Mercedes and McLaren to fight for Bahrain pole position
It may seem hard to believe from some of the headlines coming out of Bahrain, but at the time of writing the race weekend is set to go ahead as planned.
This is despite the extraordinary events of the last few days, which have included teams being caught up in the increasingly heated protests around the circuit.
One of the teams involved, Force India, chose not to participate in the second part of practice as they did not wish to leave the circuit after darkness had fallen.
In this context, it seems completely extraordinary to be talking about the possibility of a race going ahead as normal.
For now at least, that is what those in charge of Formula One say will happen. So what does practice form have to say about their pace?
Mercedes vs McLaren
Mercedes were the team to beat in China and on the face of it they look to be right up there in terms of pace this weekend.
Nico Rosberg, who claimed his first pole position in China, was fastest in second practice and the best part of half a second faster than anyone else.
He’s handy around Bahrain, too – his last win before last weekend’s China victory was here in GP2 in 2005. The year after that he made his F1 debut at this track with Williams and impressed by setting the fastest lap of the race.
No surprise, then, that he has the shortest odds for pole position tomorrow, priced at 2.50. Lewis Hamilton, pole sitter in the first two races this year, is priced at 2.75.
Their team mates could represent better value for money for pole position. After all, it only takes a momentary mistake to lose a costly few tenths of a second, which is all the difference there usually is between team mates.
And that was much of the reason by Rosberg was out-qualified by Michael Schumacher in the first two races of the year. So Schumacher, priced at 6.0, may not be such a bad bet.
Jenson Button, however, has been so consistently out-qualified by Lewis Hamilton that 9.0 for pole position looks decidedly risky.
The long shot
Not for the first time this year, I have to look to Kimi Raikkonen as the most interesting long shot on offer. 30.0 for pole posotion is a very good price for the driver who started fourth on the grid in China.
Lotus’s practice pace was a little hard to read. Raikkonen didn’t improve his lap time in the second session as the track conditions improved, suggesting there’s more performance in the car.
What is clear is the E20 is fast in a straight line – very useful on a track with four decent-length straights.
If you’re considering it, keep a close eye on Raikkonen’s pace in tomorrow morning’s final practice session, and prepare to pounce if his lap times on soft tyres look competitive.
Early race betting
The situation in Bahrain is developing all the time, so thinking about the race may be getting too far ahead of ourselves.
But as the situation looks at present, Nico Rosberg’s price of 4.5 to repeat his China victory looks favourable. Schumacher is on 9.0 to win in the other Mercedes.
Their lap times over a race stint didn’t look great – but nor did anyone else’s. The drivers are using the same tyres as last weekend on a track that’s 20C hotter, and degradation could be a problem on race day.
Keith Collantine is editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic