Tom Clarkson's 2008 Bahrain Grand Prix preview

Published: 04 April 2008

They haven’t had any rain in Bahrain this year. Not one drop. As a result, the rocky wilderness that surrounds the Bahrain International Circuit is more of a dust bowl than normal.

The slightest of winds is enough to blow sand onto the racetrack, changing grip levels from one lap to the next, and we can expect some drivers to get caught out. That’s pretty much the most extreme hazard facing them this weekend because the Hermann Tilke-designed circuit offers acres of asphalt run-off.

'Knowing that the barriers are a bit further away makes the racing better,' says Toro Rosso’s coming man Sebastian Vettel. 'You might try something that wouldn’t be possible at a normal track because if you make a mistake you can run wide and keep going.'

It will probably take more than an opportunist overtaking manoeuvre to stop the Ferraris. The Scuderia was the only front-running team to test in Bahrain over the winter, completing six intensive days at the track in February, so they start the weekend with both a data advantage and the best car.

Felipe Massa needs a result this weekend, having made two howlers in the opening couple of races, but his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen will take some stopping. His confidence is high having dominated in Malaysia and he has some unfinished here, having never sprayed the non-alcoholic pomegranate and rose water cocktail (no champagne here, remember) from the top step of the podium.

The key to the chasing pack will be Bridgestone. The compnay has brought its softer, Melbourne-spec rubber compounds to the race (as opposed to their harder, Sepang-spec tyres), so we can expect the cars that are easy on their rear tyres – McLaren and Williams – to be more competitive than they were last time out.

By Tom Clarkson

F1 correspondent, BBC pitlane man, accesser of all areas, head beans-spiller