No less than 7 days since the Chinese Grand Prix, the F1 circus finds itself participating in the race that on-one really wants to take place.

We’ve had our say on the subject of being in Bahrain.

Taking the politics of “where” we’re racing out of the equation, we’ll be turning our attention to the “what” of the Grand Prix, and after Pirelli dominated proceedings in Shanghai, expect more of the same in Sakhir.

Last year’s event threw the spotlight on the Lotus duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, who both came from gridslots outside the top 10 to score a double podium for the Enstone outfit. The E21 has inherited it’s predecessors ability to keep it’s tyres fresh, so a repeat may just be on the cards.

Ferrari – and more importantly Fernando – have broken their 2013 duck so they will look to build, as will Red Bull on a track that they have been very strong on for the past few meetings here. That’s the three main contenders in contention, the three race winners so far this season, and we haven’t even touched on Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes yet.

They are the wild cards, the dark horses. The pole in Malaysia may be have been dictated by the positioning of other cars for the race and their strategies, there is no doubting that this combination has pace. Whether it’s enough to make that extra step and be in regular contention for wins is another matter entirely – history seems to be repeating itself from 12 months ago, with Lewis playing Nico, and Nico playing Michael. And we all know how badly last year’s Mercedes was after 17 or so races.

While going for pole position may be a dying art in F1 – just look at the fact that not every car set a time in Q3 last time out – the win ratio from top spot is currently 50% here. Add in the fact that Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have been on pole for 11 of the last 13 races, then immediately you have some favourites for the race. Tyre-saving permitting of course.

And that’s where the big plot device comes into effect – Pirelli. They are getting the brunt of the critisism aimed towards F1 and it’s lack of racing, but they are only meeting a mandate set to them by the FIA. Switching the tyre compounds a few days before the race is also a manouvre that had to happen; the medium tyre would just not work in 30-degree temperatures for more than 2 laps.

Lastly, we have the 200th race of one Mark Webber, who will be desperately hoping it turns out like either the 9 he’s won, or the 11 he’s got pole position for. With a 20% chance, we’re not holding out much hope for him.

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Badger’s Magic Moment

Fernando wins first time out for Ferrari