There were few surprises in practice at Sakhir, Kimi Raikkonen quickest in both sessions, although his advantage decreased in the second. Times were much affected by varying fortunes amongst the drivers but we are beginning to see a pattern emerge this season. Essentially, it looks like being a season of three halves, as the soccer commentators might say.
At the front we have a fairly closely-packed bunch comprising Ferrari, McLaren, BMW and Williams – in that order, but the slightest mistake by any of them can mix everything up and confound predictions. That has to be good news and augurs well for the battle royal we all hoped for this year.
Just behind is a midfield group, less predictable in order but generally competitive with each other: Toyota, Renault, Honda and Red Bull. Renault and Red Bull seem to be having great difficulty in adapting to the Bridgestone tires but the Japanese teams’ problems look a little more fundamental than that. If any of them manage to overcome their problems, they could easily join the leading bunch – which would make the racing even more interesting.
Then there are the tail enders, Super Aguri, Toro Rosso and Spyker. Liuzzi surprised everyone with his eighth fastest time in the first session but fell back to TR’s more accustomed hunting ground in the second. There is potential there, however, and I will not be surprised to see the TRs improving to the point where they can fight with the Red Bulls in later races. Super Aguri, however, have not looked convincing to me, their early form indicative of running a car that was well-sorted last year, and they will most likely have a season of squabbling with Spyker to avoid being last.
Qualifying looms tomorrow and we can bet that there will be some disappointments as the dustiness of the track takes out a few of the hopefuls. My money is on Raikkonen for pole with Massa and the McLarens fighting over the next three positions. Kimi hated having to take it easy in Malaysia and he is showing extra determination now – he will be a hard man to beat on Sunday.