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Normal sevice is resumed as McLaren wins in Melbourne

NEWS STORY
16/03/2008

On the face of it, McLaren will do battle with BMW today - the vast experience of the British team eventually paying off - while Ferrari relies on Felipe Massa to pick up any remaining crumbs that fall from the table. Renault, Williams, Red Bull and Toyota will fight it out for the best of the rest title while Bernie Ecclestone will continue to pile the pressure on race organizers, having probably already decided that he can get a better deal - in terms of money and start time - elsewhere.

However, as we know from experience, not to mention the relentless overuse of the phrase. 'F1 is if backwards' (which it isn't) - anything can, and usually does happen.

Although McLaren and BMW will share centre stage, do not write off Ferrari, and certainly don't dismiss Kimi Raikkonen.

This is the first race of the season, and it is not just any old season. We have a number of rookies, a number of experienced drivers eager to re-establish themselves and a set of new regulations which mean the end of driver aids including traction and launch control. Therefore, we are confident that we will see some fireworks today, and possibly an incident right at the very start.

Starting on the clean side of the track, McLaren has the advantage, and like their Munich rivals the Woking boys will be keen to get to the first corner (and beyond) well ahead of the pursuing pack, which sees several very fast drivers, including the reigning World Champion, starting from the midfield.

Therefore, before we start looking at who's hot and who's not - which isn't easy considering the way the three free practice sessions played out - its worth remembering that this is the first race of a new season, a new season with new rules.

Over the course of the weekend, we've seen reliability issues affecting several teams, and with the F1 circus heading straight off to Malaysia next week nobody is going to want to take any undue chances.

On the face of it, today's race should be about McLaren and BMW, with Felipe Massa upholding honour for Ferrari. However, we're confident that anything can and probably will happen and that the only known factor in F1 is that Bernie Ecclestone will continue to make threats and demands.

Naturally, despite all the preamble, we know that we'd be accused of 'bottling it' should we fail to make some sort of prediction, so here goes. Putting aside the fact that we are confident that there will be at least one incident on the first lap, including a possible pile-up on the start-line, we reckon that it will be a McLaren win with the Ferraris edging out the BMWs. As for the 'best of the rest', it really is a little too close to call, with Renault, Williams, Red Bull, Toyota and even Honda looking good, and then there's Sebastian Vettel.

As previously reported, Adrian Sutil is to start from the pitlane. However, rather than starting in a repaired car - having damaged his chassis on the harsh kerbs here - the German is using a brand new car (and engine).

As the cars arrive on the Melbourne grid - possibly for the last time - the air temperature is 37 degrees C and the track temperature is 51 degrees. It is sunny and very warm, to put it mildly.

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