F1 is back!

I can’t begin to put into words how excited I am that the new F1 season has started in Bahrain this weekend!

This season has all the elements to be exciting – Schumacher’s come back would be enough on its own, never mind 3 new teams, 5 new drivers, new and old tracks on the calendar, regulation changes and some interesting driver line ups all thrown into the mix!

Personally I expect to find the no refuelling regulation boring, perhaps mixed with smaller front tyres drivers might make mistakes but I’m not expecting lots of overtaking. Hopefully I’m proved wrong!

The biggest downside to F1 in 2010 is that it is lacking my favourite driver, 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen. I like to mention that he did win the championship as many people slag him off, mostly unfairly in my view! Granted if he applied himself on all laps of every race rather than just the last lap he might have better results under his belt, but that’s Kimi – not interested unless he’s got a chance at winning! That is ultimately what caused him to pack his bags and head to WRC, I hope he soon gets fed up of crashing and comes back to F1 sharpish!

So back to Bahrain. Free practices were as useful as testing to get an idea of the relative pace of the teams, so qualifying brought a few surprises.

The Red Bull of Vettel just beat Massa in the Ferrari to pole by a tenth of a second, setting a 1:54.1. Alonso managed that time in Q2 but couldn’t match it when it really mattered and ended up qualifying 3rd, a whole half of a second slower than Vettel.

What also amazed me was that only a second covered 4th to 14th – for the teams to be so close when so much has changed is unbelievable! This year should be very close and hopefully the competitiveness of the mid field pushes teams closer to the Red Bulls and Ferraris up front.

Down at the back of the field I was immensely impressed with the new teams.

I’ve got mixed feelings on having the new outfits in F1 – part of me agrees with those that think it can look a bit ‘Mickey Mouse’ but I also think new blood is important and having these new teams to employ people shed under FOTA resource restrictions is also great. I definitely think if they’ve made it to Bahrain they deserve a chance and hope the 107% rule isn’t brought back as that isn’t going to help.

The fact Chandhok and Senna hadn’t turned a wheel before this weekend was a bit worrying – how can a professional racing team operate like that? It’s not the 1980s/early 1990s no matter how many times Ken Anderson says that turning up to the first event without any mileage is what he did in the old days.

In the end Chandhok didn’t even get out before qualifying due to problems on the car – the poor mehanics apparently worked 4 days straight! For both HRT cars to be within 10 seconds of pole with no testing is a testament to the drivers keeping a cool head and the people behind the scenes working unbelievably hard. I can’t get over that even the basics weren’t there, like Chandhok’s seat wasn’t fitted correctly!

Virgin and Lotus have both done a great job to be there in Spain over the past few weeks testing, it’s a shame that reliability of hydraulics caused a lot of problems but hopefully they have made some progress there over the past few weeks. Virgin in particular lost a lot of track time so for Glock to line up 18th is a boost to them.

The red lights will be going out in a few hours and I can’t wait!

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