In the two weeks since the Malaysian Grand Prix, most of the talk and F1 gossip should have centered on the early season battle of pace between Ferrari, McLaren, and an impressive BMW Sauber. Instead, most of the rumors and finger-wagging had to do with Max Mosely, president of the FIA, world motorsport’s governing body. Seems Britain’s News of the World newspaper found a video of ol’ Max involved in some sort Nazi sex orgy, where he plays the prison camp guard doling out “punishment” upon poor, innocent prisoners. He was kindly uninvited to the kingdom for this weekend’s races.
Weird sex habits aside, Bahrain helped to establish a few things that could have an important bearing on the rest of the season.
First and foremost, BMW Sauber could very well win a race this season. Robert Kubica turned in a brilliant lap to claim his first-ever pole position. Pole on pole! Though he lost the position at the lights to a fast-starting Felipe Massa in his Ferrari, Kubica managed to keep both Massa and the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen (who got by on lap 3) from truly running away with it. At the checkered flag, Kubica finished just 5 seconds adrift of Massa, and 3.3 seconds behind Raikkonen. Nick Heidfeld, in the sister BMW, finished just 3.5 seconds back of his teammate for a strong showing in fourth.
That both BMWs had the pace throughout the day is fantastic, but the real story here is how off the pace McLaren seemed to be. While Lewis Hamilton ruined his day early with a questionable accident, teammate Heikki Kovalainen came home 5th, a distant 27 seconds behind Massa. His race was not mistake-free, but the 20-or-so seconds separating him from Heidfeld and Kubica is a joy for BMW Sauber and its fans.
Second, Felipe Massa needed this result. He has struggled with the loss of traction control this year, and his dismal showing to date made for no shortage of “will he or won’t he” comments regarding his future at Ferrari. Massa is traditionally quick in Bahrain–he won here last year after starting the season in much the same unimpressive fashion. He’s safe, for now, and has finally put his name in the hunt for the Driver’s Championship.
Finally, the accident that effectively ended Lewis Hamiton’s day needs a thorough examination. On lap two, as Hamilton came out of Turn 3 under heavy acceleration, and right on the tail of his rival–and former teammate–Fernando Alonso, the Renault seemed to falter and Hamilton ran up and over the back of him. Did Alonso lift to cause the collision purposely? The telemetry of his race car is being studied, so we’ll have to await a verdict on that one.
In the meantime, it’s great news for F1 and for BMW that the team has begun to emerge as a serious threat to the longstanding pecking order in the sport. In fact, Kubica’s pole position marks the first time in 22 races that a McLaren or Ferrari have not held the pole. Kudos to the Pole!
The "fly-away" races are over, and the sport returns to Europe on April 27 to begin the next phase of the season. The teams will have plenty of time to prepare for the upcoming Spanish Grand Prix, so let's hope BMW Sauber arrives with the needed edge.
DRIVER’S CHAMPIONSHIP TOP 8
TOP 6 BMW
Photos Courtesy of Atomic Racing Red