Alex Palmer Writes
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Thats right folks - its race week again, and as the teams, drivers, media and lucky fans (well, the ones who managed to secure a visa for China that is!!) make their way east into the smog its time for a quick whip around of those obscure little F1 stories that you may have missed in the last week.  Well, a few of them anyway....

Heading this evenings bulletin was the startling news (OK maybe Im exaggerating just a teensy bit) that Marussia Motors has "...ditched its carmaking operations and relinquished ownership of the Marussia Formula One team..." [R-Sport, 8/4/2014].  It may not completely surprise you to learn that the Marussia Motors ambitious plan to manufacture and market a Marussia supercar hasnt quite come to fruition with the company confirming their ambitious plan didnt make it to market.  There is one line in the article which particularly intrigued me:  "Staff of Marussia Motors in Moscow have reportedly left the company en masse and joined a government-run technical institute."  Hmm......  The article goes on to note that the F1 "Marussia" team is now owned by "Marussia Communications Ltd" which appears to be registered in Dublin, Ireland.  One wonders whether well soon hear plans for a Marussia SuperPhone (which requires random software resets mid-call and inserts a 1-2 second lag into all conversations - just because it can) or maybe well see a Leprechaun sponsored by Marussia leading next years St Patricks Day parade.  It will be one to watch, to be sure - to be sure........

And to finish up this evening, some twitter gold thanks to @FakeRonDennis_ who has been sinking the boot into Pastor Maldonado this week (along with a good percentage of the online universe!).  My favourites were "An anagram of Pastor Maldonado:  "Adapts an old moron" (9/4/2014 8:26am) and this picture (7/4/2014 4:28am) with the caption:  "Pastor drops by at the hospital to check up on Esteban Gutierrez":

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Well, almost.  What a great example of quality intra-team battles that race was - for once NO team orders and ding-dong battles up and down the pack.  It was clear from Rosberg and Hamiltons reaction when they met up after the race that both had really enjoyed their clash over the last 10 laps, and its a credit to the Mercedes team bosses who obviously had enough faith in their drivers to let them fight it out.  Further down, the Force India, Williams and Red Bull race for that third spot was also pretty epic as they traded places (and dodged around Ferraris) at various points.  I was also so pleased for Ricciardo who continued his stellar start to 2014 and almost got back to the podium by the end of the race.  Although the Red Bulls dont quite have the Mercedes pace they are looking promising on lower fuel loads, despite not having this seasons "must have" accessory - the Mercedes bling.

Off the track a couple of stories caught my eye, the most amusing of which would have to be the effort which Ferrari bosses (and in particular Luca di Montezemolo - quoted in this ESPN article ) have been putting into trying to convince anyone wholl listen that the recent changes made to F1 regulations are bad for the sport (nothing to do with them being bad for Ferrari, obviously!).  This seemed to culminate with a series of conversations with key F1 people up and down the paddock pre-race yesterday where the words "taxi racing" were overheard on a few occasions.  It was kinda ironic then that todays race was one of the most enjoyable and interesting for many years.  Interestingly enough, there were a few comments via twitter and from Sky F1 commentators that a couple of the cars seemed louder this weekend - if they can continue to work on making the cars sound more like the old F1 were used to, then I think this might just be a cracking year.

In other news - how could Pastor Maldonado only get a 5 grid place penalty and a couple of penalty points for what he did to Gutierrez?  What will it take for him to either learn to drive responsibly or for him to be dropped from the main game?  I guess Lotus must really really need the money.......And to finish on a laugh, heres the funniest twitter take on the message from Paddy Lowe to Hamilton and Rosberg just prior to the epic battle in the closing race laps (with thanks to @PitlaneWB )

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After another dominant performance from the Mercedes drivers in Friday practice, and both qualifying and the race looking to be dry (and not too hot) it looks like the real race here might be for third.  Theres a few likely contenders in my view, Alonso has to be up there, Vettel perhaps if the car is reliable, and possibly even Button who is probably extra-motivated given this is his 250th F1 race ( although probably doesnt have the car).  Bottas is in the mix, and maybe Hulkenburg - did I miss any obvious candidates??

One to watch this round will be Adrian Sutil, who apparently is planning to race without any drink bottle to save weight in the car.  To me, the weight restrictions this season are just a bit too ridiculous with a couple of the drivers looking seriously gaunt to me.  If he makes it through 2hrs with no hydration and is still making safe driving decisions I will be surprised!

With the end of daylight saving in Australia coinciding with the television broadcast time for qualifying tonite, dont forget to set your recorders appropriately.  And for those in North America or Europe - enjoy your first 2014 race during drinking hours :-)

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While the Mercedes disappeared into the distance, the real battle was back in the pack - some great driving between Alonso and Hulkenburg, Grosjean and Kimi, and at the death a Williams dual resulting in team orders which Massa either didnt hear, or chose to ignore before the orders were rescinded and the pair fought each other right to the checkered flag.  As the SkyF1 commentators noted, Im sure that was the last thing Massa would have wanted - in a team where clearly he hopes to be an equal, if not a leader.  And Sepang continues to be an unhappy hunting ground for Aussies, with terrible luck again f Daniel with a botched pitstop then front wing damage seeing him retire.

i am glad it didnt rain, although it was so humid most of the crews looked like they had been in a swimming pool in full kit.  And I know that Benedict Cumberbatch is a celebrity, I but seriously - celebrity podium interviews now??  He was a better interviewer than Alan Jones ( OK, thats not saying much) - but if that is a precedent, I wonder which other celebrities we might see during the European summer ( and no, Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard dont really count!) And you gotta love a salesman, Rosberg spruiking their Petronas fuel in the podium interview.

So we are off to Bahrain next weekend for a night race which will be interesting.  Probably very little chance of rain, but tyre degradation might be a factor as will the heat.  Given the two pre-season tests were held at Bahrain, this should be a great chance to see just how fa which teams have come since then......

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Much to the surprise of many F1 folks, they have arrived in Bahrain and found that it is raining!  Kinda unusual for the desert, but from the look of it the showers should be gone by the start of FP1 on Friday.  I hope so - I would like to see what the Ferraris are capable of on a dry track.

For the McLaren and/or Button fans out there, dont forget that this Sunday marks Buttons 250th F1 start, an impressive milestone in anyones books.  How great would it be to see him on the podium?  Although I have been known to be a bit one- eyed when it comes to McLaren, I really dont think their cars can complete in terms of raw pace in a dry race but I would love to be proven wrong on that.

Assuming it will be a dry (and hot) race, I reckon we will see the most finishers of any race so far this weekend.  My guess is 17 finishers, what do you think??

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It was sad to read this morning that the Malaysian authorities are now certain the missing Malaysian Airlines 777 has crashed into the Indian Ocean with no survivors.  This terrible tragedy rates a mention in my F1 blog for a couple of reasons.  Firstly because a number of teams and drivers with connections to Asia (Caterham and Mercedes in particular) have been visibly throwing their support behind  the search for the missing plane, including the Mercedes team running the hastag "#PrayForMH370 " on their cars during promo events in Malaysia and for the race weekend.  Secondly, because there has been quite a bit of coverage of hotels asking international media covering the search, and relatives/friends of those on the missing plane, to move out of the hotels which have been booked for F1 patrons, teams and media for 12 months.  I do hope there will be some sort of tribute or recognition over the race weekend.....

On a brighter note, as the last of the drivers and teams arrive in Malaysia, the reliability talk has resurfaced off the back of the extremely hot temperatures predicted for this weekend, although there seems to be a reasonable chance of a tropical downpour during qualifying and maybe also during the race.  Will we see a noticeable power improvement from Ferrari, and will Mercedes run Hamilton with the same engine that let him down in Melbourne?  And with the appeal over Ricciardos exclusion from Melbournes result (set down for 14 April) and the questions around fuel flow rate result in a conservative strategy for Red Bull?  I am unsure who to back for the win this week, but I think it would be a safe bet that Lotus will probably have another weekend to forget!

A couple of random thoughts to finish with.  For any Williams-Martini Racing fans out there, the new team wear should be available soon (did anyone else think the pit crew looked like storm troopers with their white helmets??) and most of the other teams will release their full 2014 range on 1 April via the formula1.com online shop.   Dont forget that the Bahrain night race is the weekend immediately after this one, and then theres a couple of weeks until the race in China which falls on the Easter long weekend.

Keep an eye out for my next post later in the week - it will have a distinctly Italian flavour.... Pasta Maldonado anyone??

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