Was today’s season opening qualifier an anticlimax? Your correspondent makes no secret of his absolute joy that Vettel kicks of 2010 with an awesome pole, but bias aside, Bahrain just wasn’t the place to begin one of the most hotly anticipated championships in Formula One history.
Aside from lacking an immediately recognisable layout, which, for that matter was a poor imitation of its former self, the track has the all the charisma of beige. And where, for that matter were the fans? Formula One makes no secret that it survives on massive television audiences, but you know what looks rubbish on TV? Yes, cars driving through a desert, even if said desert is some abstract of the Alice in Wonderland set. The scene would have been made considerably more interesting, if the grandstands had even a smattering of fans, but therein lies the inherent difficulty; it would appear that in Bahrain, no one likes Formula One.
Granted, those thoroughly disappointed by the setting, could rest in the comforting solace provided by a rather surly Schumacher, trying, but eloquently forgetting his smiles, as all around him new, young and rather German talent had seemingly replaced the dominance he once enjoyed. Oh deary! Which brings us neatly onto just who done what.
Vettel looked calm and thoroughly in control throughout the morning, but there still persists a niggling worry that his one lap pace is far and away removed from actual race endurance. But still, his only worry is Ferrari’s Massa, who starts behind the German, but ahead of two great rivals; Alonso and Hamilton in third and fourth respectively. We’d like to think they will keep their senses, but they both have far too much to prove, which should be interesting during the madness of the reworked first section.
Also eclipsing the veteran German, Rosberg, who in his role as clear and defined number two to the great Michael Schumacher must have proved a hard pill to swallow, after qualifying a full row in front for tomorrow’s Grand Prix. But the former Williams ace rather confidently stated that he had the pace to take pole today, a defiance, alarmingly not shared by his elder compatriot and team mate.
Unfortunately, the embarrassment doesn’t end there, as Sutil, the 4th German to qualify inside the top ten, was just one second off the pace of Schumacher, whilst doing so on primes (harder, and hence slower tyres). It was a stunning effort from Force India, confirming that their growing momentum throughout 2009 has not gone off the boil just yet. The former Jordan boys and girls deserve some good fortune after the woes of prior incarnations.
Brundle said it best today; we should have seen the new teams entering in Barcelona. Fifteen seconds off the race pace isn’t unheard of in F1, but if it continues for many more Grands Prix, people’s reputations will be at stake. Wheels should not be coming off, and certainly drivers should not be making their F1 debut with zero track time. That being said, the Badger has only absolute respect for the teams achieving the near impossible, it’s just perhaps a shame that having witnessed the promise and press releases of Stefan GP, they too couldn’t have been granted an entry.
Tomorrow will be a great race whatever the outcome, that’s Formula One and greatness is guaranteed whenever it arrives in town. The problem is, that given the hype and anticipation surrounding this year’s curtain raiser, the relevant inadequacy of the new teams and Schumacher’s apparent diminished form, tomorrow might not be epic.