The beginning of the European season has always been a bit like the season properly getting underway but with this years four week gap it’s almost like the seasons beginning again, this is especially true because it’s almost as though the main protagonists are starting from zero as well. We have a three way tie for the lead of the championship between Alonso, Kimi and Lewis and in fact Massa is only just behind.
So where did we leave the teams in terms of their pecking order? Well the Ferrari’s are slightly faster than the McLarens but passing either car on the track is no easy business. (unless you’re in a BMW – Ed). The teams seem to have had a strategy of filling their senior drivers with more fuel leaving them behind on the grid but hoping to make it work in the race with the slightly better strategy. This worked for the first two races but on the third the senior drivers found it hard to keep up with their heavier cars. The question those who are predicting is: will they continue to fuel them that way around or will they try and put the junior drivers behind to create a buffer zone?
Behind the first four are BMW who are sort of sitting out there in no mans land by themselves. Some have suggested that they made the largest strides during the four week break so they are likely to be sitting here or even pick off some of the weaker drivers from the top two.
Behind them is a clump of teams with only about a tenth between them all. This more than anything else has made our predicting life very difficult. Expect Toyota to do better than Renault in quali but worse than Renault in the race. Honda is anyone’s guess. Super Aguri don’t really have the budget to keep developing the car and it’s an already developed car (end of season Honda from last year) so they are likely to tail off during the season but they are also improving their organisational skills so that might balance it out for now. Red Bull have doubtless improved over the four week break but they are introducing seamless shift gearbox this weekend, something that really plagued the far more organised BMW. They have claimed they have solved the reliability problems but saying you’ve done it is much easier than actually doing it. And finally Williams, after two big crashes they basically abandoned their testing at the Spanish track last week which would have hurt them except for the fact, possibly, that they were the only team from this pack to test here in the winter.
So where does that leave us? It’s anybodys guess! No actually in this case it’s our guess. Carry on.