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So, here we go again, the BBC's second season after the big return and the team assembled in Bahrain for race one, the extremely rich oil state waving their wealth at their now bankrupt neighbours of Dubai, they, too, afforded a grand prix after paying Bernie for the privilege. No problem with advertising Camel Cigarettes here matey. In fact there are camels everywhere! This place sums up the Middle-East contradictions of extreme visual wealth for the top 5% to entice the west yet underneath there's a simmering mistrust of the west from the other 95% because of our intrinsic support of Israeli, the 95% who cant afford to watch GP in this part of the world.
The rather tall, boyish and awkward Jake Humphries heads the BBC coverage, a somewhat odd choice if you consider how tall your average grand prix driver is, fellow pundits Martin Brundell and Eddie Jordan dwarfed by him, the addition of Mr Boring in tiny Nigel Mansell not helped the things, only David Coulthard adding another skyscraper to the Manhattan chart. For me Humphries has always looked rather gauche and prep boy around the macho world of petrol heads and it wouldn't surprise me if the guys prank and tease him all race weekend.
Bahrain is the classic brand new desert race track with the extreme wealth on the inside of the circuit perimeter fence on race day and the huge Bedouin poverty just over the dunes. The track is a good one though with some great corner sequences and at least some overtaking places, but
questions over its suitability for F1. The new rules of no fuel stops should encourage more racing and probably some more fiery spectacular crashes from bald tyres and more cavalier manoeuvres on those full tanks. In recent years the team tactics over fuel have decided most races and so Bernie wanted to continue the success of last season with some radical changes and new ideas, if just to head off the threatened rival series.
Its not only new tracks we are seeing in F1 but new teams, the spectacularly slow Hispania Racing some nine seconds off the pace here for first practice. The other new teams of Virgin Racing and Lotus were about even at around five seconds off the pace. The American team who were going to race this year have delayed entrance until 2011.
On Saturdays final qualifying Lewis Hamilton (4th) would out qualify 'team mate' Jenson Button (8th) and Massa beating Alonso in the Ferrari battle. The great Michael Schumacher began his all German love affair with Mercedes with a creditable 8th, but out qualified by his Bavarian team mate Glock. Sebastian Vettel, another German, who won the last two races of 2009, dominated qualifying, as Button did this time last year, bagging pole by a comfortable distance..
1 Germany - Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull-Renault 1:55.0291 2 Brazil - Felipe Massa - Ferrari 1:55.513 3 Spain - Fernando Alonso - Ferrari 1:54.612 4 Great - Britain Lewis Hamilton - McLaren-Mercedes 1:55.341 5 Germany - Nico Rosberg - Mercedes GP 1:55.463 6 Australia - Mark Webber - Red Bull-Renault 1:55.498 7 Germany - Michael Schumacher - Mercedes GP 1:55.593 8 Great Britain - Jenson Button - McLaren-Mercedes 1:55.715 9 Poland - Robert Kubica - Renault 1:55.811 10 Germany - Adrian Sutil - Force India-Mercedes 1:55.913
Bahrain is the second longest track on the circuit and felt like it last Sunday for the live race, the tediously long straights and just the one tyre stop in the race producing a non event.
It was the first 24 car grid since 1994 with Vettel strong off the pole, holding the powerful Ferraris at bay, Red Bull team mate mark Mark Webber in 5th providing the only entertainment on the start when spraying the grid with blue smoke like a member of the Wacky Races, sending the two Force India's into an immediate collision. The new teams were nowhere near race ready and seemed to just park up early on to avoid further humiliation like a tail-ender slogging out in a test match to avoid the fearsome fast bowler. Lotus would take the honours for the new boys by the virtue of lasting the race, valuable test time for the Norfolk team.
As I say the tyre change thing didn't really add to a perfunctory race as the top teams dominated the points places, four world champions in that top eight, Fernando Alonso and Massa taking one and two when Vettels car lost some cylinders and his exhaust with a quarter of the race to go, Lewis Hamilton joining the Ferrari boys on the pedestal in third. Lewis had the odious task of firing his dad as manager in January and already showing results. There was always something cringing about Anthony Hamilton seeking out the camera in the pit lane. But for me Massa was the hero of the day, coming back from effectively being shot in the head with a rivet not 7 months ago, a brave guy indeed. His distant second would suggest team orders though and no World Championship this year, something he's very used to. Let's just hope the next race isn't as boring, killing all the ground made last year.
Driver----- Race ------ Time
1 Spain - F Alonso 1:39:20.396 2 Brazil - F Massa 1:39:36.495 3 Great Britain - L Hamilton 1:39:43.578 4 Germany - S Vettel 1:39:59.195 5 Germany - N Rosberg 1:40:00.609 6 Germany - M Schumacher 1:40:04.559 7 Great Britain - J Button 1:40:05.676 8 Australia - M Webber 1:40:06.756 9 Italy - V Liuzzi 1:40:13.404 10 Brazil - R Barrichello 1:40:22.885
-Next races on the BBC-
Australian Grand Prix - Albert Park, Melbourne, 26-28 March 2010
Malaysian Grand Prix - Sepang, 2-4 April 2010
Chinese Grand Prix - Shanghai, 16-18 April 2010
Spanish Grand Prix - Circuit de Catalunya, 7-9 May 2010
Monaco Grand Prix - Monte Carlo, 13-16 May 2010
Turkish Grand Prix - Istanbul Park, 28-30 May 2010
Canadian Grand Prix - Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, 11-13 June 2010