Well, what a start to the new season. We couldn't have asked for much more from Bahrain, could we?
It was a brilliant race, there was a lot of overtaking and it finished with just over a second between Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher in first and second. Great stuff!
I was also impressed with the new knock-out qualifying format although, in my view, it could do with a bit of tweaking. I think the first two 15-minute sessions are good, but there needs to be a little more work done on the last 20-minute session, and a few things need to be implemented to help people understand it, as it is rather complicated. Overall though, it was way better than the one-lap affair we've had in recent years.
This coming weekend, we go straight into round two, and we are in for another hot race, this time in Malaysia.
Sepang is a good track and drivers need a good balance as, otherwise, it can catch them out. It is also hard on them physically, and tough on the car too, due to the high temperatures and humidity. It will certainly test those new V8 engines, especially as most teams will be running them for a second weekend, as laid down by the FIA regulations which dictate engines must last for two races.
The big question, though, is who will win?
At the Bahrain International Circuit, it was a fight between Renault and Ferrari for the win and, while I expect them to again be in contention for the victory, I also reckon that McLaren and Honda will be stronger this Sunday too. It's going to be a tight battle all season between those four, mark my words.
Renault and Alonso will be looking for their second win of '06 in Malaysia and, while it is definitely a possibility, it will not be easy.
Giancarlo Fisichella was again dogged by bad luck last weekend in the sister R26 and he definitely needs a change in fortune. These things happen, though, and the best thing he can do now is concentrate on what's coming up.
Ferrari had to settle for second best in Bahrain, but they would have taken the win had they managed to get out in front of Alonso after that second pit-stop. It was very close and that all bodes well. I have said for a while that the Scuderia will be stronger this year than last and, with Schumacher behind the wheel, that proved to be the case, both in the race and in qualifying, where they lined up 1-2.
Felipe Massa's race, in contrast, was a bit disappointing and his mistake early on did prove costly. Problems like that could end up costing the Pranching Horse the constructors' title.
At McLaren, once again they had the speed, but not the reliability. How many times have we said that now? Kimi Raikkonen is definitely a threat for the title - we know he is super fast, as he showed again by starting last and fighting onto the podium - but he will only take the title if
the car can go the distance.