Good news and bad for world champions at Sakhir
Fernando Alonso stamped his authority once again on second qualifying for the Bahrain Grand prix, but Michael Schumacher moved up to start from the front row.
As usual, second qualifying was all about the level of fuel load a team and driver chose. In the end Fernando Alonso and Renault proved as unchallengeable as in Malaysia as the Spaniard lapped in 3m 01.902s to maintain his pole position, and the disappointment was clear on Michael Schumachers face as his 3m 02.357s best was supplanted.
Nevertheless, the world champion moved up a place to join Alonso on the front row as he beat Jarno Trullis 3m 02.660s for Toyota. Nick Heidfeld kept his fourth slot with 3m 03.217s. Williams team mate Mark Webber moved up a place on 3m 03.262s, but the biggest mover (and therefore the man likely to be running one of the lightest fuel loads) was Ralf Schumacher who will start sixth for Toyota on 3m 03.271s after setting the third-fastest time of the session behind Alonso and brother Michael.
Red Bulls Christian Klien moves up a place with 3m 03.369s, partly aided when Giancarlo Fisichella had a twitchy lap to 3m 03.765s and fell back to 10th.
Both McLarens have pushed ahead of the second Renault driver. With the fourth-fastest lap of the session Pedro de la Rosa is clearly another on a lighter fuel load, and the Spaniard is eighth on 3m 03.373s. Kimi Raikkonen is ninth, and the Finn was running a lot of fuel in his MP4-20 on his way to 3m 03.524s.
Jenson Button moved up a place to 11th with 3m 04.348s, BAR still suffering the corollary of their Malaysian problems which was that both Button and Sato had to start so early in yesterdays qualifying. Meanwhile, as he had expected, Felipe Massa dropped two places, partly through a small error in sector two and partly through running hard Michelins.
From Takuma Sato backwards there was only one change when Narain Karthikeyan spoiled his lap with a couple of errors and dropped behind Jordan team mate Tiago Monteiro. The order is: Sato 3m 05.563s; David Coulthard 3m 05.844s; Rubens Barrichello 3m 07.693s; Jacques Villeneuve 3m 07.983s; Monteiro 3m 09.428s; Karthikeyan 3m 10.143s; Christijan Albers 3m 10.422s and Patrick Friesacher 3m 11.261s.
There was another problem for Ferrari when Barrichello stopped by the pit wall immediately after his run. Ferrari say they have another gearbox problem (the unit was replaced overnight), but there is speculation that by cutting out a slowdown lap (the F2005 was wheeled back down the pit lane) the Brazilian might be able to squeak home on one fuel stop. Time will tell.
The race is likely to be even hotter than Malaysia, and with less dense air engine cooling will be a serious factor. So too, of course, will be tyre performance. Can the Bridgestones last better than they did in Malaysia? Michelin have no doubts that their tyres can, so yet again a completely unpredictable race is in prospect.