Bridgestone crucial to champions' hopes in Bahrain
As the shadows lengthened in the Bahrain paddock yesterday and team personnel gathered for an impromptu welcome party among the palm trees, the appearance of the new Ferrari and the disappearance of Juan Pablo Montoya were the talking points.
Privately, Bridgestone engineers admit that a great deal of the Ferraris performance will depend on their rubber, and though they remain optimistic there is a sense that Michelin may prevail again this weekend in the anticipated high track and ambient temperatures. While a question mark remains over the effectiveness of the Bridgestones, you wont find a Michelin team that does not believe the French company are currently doing a great job.
As the winners of the last two races the pressure should be on Renault, but Fernando Alonso was relaxed and upbeat. The challenge from Ferrari will definitely be stronger here, but the Spaniard lost no time in gently pointing out that simply bringing their new car to the race this weekend will not necessarily be a total panacea for the Italian teams early season problems.
Always Ferrari are very strong, and they are one of the favourites, he said, and for sure they have got their new car and they will be more competitive than they were in the last race. But Renault won the first two races of the season and we are now the team to beat. It is not for us to beat the others. And last year I think that Ferrari did not have a bad car. The key to beating them is not just the car!
Meanwhile, McLaren are hoping to unlock more of the clear potential of the MP4-20 and Williams are feeling quietly confident. Jarno Trulli, however, admitted that he is taking things race by race at present.
Malaysia was a great result for us, the Italian said after finishing second in Sepang to score Toyotas first podium and their best-ever result. But I am keeping my feet on the ground. I know that we still have a lot of work to do and we still do not yet know what to expect of the car at each race. I want to score points at each race, but it is too soon to speak of wins. We are building our confidence steadily and I am looking forward to the weekend. I think the track and the temperature conditions will suit us well here.
Jenson Button had no apologies following his outburst against Honda after his BAR broke only three laps into the Malaysian Grand Prix, and though the problem with a sensor has been very quickly solved by the Japanese company he is expecting a tough weekend.
I think the reaction to what I said has been positive, he said. As soon as I had calmed down I had a meeting with Honda and then I went to their factory in the UK on the Tuesday after the race. I had put my points across and we discussed things and they apologised. It was a minor problem and they showed me what they have done to solve it straight away. The good thing about Honda is that when they have issues, they solve them.
I would say that Im a corporate player, but its more important now than ever that Ive got to show emotion to the team. Its the best thing I could possibly do. Its the best way to put across my point about the issue we had in Malaysia. It was a tough weekend; we were quick but we had a problem on Saturday and again on Sunday. I reacted the right way. It probably helped with the team to show them that I do care, that Im not just along for the ride.
However, starting early in the qualifying line-up on Saturday on a circuit that is always sandy during the first laps of a new session will certainly not help either him or his team-mate Takuma Sato to secure strong grid positions. This gives both a big challenge to overcome, on a circuit where passing is not easy and at a time when the team must score good results to kick-start their title campaign.
While Peter Sauber admitted philosophically, Our car is too slow at the moment and we have a lot of work to do, David Coulthard was also reflective. Im curious to see how we will perform this weekend. Melbourne was cold and Malaysia very hot, so I was nervous between them that there might be a big drop off in our speed, but thankfully there wasnt. In theory Bahrain should suit us the way Malaysia did, but we have a different compound and construction of tyre this weekend and we havent tested them. Thats our problem. Without testing between races we effectively have the same car we did 10 days before the start of the season. We were a second off fastest lap in Australia and 1.3s off in Malaysia, so what will we be here?
Overall, this third race in the 2005 FIA Formula One World Championship is no more predictable than either of the first two, with any one of five or six teams at this stage having the chance to shine.