It is great to be back here, although the race’s future is very much in doubt, with negotiations over an extension of its contract currently being conducted. It is strange to think that in the six races held here to date we have never seen a drop of rain, yet Pirelli faces the very real prospect of its first ‘wet’ race after the previous three rounds were held under dry conditions.
I’m a bit worried about the weather forecast – is the track really slippery, or do Pirelli need to do some work on their wets? Either way it was bordering on the dangerous during wet practice this (Friday) morning, as proven when the reigning champion Sebastian Vettel destroyed his car, and seven-time champion Michael Schumacher spun a few times.
If we experience a repeat of these conditions on Sunday I think there could be some real trouble.
Fernando Alonso was quickest for PUMA’s partner team Ferrari, and while that’s good news for the guys in red after difficult times recently, I don’t think too much can be read into it. Of course Ferrari has burnt much midnight oil in Maranello, but Friday morning’s conditions were extremely variable, and drivers were on different agendas.
This was proven in the afternoon when Jenson Button set fastest time for McLaren, with Nico Rosberg second. Fernando was 11th and Felipe Massa sixth. I must say Felipe was impressive in China, and think Ferrari has the right mix there: Massa is fast enough to push Fernando without threatening him.
The new regulations means outright pace in practice and qualifying is no longer as vital as in the past, as proven by Mark Webber in China, where he started 18th and finished third. The overall emphasis seems to have shifted from pole position to having the right tyre strategy. That should make Sunday’s race very interesting, particularly as the infamous Turns 8 seems to be hammering tyres – in the wet or dry.
I must say I am sad about the situation at Williams after the team experienced the worst start to a season in its history. There are mixed messages coming from inside Williams, with chairman Adam Parr saying Patrick Head was to retire shortly and Patrick disputing that. I hope things pick up there soon because it really pains me to see the team I followed in my youth in such turmoil.
The other big news item right now is of course the possible sale of Formula 1’s commercial rights by current owners CVC Capital Partners to a syndicate made up of the Murdoch family’s News Corporation; the family which controls Ferrari; and the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim. There are lots of mixed messages coming out of both sides, but there is no doubt that it could work extremely well for Formula 1.
The potential new owners are media savvy, and the Murdoch family has a record of investing in their sport’s properties, so there could be some really exciting times ahead on that side, but right now I am focussing on Sunday’s 58-lap race.