Pit Stop

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 March, 2010, 12:00am

Now that the dust (or perhaps that should be sand) has settled after Bahrain, what have we learned as the teams check in to Melbourne?

For me it's the fact that preparation (or lack of it) is everything. Those teams who had the time and resources to make use of every minute of testing prospered. Unlike this time last year, continuity was everything, and it has been plain to see the teams who have got it right.

Red Bull may not have won the first race, but they were right on the money from Friday practice. It was more evolution than revolution for the car, and you can't blame the team. The 2009 car was a cracker and Adrian Newey has ensured the 2010 edition has built on those rock solid foundations. It helps when you don't have to re-invent the wheel.

An unchanged line-up of drivers has also helped. No new relationships to build, no new requirements and driving styles. But for a dodgy spark plug, Sebastien Vettel would have waltzed from pole to chequered flag. Don't bet against it in Melbourne. Lewis Hamilton won't be. He's gone on record this week as saying the Red Bull is 'ridiculously faster than anyone else's car'. From midfield also-rans to front runners, Red Bull have shown what it takes to get some traction in this cut-throat business.

Ferrari are another team who have got their preparation right and have looked fast. Admittedly, their driver line-up has changed, but trading in a disinterested Kimi Raikkonen for a double world champion in Fernando Alonso is hardly a backward step. He is thrilled to be there and the team are thrilled to have Felipe Massa back.

At the other end of the grid, the new teams have shown how a lack of preparation can really lay bare frailties. How the FIA let Hispania arrive at Bahrain having not turned a wheel in anger beats me. They got only one car out on Friday, and poor old Karun Chandock only drove his first lap in qualifying.

He showed great composure and fortitude through the whole thing, and emphasised how skilful these guys are even at the wrong end of the grid. His first lap was 20 seconds slower than the next car. After two laps he was just a couple of seconds adrift. His baptism of fire continued when he managed just a couple of actual race laps before the car expired.

In Melbourne, the aim for Hispania is to finish the race. That's a sorry thing for an F1 team to have to admit. The problem for some of the new teams is that their preparation for the season is seeping into the first few races of the season. Hispania only made it to the grid after an 11th-hour takeover. USGP never did. The FIA should take a long, hard look at the way it supervised bringing these teams to the championship and the finances involved. It should also think about relaxing the testing regulations to help the new teams get up to speed.

The lack of testing has also hampered Michael Schumacher. He looked some way short of his glory days and his return to Formula One hasn't been helped by scant chances to get behind the wheel pre-season. He was even forced to test drive the new GP2 car over the winter as he looked to get more time in open-wheel racers.

Heading into the Australian Grand Prix we now know the teams who are likely to set the pace and those who are going to struggle. What we don't know is how exciting the race is going to be. Let's be honest, the Bahrain race was a real yawn with little going on. There were many voices calling for immediate rule changes to spice things up, such as a mandatory second pit stop.

It may be that the FIA has scored a major own goal with the rule changes, but there is little to be gained from a knee-jerk reaction after one race.

Let's see what happens Down Under first. If that is another procession then it may be question time for the governing body (again). Let's hope the race keeps us on the edge of our seats. The problem with 2010 is that it has to live up to 2009.