Fernando Alonso got his Ferrari career off to a thundering start in the searing Bahrain desert, leading the prancing horse to a one-two victory over teammate Felipe Massa by over 15 seconds.
The 2010 season has been the most eagerly anticipated season for years, and why not? The two current champions Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton at McLaren Mercedes, Alonso to Ferrari, Massa back after his life threatening injury last year at Hungary, three new teams on the grid, and the cherry on the cake, the return of seven time world champion Michael Schumacher.
In terms of the regulations, there is no more re-fuelling, making tyre management that bit more difficult, and a revised points system, extending the points finishers to tenth place, awarding the winner 25 points, tenth with one point.
It was a mouth watering prospect, especially with four world champions on the grid. Unfortunately, not to rain on Alonso’s parade, the first race of the season did not live up to the expectation so many were hoping for.
The Bahrain Grand Prix has been on the calendar for six years now, being a very well established circuit on the Formula One calendar. It’s also one of the safest of the modern tracks, with there being little to no safety car periods at any of the six races, and with a sport as dangerous as this, a very safe track is always a welcome addition.
However, where there’s a Yin, a Yang is sure to follow, this being the lack of excitement on the track. The Bahrain Grand Prix has never hosted many legendary races, excluding 2006 when Alonso held off Schumacher with superb skill.
Many fans are already pointing the finger at the new regulations and blaming the ban on re-fuelling for the lack of overtaking and race-craft by the drivers. Is it really the re-fuelling that’s to blame? Or is this another accusation that people are quickly making? I believe it is the latter, as the fact remains at this. Bahrain is a dull circuit, and that’s putting it lightly.
Now there is the new extension that puts another half a minute onto a lap time, a waste of space that didn’t need to be conceived? The crown prince of Bahrain stated that the new section was to “give the track more of a racing spirit.” Too bad it didn’t work.
However, even with the problems with the track, it does not take away Alonso’s fantastic victory, his first since Japan 2008. The double world champion has settled into his new team with absolute ease and put on a brilliant performance. But should he have won that race?
It is arguable that Sebastian Vettel would have easily guided his Red Bull, now named "Luscious Liz,"if it weren’t for an exhaust failure. Also, with Alonso having trouble keeping his car cool from being stuck in the turbulent air behind the German, he couldn’t possibly have passed him as he would have had to hang back in order to keep to optimum temperature, and with that precaution, he would not have been able to slipstream him.
On the other hand though, as soon as he took the lead and was in clear, there was no competition. The Spaniard returned to his former glory and cruised away from his team mate, laying down his dominance, and gave the oldest team on the grid a worthy victory, especially after last year’s dog of a car.
McLaren left the weekend with their heads held high, with Lewis Hamilton’s even higher, after the 2008 world champion took third place, a strong performance for the Woking based team. Jenson Button could not match his fellow Brit, with his title defence off to a disappointing start, finishing seventh.
After the exhaust issue, Vettel managed fourth, but the big story was in the Mercedes-Benz camp. Nico Rosberg drew first blood against team mate seven time world champion, beating him to a fifth place finish, with Schumacher sixth.
However, it was not just a battle of who of the big four would win, but also who of the three new teams would finish on top in their own battle at the back of the grid. The winner, Lotus, beating both Hispania Racing and Virgin F1 to the finish. The other two didn’t finish. The revived Sauber team did not finish either, a disappointing result after showing such great promise in winter testing.
Nico Hulkenberg was the winner of the five new rookies, guiding his Williams home to 14th. However, I believe there is more to see from this up-and-coming star, and this season he will finish a race towards the sharp end of the grid.
There was one big factor that came out of the weekend and that was how the teams performed under the new regulations. It appeared that the issue of increased tyre degradation was not too large, but maybe other tracks on the calendar will challenge the drivers’ ability to handle their tyres more than Bahrain, especially those such as Monaco, Belgium or Hungary.
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