Schumi struggles as 'Bulls fly in Bahrain
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel set the benchmark in Bahrain by claiming Pole Position in the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
The sprightly German finished the final session of qualifying ahead of the Ferrari Scuderias with a time of with a time of 54.101seconds, edging out Felipe Massa and former race favourite Fernando Alonso.
In doing so, Vettel's Red Bull has now been inserted as the new favourite for victory in Bahrain at odds of 7/4, with Fernando Alonso second favourite at 5/2 and Felipe Massa 4/1.
Alonso's former team-mate, 2009 World Champion Lewis Hamilton (a decent 8/1 each-way shot) managed to steal fourth place on the grid - though the McLaren generally considered off the pace - with Nico Rosberg (14/1) and Mark Webber (20/1) found on the third row after impressive qualifying performances netted the pair fifth and sixth placed starts.
Returning master Michael Schumacher's steady drive in the Petronas Mercedes only produced a seventh fastest time, meaning the feisty German (16/1) will be right up the gearbox of faster team-mate Nico Rosberg (14/1).
Not only that, but the seven-time world champion will also find himself sharing the fourth row with current title trophy owner Jensen Button.
There's a few quality drivers between the first and fourth rows meaning this one may be a learning curve, rather than a victory for the boys this far back on the grid.
33/1 shot Button was disappointing qualifying 1.51 seconds behind the pace-setting Red Bull, the Brit acknowledging the car is relatively slow, but the defending champion is optimistic about the car's performance in Sunday's race.
"A second in qualifying is a huge chunk but in race trim I think the car will be working quite differently."
"I don't think we'll get the same result, with heavy fuel loads, we'll see a different line-up than in qualifying."
Renault's promising driver Robert Kubica (50/1) made it through to Q3 and managed a hot-lap worthy of P9 on the grid. And one of the nice surprises of the qualification period saw the ever improving Force India team make their presence once again felt as Adrian Sutil (50/1) bagged a P10 start.
Of course, it's still all to play for in the opening weekend as we've only caught a glimpse of what's to come. There's fuel-less pit-stops with increased emphasis on pit-crew speediness and of course, the tyres.
| Winning Constructor | First Retirement Of Race | Race Match Bets | Race Winner |
| Podium Finish | Top 6 Finish | Winning Nationality | Winning Margin |
| Safety Car | Fastest Lap | Lap 1 Retirements |
The Q3 shoot-out drivers must begin the race on the tyres used for qualification, so it may be worth having a cheeky few quid on the likes of Rubens Barichello (50/1) who should be kicking on in the early stages as the big guns go in and exchange their soft rubber for something with a little more longevity.
The first Formula One Grand Prix of the season is tomorrow, live on BBC1 12:00, so make sure your bets are placed in good time (over 20 alternative betting markets available) and enjoy what's sure to be a thrilling race in this, the most hotly anticipated Formula One season in recent history.
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