He knows very well that he has a lot of eyes on him and for this reason too, Michael Schumacher is trying to ease the pressure in view of the start of the 2010 World Championship. The countdown is now over, in less than a week the Formula circus 1 gets underway with the Bahrain Grand Prix, which will mark the German driver's official return to competition, at the wheel of Mercedes, after a three-year hiatus.
"I was clear from the beginning: we are not obliged to win straight away and we probably won't. It's important to be close to the top and then take advantage of the long season to get to the top at the epilogue. The start isn't important, what's important is that I'm coming. I'm here to fight for the title and I'm confident we will be part of the battle. If we win, everything will be different. It's always like this in sport. The team is very motivated, as am I. We want to win, the season will be undoubtedly long and difficult. I love this fight, that's why I returned to Formula 1".
The seven-time World Champion knows well how crucial the ability to develop the single-seater will be.
"At the end of the tests the car didn't reach the level of the others, but everything was influenced by the different amount of fuel on board. It seems that we drove with more petrol than the others for most of the time. We're quite good. Beyond that, it is difficult to establish who actually discovered all the cards. We deliberately did not use the single-seater with the definitive configuration. We wanted to use the two weeks between the tests and the race to work on development".
Perhaps, like his colleagues, Schumacher would have preferred to have more days available to dedicate to testing.
"No driver thinks they have enough, it's normal: if they give us 40, we want 80. You have the feeling that we could always do more, moreover many days of testing were affected by bad weather. We lost precious time to develop the machine. I am satisfied with our preparation: we worked efficiently, our objectives were reliability and internal organization".
Today, data analysis allows us to obtain valuable information compared to the past.
"In 2005 we probably did 100,000 km. And what did we get out of it? Not much, if we think back to that year".
In 2005 Schumacher finished the World Championship in third place. The title went to the Spaniard Fernando Alonso, who is now chasing his third personal triumph with the Maranello team. The 2010 World Championship will also be characterized by a series of regulatory changes. From this year, in particular, refueling during the race is prohibited. At the green light, therefore, the single-seaters will be very heavy.
"Tire management will be an important factor, I would say it is the main difference compared to the past. Furthermore, we have fewer sets available. This makes everything more difficult in finding the ideal set-up. To drive, however, you have to adapt to circumstances, and this is one of my qualities".
When Flavio Briatore was there, someone who knows Michael Schumacher very well, Renault was undoubtedly the most glam team in the Circus, with the best catering, the most beautiful uniforms, the brightest colors.
Today, however, it is reduced to a minimum, the cars are slow, the staff, with uniforms that are more black than yellow, are often in a bad mood and the hospitality is second in sadness only to that of Mercedes (practically a blockhouse). But when he was there, the flamboyant Italian Flavio Briatore as the English newspapers always wrote, all curiously using the same formula, it was perhaps the entire motor sport sideshow that appeared happier overall. Maybe it's just a suggestion. Or maybe not, but it is a fact that everyone, on the eve of this World Championship, more or less willingly admits that yes, they are missing the flamboyant Italian a little. (certainly more his than Mosley's). And to him? Does Flavio Briatore miss Formula 1? He doesn't give interviews to talk about what happened to him but, reached by phone a few moments before taking off on a business trip, he talks about the present. And of the future. Briatore, do you miss F1?
"No, not even a little. Maybe I'm missing some side things but F1 itself is really not. I see it from the outside and I'm happy like that".
Let's make a prediction. How does this year end?
"Predictions are impossible in Formula 1. But my favorite is undoubtedly Fernando".
Explain your choice.
"Simply because I think that Alonso is absolutely the best driver around, together, perhaps, only with Hamilton and Vettel. But I think he's a little better".
And behind? Who comes out on top between Hamilton and Vettel?
"In second position I see Vettel's Red Bull. He should have won last year, in fact he practically won but they didn't give him the prize for well-known reasons".
Aren't we forgetting someone?
His other creation, Michael Schumacher.
"Well. I don't know, you have to see a lot of things there. The pilot is not discussed, instead everything that has happened and changed around him in recent years is discussed. But if the question is: who is my favorite for next season, I say Alonso and then Vettel. Then I don't see many other people".
What year will it be ?
"Nice, I hope".
For her it will undoubtedly be. With the debut of the Spanish team Hispania and with Alonso in Ferrari and favorite, everyone in Spain is going crazy for F1.
And you, who are a far-sighted, or lucky type, bought the exclusive television rights for Spain from your then friend Ecclestone a few years ago.
"Eh, so let's hope she's right and that it really is the year of Spain".
Tell the truth, you miss F1.
"Really, no. And in any case I had already said at the time that I would gladly take a break for a year".
Look, this is news, he had never specified that his break would be for a year. Then what will he do ?
"Excuse me, the plane is taking off".
Here we are, after a long wait one of the most entertaining F1 World Championships in history is about to get underway. There are many elements of interest, from the great return of Schumacher, from the debut of Mercedes which took over the world champion team, from the desire for redemption of McLaren and Ferrari, from Button in McLaren's shoes to Alonso in Ferrari's. The season, however, will be very long and tiring: nineteen Grands Prix and as many circuits will host a Formula 1 Grand Prix for the 2010 season. The real challenge for F1 this year, however, is to make us forget the fools of the last three seasons.
"Winning the World Championship with Schumacher on the track is worth more".
On the eve of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso honors Michael Schumacher but does not hold back and launches the challenge for the 2010 World Championship. The new Ferrari driver is the protagonist of the first FIA press conference in Sakhir, sitting right next to Schumacher, upon his return to the track at the wheel of Mercedes.
"Schumacher will be impossible to match, he is the greatest in the history of this sport, but we will take to the track with the aim of winning the world championship without any fear. His return is a positive thing for Formula 1 and surprised everyone when we found out, but that doesn't mean we won't fight to the end in every race".
Alonso also receives a pat on the back from the German driver for his compliments, but the Spaniard seems very determined in his first appearance of the season, just days before his debut in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
"We have carried out good preparation, but obviously we cannot make unbalanced comparisons until all the teams are on track. The whole team and I are ready to fight. It will be a great battle but we have to work hard for ten months and above all start with the right foot. The new rules? They are welcome, they are a new challenge for everyone and allow us to discover new challenges in our sport. But we have to wait a little while to see if it produces spectacular or boring races".
The Spanish rider doesn't give too much weight to the test results.
"We are not in a position to compare times and make predictions. We can say that four teams, Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren and Ferrari can be the favorites to win here and then there are other teams like Force India and Sauber who could still do good races. My goal is to win the Championship, but I want to be World Champion in November, not in March. It will be a very tough task indeed. I spent the whole winter preparing, and I waited so long to come to Ferrari , so it's all been preparation for this moment and I think we're in a great position to win".
Schumacher is back but Massa is also back, after last year's accident in Budapest.
"It's nice to be back after eight months, to be racing again. And I think we will get off to a good start after taking the right direction in the winter testing. Driving has been my job for many years and I'm really happy to be back".
Although he has sometimes been the protagonist of a slow start to the season, in terms of points won, the Brazilian is determined to reverse the trend this year.
"It will be fundamental to finish these first races and obtain points which will be very important at the end of the season. Reliability is the key to achieving this and we started well considering the many kilometers covered during the winter tests".
Felipe is also optimistic about the effect of the regulatory changes.
"Since we haven't had a race yet, I can't say whether I prefer this system or last year's. But it's good to have a new challenge, with different factors to focus on".
The Brazilian Ferrari driver also says he is in favor of the new scoring system, with a greater difference in points between victory and second place.
"I think it's positive. Because winning is the most important thing in every sport and therefore the winner should be rewarded more, which is exactly what guarantees the greatest difference in points".
What if the secret weapon to win the World Championship wasn't on board the car this year? Tests banned, engines frozen, aerodynamic development limited, the teams have concentrated their winter attention on the mechanical art of the pit stop which this year is reduced to just changing tires. A handful of seconds that can make the difference between victory and defeat. The most feared team is Red Bull. Word spread in the paddock that his men managed to change tires in the legendary time of 1.8 seconds.
They say from the other teams.
"There is an indispensable physical time which is at least double".
The estimated average time is in fact 3 seconds, which in the race, under pressure, can become even four . However, there is the risk that someone has invented something big, given that - apparently - there have been several technological innovations this year.
There are three main research areas. The one with the traffic light, the one with the guns and the one with the lift. But if it is not possible to intervene much on the guns and the lift, on the traffic lights the competition between engineers seems to be greater. The traffic light is the mechanism that collects the OK that each mechanic must give as soon as they finish their task. When all the OKs have arrived, the green light turns on and the car can start again. The traffic light is usually operated by a man. Also because every mistake can be risky (for the race) and dangerous (for the mechanics). But, as we know, computers are faster, so teams are doing everything they can to automate the procedure as much as possible. On the eve of the first Grand Prix of the season, two mysteriously lowered shutters and a strange statement from Bernie Ecclestone shake up this unusual eve of the Formula 1 World Championship. What is particularly worrying is the overall state of health of the Circus, closely linked to 'is to that of the new teams who, as of Wednesday 10 March 2010, did not seem in a position to be able to face the season peacefully. The lowered shutters are, in fact, those of the Hispania Racing team, ex Campos Dallara, Bruno Senna's team, saved at the last minute by a mysterious white knight (many here in the paddock believe it is Bernie Ecclestone himself) who at one week from the start he put in the money necessary to save the Campos, transform it into Hispania and present it at the start here in Bahrain, albeit without having done even a test lap. On Wednesday the pilots appear enthusiastic and smiling to everyone. But their car is not shown to anyone. On Thursday morning, journalists and photographers who curiously went to the grid to see the single-seater were presented with a disturbing scene, to say the least: the garage was closed. Yet the moment should have been topical and the engineers and workers should have swarmed around the single-seater to put in place the final details (exactly as happens in all the other garages). Why? No one at Hispania Racing is able to give an official explanation.
"The machines haven't arrived from Europe yet".
The last time they were seen was Friday 5 March 2010 in Murcia, where the team was hastily presented. Since then, there has been no trace of those single-seaters. Someone, peering through the protective nets on Wednesday night, claimed to have seen pieces of the bodywork dismantled, but nothing more. What is going on? It is not understandable. To aggravate the situation, Bernie Ecclestone then intervenes who, after years of furious arguments with Ferrari, chose the worst moment and topic to approach the Maranello team and fire off a few surreal phrases (at least for those who last year the whole budget cap controversy ensued). Says Bernie Ecclestone:
"Ferrari was right. I always said that the budget cap of 45,000,000 euros would never have worked. And now the new teams find themselves with insufficient budgets to face the entire year".
Instead, huge sighs of relief are being breathed at McLaren, after the results of the checks carried out by the FIA on the wing of the MP4-25 are released. Charlie Whiting and his collaborators in fact verified compliance with the regulations of the rear wing of the Woking single-seater, granting their approval. The first person to raise suspicions about the McLaren wing was Christian Horner, team principal of Red Bull, who had hypothesized the use of the air flow through the engine cover, aimed at obtaining a speed advantage on the straights. Other teams had joined Red Bull but today's verdict from the FIA extinguishes any controversy. And the satisfaction at McLaren is therefore obvious:
"We were always very confident that everything was in order".
It starts with rudeness. Five drivers are called to the first press conference of the season, but only four appear in the photo. Massa, an ambitious Ferrari driver, must go further, like the gatecrashers at a wedding. The eternal Schumacher, Alonso, Button recently and Hamilton a little longer have won a World Championship, Massa has not, for photographers he is an intruder (even if the FIA has called him).
When they point it out to him his face has ferocious eyes. A fall in style that the Brazilian struggled to overcome. Another affront. They ask Button: how do you plan to defend the throne from the assaults of Schumacher, Alonso and Hamilton? The Englishman from McLaren replies banally:
"You always have to be fast, on every track, it won't be easy, but the number one in the car is an extra emotion, I expect an electrifying championship, I will do everything to give an encore".
Obvious answer, the ferocity is in the gaze of Massa, who is sitting there, near the other four, but is ignored by the question and the predictions. One might wonder: what did he go there for? But here lies the beauty, one of the captivating unknowns of a season which on Friday 12 March 2010 will grind out its first kilometers in the Bahrain desert. These slaps sting Massa's pride and push him to say:
"I'm happy to be back in the car after eight months, I find my life again, wonderful sensations, but the fascination must not last long. Because then it's the track that counts, who wins, and at the end of the season I want to be in front of everyone. For Schumacher, who is a legend, beating him gives great pleasure, but also for the others. This Ferrari is competitive, I aim to become world champion and never before have I had the chance to do so like this year".
If it were only for the grim faces, Schumacher would have ended up on pole. The German pilot is tense, worried, and surrounded. Everyone is eager to beat him, Alonso for everyone:
"He's an F1 legend, beating a legend is priceless".
Someone like Button makes fun of him:
"With him on the track we all feel younger".
Others like Hamilton respect him but dream of beating him on the track. Sebastian Vettel, the heir now wants to steal the public from him. Alonso closes, saying:
"I've waited my whole life for Ferrari and now I can't help but win".
Friday, March 12, 2010, it 's now time to hit the track for the first free practice of the season. Drivers will now head to track for 1 and half hours, trying to work on the best set up for the weekend and study the new track layout. The air temperature seems to be around the 30 °C, whilst the track temperature seems to be between the 37 °C and 42 °C. Sutil goes first, with a lap time of 1'56"583 in his Force India. He is followed by Ferrari driver Alonso, with a lap time that is 0.183 seconds off. Third is Kubica in his Renault, followed by the other Ferrari driver Massa and 2009 World Champion Button. Hamilton is right behind his teammate by 0.580 seconds. The two Mercedes drivers are respectively 8th (Rosberg) and 10th (Schumacher). Even Red Bull drivers seem to struggle to shine during this session, but they might have used this first free practice to better understand the track and the tire degradation in these hot conditions.Both Lotus drivers and Timo Glock set times, but Luca di Grassi fails in completing a single full lap. HRT team as well fails to get a proper lap time, completing only 3 out laps with Senna. This afternoon, the track conditions seem the same as the morning. Rosberg finds back his pace topping the time sheet, with a fastest lap of 1'55"409, followed by McLaren driver Hamilton, who sets a lap of 1’55"854.
Button is 4th, followed by Vettel (1'56"459) who had to change his brakes during the session. Meanwhile, the other Red Bull driver is only 17th as he faced a gearbox problem that didn't allow him to set a proper lap time. Ferrari drivers as 7th (Massa), and 9th (Alonso). Again, it seems like both drivers focused more on the race pace today, delaying all the work to prepare the qualifying. Indeed, this will be the first race where there won't be any refueling during the race, which means teams need to figure out what could be the better set up with a full tank. This also means a greater tire degradation in the first part of the race. McLaren drivers are both confident that they are very close to their rivals, underlying that the only struggle they faced was tire degradation. Four Mercedes engines in front, in first (surprise Rosberg) and third position (the eternal Schumacher) with his cars, second (Hamilton) and fourth (Button) with the McLarens to which he still supplies the engines, the Ferraris behind: the feverish Massa seventh at 1.2s, debutant Alonso ninth, at 1.7s. Were it not the first day of a World Championship full of unknowns (the lack of refueling during the race pushes the cars to test with a full tank of petrol and the empty ones can even find themselves with a bonus of 2 seconds), we would be trembling, with the cars from Maranello that trudge along and revisit the nightmares of the past, the disastrous 2009, a Bahrain that makes you wrinkle your eyes and cry out in alarm that nothing has changed. Instead, at Ferrari they are the first to warn, this is not the case. Alonso and Massa only thought about the race, to understand how much wear the tires can have with a full tank, they deliberately forget that on Saturday there will be a fight for pole, qualifying that returns to the good old days, everyone on the track with a drink of petrol, and then refuel at a defined grid. Alonso explains:
"We lack a bit of grip, but I'm satisfied; we are ready to attack. We had no problems. The only worry is the many potholes and the car jumping all over the place".
"The others, to make the time, ran with little fuel and new tyres; we, when we were unloaded, had used tyres. With pole at stake, everything will be different".
If anything, the only anguish is represented by these qualifying sessions in the dark: last year Ferrari struggled to get the tires to the right temperature on the first lap, the hope is that the defect has been eliminated.
"But I will only be able to say that when we really think about the fastest lap".
The rest is Rosberg in front, a beaten Schumacher who admits he feels rusty, Hamilton who says he doesn't understand the value of others and Button who compares the track to a minefield. Red Bull is in trouble; Senna, grandson of art, is over 11 seconds behind and the other Hispania with the Indian Chandhok does not cover even a meter. The slow ones can be dangerous and the FIA (says president Todt) would like to reintroduce the out of time limit (qualifying with the limit of 107% compared to the best) for the race: but for 2010 unanimity is needed and the small ones cannot; they will never allow it. So it's true. It is true that Alonso now races for Ferrari and that His Majesty Schumacher has truly returned to the track from the legend of the seven world championship titles won. With the first free practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix there can no longer be any doubt that the incredible is truly happening. What - for now - is a little difficult to understand is the real values on the track. As Massa rightly explains:
"We'll see tomorrow about qualifying, it's impossible to say anything now. We worked differently than our rivals. It's normal on a day like today to have problems".
The fact is, however, that the times speak clearly and that Alonso's best time is 1'56"766 and Massa's 1'56"555. While in the end Rosberg with the Mercedes lapped in 1'55"409, Hamilton in 1'55"854 and Schumacher with the other Mercedes in 1'55"903.
However, Massa explains that Ferrari did the exact opposite of its opponents:
"Although it's true that we had a little difficulty due to the dirty track and the hot day, overall we managed to do our job and I'm quite happy".
In short, Massa's theory is that the others tried to set qualifying times, while they went, as they often did, in search of race pace. We'll see on Saturday who's right. However, one thing is certain: as Alonso explains, Force India is competitive.
"This weekend we could have some surprises from Force India. Let's see what happens tomorrow in qualifying, now objectively it is difficult to make a precise analysis. Our car is going well but we still have a lot of work to do".
The only problem seems to be the track.
"It surprised me, I found a lot of bumps. When I checked it I didn't have this impression".
Last year the thankless task was taken on by Flavio Briatore.
"There are three cars that have something strange about them".
This was the alarm he raised on the eve of the World Championship. And history proved him right: that something strange was the speakers and those cars caused panic for the first half of the season (one, the Brawn GP, won everything). This year, with Flavio Briatore absent, the task is taken on by none other than Adrian Newey, the designer of Red Bull, perhaps the most popular designer of the whole circus, the man who last year - speakers aside - made the fastest (and most copied) car of all.
"I think that this year there are at least two cars that have proposed dubious elements from a regulatory point of view".
Which ones are they?
"I'm afraid I can't reveal that at this time. But we'll find out".
One of these won't be Ferrari, many have looked badly at its disc covers...
"No, I think Ferrari is legal, the rules on disc covers are very clear and say that they must be made of only one material. And Ferrari's is".
By the way, do you like the solution created in Maranello?
"There were regulatory restrictions dictated by the need to save money. They found a way to move inside those. I don't know if they managed to obtain the desired results".
So the irregularities are from other machines. Without Red Bull and Ferrari it is easy to imagine that he is referring to McLaren and Mercedes.
"No names. We'll find out".
The McLaren rear wing was yesterday defined as regular by the FIA.
"It is certainly an interesting solution".
Have you seen any other ideas that impressed you?
"Most of this year's machines are the evolution, however complex, of those of 2009. Furthermore, some have copied from others those details that they consider to be better. But I didn't see any particular things, apart from the rear of the McLaren".
We start on Sunday, who do you think is in front?
"It's very difficult to say now. The problem is that with the history of banned petrol supplies, we don't understand anything. You never know how much cars really weigh. Ten kilos more or less make the difference".
But is there a team that impressed you the most ?
"Ferrari certainly seemed very consistent in their performance to me, and the McLaren package also seems very important overall".
Ross Brawn still hasn't discovered his secret weapon, the diffuser for 2010. What do you think he has prepared?
"I decided not to spend time thinking about these things".
Which area of the single-seaters will prove decisive?
"The speakers again, without a doubt. All the machines started designing the car starting from there and then added the rest".
Your favorite car in the history of motoring?
"The Lotus 72 and the Lotus 79. The ones shaped like vacuum cleaners. I love experimental machines, which open new frontiers".
The peace in Formula 1 in 2010 lasts just five laps of the track. The first free practice session (dominated, for what it can count, by Sutil's Force India) is not yet over when the paddock is crossed by the shadow of a new scandal: the knee gate. That's what they call it, the knee scandal, without even a hint of humor. And, judging by how dark and serious the faces are, the impression is that this time too, between stamped papers and courts of justice, we could end up far away. The first to raise his voice was Red Bull's aerodynamic chief, Adrian Newey.
"There are one or two cars that really don't convince me from the point of view of compliance with the rules".
Not even twenty-four hours and in the wake of his declarations, Bob Bell, one of the bosses of post-Briatore Renault, rises. Which clarifies the concept better, mentioning at least one name. And that name is McLaren. Everyone knew it was in the sights for the revolutionary rear wing unveiled this year. But everyone thought the thing was destined for the archives after the FIA said it was regulatory. But in the last few hours the engineers of the various teams have had the opportunity to take a better look at McLaren's aerodynamic jewel and have realized that it is not a normal technological appendage, however advanced, but a truly revolutionary concept, above all because it can be activated and deactivated by the pilot with a movement of the knee (hence, in fact, knee gate). The basic idea, in short, is that the pilot transforms into a sort of extension of the aileron.
"It is a completely illegal innovation. A joke. Nonsense. It is quite clear that that wing is completely illegal. They placed a Trojan horse in the spirit of the regulation. And in this way they opened up another sector of competition between the teams. A new industry that will end up costing everyone a lot of money. Which is ridiculous since we're trying to save money. The FIA should be much stronger on these things; At this point I don't rule out the teams making formal protests about this".
Saturday, March 13, 2010, the actions are starting this morning with the FP3. Weather has n't changed, as the track temperature is still around 40 °C. HRT driver Chandhok needs to set at least 3 laps as an overall in all the sessions (including qualifying) to take part to the start of the race. Indeed, he is the first driver to hit the track, but an early hydraulic problem stops him from doing any lap time. Timo Glock has to return to the box due to a tire loss, without causing any impediment. Alonso sets the fastest lap of 1'54"533. Second is Rosberg, followed by Red Bull driver Webber. Schumacher is 4th being 0.165 seconds off his teammate. Behind Schumacher there is Vettel, who is followed by Ferrari driver Felipe Massa. Button, Kubica, Liuzzi and Hulkerbeng complete the top ten. Lewis Hamilton comes only 12th. The qualifying session starts at 3 pm. Track temperature is 47 degrees, whilst air temperature went up to 34 degrees. Everyone is set to start as the green light is displayed It 's time for the first part of qualifying, where the last 7 positions of the grid will be decided. There is no guess on who will occupy the last 6 positions, but nobody really can predict who will be the first to be eliminated from Q2. First to go out are Glock and Di Grassi. This last one sets the first lap time (2'02"131). Glock improves it by over a second. Everybody is on track, except for the two Red Bulls. Alonso gives the first realistic reference with a fastest lap of 1'55"972, which puts him momentarily first. Now even the two Red Bull drivers are out on track. Meanwhile, Chandhok gets the first time of the weekend with a lap of 2'21"793.
It doesn't look like a great race weekend debut so far for the HRT team. The second attempt looks more promising as he goes from 21 seconds off pace to 13, with a lap of 2 ‘ 08"424. We are halfway through Q1 and top three at the moment are Massa, Vettel, Webber. Kubica is having some problems of understeer in the middle of the corner and decides to return to the pit before his last try. Momentarily, top four are now Vettel, Webber, Massa and Rosberg. Alonso now improves his lap time going up to P1. As the time runs out , top three of Q1 are Alonso, Vettel and Sutil. The first seven cars eliminated are: Alguersuari who made a mistake sliding in sector 2 on his final lap, Glock, Trulli, Kovalainen, di Grassi, Senna and Chandhok. Virgin Racing seems very satisfied as they qualified best of the new teams with Glock. Coming through to the second part of qualifying, Webber is out first, followed by Buemi. Everybody is out on track. Vettel goes fastest with a lap of 1’54"035. It seems like soft tires are at least half a second faster than the medium, but with the new regulation the top 10 must race with the tires they qualify on in Q3. Schumacher is currently 1 second off Vettel, in 9th position. Hamilton is facing some problems with tire overheating and his car is sliding around. Many drivers are back in the pits to refuel for the final flying lap. Buemi is the first one to start the second try in Q2. He seems to not improve his lap time, same as Liuzzi.
Jenson Button gets 10th fastest lap avoiding the elimination from Q3 and pushing Barrichello out of the top 10, while Schumacher confirms his previous position. Top 3 are Vettel, Alonso and Webber. With only 5 seconds to go, Barrichello is now the last one to try improving his position, without any success. Eliminated drivers are now Barrichello, Liuzzi, Hulkenberg, de la Rosa, Buemi, Kobayashi and Petrov. It was a disappointment for the Williams team not being able to go through Q3. Third comes Lewis Hamilton with a lap that is 1.756 seconds off Alonso. Seems like he made a mistake and he is going straight away for a second attempt. Button is going for his first flying lap, but as he can't improve in the middle sector he decides to go back in the pit and change tires again. The other remaining 6 drivers are now out, all on softer tyres, except for Sutil. Sutil cuts the finish line with a laptime of 1'56"309. Vettel is now the quickest man in sector 1. He even improves in sector 2 by 0.799 seconds as it seems he is going for the pole position. He comes on pole with a lap that is 0.971 seconds quicker than Alonso 's one. What a flying lap that was. Webber has a miserable middle sector and he sets a lap that is over a second and a half slower than his teammate. Massa takes second place. Lewis Hamilton is up to 4th. Alonso stays in third place, being 0.507 seconds off the pole position. Rosberg comes 5th in front of his teammate Schumacher, who is 7th, by 0.283 seconds. Webber slices off between the two. Button qualifies 8th behind Schumacher. Last two are Kubica and Sutil.
The men dressed in red were right, Friday's times were not alarming, the end of the tunnel, with a suggestive view of the Bahrain desert, was near. Of course, there remains an inconvenient spoilsport in the way, the young Sebastian Vettel who drives the Red Bull like a missile, who snatches a stunning pole position, leaving abysmal gaps to everyone, except the tenacious Felipe Massa. But now, with qualifying over, we can say that Ferrari is once again the protagonist, that the nightmare 2009 is behind us, that we can talk about victory, with the revived Felipe Massa on the front row, and with Fernando Alonso immediately behind, third 0.5s behind Sebastian Vettel and only because of two wrong turns (long on the trajectory, errors that cost tenths of a second) in the decisive attempt. Ferrari is undoubtedly competitive. It is fast on the qualifying lap, the main gap in last season, and is very competitive in the race pace. Using a definition from Stefano Domenicali, the Ferrari team principal, who did not sleep in the winter, managed to eliminate the gap from his rivals and present himself at his debut on par with Red Bull and ahead of McLaren and Mercedes. The men of the Maranello team are full of optimism and the most confident seems to be Fernando Alonso, who is itching to get back on the podium.
"I miss the taste of champagne, I haven't been there since September 27 last year, in Singapore, not to mention the victory (since October 2008, the Japanese Grand Prix), or the stress you have when you're fighting for the victory of the World Championship. I was tired of fighting in the middle of the pack, I wanted to relive certain sensations and with Ferrari I will find them again. I could have been on the front row if I hadn't made a couple of mistakes. But the race is long, a completely new film, with the cars full of petrol at the start, brakes and tires wearing out, the strategy becoming even more important, anything can happen".
The important thing, says Alonso, is to get to the end and score points. This is why caution is warranted at the start.
"Attack Massa at the first corner? In the first race it wouldn't make sense".
This does not mean that the two Ferrari drivers will try to pass their rival Sebastian Vettel, a driver who is proving to be more and more of a phenomenon, but who does not always start off great. Quick overtaking could be the key to a possible Ferrari one-two.
"We will try".
Alonso guarantees, without terrifying Vettel, who was verbally surprised by his pole position.
"I didn't think my car could go that fast".
But determined to resist in the race.
"Pushing like crazy, but being careful not to damage the tires and brakes".
Yes, because the Soft tires that get crushed, with the asphalt at 40 °C, under the weight of a car full of petrol (there is no longer refueling during the race), represent the real nightmare. Red Bull (Webber is sixth) hopes to limit the damage, Ferrari doesn't seem worried, the McLaren team doesn't know what to think. In the meantime, she understood that she was slower in the single lap, with Hamilton beaming for fourth place, and with Button disappointed in eighth, and that she could no longer have that big hole in the rear, which is essential because it is used to start the car . Now he is looking forward to the race, focusing heavily on his innovative rear wing, which is regular according to the judges. If there is trouble here too, it will mean that Hamilton and Button were wrong. Dreaming of a triumphal season.
"First of all I want to congratulate Sebastian Vettel, he really did an incredible job. As far as I'm concerned, I'm really happy to be back at my level after such a difficult period, with my accident and the difficulties encountered by the team. last year. I saw the races on television and I suffered. And it wasn't easy. Today, however, we're talking about something else. If you look at what happened to Ferrari last year, how we finished the championship and look at today's result and the times what we have done, you will understand the extent of our satisfaction. Of course, now we have to face tomorrow's match, but we are ready and I am happy".
From the coma in Budapest to the front row in Bahrain. More than seven months, the film abruptly stopped, but now the film is resumed as before. Even better. And he says it himself, Felipe Massa:
"Because I feel even stronger, ready to fight, to repay the team's trust".
Sebastian Vettel, the fastest man, pays homage to him on behalf of all the drivers.
"I dedicate my pole to him, because his is a feat. He returned to the track and immediately went very strong. We were all anxious about his terrible accident, I'm happy to find him around as an opponent".
Massa receives the nice words. He almost gets emotional.
"It's fantastic to compete against real men, to have such a close relationship of respect and friendship, even if we are adversaries on the track. Vettel said things that touched me, made me enormously pleased".
But above all he was pleased to realize that the ability is still the same, that the accident in Hungary did not erase the talent, it only left a few marks on his left eye and a couple of scars. Massa is back and still a rider.
"Many thought that I would never start racing again, that I would be forced to retire. I never gave up and here I am, in the front row, hoping for victory. Watching TV was very boring, being on the track is much more exciting".
Stronger than the rudeness, the photographers who don't want him in the photo with the four World Champions (Schumacher, Alonso, Hamilton and Button), the forecasters who have never indicated him among the favourites, the bettors who believe a lot in others and little In him. Stronger than the pressure of having a driver like Fernando Alonso as a partner, someone who doesn't give discounts, but who comes out defeated in the first challenge. Spanish admits:
"I knew that Massa likes this track, I'm not surprised he was faster than me".
The Brazilian also really likes the new Ferrari.
"The engineers and mechanics did a fantastic job".
It fascinates him to the point of putting himself forward for victory.
"It will be a strange race, full of unknowns, starting with a full tank, tires that wear out quickly, but we are ready to fight and both Alonso and I perhaps have something more than the others".
On Sunday, March 14, 2010, before the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix, the first surprising news of the day is that both Ferrari drivers have replaced their engines. Ferrari explains that this is a precautionary step that they are taking. In fact, the data related to the engine showed some abnormal parameters. The replacement won't lead to any sanctions for the team, however since the change has been done under parc ferme conditions, the removed engines can now only be used in free practices. Both HRT drivers will start from the pitlane after suffering some technical problems. What everybody will look at during this race is the different strategies teams will use. Indeed, with the ban on refueling, strategies are up to air. The top 9 drivers will start on the softer compound, on a full tank of fuel, carrying a weight of 160 kg. It seems like these tires are n't likely to last long, especially in hot conditions with a very high tire degradations. Most of the drivers will suffer from blistering early on during the race. Drivers who are out of the top 10 will most likely start on the harder compound. It 's now time to head to the grid. Timo Glock is surprisingly on softer tyres. Drivers are preparing themselves for the start of the race, concluding their formation lap. The tension increases, and with that the adrenaline too. When the red lights go out, the 2010 season starts in Bahrain. Vettel has a brilliant start and he is in front of the two Ferraris into turn 1.
There are some engine problems on Webber 's car as it started to smoke heavily. He is now losing two positions. Meanwhile, Alonso passes his teammate and Rosberg overtakes Hamilton in the opening corners. Tonio Liuzzi and Vitaly Petrov have an incredible start and go up respectively to 9th and 11th places. On the other hand, Adrian Sutil made a poor start which saw him dropping down to 22nd position. Vettel is now creating a gap of over 2 seconds on Alonso. On lap 3, Chandhok has made contact, breaking his front wing. His race is already over. Nico Hulkenberg spins, but as he rejoins, Luca di Grassi pulls off the circuit and goes out of the race too. The overheated tires force Nico to pit and he gets back on track in 22nd place. He is the first one to stop. On lap 4, Sutil and Kubica make contact and both drivers spin losing few positions. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton is catching Rosberg, constantly being just 0.5 seconds behind the German. The other Mercedes is also under pressure with Webber closing up to him. It 's currently lap 9 and Vitaly Petrov is doing a brilliant job holding the 11th position, he is close to Barrichello by 1 second. One lap later, Massa clocks the fastest lap and he is now closing the gap to his teammate. Meanwhile, McLaren informs Hamilton to save the tires if he cannot pass Rosberg. Vettel continues to pull away now extending his gap to 3.5 seconds over Alonso. In fact, he is trying to create a gap that allows him to be saved if Ferrari decides to undercut him. On lap 14, Kobayashi 's race comes to an early end as he has to stop in the middle sector due to a technical problem.
At the same time, Timo Glock is able to overtake Kovalainen for the 17th place and he is now leading the new car battle. Vettel is gaining important tenths every lap, currently being 4.1 seconds in front of Alonso. Unfortunately, after a great start of the race, Petrov has to retire as his car faces some engine problems and it switched off. Robert Kubica is now flying after his pitstop and this is a crucial information for the drivers in the top positions. Indeed, Hamilton decides to stop chasing Rosberg and pit for fresh tyres. Same decision goes for Schumacher. During lap 17, Ferrari calls Alonso into the pit for a change to the hard compound. Vettel will surely react to this stop. In the same lap, Rosberg pits too, but his release is delayed by Button who decided to pit as well. Hamilton goes through and Rosberg exits the pitlane placing himself between Hamilton and his teammate Schumacher. Vettel stops now and he is away without any problems and Massa goes to pit too. Seems it 's the end of the race for Timo Glock as he has had some problems with his Virgin. Indeed, he was losing some track positions. The new car battle is still open. Bruno Senna is the next one of the new team drivers to retire on lap 20. His engine blew up in the main straight. This means that Lotus has won the battle thanks to their reliability: Kovalainen is 17th and his teammate Trulli 18th. Webber is closing on former world champion Button and at the same time Massa is edging closer to Alonso being 1.4 seconds behind. Halfway through the race on lap 25, the top ten are Vettel, Alonso, Massa, Hamilton, Rosberg, Schumacher, Button, Liuzzi and Barrichello. Webber continues to put pressure on Button for the 7th place. Meanwhile, Kubica is continuing his come back and he has now overtaken Buemi with a move on the outside in turn 4. His next target is Barrichello, who is 5 seconds in front. On lap 30, we have another retirement as Pedro de la Rosa 's car is wheeled back by his mechanics into the garage. Meanwhile, Alonso is starting to close the gap to Sebastian Vettel. After setting the fastest lap of the race (1'59"583), he is now 1.1 seconds off the German. Hamilton is fourth and he remains 15 seconds behind Massa. Vettel is told on the radio that Alonso is likely to overheat. In fact, the lap after, both Massa and Vettel set their best lap times and Alonso is starting to lose again. Sutil is 12th, Alguersuari 13th with STR teammate Buemi 14th. Hulkenberg is 15th and Kovalainen comes into the pits from 16th place in the Lotus.
It 's lap 34 and Alonso is now right being Vettel. It seems like the Red Bull might have some problems. Indeed, the German is having a loss of power due to a broken exhaust. What a turn of events. In the final corner of the lap, Alonso dives past Vettel and takes the lead. In the same lap, Massa passes Vettel too and takes second place. What seems like a great day for the Red Bull driver, it now turns into a nightmare. Hamilton is just 4.5 seconds behind him. Vettel 's engineer confirms that it is an exhaust failure. It 's just a matter of time before Hamilton passes him. In fact, on lap 38 the Briton overtakes him down the main straight. Vettel is falling down and Rosberg is closing on him. Indeed, he is gaining 3.5 seconds per lap. With 7 laps to go, Alonso is leading with a gap of 8.8 seconds on his teammate Massa. Hamilton is now the fastest man on track, but he is still 8 seconds behind Massa. Rosberg is only 4.8 seconds and it looks like he will get Vettel soon. At the same time, on lap 46 Alonso sets the fastest lap (1 ' 58 ” 287), while Massa has dropped to 11 seconds behind. Only one lap to go and it seems like Vettel manages to hold back Rosberg. Button is making a final push on Schumacher, but without any success. Unfortunately, with only two laps to go, Sebastien Buemi pulls off the track due to mechanical issue. He was 14th, before he was out of the race. Alonso is on his final lap. Schumacher has the gap in hand to Button which means he will surely cross the finish line in 6th. Rosberg still can't get Vettel and it looks like the Red Bull will hold on to fourth. It 's the end. Alonso takes the checkered flag and he is now the first 2010 winner. What a debut in Ferrari! It 's a 1-2 for the team, and this season couldn't start better for them. Lewis completes the podium with his McLaren, while early leader Sebastian Vettel makes it to 4th, followed by his compatriot Rosberg. Schumacher comes 6th, Button 7th and Webber 8th. Tonio Liuzzi gains 2 points for his team finishing 9th and Barrichello achieves the last point in 10th. Robert Kubica was the first driver to finish out of the points, ahead of Sutil and Alguesari. The last four classified are Hulkenberg, Kovalainen, Buemi and Trulli. It 's now time for the champagne shower and the Spaniard national anthem, followed by the Italian one. Delirium is red. Like the celebration, the color of the overalls of the two drivers on the top step of the podium and of the first two cars at the finish line.
The delirium is Ferrari, the team that has returned to cannibalism after a year of hardship, capable of knocking out all its opponents with a fantastic one-two, the tough Sebastian Vettel, beaten with his Red Bull also by bad luck, the two McLarens, third with Lewis Hamilton, seventh with the reigning World Champion, Jenson Button. But also the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, fifth with difficulty, and above all the cumbersome past, the legend Michael Schumacher, sixth at the finish line as he was seventh at the start, more worried about not making mistakes on his own than about biting his rivals. The feat has the radiant gaze of Fernando Alonso, who builds his victory at the start (from third to second, passing his teammate, Felipe Massa) and on lap 34, when he easily frees himself from Sebastian Vettel, in difficulty with his Red Bull due to the broken exhausts, a simple overtaking, after making him feel his breathing down his neck for more than 150 kilometers and after filling him with stress with a couple of champion laps and a gap brought to just a second and a half. But the triumph, because it becomes such after Ferrari regains a double that was missing since June 22, 2008, the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, also has the emotional face of Felipe Massa, a miracle worker for the sports news, in a coma for a short time more than seven months ago in a hospital bed in Budapest and now second, happy, ready to thank God for his quick and complete resurrection. It is Ferrari's Sunday, of all its men, who have not slept in the winter as Domenicali, the Ferrari team principal, continues to underline, who they fill with pride for their extraordinary work, as stated by the president Luca Montezemolo, in trepid observation of the race in front of the TV, but then ready to explode with joy when the feat was accomplished, with a message to the team and to the many fans around the world. It's Return to Glory Sunday.
"Because we are only at the beginning".
"There is still a lot of work to do, the World Championship is long, but the victories are still engraved in stone and triumphing immediately, in the first race, means a lot from a psychological point of view, it gives us an incredible boost".
It is the Sunday of redemption and it is significant that it materializes precisely in Bahrain, where last year President Montezemolo was completely gung-ho about the confusing rules (the famous Brawn GP diffuser ), foreshadowing the future troubles of the horrible 2009. That from a year ago it was a Ferrari that had to be dismantled, but this one must remain intact, preserved as it is, or better yet improved.
"Development and reliability will be the keys to the season".
Comments on Domenicali, because he is running strong and with the two drivers he has he can win hands down everywhere.
"We had the courage in 2009 to interrupt development mid-season, a painful decision, not by Ferrari, but the results can be seen now. By nature I let the facts speak. I hoped so, but I kept it to myself. Now I can say it, we were rewarded for that choice. We don't underestimate anyone, we know that Red Bull, Mercedes and McLaren can turn the picture around, but we needed a double like this. It makes us believe in our project, a huge injection of confidence".
Not even the change of the two engines before the race affected the great joy.
"It was a simple precaution".
The excessive overheating was a concern, a problem that Felipe Massa's car suffered from in the race. But by enriching the mixture, more petrol and less air, the problem was limited, more consumption, but lower temperatures. Now even Massa screams with joy.
"Because I had never started like this, never second in the first race. I too am fighting to win the World Championship".
The ducks have taken flight again. Almost no one thought about it anymore, but when, amidst the shouts at the radio team and the delirium of the crowd, those two little hands appeared out of car #8, in the Ferrari garage the smiles widened enormously: because everyone understood that it was them . Los Pajaritos, the ducks of the victory dance (a television detritus from Alonso's childhood), who return after years of hibernation.
"A nice way to start a new adventure, right?"
What was on your mind at that moment?
"I was thrilled. I realized I had done something special. The last lap, however, was interminable. I thought about everything, about everyone, I heard every noise of the car, of the engine, of the suspensions. Even those who weren't there. Then I thought about the mechanics who worked all winter and who were still concentrating headlong on the car this morning to change the engine at the last minute".
"To Spain, to the Italians, to Montezemolo, to the mechanics".
"We haven't done anything yet. I really think that the first three or four races of the season are not crucial. It is very important to score points, for goodness sake, but winning at this stage of the season is not crucial. It will be later".
Now what is crucial?
"Pushing and pushing on the development of the car. We have understood a lot of things here: the most important is that we have a good base to work from. I am very optimistic".
Let's talk about the race: he immediately overtook Massa, his enemy.
"My rival, at most. When you leave you have to try to take as many positions as possible. And you have to look in the mirrors so that no one passes you by. I was lucky, I was on the right side of the track, and at the second corner when I found space I passed".
"Then I tried to race carefully. The problem this season is managing the tyres. Vettel was very strong on the soft tyres. I still had some speed in my pocket, but perhaps I wouldn't have been able to keep up with him. The plan was clear. I would have been behind then in the last ten laps I would have tried the attack. With the hard tires I had the impression that I could have done it".
Instead Vettel broke the car.
"This allowed us to try to pass earlier than expected. We have been lucky. But every victory needs luck".
Red Bull seemed impregnable, to be honest. Have you ever thought about giving up and settling for second place?
What it's like to win with Ferrari.
"Different. Feel the weight of a particular story. It is the strongest team in the world".
Aren't you afraid of pressure?
"During the tests, in Spain, there were 20,000 people waiting for me to set the best time. Pressure is a habit for us. Now we have to work: there are two or three areas of the car that need to improve. The world championship is won with reliability and development".
Will Red Bull be your rival?
"Conditions vary from race to race, and developments will play a fundamental role. Saying something like that now doesn't make sense".
Luscious Liz cheated on her Sebastian. But the worst thing is that now he risks deceiving Ferrari too. Yes, because Luscious Liz, the code name given by the German driver to his Red Bull, breaking down in the middle of the race not only deprived Vettel of the victory of the first Grand Prix of the season but also disguised as a red triumph a day that probably, without that fault, it would have had another meaning. Sebastian's lament is therefore a sharp cry of pain that displeases the Austrian mechanics and scares, or should scare, the Italian ones.
"It is a pity".
The little phenomenon crouched in a corner of the paddock cries,
"But I really couldn't do anything about it. And to say that everything was perfect. Throughout the weekend and from every point of view".
The German's analysis refers to a World Championship that promises to be more competitive than the sea of seconds placed, at the end, between Alonso's red car and Hamilton's McLaren would suggest:
"We have been the fastest in all conditions since Saturday. We have very good control of the race, and also thanks to the strategy we chose I can say that I have always had perfect knowledge of the condition of the tires and brakes. In short, everything went smoothly and I won".
Then the breakup.
"A bitter pill to swallow . You're there , calmly dominating the race and already thinking about how to get the car home without wearing it out too much when boom, you find yourself with twelve points less".
A few meters away, there is a gentleman who looks like a gray-haired copy of Sebastian. It's Michael Schumacher. His state of mind, opposite to that of the boy, also hides bad news for Ferrari. Because Schumacher , who started seventh, achieved a dignified sixth place, without struggling.
"It was enough to get a good start, keep up and not make any mistakes".
He turned the car around, saw that all in all he was keeping up with the young Rosberg's pace and above all he understood that he had ample room for improvement. Then he smiles.
"Now let's work hard and catch up with those in front of us".
Among which, not only Ferrari and Red Bull, but also McLaren whose pace appeared faster than the stopwatch says. Lewis Hamilton explains:
"I had a decent race. I started well, then I made a mistake at the fourth corner and Rosberg passed me. I struggled a lot to get back into position and it was very expensive because it's complicated to push and at the same time be careful not to wear out the tyres. Otherwise I'm sure I would have managed to stay attached to the Ferrari train".
However, what is impressive about Fernando Alonso is his ability to remain focused and clear-headed in all conditions.
"The problem is that the entire race ends in just two key moments: qualifying and the start. The rest isn't there. After the first corner the positions are decided and all that remains is to get in line and wait for something to happen".
Thus, a few moments after the triumph, still in his mouth the taste of the rose water that they give to the winner here in Bahrain, instead of the more traditional Moet & Chandon, once all the dedications and thanks have been exhausted, the Spanish driver becomes serious again. Damn serious. And he launches his little bomb in the paddock: the new regulation risks failing, and - he predicts - if it continues like this, we are unlikely to see any exciting overtaking this year. Within moments, Fernando's alarm is picked up by the rest of the Circus. The first to share the Spaniard's opinion is Michael Schumacher. The German is equally clear:
"The race doesn't exist. You have to get the start right and then you just have to be careful not to make any mistakes. Overtaking is basically impossible. Unless someone in front of you makes some wrong manoeuvre".
More or less, Schumacher exemplifies, what happened to Hamilton:
"Lewis had a hesitation and Nico (Rosberg) passed him".
The Englishman, despite being significantly faster, was unable to recover the position until the pit stop. It is enough to listen to the person concerned to understand that Schumacher is right. Hamilton, third, in the end was not at all happy with the progress of the race.
"Let's say that the new regulation, in terms of overtaking, hasn't made the races more exciting as some expected".
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh agrees with the drivers . The problem, in Whitmarsh 's opinion , however, is not only related to overtaking but also to the number of pit stops. The leading teams did only one, contrary to expectations and wishes. In the opinion of the English manager, the regulation needs to be reviewed but something must also be changed in terms of the tyres, given that the Soft tires brought to Bahrain by Bridgestone - contrary to expectations - did not wear as much as expected (in fact they lasted a long time, even twenty turns). The point, however, is to avoid grand prix processions:
"People have to stay glued to the television to see what happens, and if the cars are queued up and remain like that, this doesn't happen. Yesterday the show wasn't the best in the world, we know it. And we must all work together to take action".
In the opinion of many, the abolition of the double diffuser (which creates turbulence on the track and decisively disadvantages the car behind) could change things. But this is only planned for 2011. In the short term the solution could be, says Withmarsh, to work on the tires and make sure that at least two pit stops per race are essential. Stefano Domenicali appears less pessimistic about the situation. The rational Ferrari team principal invites everyone to be more cautious.
"We have to wait before making definitive judgments on the new regulations. A lot of things have changed, we all still have to get used to the new system and I think there could still be many situations developing. Let's see what happens in the next two or three races, then let's talk again".
And Alain Prost also agrees with Domenicali. In the opinion of the former French driver, this is a particular moment, because the drivers seem very confused by the new rules, and so do their teams. While people in the paddock are wondering about the spectacle provided by these new regulations, Michael Schumacher does not hide his satisfaction at returning to the circus, after three years of hiatus, culminating with sixth place in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
"Even today, the day after the race, I feel extremely good. As far as physical condition is concerned, the race wasn't difficult at all and I wasn't exhausted at all, partly also due to the tires which, in that heat, didn't allow me to be faster. In the end, however, I can say that I am very, very happy and proud of how it went, considering that I have been out for three years and that I haven't been able to ride much to prepare for the season".
In short, Michael Schumacher sees the positive side after finishing the first race of the season behind his teammate, Nico Rosberg.
"It would be strange to think that I would be able to come back, sit behind the wheel and just go around the other drivers. At least I never thought things would turn out this way".
Schumacher did not experience a particularly agitated eve, and was pleasantly surprised by the sensations he felt, despite noticing an anomaly compared to the consolidated routine, in the first weekend of his new career.
"It was good to see that I was very calm and relaxed before the race. Just like it happened in previous years. The only thing I didn't get to do this time was take a nap before leaving. The photo sessions and the parade of drivers on the track took too long, that's all. I returned to the pits very late and we had to immediately start preparing for the race".
Perhaps in Australia there will be a little less chaos and in Melbourne the German driver will be able to resume his pre-Grand Prix habit. Michael Schumacher's return to F1 was the most watched program on German television this year. The broadcast of the Bahrain Grand Prix, won by the Spaniard Fernando Alonso in a Ferrari, was followed by 10.500.000 viewers, with a share of 49.2%, no other sports program in Germany this year achieved this. The magnet that glued German viewers to the monitor was undoubtedly Schumacher: this is demonstrated by the comparison with last season, when the races were followed on average by half the viewers, with approximately 5.200.000 people per Grand Prix.