With little else to focus on, the spotlight moves to Bahrain and the first day’s testing for the nine teams that made the trip. Ferrari are fastest and Massa quicker than Raikkonen, confirming both the team’s position as pre-season favorites and the increasing expectation that the Brazilian will beat the Finn. But what’s this – Button next up? Have Honda been “doing a Red Bull” to impress some visiting dignitary?
Apparently not, for there in fifth spot lurks Barrichello. It must be that Honda are making progress with the new car and we are beginning to see its true potential. With McLaren and BMW still right up there, we could be in for a real dogfight of a season – a fine way to celebrate Michael Schumacher’s retirement.
Renault and Red Bull must be worried, however. They may claim that the times mean nothing because they’re still learning the characteristics of the cars and getting them set up right, but the same is true for the other teams. With everyone getting to grips with their new cars, they are all going to go faster, leaving the Renault-powered teams that much more to do.
Perhaps the most interesting thing is the speed of Davidson in the interim Super Aguri. I begin to wonder if this team’s real talent is in taking old machinery and making it more competitive than it ever was in its heyday. And, if that is true, they might get the Honda 2006 chassis to perform wonders – reason indeed for Spyker and Williams to be concerned. In fact, if SA can continue to beat Renault and Red Bull, there might be a long line of legal writs awaiting the Japanese team at the Australian GP.
It is to be hoped that the threatened litigation fizzles out when it comes to practice in Melbourne, however. Lawsuits do nothing for the image of the sport and only make lawyers richer. Given the lateness of the launch of the SA and Toro Rosso cars for 2007 and their lack of testing therefore, it is unlikely that they will do better than make up the tail end of the grid – in which case, it hardly seems worth anyone making a fuss over the legality of their cars.
Never mind the hype and speculation – let the races begin!