The transfers, testing and take-overs have finished.
The new F1 season kicks off this weekend in Bahrain, and TopGear’s fridge is already packed with beer and dips and massive flags with amusing slogans about Michael Schumacher’s age and Fernando Alonso’s sartorial sensibilities. It’s important to keep those flags cold.
And, jeez, there’s a lot to talk about. Big Schu’s return to the F1 grid, the ban on refuelling and, most importantly, exactly how much stubble Jenson will be sporting on race day.
If we can glean anything from testing – and it is always notoriously dangerous to do so, with rumours of teams running unusually heavy fuel loads to disguise their true pace – it’s that Ferrari and McLaren should be quick come Sunday, with Red Bull right on their tails.
Schumacher and Mercedes? Difficult to say. After testing in Barcelona, Big Schu ruled out any chance of a Merc victory in the first few races, but a few days later revised his prediction. More mind games from the old master?
Sebastien Vettel reckons there’s nothing between the top four teams, so it might all come down to the ability of the drivers to cope with the variable handling of a fully fuel-laden car at the start of the race and one running on fumes with shredded tyres at the end.
As you’ll have spotted, Bahrain is not in Australia. Melbourne has hosted the F1 season opener for the past three years, but this year we’re back at the Hermann Tilke-designed Sakhir circuit. It isn’t renowned as a classic circuit – David Coulthard described it as ‘annoying to drive’, but there’s always the potential for a bit of sand on the track early in the race.
Going by past form in Bahrain, it’s set to be a Ferrari weekend: both Massa and Alonso have won here twice since 2004. But you’d have to be brave or stupid to confidently predict any result this weekend, let alone this season. Head on over to Bill Thomas’s blog where he’s done exactly that.
And now it’s your turn. What’s going to happen this weekend? We don’t just want to know who you think will take the chequered flag. We want to know what else is going to happen.
Will Jenson arrive with a full Charles Darwin beard? Will Big Schu march out to the pitlane to the strains of Ride of the Valkyries? And, most importantly, will Fernando be wearing another bloody awful sweater?