16/03/14. 06:00am. That is the date and the time that the Formula One circus will begin the first show of this season only this year the car look and sound very different to what we have all become accustomed to.
As we all know by now the era of the V8 is gone, aero has been reduced and we have come back round to a breed of F1 cars that spin up the rear wheels, exit corners sideways and have have a distinct turbo whirr to them. At first everyone, I must admit even myself, seemed to be against the V6 turbo cars worried that they would be a lot slower and take away some of the atmospheric noise the cars prodcued before. It just didn't seem right to slow down a grid of cars that are meant to be the pinnacle of motorsport. They should be pushing to go quicker and quicker.
Schumacher still holds 4 lap records he set in his last championship winning year with Ferrari in 2004.
Humble pie well and truly eaten. They have silenced many critics from what we have seen so far I would argue. The cars don't seem to be a huge amount slower than last year and they will no doubt get quicker and quicker and everyone is putting a foot wrong here and there, top teams have slipped up slightly it seems and some of the midfield teams have decided that want to have a poke around at the front of the grid. Raikkonen found out just how hard these new cars are to keep in a straight line if you squirt the throttle too early out of a corner, Force India look to be closer to the front although looking across all of the winter testing running they aren't quite there, although reliability could help them out. McLaren look to have found their feet again to begin the climb back towards the sharp end of the field and Williams have given all of us hope that flashes of the glory days are only a matter of a few races away possibly after Massa topped the time sheets from all the times set across Bahrain testing 1 and 2. All of this has been caused by a shake up of the rules and regulations so it is looking good for this new era so far.
Lewis Hamilton had a front wing failure during the first test in Jerez, every team has encountered issues during testing so the season is shaping up to be open and unpredictable.
Obviously as the season rolls on teams will develop at different rates, find consistent form a clearer running order will begin to form. Red Bull sorely need it if current form is anything to go by. The current champion could only go 18th quickest in the second Bahrain test while new teammate Ricciardo went 10th quickest.
1. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1m 33.258s, 202 laps
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1m 33.278s, 159 laps
3. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1m 33.484s, 192 laps
4. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1m 33.987s, 236 laps
5. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1m 34.280s, 196 laps
6. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1m 35.290s, 213 laps
7. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1m 35.426s, 141 laps
8. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1m 35.577s, 189 laps
9. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1m 35.701s, 135 laps
10. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1m 35.743s, 105 laps
11. Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 1m 35.894s, 197 laps
12. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1m 36.113s, 137 laps
13. Adrian Sutil, Sauber, 1m 36.467s, 181 laps
14. Max Chilton, Marussia, 1m 36.835s, 105 laps
15. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1m 36.901s, 74 laps
16. Jules Bianchi, Marussia, 1m 37.087s, 153 laps
17. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, 1m 37.303s, 192 laps
18. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1m 37.468s, 77 laps
19. Marcus Ericsson, Caterham, 1m 38.083s, 172 laps
20. Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham, 1m 38.391s, 125 laps
21. Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 1m 39.302s, 65 laps
22. Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, 1m 40.599s, 62 laps
The Caterham's and Marussia's that have for 4 years been been admiring the rear wings of the rest of the grid and learning to minimise time loss from a blue flag, now have the opportunity to finally make the step up the grid and latch onto the midfield. Time will tell but I think that given the reliability issues and fuel limits they may be able to sneak into the top 10 on a couple of occasions to score some points. Whoever capitalises on the opportunity presented to them could grab 10th in the constructors or, who knows, higher depending on the luck and running of some of the struggling midfield teams such as Toro Rosso.
The one trend that can be seen is that the majority of the quickest times have all been set using Mercedes power so expect to see Hamilton doing what he does best near the top of the field, possibly joined by Mercedes power new boys, Massa and Bottas. Hamilton is used to it by now and can hold his own, but if say Bottas finds himself under pressure for one of the podium positions will he be able to defend and fight back, or will the persuer in question simply ease past? It is one of the questions I have been asking myself a lot and trying to find an answer to, how easy is it going to be to overtake? In past years even if you had to go around the outside the drivers seemed to have the grip to keep their foot down and make the pass stick, this year the cars are more lively, more sideways with more torgue. So if two drivers do battle it out will it be as simple as we have seen before or will they be wheel to wheel, tyres smoking, rear end sliding as they muscle their way through? All should be revealed come Sunday.
At the end of the day I think that what we all want to see is what has been talked about above, good racing, close racing, and the opportunity for a number of people to try their hand at battling for big points and the glory and glamour of the podium. Hopefully these new cars will give us this sort of racing for the whole season, even if we see some processional racing towards the end I don't think we will be seeing that this Sunday.