Bahrain GP Preview : Shakedown at Sakhir

Jarno Trulli driving for Toyota at the 2007 Ba...
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The qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix ended with another shuffle of the deck in terms of performance, as the manufacturers rush to bring new diffuser technology into the field. Not much chance of rain in Bahrain, so this will be a genuine opportunity to check out the performance of the cars in a hot and dry environment although changes run apace so that nothing is stable in terms of cars, performance and drivers. Qualifying places bore this out with Toyota supreme, Red Bull battling and Brawn down but only slightly. McLaren’s comeback continues with Lewis Hamilton snaffling 5th on the grid for tomorrow’s race. Phew. Ferrari meanwhile move up but remain behind the pace and Nelson Piquet Jr’s struggle with his track confidence continues. What a shame that Mark Webber cannot join teammate Vettel at the top end of the grid – his fast run blighted by a shifting Sutil, who at least had the good grace to track Webber down for a face-to-face apology later.

For me, this remains the season which I might be able to proclaim the most entertaining ever – the greatest Formula One season might be a stretch but I find myself repeating the opinion that the FIA and FOCA must be coockahoop at the slings and arrows of shifting fortunes amongst the drivers. Despite low crowd attendance at the Sakhir circuit today, the grip of the new season should draw in crowds tomorrow.

On that note, the BBC coverage reports that the Donnington venue for the 2010 British Grand Prix is in jeopardy – raising the dreadful prospect that there could be no British race next year. Ecclestone is apparently bored with the ‘Blazer Brigade’ (the BRDC – Silverstone owners) so that kills the alternative if Donnington owners and promoters fail to sort out funding and finish the circuit. Button and Hamilton may be without a home race next year. A disaster for the sport in my view – OK so I am British – as this denies the British legacy that is international motor sport today. With a majority British influence in team locations, design, engineering and general innovation that filters into other sports (look to Lola’s dominance in IndyCar, Jaguar in GP Touring and other possibly bygone glories), the lack of a British venue next year would be a blow. If I can appeal to Ecclestone in any effective way then perhaps I might suggest that wallets might shrink with the effect on the core Formula One fanbase that this might start. Hopefully he and BRDC Chairman Damon Hill will sit down and rattle out a deal if Donnington dies.

So back to tomorrow: sit back, plug in and watch what is likely to continue the mesmerising fete that Formula One has become once more. The grid lines up as follows:

1 Jarno Trulli Toyota
2 Timo Glock Toyota
3 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault
4 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes
5 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
6 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes
7 Fernando Alonso Renault
8 Felipe Massa Ferrari
9 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota
10 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari
11 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes
12 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota
13 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber
14 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber
15 Nelsinho Piquet Renault
16 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes
17 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari
18 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Mercedes
19 Mark Webber RBR-Renault
20 Sebastien Bourdais STR-Ferrari

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