First the clocks go back, and now an F1 race that doesn’t demand you set your alarm clock on a weekend.
It’s a night event in Bahrain this year, so both qualifying and the race kick off at 20:30IST.
It seems extraordinary to think it was only three weeks ago we were contemplating a new era in racing and a race with no finishers. Now ‘new F1’ already feels like part of the furniture. Only quieter.
But yet the same cars are at the back, pretty much the same cars in the middle and at the front? Well, switch last year’s-blue and-purple with the silver cars, but otherwise Ferrari seem pretty much where they was last year, McLaren also.
Mercedes aside, Williams looks the only team to really have gained from the switch to V6 hybrid power. Has that much changed?
Hell yes! This weekend should see further confirmation that F1 has two, if not three major new talents. It’s not been easy to spot Daniel Ricciardo’s talent over his two and bit seasons in F1 before this — the Aussie never regularly showed Jean Eric Vergne the way home. But Red Bull and Christian Horner saw the talent all right.
We’ve not yet in 2014 had the chance to see Ricciardo take the fight to Sebastian Vettel over an entire race distance. We suggest that, when we do, we’ll see even more of the on-air prickliness we’ve come to expect from the champ.
Then there’s Danny’s replacement at Toro Rosso, er, Daniil. Kyvat — nineteen years old and on the bounce from GP3 — has scored in both his outings in F1 this year.
As has Kevin Magnussen who drives like he’s been doing this all his life. Which he probably has, to be fair.
We can only hope that McLaren’s recent lack of direction doesn’t come back to haunt Magnussen. McLaren hasn’t looked like a team that could regularly build a car good enough for the very best drivers for a long time now.
Lewis Hamilton called the Merc W05 ‘the best car he’s ever driven’, and don’t doubt he’s telling the truth. Even way back in 2008, when he won that title at the last corner of the last race, his McLaren MP4-23 wasn’t necessarily the fastest car out there.
Surely nobody could resent Hamilton taking a second title this year. That’s a story F1 has needed for a long time.
And then there are the cars themselves. Aren’t they extraordinary? Get over the noses (c’mon…) and they are just as beautiful as before (especially around the altogether more compact and less complex engine covers and behind).
What’s more, they do appear to be capturing imaginations globally. There’s nothing like a MGU-H anywhere near a road car yet, but there’s a palpable sense there could be soon. In engineering terms, F1 has reconnected itself with R&D. Yes, we remain mostly sceptical about that noise, but let’s not give up just yet.
We weren’t convinced when he heard Paddy Lowe (Lewis’s boss at Merc) telling the BBC last weekend that F1 was more compelling than ever, especially because it had become so complex. Off the back of a non-race (all the evidence overwhelmingly suggests Hamilton really did just leave everyone behind), it was hard to swallow. But let’s give it another go, eh?
Hamilton and Rosberg dominated a relatively quiet first practice in Bahrain– Hamilton besting Rosberg by 0.231s, Alonso in third (after a bizarre incident where he came out on three medium tyres and one soft and had to be pushed back into the garage) Hulkenberg managing fourth after just 10 laps and McLaren’s Jenson Button coming in fifth, over half a second down from Hulkenberg, so we are after all probably in for much of the same.
Red Bull admitted as much this week when they suggested they might well get terminal on Renault’s contract to supply their engines – Vettel finished 10th in FP1, a full 1.8s off Hamilton’s time, while Ricciardo ended up in 14th.
Merc and Lewis are indeed going to take a lot of beating, but there’s still plenty for us to learn, and the teams also. So stick with it. You don’t even have to get up early.