Hi folks,

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.

As for Juan Montoya, considering he started fifth, to only finish there, behind his team-mate, who started 22nd, must be embarrassing to say the least. I think he will be concerned about that, as will the team.

Over at Honda, I think Jenson Button will be ruing his start, but he still had a solid race to take fourth. I don't reckon he will be a contender for the title this season, but he can take wins and, maybe, even a run of them.

Further down the field, it was good to see Williams deliver, especially as I said they would be a surprise package before the event. I think they will continue to figure well and I was very impressed with Nico Rosberg's debut, finishing seventh, behind team-mate Mark Webber - and all that after losing his nose at the start. It was a super drive and he is definitely looking like a chip off the old block!

Red Bull Racing were the only other team that managed to score, with Christian Klien bringing the RB2 home in eighth which, in light of their pre-season testing problems, was a boost of sorts. Overall though, it looked like a tough weekend for RBR and I think they will have to fight very hard indeed to notch up points this season.

Of the rest, I was not surprised by Toyota and the fact they had such a dire weekend. They have a lot of work to do and need to find the right balance of people to mould their future. Finishing 14th and 16th in the race says it all - considering what they are spending, it was abysmal.

BMW Sauber didn't go particularly well either, but it is still very much early days there and it will take time for all the different elements to gel. I think they will come on in leaps and bounds this year and, by the end of it, will be doing much better.

Finally, we come to what will surely be the bottom three in the manufacturers' championship, and there's not much to say here. I was impressed with Super Aguri - mainly because they managed to get a car to the finish, which wasn't expected. So, congratulations to them and Takuma Sato. Midland also got one car to the finish, which was more like we expected.

Toro Rosso were certainly higher up than they were last season, when they raced under the Minardi banner. How much of this is to do with the fact they use a restricted V10 is open to debate but, as long as they do, it will continue to cause problems and no doubt this issue will continue to rumble on for some time.

So, to my final predictions...

If I was pushed I would opt for Kimi and McLaren this weekend, both for the pole and race win, as the MP4-21 definitely has the speed, following by Alonso and Schumi, with Montoya, Button and Rosberg rounding out the top six.

Enjoy the grand prix...

MB

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