The fuel loads have confirmed the suspicions that the Toyotas ran with lower fuel loads than their rivals to take control of the first row of the grid.
On row two we find the two drivers most likely to become our title protagonists: race winners Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button. Which one of these is most likely to overcome the Toyotas to win? And what can the KERS-powered Lewis Hamilton do from fifth?
The little-used Bahrain circuit is noted for being dirty off-line, which could be a problem for those starting in the even-numbered grid slots. As it happens, this was not the case last year, when Felipe Massa moved up from second into the lead. But still I would expect those on the cleaner side (Trulli, Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, etc…) to have an advantage.
This present Vettel with a strong chance of taking Timo Glock for second, leaving him with one Toyota to pass instead of two.
Button, meanwhile, could be looking over his shoulder. The Brawn has not been the quickest car off the line this year (remember Button’s first-to-fourth at Sepang), he starts from the dirty side at Bahrain and the fifth placed McLaren of Lewis Hamilton is ready to pounce.
Hamilton has the advantage of being the highest-starting KERS-equipped car. We’ve seen some impressive KERS-boosted starts this year, and the long run into turn one followed by another blast to turn four offers Hamilton a major chance to make up places. Just as long as he doesn’t cream the McLaren into the back of a competitor as he did last year.
A scenario where Hamilton gets past Button and Vettel at the start could offer Toyota their best chance of winning this race. The MP4/24 may not be too quick, but as we’ve seen earlier this year a car with a KERS button is especially hard to pass.
Further back, look to Fernando Alonso and the Ferraris for more KERS fireworks.
Read more: Bahrain Grand Prix grid
At China we saw some drivers fuelling lightly to get their super-soft tyre stint out of the way as quickly as possible (at least, they would have done had it not rained). The durability of the tyre seems to be less of a concern here, and the teams are more likely to use it than the medium compound.
On the flip side, the medium tyre may prove difficult to get speed out of. Button has had particular problems generating heat in tyres this year, so it’s starting to look like the odds are stacked against him.
Once again we have a driver in a fast car starting way out of position. Mark Webber starts way down in 18th after his altercation with Adrian Sutil in qualifying (for which Sutil has now been punished). How much progress can he make from there with his light fuel load?