So the wait is over. Just about. This time tomorrow the 2013 F1 World Championship – the second best thing to watch on a Sunday – will be underway.
Will you be staying up? Wheels first turn in anger at 01.30 GMT tomorrow morning for 90 mins and again at 05.30, so you probably need to factor that into your plans. If you’re planning on throwing a sickie, don’t leave tonight looking too perky. And leave time to get supplies in. We’ll tell you what Sky and the Beeb are planning further on.
Having spent all week taking a look at the team’s prospects this year (click out of here and back to the SAC landing page, they’re all there), I can only agree with Fernando Alonso who says it’s too close to call. Anyone of five teams could top the timesheets later, in qualifying and then in the race Sunday. He did say five teams, which is a way of Ferrari admitting that Mercedes are now front runners too.
In what order? I’ll take a stab at this; Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, Lotus… but only to provide some text for handy hyperlinks and to get you lot sticking your necks out too. There are no prizes, but you do get to look smug tomorrow.
Do the first two free practices matter in terms of the season? Arguably not; Michael Schumacher topped FP2 in Melbourne last year. Then again McLaren topped FP1, qualified first and second and would have won the title, had they not gone all Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em on us last year.
Behind that lot it’s also too tight to call but Nico Hulkenberg in the Sauber and new boy Valtteri Bottas in the Williams should star and might surprise us this weekend. Force India and Toro Rosso I reckon will be playing catch up.
Two of that group will be joining Marussia and Caterham (in that order I’m saying) in not making it to Q2 on Saturday so there’s a lot to play for. And I think I’ve mentioned all the teams now so go and read our 2013 reports.
Now, and I’m hoping this will be buried so it can’t come and bite my behind, but I think Alonso will be champion. I think Hamilton will win races, I think McLaren will struggle and I think Red Bull might for once be found wanting. I think Hulkenberg will build on his reputation and Bottas will forge a new one. I think Caterham will bring up the rear embarrassingly, and that Jules Bianchi in the Marussia will impress when he can. I reserve the right to ask TopGear.com to delete this tomorrow.
Okay, Sky are live for both sessions, going on air half an hour previous, so that’s at 01.00 and 05.00. Martin Brundle (who is fantastic during practice sessions) is promising to go trackside and tell us which cars are doing what’s asked of them. Mark Hughes, writer, spookily-smart analyst and backroom boy at Sky until now will be making his presence heard. That will be good. Sir Chris Hoy, who’s in the celeb race in Melbourne this weekend, will also be part of the team. Ted Kravitz and Natalie Pinkham will be on air with “The F1 Show” at 09.30 tomorrow morning. There are endless repeats of course. Click here for details.
You won’t get to see Suzi Perry make her debut as Jake until Saturday lunchtime at 13.00 when the BBC has its qualifying highlights package, and then Sunday’s race highlights at 14.20. However Five Live Sports Extra are all over this one, and BBC TV has promised to share the brilliant Gary Anderson with the radio teams. He’ll be there for those of you without Sky tomorrow morning. Ben Edwards is, we believe, hosting FP1 and James Allen FP2. Again, click here for details — they do change.
Right. That’s me signing off until tomorrow morning. Supplies to be got in, dog to be walked, nap to be taken. Preparation is everything. I can’t say I’m not excited.