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Pirelliís hiding true pace

We maybe now one fifth of the way through the new Formula One season, but we are still guessing which car and which driver has the real advantage. Four races have gone, and we have four different winners in four different cars. The very early blistering pace shown by McLaren diminished in Bahrain, the scene of Red Bulls climb back to the top step of the podium. In the heat Ferrariís car is slows and sluggish, but when the temperatures drop it emerges as the quickest of the lot. And then there is the tyre eating Mercedes with their controversial DRS system, which looks the quickest in a single lap.

The fact that we know rather little about the true pecking order may be down to the extravagant wear of the Pirelli tyres. They have had such a huge impact on the races this season that Michael Schumacher has said no-one can drive their cars to the limit. Now we head to Spain and the beginning of the four month European season, which should give a bigger indicator of the pecking order.

Can Mercedes crack their tyre problem? Nico Rosberg drove superbly to victory in China, but in higher heat the Mercedes was off the pace of the Red Bull. Team-mate Schumacher has had rotten luck so far so his capabilities in the car are yet unknown. The 7 time champion now needs a strong couple of races in Barcelona and Monaco to get himself back into the running. Fernando Alonso is perhaps the happiest driver after four races. His ailing car is still only 10 points off the championship lead, and if the Italian outfit can develop their car and get it nearer the front, then the double champion is sitting pretty.

The major dark horses seem to be the Lotus car. Few expected their car to come alive as it did in the Bahrain desert, which saw Kimi Raikkonen claim 2nd and Romain Grosjean 3rd (his first F1 podium). Kimi should have won the race by his own admission, but the cars pace throws light on what they could do this season and whether they can emulate that pace on a regular basis.

And then we have Red Bull back at the front of both the Drivers and Constructors championships. Mark Webber is proving to be Mr consistent again, and has to be considered as a genuine title challenger in a tightly fought season. The Aussie rarely makes mistakes, is capable of race wins and regular podiums, and could be the real dark horse this season. At this stage I feel Mark is worth a £5 bet. After their poor race in China where they had no answers to the lack of pace, they extraordinarily bounced back in style in Bahrain. The hot weather and a Red Bull suited circuit combined to give Vettel the victory, but Red Bull did little to the car making their Bahrain advantage difficult to comprehend. This is the affect that the Pirelliís have had. Some races they work for you, some they donít.

McLaren have to be the most frustrating team to support on the whole grid. They seem to have the pace, they have the drivers (although Hamiltonís erratic driving comes with the brilliance), and are easy on their tyres but they regularly seem to find a way to scupper their own race. It would have taken a bold journalist who brought up pit-stops after the race on Sunday.

Now we head to Spain knowing very little, the only thing that is guaranteed is a fascinating race full of incidence, we hope. Eight drivers in competitive cars, and a Spanish matador in front of his home crowd is mouth-watering, so letís embrace the madness that Formula One has given us this season.

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The Journalist

Writer: Charlie Bennett Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Thursday April 26 2012

Time: 3:00PM


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