Bloody Hell…two entertaining Grand Prixs in a row. What will they think of next, overtaking for the lead, that might be asking a bit much. Although just think of how much fun it would have been had Pedro de la Rosa been in second place and putting some of those moves on the blur in blue. Speaking of whom, the young Spaniard added to his already glittering reputation by showing just how well he could deal with pressure. Perhaps it’s a national trait, after all being chased by very large bulls with very, very large horns probably puts having the Red Baron, von Schumacher (or the Red Devil as some would describe him) up your arse in a F1 race into perspective.

The fun all began in the week before the race when Juan Pablo Montoya fractured his shoulder after falling in a game of tennis. Some nasty folk suggested that he was playing tennis whilst on a motocross bike at about 80 kph and DC, now that he is out of Ronspeak central, commented that this is what happens when fat guys go into training. Oh what these wags will say when they are let off the leash. This gave Pedro de la Rosa his chance to show what he could really do in a car worthy of the name “Grand Prix car”. After out-qualifying his much vaunted Finnish team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen and having a very aggressive, and highly entertaining, drive to fifth place he was asked if he thought that he had proved a point. He responded by saying that he had proved a point to Niki Lauda. Those with a sufficiently long memory will recall that Lauda sacked de la Rosa from Jaguar and replaced him with that highly talented racer, Antonio Pizzonia, just before being sacked himself.

Yet again “les Blues” looked the most likely once practice started and so it proved for the Italian run, British based, French team. Although until the first qualifying session neither driver topped the sheets they were always there or there-abouts. In session one Alonso planted his Renault on pole with time to spare and Fisichella, who had to go out early due to his non-finish in the previous race (the mistake in Malaysia, the prang in Sepang, the blunder down under you really could go on for ages) did very well to end up fifth, just six tenths down on his team-mate. Fisichella then had a huge lock up early in his second run and would start from a disappointing tenth. Not that it made any difference to his race as on lap 4 le engine went le pop and he popped off into the shade for a cool one. Alonso on the other hand was simply impregnable. Under huge pressure from a revived Ferrari of Schumacher in Q2 he took pole without any hint of an error and then fended off the German’s almost intimate attentions for the first twelve laps before the Red Baron’s Focker, sorry, Ferrari, spiralled out of the fight. After that it was a cruise for “les blues” to yet another untroubled win.

Thankfully this was not in France so the ITV TV director didn’t concentrate on the Renault lapping like a metronome all by itself and showed the fun that was being had behind. And what fun it was. The new Ferrari showed promise with the Red Baron being well up in all practice sessions and qualifying second. The new Ferrari showed no promise at all with the Red Baron shot down with hydraulic problems early in the race and poor Barrichello having to sit out all but the first practice session while a new gearbox was flown in from Maranello. He eventually qualified a hideous 16th. Or perhaps Bridgestone had come with some very sticky tyres that would quick early (hence good in qualifying) but would fade as the race went on. By the way that Barrichello came up through the field in the first half of the race and then went back down through the field in the second half of the race gives us a clue in this matter. The Bridgestone press release after the race titled “Bridgestone encouraged by Bahrain Performance” gave everyone a good laugh.

BAR had their now customary awful weekend again qualifying in the lower half of the grid, 11th for Button and 13th for Sato, and both failing to finish. Sato’s brakes melted after just 27 laps and Button’s clutch melted 19 laps later. One wonders if Honda, who are spending lots of money to have TV adds in every break on Australian TV stating that all this wonderful F1 technology is going into their road cars, is getting across the image it really wants. It was also hard to tell if Jenson Button was less pleased with yet another car failure or that the ITV camera man was getting a wonderful shot of the inside of his flaring nostrils as he stalked back down the pit-lane.

Williams found loads of pace and then lost it again. Mark Webber actually set the fastest lap of the weekend in the fourth practice session with a 1’29.527 that was three tenths better than Alonso’s best in qualifying. Both drivers qualified well with Heidfeld in fourth and Webber in fifth but the race didn’t go quite to plan. Heidfeld went out when his Bimmer went bang after 25 laps so the Bimmer boys told Mark to back off on the revs. He was then driving so hard to keep the Flying Finn behind him that he had what will have to be the biggest lose of the year without hitting anything. It is a good thing that the walls are a long way back in Bahrain. He recovered and got back onto the track in fifth, having lost two places, but then had to defend against the flying De la Rosa with some very large flat spots on his tyres. With knackered tyres it was just a matter of time before the “other” Spaniard got past but what a great fight it was. De la Rosa set fastest lap of the race catching Webber and then tried passing at just about every corner. Webber defended as if his life depended on it but with just four laps to go the inevitable happened and Pedro disappeared into the distance.

In a complete mirror image of the Williams weekend, McLaren had no pace and then found it. For whatever reason the McLaren just is not quick enough in qualifying and they started in 8th and 9th places with De la Rosa surprisingly the faster of the two. Raikkonen however had the better start and proved that the McLaren has good race pace by coming through the field in his usual quick, but non-spectacular way, and finished a strong third. De la Rosa on the other hand was nothing if not spectacular. In his chasing and passing of first Sato, then Button, Barrichello and Webber, he tried every which way (including loose) to get by. He overtook more drivers in this one race alone, including himself twice, than most do in an entire season to finish a hugely entertaining fifth and took the fastest lap of the race as well. Almost makes you hope that Montoya is not fit in time for Imola in three weeks so that we get to see this again. There is no certainty however, that Montoya not being fit, De la Rosa will get the drive. It might well go to Alexander Wurz who is McLaren’s official reserve driver and who was very quick in practice, setting Friday’s fastest time.

Sauber had another average weekend with both drivers qualifying well down the field. They managed to salvage something however with both Massa and Villeneuve having steady races running in line astern for much of the event. Massa finished a fine seventh to give him and the team their first points of the year and Villeneuve, who made a good start had his best race of the year and would have taken the ailing Barrichello and captured the final point had he not been butted off the road by the Red Bull of Coulthard with just two laps to go.

Red Bull continued to impress with Klien taking a fine seventh on the grid ahead of both McLarens and Fisichella. Coulthard was not as quick this weekend and started from 14th. Klien unfortunately had an electrical gremlin and they could not get the car started until the race was five laps old so in the end he didn’t bother going out. Coulthard had a tardy start but then had a steady race and, apart from doing something to Villeneuve’s rear end that is illegal in many countries, especially Muslim ones such as Bahrain, finished in eighth place to take that final point. To the amusement of many, Red Bull are still in front of Ferrari in the constructors championship. Who would’ve thunk it?

The other form team of the year so far, Toyota, had another good meeting. Trulli, who seems to be in the process of showing Ralf Schumacher that he (Ralf) is not as good as he thought he was put it all together again to start from third, almost take second at the start from an over aggressive (how surprising) Michael Schumacher, and finish an un-troubled second after the demise of the Ferrari. That he stayed close enough to Alonso to again lead the race during the pit stop sequences says much about his race pace this year. In contrast, Ralf was again off the pace after first qualifying and the team had to send him out in the second with a light fuel load to make up places on the grid. Starting from sixth he lost a ton of places at the first stop but ran fast enough to keep just in touch with Webber and Raikkonen and would end up in fourth place at the end after a solid race.

Down in the Bridgestone shod back-marker world all the rookies had another solid weekend with three out of the four, Montiero, Friesacher and Albers, making it to the finish in the last three places. At this point that is about all they can dream of as they are being supplied with tyres that are totally unsuitable, they are designed for Ferrari remember, and the cars are generally at least a second a lap off the pace of the slowest Michelin runners. Karthikeyan was the unlucky one of the quartet pulling out after just two laps with electrical dramas in the Jordan.

Sam Snape


RESULT/DRIVER CAR LAPS/GAP COMMENTS 1 Fernando Alonso Renault 57/1:29;18.531 Ave Speed 128.702 mph/207.082 kph 2 Jarno Trulli Toyota +0'13.409 - 3 Kimi Raikkonen McLaren +0'32.063 - 4 Ralf Schumacher Toyota +0'53.272 - 5 Pedro de la Rosa McLaren +1'04.988 - 6 Mark Webber Williams +1'14.701 - 7 Felipe Massa Sauber 56 - 8 David Coulthard Red Bull 56 - 9 Rubens Barrichello Ferrari 56 - 10 Tiago Montiero Jordan 55 - 11 Jacques Villeneuve Sauber 54 Suspension 12 Patrick Friesacher Minardi 54 - 13 Christijan Albers Minardi 53 - RETIREMENTS Jenson Button BAR 46 Clutch Takuma Sato BAR 27 Brakes Nick Heidfeld Williams 25 Engine Michael Schumacher Ferrari 12 Hydraulics Giancarlo Fisichella Renault 4 Engine Narain Karthikeyan Jordan 2 Electrical NS Christian Klien Red Bull - Electrical

FASTEST LAP Pedro de la Rosa 1'31.447

POINTSCORE Alonso 26 Trulli 16 Fisichella 10 R.Schumacher 9 Coulthard 9 Barrichello 8 Montoya 8 Webber 7 Raikkonen 7 Heidfeld 6 De la Rosa 4 Klien 3 M.Schumacher 2 Massa 2 Renault 36 Toyota 25 McLaren-Mercedes 19 Williams-BMW 13 Red Bull-Cosworth 12 Ferrari 10 Sauber-Ferrari 2