A new order emerging behind Ferrari? 04 Apr 2004
BAR and Renault outclass Williams and McLaren rivals
Another dominant performance by Ferrari in Bahrain may have come as little surprise to race fans, but behind the headlines there is another interesting question. That is whether we are seeing a permanent change in Formula One racing's balance of power?
Both McLaren and Williams have struggled to achieve results this season. Bahrain marked another very miserable weekend for the former, with the loss of both cars to mechanical failures. Kimi Raikkonen reckoned to be a championship front-runner before the start of the season has now retired from every race, and David Coulthard has only four points in the Drivers Championship to Michael Schumachers 30.
The Williams team has also struggled against a variety of mechanical problems and poor performances, in stark contrast to their strong showing in qualifying. Ralf Schumacher finished seventh in Bahrain after a controversial collision with Takuma Sato, while Juan Pablo Montoya suffered a disastrous race, dropping from a strong third place as he nursed a mechanical problem to a lowly 13th at the end.
In stark contrast it has been another weekend of strong performances for the BAR and Renault teams. It was they, rather than McLaren and Williams, who followed Ferrari home in Bahrain. Jenson Button managed to achieve his second podium position in just two races, taking a well-deserved third place finish, team-mate Takuma Sato surviving his clash with Ralf Schumacher to finish fifth. And Renault also managed excellent performances, Jarno Trulli finishing fourth and Fernando Alonso coming in sixth despite starting from the back end of the grid.
Just three races completed it is too early to predict how the season will progress, but few people would be surprised to find either the Renault or BAR teams finishing the season in a very strong position, maybe even making a serious challenge on the 'big three' of Ferrari, Williams and McLaren that have dominated the sport for the last ten years.