Alex Palmer Writes
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I know, a bit late this week with my ramblings, blame it on Internet gremlins...

Although there were more media types at the Thursday driver's pressed than usual so I suspect they may have had an inkling something was afoot, despite my Monty Python reference. And the Spanish Inquisition was the best way to describe what went on last Thursday as Kyvat and Verstappen faced the world's media after the surprise relegation of Kyvat mid-season to the junior Red Bull team. Remind anyone of Game of Thrones?? As an aside, if you ARE a fan of the Game and you haven't already done so, check out the Twitter timeline under #SpanishGP for some very funny comments and memes after Kyvat confessed to watching Game of Thrones when he got the shock news from Dr Marko. In any case, the whole presser is worth watching to see that there were actually other drivers there and how they went about trying to get noticed when everyone seemed to fixated on the Red Bull guys.

There are a few theories out there as to what happened to trigger the switch, for my money I think Red Bull saw they were in danger of loosing Verstappen to Williams or Ferrari and moved pre-emptively to secure their future star. This also means driver silly season has well and truly begun, with a few senior (or not so senior) drivers like Button, Raikkonen, and Massa rumoured to be on the brink of being voted off the island at the end of the season. I wonder how many more trashy TV references I can get into this post......

In more important news, Hamilton seems to have brought yet another new hat to the market and this one seems to be a random maroon colour (that might be puce, or burgundy for the non- Queenslanders out there) and is doing his best to have it on his head at all times. Perhaps Mr T we will see you resplendent in maroon in Austin if the sun shines on us this year? And the Ferrari reliability gremlins continue, seemingly spreading to Haas as well during Friday practice. Perhaps it's the Spanish 'flu??

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Ah, Sochi, the number 1 race for random happenings and boring racing. Now before you start having a go at me about the two being mutually exclusive, let me clarify - the random happenings may or may not have anything to do with the actual race. Take for example the lead story from the media contingent over the previous two races, which has been the very basic facilities and accommodation that they had access to. And then there was the speculation last year about the financial solvency (or otherwise) of the track, as well as the constant pressure to NOT report on certain things or criticize certain things that the political regime might not like.

But on to the race. With qualifying now firmly established and a fine cool weekend on the forecast, the real interest is probably on who ends up where on Saturday afternoon as there's unlikely to be much overtaking in the race proper. I think we'll see a valiant effort from the Red Bull team but I think we'll see a resurgent Hamilton on pole with Vettel and Rosberg, and maybe Ricciardo filling up the first two rows.

If we cross our fingers and toes, click our heels together three times and wish hard perhaps something interesting might just happen in Sunday's race. I would settle for a safety car triggered by a black bear, or President Putin's motorcade leading the warm-up lap. Or maybe even a shower of rain? Maybe we can bring back Maldonado? I know, now I am really grasping at straws.....

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Now that was a race! Lots of action, interest and strategy. And perhaps proves that there is nothing wrong with the "old" qualifying format if it turned out action like that.

Other than Rosberg who at one point was so far out in front the Sky commentators said he was "...passing lapped cars just for fun...", there are a lot of candidates for driver of the day. My money is on Ricciardo - after such a tough start to come back and take 4th. Isn't that his third fourth place for the season?

There were a few amusing radio calls, at one point Hamilton's response to the pit wall was broadcast - "I am", but not their question. Quick as a wink the Twitter wags suggested that the question was "Are you blessed?". Or maybe it was "Regretting the parties in New York?" We shouldn't be too hard on the poor guy, for all we know he could have been sick or upset in the stomach.

The pre-podium exchange between an unrepentant Kyvat and furious Vettel trying to teach the young pup about race craft was also funny, Kyvat reminded me of one of the characters from a 90's cartoon show called Beavis and Butthead (google it, or check out this short clip on YouTube if you must.....). But the podium for Kyvat heading into his home race in Socchi in a couple of weeks will make him one to watch.

And with that we move back to the more 'normal' race start time which means late Sunday nights for Aussie fans, early Sunday mornings for our US fans, but the Europeans can enjoy the race in comfort on Sunday afternoons. Enjoy!

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Once again Bahrain has lived up to its reputation for turning on a great race. The action started before the lights went out, with Alonso not fit to race so Stoffel van Doorne started his first F1 race in the McLaren, a retirement for Vettel (engine failure) and Jolyon Palmer (hydraulic leak) quickly followed by an F1 version of a crash-me-up derby with loose bodywork impacting quite a few cars after turn 1. Interestingly another rubbish start for Hamilton but a ripper for Van Doorne in his debut.

Pre-race, all the chat was around the disastrous quali system which delivered a rubbish event again on Saturday. Team bosses met for 90mins and seemingly nothing has been resolved, although it seems Bernie has come up with an aggregate quali system as the alternative to current and reverting to 2015 system was not an option. Seriously folks, keep this up and you might find no one bothers to watch or go to the track on Saturday!

Really enjoyed the battles through the field, it was such a shame Vettel wasn't there to even the odds for Ferrari against Mercedes. But for the rest of the field, Haas are a real competitor this season, and McLaren and Manor potentially serious midfield runners this year with reasonable engines and great drivers. I have a feeling this season is going to be much more entertaining than last year!

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And quali is back........we think, although after the last round's false hope I might just keep something in reserve just in case it goes horribly wrong again. At least we know that all the drivers are in China based on a couple of photos doing the social media rounds of their pizza night. Well, to be strictly lay accurate, we assume they were all there on the basis it was Kimi behind the camera. I wonder how they settled on who pays the bill - perhaps one driver got to leave every 90 seconds until the waiters noticed, at which point it became a rush to be the fastest to the door with the last man standing having free choice of which credit card to choose to present. Hmmm, maybe the dodgy quali has affected me more than previously thought.

In more normal news, Hamilton spent time at the Great Wall this week, Haryanto was the guest of honour at another Indonesian Embassy function, Ricciardo had a hairdressing mishap (I am sure you'll see it during this weekend's coverage), Alonso attended a Chandon function and Ferrari launched a supercar for the Chinese market. So same old same old really.

Let's hope this weekend is indeed an exciting one. Can Grosjean continue Haas' remarkable start to the season? Can McLaren score more points, or get both cars to the finish (either works for me). And will Hamilton's grid penalty lead to exciting racing? We shall see in about 3 days.....

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And here I was thinking Bahrain is a desert where it never rains.....

The race weekend has apparently started with a bang as a number of reports from those in and around the circuit are reporting hail, torrential winds and thunder and lightening as a storm more typical for Malaysia or Singapore passed over the track this morning. But it wasn't enough to deter Alnso who has just completed his mandatory physical seeking clearance from the F1 medical team to race this weekend. Some reports from the medical facility have quoted Alonso as "...feeling fine..." and wanting to race but the decision rests with the medical team who will hopefully give him the all clear shortly. If he didn't race, one wonders whether McLaren would actually put their Honda-affiliated but untried in F1 reserve driver in the car for the weekend, or whether they might consider offering the job to one of the ex-drivers hanging around the media centre. Although in reflection they might prefer to stick to driving their hire cars - which probably go faster anyway.

In other devastating news it seems that despite the applause in Melbourne when the ground announcer advised the new knock-out quali would be scrapped before Bahrain, it is in fact going ahead this weekend. Seems to have been a communications issue around what teams could / could not decide, probably compounded by the fact that a certain important Bernie seems to have objected streniously to an open letter from the Grand Prix Driver's Association (GPDA) this week which may have been questioning the current direction of the sport. In my view, it was no more or less than what much of the F1 fan base have been saying for months - and it did get a direct (albeit rather snobby and arrogant in my view) response from said Bernie.

Rather than tipping winning drivers, or betting on who will end up on pole (cough, Hamilton, cough), why don't we put bets on when the last lap will occur in Q3?? For mine, I reckon the drivers will be out of their cars with 4mins 30seconds to run in Q3. On the positive side, it means I can go to bed 4:30mins earlier given this weekend's action is around midnight eastern Australian time.

Which is a timely reminder to our Aussie readers - if you are setting DVRs for the race at 1am Sunday morning, don't get caught with the end of daylight saving this weekend!!

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Next Race Session

SessionLondon UKGermany Circuit
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10.00 am
Friday 26 July
11.00 am
Practice 2Friday 26 July
2.00 pm
Friday 26 July
3.00 pm
Practice 3Saturday 27 July
11.00 am
Saturday 27 July
12.00 pm
QualifyingFriday 26 July
2.00 pm
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RaceSunday 28 July
2.10 pm
Sunday 28 July
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2019 Calendar

RaceGrand PrixRace Day
1AustraliaSunday 17 March
2BahrainSunday 31 March
3ChinaSunday 14 April
4AzerbaijanSunday 28 April
5SpainSunday 12 May
6MonacoSunday 26 May
7CanadaSunday 9 June
8FranceSunday 23 June
9AustriaSunday 30 June
10Great BritainSunday 14 July
11GermanySunday 28 July
12HungarySunday 4 August
13BelgiumSunday 1 September
14ItalySunday 1 September
15SingaporeSunday 22 September
16RussiaSunday 29 September
17JapanSunday 13 October
18MexicoSunday 27 October
19United StatesSunday 3 November
20BrazilSunday 17 November
21Abu DhabiSunday 1 December

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