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Where to start?? The first start of the year was aborted due to problems on the start for a couple of runners, and the cars went around again before lining up for the second start which was uneventful - until Kobayashi showed that kamikaze flair that we have missed last season in taking out Massa at turn three.  Such a shame because the Williams promised so much for this weekend, and a clearly upset Massa has called for an exclusion penalty for Kobayashi likening the incident to that which saw Grosjean excluded for a race last season.  If you missed it, check out this picture from SkyF1:  http://twitter.com/Mattzel89/status/445081562548146176/photo/1 Other key early race issues was the hokey-pokey exchange between Hamilton and his engineer (along the lines of "ok, we need to retire the car to save the engine.....wait, now were ok, no hang on, in this lap and into the garage").  And it was a bit sad to hear the cheer that went up around Albert Park when the news of Vettels retirement came over the speakers.

Theres been some conjecture here around who the best driver of the day was (and no, I dont think our taxi driver on the way out of the city counts!).  I think there is a fair argument for Bottas who managed to recover from a clip of the wall and tyre issue to finish strongly, but also another argument for Kevin Magnussen who finished his first f1 race on the podium.  Also Daniik Kyvat who joins pretty elite company (including Magnussen and Nico Rosberg) who scored points in their rookie race.  Feel free to leave your thoughts on that one below!

in other news, there has been a tweet from Formula1 News doing the rounds today that "Lewis" and "Nicole" are engaged.  Intriguing, wonder who they mean??  And for those wondering, 14 drivers finished today including one of the Marussia ( what do you call a pair of Marussia - Marussias or Marussi or a miracle??), zero Lotus (although they got close), one Red Bull, one Mercedes, and one Williams, and two each of McLaren, Force India, Ferrari, Torro-Rosso and Sauber.  Who would have thought it??

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Wow - that would have to be one of the best qualifying sessions I have seen in a long time.  New and unpredictable cars, rain and wind (not to mention lightening and thunder), and some surprises - although both Mercedes did made the top three.  Dan Ricciardo showed the Red Bulls do have pace, although Kimi Raikkonens spin and crash into the barriers at Turn 4 put paid to Vettels chances of making Q3.

For mine, there were a couple of standout performances (besides Ricciardo of course) further down the order.  McLarens faith in their rookie Kevin Magnussen paid off when he put their number 2 car up into 4th place despite Button not making the top 10.   Both Torro Rossos (running Renaults thus year) made the top ten, with a best-ever Quali for Vergne (6) and rookie Daniil Kyvat showing his class(8).  And Kobayashi marked his return to F1 by dragging his Caterham into Q2 with a bit of help from the rain gods to finish at P15.

On the downside, it might be another long night for Lotus with Maldonado failing to set a time and therefore at risk of not being permitted to run tomorrow.  Grosjean set a time within the 107%, but arguably only due to the times for Q3 being affected by rain.  And both Bottas (10) and  Gutierrez (19) handed 5 grid place penalties.

The forecast for tomorrow suggests a light shower or two and much cooler conditions which should help with those overheating issues, however reliability and fuel burn will probably be the big stories out of the race.  By the way,  feel free to leave your predictions for the top three and how many cars you think will finish the race in the comments section below.........

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Its not just the day today thats shaping up to be hot, with beautiful blue skies and an orange sunrise - but the action on the track is shaping up to be one of the most interesting Friday practice days in some years.  Although Red Bull are doing their best to put a brave spin on their position (ie quotes yesterday from the team that the cars have come a long way since Bahrain) the reality is that they are yet to complete a full race distance in these new spec cars.  One of my favourite quotes from the media day yesterday was when the drivers were asked how many cars they thought would finish.  While most senior drivers suggested 9-14, Magnussen is confident all 22 will finish, but Dan Ricciardo said "none - we will all be running over the line!"

For those who are wondering, Charlie Whiting is being reported in the media this morning as saying that if all the cars break down, the race can be called off.  Although there are some dissenting views, with a couple of commentators suggesting that 90% race distance is all it takes to be qualified as a race finisher.  So technically, a car could spend 5-6 laps in the garage and still win the race!  It is going to be intriguing folks.......

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With the last of the winter testing completed, the teams are now well and truly focused on Melbourne with P1 now just 11 days away.  All except for Red Bull who will run their 100km filming day at Bahrain on Monday - and Im sure theyll be hoping to get all the promo shots done before flames, smoke or other mechanical gremlins intervene.

It hasnt been a particularly reassuring few weeks for the Renault-powered cars who continue to be hampered by mechanical failures, overheating (and in some cases actual fires) and other reliability issues.  For those whove been reading my ramblings for 12 months, youd recall that I dont believe any of the top teams actually show their hands in pre-season testing, although having said that I do think the Force India and Williams teams were probably pretty close to showing us exactly what theyll be able to do this season.  McLaren seem to be struggling with reliability again, a shame as they were quite strong in the first test and the computer-controlled Marussia apparently went down with a computer virus at one point during the testing.  What is the world coming to when even F1 cars need to deploy virus-protection software......

Looking at whats transpired in testing - especially last weekend with the race simulations (long runs) - Im inclined to believe that theres a couple of teams at least who are in serious trouble heading into Melbourne.  Lotus definitely has some challenges to overcome (I reckon if we listen carefully well hear Nico Hulkenburgs sigh of relief that he didnt end up at Lotus!), and Sauber, Caterham and Torro Rosso werent all that reliable either.  Red Bull probably didnt get as much running as they would have liked, but it would be a brave person to bet against them given the track record of the last few seasons.   The long-range weather forecast suggests 30 degree Celcius (which is around 80 degrees Fahrenheit for the non-metrics!!) as the maximum temperature for qualifying on Saturday in Melbourne - although there is also "late rain" predicted (for those at the track last year, thats the same forecast so be prepared!!) and a much cooler 23 degree Celcius (around 73 degrees Fahrenheit) for the race.  With a number of cars falling victim to overheating issues I think both Melbourne and Malaysian rounds might see a good few DNFs!

I made a couple of (possibly more?) interesting observations in the last few weeks.  Has anyone else noticed how scrawny all the drivers are this year?  I was aware that the new weight restrictions would mean drivers needed to slim down, but seriously.........theres a distinct jockey look about a couple of them this year and I wonder how theyll go lifting the enormous champagne magnums over their heads if they end up on the podium.  And its also been interesting that theres no chat about tyres at all over the last few weeks, very different to this time last year.  Weve seen Bernie Ecclestones bribery trial come and go with a verdict of not guilty (although the Telegraph in the UK carried a report that the judge also commented that Ecclestone was "... not a reliable or truthful witness...") and quite a few pics from the Sochi F1 facilities tweeted by media in Russia for the Winter Olympics.  In the last week or two teams have launched their new season teamwear, and my favorite would have to be the new-look McLaren (minus long-term naming rights sponsor Vodafone) - if youve not already done so check out the Formula1.com website for pictures.

Last but not least, there have been no sightings of Coco or Roscoe yet although I believe they may be keeping the home fires burning and thanking their lucky stars their daddy doesnt live in the UK given British Bulldogs are not typically known as water dogs.  On a serious note I do hope all our UK friends are safe and dry after such a messy month or so weather-wise, and the same for our US friends who I believe have had more snow this winter in most places than in living memory!!

Dont forget, if youre interested in joining the f1infocentre.com tipping competition time is running out - use the Contact Us link at the bottom of the website to send in your details.........

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Final preparations are underway down at Albert Park as we count down to P1 which is just over 2 days from now.  The circuit will be open to the public tomorrow, although the on-track action will be limited to practice sessions for the celebrity race and the support categories with a couple of opportunities to grab an autograph from the drivers at scheduled appearances in the Fan Zone.  P1 kicks off at 12.30pm Melbourne time on Friday (which I think is about 9.30pm on the east coast of the USA and some ungodly hour of the morning in the UK).......

The forecast for the weekend doesnt look good.  On Saturday theyre predicting a hot day but late rain - a very similar forecast to last years qualifying which ended up being postponed to Sunday morning.  And the forecast for Sunday is rain clearing - again similar to last year where Sunday started quite wet but cleared up for what was essentially a dry race.  So those heading to the track - dont forget the sunblock, the jumper, and the umbrella!

A quick note on practice and qualifying.  Each driver has access to an additional set of prime tyres in the first 30mins of FP1, to encourage more on-track action from all teams during that session.  For qualifying, Q1 has been reduced to 18mins, Q2 stays as 20mins and Q3 will now be 22mins and drivers will now be required to start the race on the tyres they completed Q2 on - a move designed to encourage ALL teams that make Q3 to actually come out and shoot for that fast lap, rather than hanging in the garage to conserve tyres.  Although given the performance of the Pirelli tyres during pre-season testing, I dont think tyre wear in general will be as topical as last year so it will be interesting to see how this goes in the first couple of races.

I was chatting with another F1infocentre punter last night on an interesting question which we think is worth posing to you - dear reader.  Just how many of the cars do you think will finish the race on Sunday?  There are 22 cars in total, and points are awarded to the top ten finishers.  Could we see enough retirements that a Caterham or Marussia might sneak home in the points a few laps down??

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Day 1 of the second test from Bahrain started pretty much the same way the Jerez testing left off, with Red Bull dealing with an engine fire, random problems for many of the other Renault-powered cars and the Mercedes-powered cars looking strong.  Ferrari also had a good day with Alonso amongst the fastest lap times.  First day honours went to Nico Hulkenburg in the Force India with a lap that was slightly faster than the best F1 race lap time in Bahrain last year.  With a number of cars getting up to or near to race speed it was also the first real test of the noise the new engines make - and it seems many people are disappointed, with phrases like "leaf blower" and "lawn mower" being used by a few paddock regulars.

Compared to last year, its been a fairly quiet few weeks news-wise around the paddock, although a couple of stories are worth a mention.  It would appear that Hamiltons come to Bahrain without Coco or Roscoe (poor doggies will be lonely rattling around at home on their own!) - but I guess maybe hell head straight from Bahrain after the second round of testing to Australia.  The other story thats getting perhaps more than its fair share of comment at the moment is the fact that Vettel has turned up to Bahrain with dark hair!  Id like to think it was a tribute to new team mate Daniel Ricciardo, but its probably something more mundane like having a new baby in the house doesnt leave enough time for visits to the hair dresser.  No-one seems to know what his daughters name is though, and good for him on keeping his family life private!

And one for the Mark Webber fans - it was announced this week that Mark will be joining the F1 commentary team on Australias Channel 10 (host broadcaster for the Melbourne round, and Australian F1 broadcast rights holder).  Imagine the first post-race interview between Webber and Vettel - something like this:  "So Seb, how do you feel about the reliability issues Red Bull are facing this year?  Do you think I made a good choice to move on?"

More from Bahrain in the next few days, will we see a Renault-powered car make the top 5?

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