guy is obviously a bit rusty in actual racing but full marks to him for his hard charging and battling style. And his McLaren was fast as well. Quite why McLaren can't seem to hook it up in qualifying still remains a mystery. Anyway, after making a hash of his start Pedro was simply in the mood for hunting and going off the track twice (or was it three times??!). This despite Ron Dennis warning to his drivers that: "We require.... intact aerodynamics."

For the audience though de la Rosa's battle with Button, Barrichello and Webber all of whom he dispatched after some failed but spectacular attempts at passing them, is something we need to see more of. Granted though that de la Rosa's car was perhaps the fastest today. Nevertheless his driving seems a lot more spirited than Raikkonen's for instance. Even more so than "fatman" Juan Pablo Montoya. I think everyone enjoyed Pedro's exploits today. Even Martin Brundle at ITV was moved to vote him as his man of the race. Well, Pedro definitely was mine as well.

Go on Ron. Let Juan Pablo rest a few more races. Give this Spaniard a break why don't you?

Both BARs retired. Both their cars looked very short of brakes. Sato's brakes were completely gone and he had to come to the pits and out of the race. Button though looked like he had clutch failure.

Nick Heidfeld alas, could not continue his good form in Malaysia due to a tired BMW V10. His was the only engine that had to go through Sepang and Bahrain consecutively and the strain was too much for the Munich motor. Webber though did not display much pace. Raikkonen pressuring him and in the end the Australian made that spectacular spin at turn 9. Nevertheless, Webber did end up in fifth collecting some useful points.

But do you still doubt Toyota now? Shame on you. They are threatening to do this year what BAR did last year. Certainly Trulli is making it a habit in appearing on the podium. Toyota bosses clearly and absolutely thrilled at their second podium in succession. Ralf Schumacher went one better than at Sepang finishing a useful fourth. You realise of course that Toyota today scored more points than Renault by virtue of having both cars finishing. Bravo!

But of course for me personally, best of all is to see the guy I lauded many years ago for his Minardi exploits, take his third career victory and his second on the trot. Remember that in 2003 Kimi took just a single race win and ended up just two points behind Schumi. Had Kimi won at say the Nurburgring where he was leading and perhaps finished in Spain the he'd have the world title. Well, Alonso has won two now. He just needs to keep finishing on the podium whatever Ferrari does. The points scoring system being the way it is, if Alonso can be consistent its going to be very difficult for Schumi to catch up.

Oh, of course I'm delighted that Ferrari scored no points today. Barrichello losing out on the last lap to Coulthard due to an ailing Ferrari. Schumi also out. They are now sixth in the constructors standing with Schumi dead last in the drivers championship. And see who are ahead of them. Renault, Toyota, McLaren, Williams and.... Red Bull!! Well, I did say that their rushed introduction of the F2005 could end in tears.

On to the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in three weeks!

No comments: