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Alonso heads Ferrari 1-2 in Bahrain as Vettel rues Red Bull reliability.

NEWS STORY
14/03/2010

We make no apology for the fact that a line we are about to use in relation to today's race is a line we've used many times before and will surely be using ahead of every single race this season… "it's all about thee tyres".

Today, at least, we very much doubt that we will have to worry about the weather. True, some sand could be blown on to the track but we are hardly likely to see rain and even less likely to see intermittent rain that turns so many races into lotteries.

As ever there is the risk of a first corner incident, more so this year considering the number of new teams and drivers, not forgetting the outright exuberance of the serious contenders at the front finally let off the leash again after five months.

However, in light of the new rules relating to tyres and fuel stops it is those four round rubber things which will heavily influence the result of today's race and no doubt the eighteen that follow.

While Sebastian Vettel put in a superb performance yesterday, knowing he had but one lap in which to do it, one has to wonder if he might have sacrificed a win in his attempt to grab the glory of pole position. Indeed, one has to wonder if Massa, Alonso, Hamilton and Co did likewise.

Of the leading ten drivers on the grid, only one, Adrian Sutil, posted his time on the harder (medium) prime option, the tyre for durability as opposed to outright pace. Having pulled out all the stops in order to make it to Q3, the decision to post his qualifying lap on mediums - knowing that he never had a realistic chance of pole - was canny, to say the least.

Outside the top ten, where drivers can choose what compound they start the race on, it is likely that most will start on the harder compound - though they may opt to gamble.

In the opening stages of today's race the leader could theoretically pull away from the pack at two seconds a lap, however, in time there will be a price to pay, and it is this gamble that will decide the race and ultimately the championship. Winning pole is one thing, winning the race - where the points are - quite another.

Schumacher and Barrichello, those wily old veterans, were both racing last time pit stops were only for tyres, and consequently know all about tyre management. And with the Brazilian starting from eleventh on the grid keep an eye on the Williams.

Despite all that, we fully expect Vettel, Massa, Alonso et al to be up there or thereabouts late this afternoon, while Button's silky smooth driving style should prove valuable.

Furthermore, despite the doom and gloom from the British media regarding Michael Schumacher - one wonders how it would have coped without the German's return, forced to pick sides in the Hamilton/Button battle - you don't win seven titles and finish runner-up several more times without learning almost every trick in the book, and then some.

Other than the battle up front, and what a battle that promises to be, not just today but for the remainder of the season, keep an eye on the battles in Divisions 2 and 3.

In Division 2, Williams is up against Renault, Sauber, Force India and Toro Rosso, while Division 3 sees Virgin tangling with Lotus and Hispania, who deserve great credit for actually getting here after their problems over the winter.

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