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2005 Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix
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Track Layout (from the FIA)

A Renault - McLaren Battle

The Malaysian Grand Prix gave us a clearer picture of the pecking order. Renault are the team to beat, McLaren are fast but have a few issues to resolve, Williams have good race pace and are improving, Ferrari have two problems, the old car and Bridgestone and BAR have one problem, their engines!
Those were the top 5 teams from last year however it appears that both Red Bull and Toyota are able to mix it with most of the top 5 teams. Sauber meanwhile seem to have gone backwards while Jordan and Minardi remain at the back.

All the teams will continue to improve throughout the season, some more than others however none of the teams will be able to make significant improvements from one race to the next. 

Reliability of the cars has been outstanding. Apart from BAR Honda, we didn't see any engine failures even though most of the field ran the same engine from Australia. Expect the reliability to remain high.

In Malaysia Alonso was fast but didn't need to push while Kimi was fast as he needed to push. Expect a fight between those two in Bahrain.

The Sakhir track offers a combination of long straights and slow speed corners offering a number of overtaking opportunities. Cars will run a high downforce configuration.
The weather is expected to be hot and combined with sand, tyre wear could be similar to what we saw in Sepang. 

A number of teams were testing last week at different venues. Renault, McLaren, BAR and Toyota were at Paul Ricard, Williams and Red Bull at Barcelona while Ferrari conducted testing at Mugello. Most teams concentrated on tyre testing for the upcoming race.

Here is a team by team review:

Renault: Won again in Malaysia making a dream start to the season. Only glitch was Fisichella's accident with Webber. In Malaysia they showed that not only they are fast and consistent but also reliable. They have a car that seems to be strong on any track. They are the team to beat.  
Reliability 9.5/10 - Speed 9.5/10 (Latest Renault Team News)

Drivers: Fernando Alonso was quick to show Fisichella who is faster. In Malaysia Alonso was untouchable. He finished nearly half a minute ahead of Trulli and wasn't pushing!
He's the favourite to win in Bahrain. Last year a mistake in qualifying cost him and was forced to start from 16th yet he managed to finish in 6th place passing cars both via pit stops and on the track.  

Giancarlo Fisichella failed to finish in Malaysia after a failed attempt to re-pass Mark Webber. Fisichella should have known the conditions of his tyres. He lost more points to Alonso this way!. Before the accident though he was struggling with his tyres. Strange considering that he is supposed to be gentler than Alonso!. A podium finish is possible.

Toyota: In second place in the Championship, who would have guessed!. On a single lap the Toyota is fast however over a race distance there was a question mark over the tyres. In Malaysia they proved that they could mix it with the best. 
Reliability 9.0/10 - Speed 9.0/10 (Latest Toyota Team News)

Drivers: Jarno Trulli proved his critics wrong with a second place finish in Malaysia. He was 24 seconds behind Alonso though and benefited from the bad fortunes of a few other drivers. Points in Bahrain likely. Podium difficult.

Ralf Schumacher finished 5th in Malaysia and could have finished higher had it not been for his incident with Webber. The 3 way scarp between himself, Webber and Heidfeld was entertaining. Points likely.

Red Bull: Yet another surprise!. Well perhaps the surprise is how the 'so called' top teams are performing so far. Red Bull were strong in Australia so it isn't so surprising to see them in the points in Malaysia. They did benefit from the Fisichella/Webber accident though.
A chance of a point or two in Bahrain.
Reliability 9.0/10 - Speed 8.5/10 (Latest Red Bull Racing Team News)

Drivers: David Coulthard finished 6th in Malaysia. Again a solid and consistent result as you'd always expect from Coulthard. Expect a top 10 finish with a chance of a point or two in Bahrain.

Christian Klien must be very happy finishing yet again in the points and this time right behind Michael Schumacher!. In Bahrain, he'll finish in the points if a few cars in front struggle.

Ferrari: Clearly struggled in Malaysia. The Bridgestones didn't provide enough grip while the F2004M is no longer the class leader. Ferrari have decided to race the F2005 in Bahrain despite not having a spare F2005. Clearly they don't believe the F2004M can score points!
The question mark remains though, how good will the F2005 on Bridgestone tyres ? It is unlikely that Bridgestone will be able to make a significantly improved tyre in just two weeks. Last year they dominated here but don't expect a repeat. Points likely, podium hard!. 
Reliability 9.5/10 - Speed 9.0/10  (Latest Ferrari Team News)

Drivers: Rubens Barrichello failed to score points in Malaysia after retiring with worn tyres. He'll be racing with the F2005 for the first time here so it remains to be seen how strong the new car is. Points likely. 

Michael Schumacher would have been frustrated with the pace of his package in Malaysia being chased by the Red Bull of Christian Klien. He'll be hoping the F2005 will be much stronger. Should have a better result in Bahrain but don't expect a win though!

Williams: They are clearly improving showing a strong race pace. They now need to make sure both their cars finish!. 
Reliability 9.5/10 - Speed 9.0/10 (Latest Williams BMW Team News)

Drivers: Nick Heidfeld was once again behind his team-mate but benefited from his team-mate's accident with Fisichella to finish 3rd and score his second ever podium. This result will give him a boost but don't expect him to beat Webber. Points likely.

Mark Webber must be frustrated for missing out on his first ever podium. He was clearly faster than Fisichella and he would have re-passed him eventually. The Williams is improving so expect a strong finish for Webber in Bahrain.

McLaren: They should be higher than 6th in the Championship. Kimi was on track for a good result in Malaysia until a tyre valve failed. They are fast and reliable. Expect them to be at or near the front in Bahrain.
Reliability 9.5/10 - Speed 9.5/10 (Latest McLaren Mercedes Team News)

Drivers: Juan Pablo Montoya continues to struggle relative to his team-mate even though his ahead on points. He is hard on tyres and that is showing. He needs to take more care of his tyres. Points likely.

Kimi Raikkonen failed to score points despite setting the fastest lap of the race thanks to a tyre valve failure. He looked on his way to a podium finish but only managed 9th. Driving his McLaren on 3 wheels was spectacular!. Last year he had major dramas with his engine here so lets hope there is no repeat of that. He could challenge for the win.

Sauber: Given the improvements of Toyota and Red Bull, Sauber look like they've gone backwards. Having a third car on Friday's helps tremendously particularly when you don't test as much as the other teams. Yet Sauber aren't doing it due to budgetary constraints. They need to do that very soon otherwise they'll keep moving closer to Jordan and Minardi.
Reliability 9.0/10 - Speed 8.0/10 (Latest Sauber Team News)

Drivers: Felipe Massa continues to out perform his team-mate and is showing that he is fast and adjusts to the car despite the limited amount of testing the team does. Points though will only be possible if many at the front struggle.

Jacques Villeneuve is struggling. When his best friend David Coulthard publicly states that he could quit, you can tell that he isn't happy. He is having a hard time finding the right setup on the car due to the lack of testing time. Nothing has changed since Malaysia so expect another frustrating race.

Jordan: They are slow compared to Toyota given they run the same engines!. The good sign is that they are reliable. Midland aren't expected to spend a lot money on improving this car so expect more of the same. 
Reliability 9.0/10 - Speed 7.0/10 (Latest Jordan Team News)

Drivers: Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Monteiro did a reasonable job in Malaysia finishing 11th and 12th. Points will only be possible if many cars ahead retire.

BAR: Things can't get any worse for them. Both cars retiring in Malaysia on the 3rd lap despite having new engines for that weekend was very embarrassing. The team claims there won't be a repeat of that problem but that remains to be seen.
Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 8.5/10 (Latest BAR Team News)

Drivers: Jenson Button looked fast for the first 2 laps in Malaysia and was naturally very frustrated with his early exit. He finished on the podium here last year so expect a strong showing assuming his car lasts.

Takuma Sato missed the Malaysian Grand Prix due to illness but should be fit for Bahrain. His performance in Australia wasn't impressive but the car has improved since. Points possible.

Minardi: They are struggling at the back. Don't expect much improvement until they introduce their new car scheduled for San Marino. 
Reliability 8.0/10 - Speed 6.5/10 (Latest Minardi Team News)

Drivers: Christijan Albers finished the race in Malaysia 4 laps down. Expect more of the same.

Patrick Freisacher spun in oil from one of the BAR cars. Unfortunate for him as he had the upper hand against his team-mate. The battle will resume in Bahrain. 

Bridgestone News - Michelin News

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