McLaren domination to Ferrari redemption. Ferrari stepped up to the plate, walked the field all weekend, capping it off with a leisurely driveto the checks by Kimi. While the Tifosi can now breath that the F2008 has now shown its worth after the Aussie hiccups, they can once again shake their heads at Felipe Massa for throwing away what could have been a maximum points weekend. Leaving the start lights, Massa started his Grand Prix by pinching his teammate nearly off course during the start, already a questionable move. Then when leap-frogged by Kimi during the first stops, he drove his car right off course into the gravel trap on tilt, trying to catch up to Kimi. When all was said and done, he then managed to deflect blame for his obvious gaffe. All in all, a rather pathetic end to what was looking like Massa’s weekend early on, and a blow to Constructor points for Ferrari.
On the heels of Ferrari, the McLaren duo tried their best to keep pace, and were ultimately looking good with reasonably heavy fuel loads in Q3. However, their efforts went for naught, as they were both deservingly penalized five starting spots for balking Nick Heidfeld during qualifying. No doubt about it, their challenge to Ferrari was a pipe dream before the race even started. On the bright side, Hekki drove a mistake free race, recovering to earn a P3 podium from the eighth spot on the grid. Meanwhile, Lewis appeared to have both brake and tire issues, a very wide RBR of Mark Webber, and hasty pit work, working hard on his way to eventual unceremonious P5.
Malaysia also proved to be kind to both Robert Kubica and Jarno Trulli. Kubica placed on the podium for the first time since Monza in 2006, a probable sign of things to come. For Toyota, Jarno validated his qualifying pace with a great drive to P4, holding an early fast consistent pace, then holding off a late charging Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages. Honda even showed some relative improvement, as Jenson Button had enough pace to set the fourth fastest race lap, though he still missed out on championship points.
Moving onto the high speed Bahrain circuit, Felipe Massa again paced most of the pre-race activities as in Malaysia. However, the surging Robert Kubica stole away P1 in Q3, further indicating that BMW may indeed be gelling. What to watch on Sunday morning? Kubica. Judging by Q2 to Q3 variances, he doesn’t appear to be abnormally light on fuel and may be on actual equal footing with Ferrari and McLaren if that assumption rings true. If he can control the start, which will likely be a hectic one given the nature of Bahrain’s tight turn 1, BMW will realistically challenge for the Grand Prix. I’m very curious to see Lewis’ start from the clean line behind Kubica in P3 and how hard he pushes into turn 1, as he typically gets away from the lights very well. In relation, I’m curious to see how closely Kimi can stay to Lewis. Lastly, under tremendous pressure, how does Massa rebound from a disastrous start to 2008? Surely, Lewis Hamilton filling his mirrors does not help.
A shift in power…
McLaren in Australia, then Ferrari in Malaysia. Can BMW impose their will on Bahrain?