Lessons from qualifying - and likely tactics for this afternoon
The biggest question ahead of this afternoons Bahrain Grand Prix - apart from how much the dirty side of the grid might affect the getaway potential of the two McLarens - is how much fuel each of the front runners is carrying.
On past performance, Ferraris Felipe Massa is likely to be a lap lighter than team mate Kimi Raikkonen, but applying the same rule to McLaren, Fernando Alonso has been a lap lighter than Lewis Hamilton. There is thus debate whether the Spaniard was simply struggling to optimise his car in practice and qualifying, or that he is sitting pretty ready to outrun his three main rivals in the first stint.
Most runners are likely to start with Bridgestones medium tyre compound (the softer of the two here) because the cars are significantly quicker on it, and this should apply to the leading quartet. If Alonso opts for the hard tyre, he really will be planning to run longer and thus get ahead at the fuel stops.
Tyre degradation will be important here, as it was in Malaysia, because the track surface is relatively abrasive with all the sand around, and in ambient temperatures of up to 32 degrees Celsius teams are again expecting track temperature around 42 degrees.
The heat here is drier than in Malaysia, but hydration will again be an important factor for the drivers.
Ferrari are very confident about their race set-up, and Massa said yesterday that the F2007 is now very good on worn tyres, which has not always been the case this year. Alonso, however, also reported that the McLaren has been strong on its long runs, so we can expect a similar confrontation to the one we saw in Sepang, perhaps with the Ferraris having the advantage of track position from the start.
If Lewis Hamilton were to win, not only would he go 3-2-1 on results (as John Watson did for McLaren back in the middle of 1981, incidentally, culminating in his British Grand Prix triumph), but he would be the youngest-ever British winner. If he finishes on the podium, it would be the first time in history any driver has done that in his first three races.
On the third row of the grid the BMW Saubers will be there to pick up any pieces if there is a clash between the four leaders going into Turn One. Both drivers got the best from their packages, though contrary to appearances insiders suggest that Nick Heidfeld is on more fuel than Robert Kubica.
At Renault, Giancarlo Fisichella had his gearbox replaced yesterday for qualifying, and in hoping to maintain their grid position in the race the team have acknowledged that they do not yet in 2007 have the performance to challenge the three leading squads. Red Bull, Toyota and Williams can be expected to fight for the final points, with Heikki Kovalainen trying to push through as he did in Malaysia after just missing out on Q3 yesterday. Look out, too, for an aggressive race from Anthony Davidson in the Super Aguri, and Tonio Liuzzi in the Toro Rosso.