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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Until Sunday!

Until Sunday the 11 teams are equal, until Sunday any driver can win, until Sunday everyone can dream the dream... 

Fernando Alonso predicts Melbourne is wide open; Domenicalli wants a Ferrari on the podium
© Scuderia Ferrari
In the Thursday Drivers' Press Conference fernando Alonso made exactly the correct prediction in relation to who would win this weekend's first Formula 1 race in Melbourne:
This year, there is some consistency through the grid and I expect the five top teams to have a little advantage, but of those five teams, it is very difficult to say after winter testing which of them will have the extra two or three tenths that can produce a win. It’s very close and difficult to choose one favourite. I think Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren, Lotus and Red Bull all showed potential at different times during testing, indeed in different races last year, so it’s hard to choose
Any of ten drivers might win based on the information which we have seen come out of Barcelona and Jerez.

He does feel that this year Ferrari go into the first race in competitive shape and, as Stefano Domenicalli said a couple of days ago Ferrari want to finish with a driver on the podium here.

The fact is that none of the drivers have a clue about where they all stand.  What they do know is that come Sunday evening we'll all have a much better idea of just where each of the teams stand in terms of raw pace, reliability and championship dreams.

I wouldn't take any result from Melbourne as being a determining factor in how the championship will go because of the lack of any real understanding of how the tyres will operate.  Some of the teams have yet to run the supersofts, having ignored laptimes in favour of consistency in testing.

Melbourne will give some teams a welcome surprise in terms of speed and performance whilst others may find themselves in the unwanted position of having to reassess their dreams and predictions in light of the performance of the teams around them.

Some of the teams have built themselves up on foot of testing and are talking significant improvement: I'm looking at the statements from Force India's top brass and from the guys in Toro Rosso; they will find that everyone can't be in 6th position come the end of the season.

Other teams, like Mercedes and Lotus, seem very confident and excited but are talking down their chances. They know that they will find themselves either up at the front, where they feel they could be, or sitting back in 5th or 7th depending on others.  For these guys there's a palpable excitement; they feel they've done enough and they are praying that this feeling is confirmed on Sunday.  This car is the product of months of hard work and I sense that there will be a huge disappointment in these teams should they find that this work has only maintained the status quo.

Williams have said very little about the car to warrant the expectations being placed on them by the journalists and bloggers (like me), but last year the team underachieved with a race winning car, this year we seem to all expect the package to come together.  The team has also been strengthened by the promotion of Valtteri Bottas to the race seat.  There's a lot of pressure on him to perform, on Pastor Maldonado to remain fast and achieve consistency, and on the team to live up to the promise that showed but was never achieved last year.

That's why Melbourne is so special, first race of the season, hundreds of unknowns, Elation on the part of some desolation for others.  But until Sunday nobody knows just where they stand in the pecking order and everyone can dream until the reality bites...on Sunday