Button, Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, Rosberg and Massa tell Autocar how they'll beat Michael Schumacher
12 March 2010

The deafening roar of F1 exhausts will be dominating the spectacular Sakhir circuit in Bahrain this weekend as the tiny Emirate in the Persian Gulf hosts the opening round of what promises to be an electrifying first round of the 2010 world championship.

Read Autocar's full guide to the 2010 F1 seasonSee pics of Schumacher and his rivals in 2010 testing

The biggest talking point, naturally, is the return of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher and how he will shape up against the front-running opposition, most notably the all-Brit McLaren line-up of 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton and reigning champion Jenson Button. This is how Schuey’s main rivals see it panning out…

Lewis Hamilton

“Well, I think it’s going to be a very open championship. Consistency is going to be very important as there are so many strong competitors, all capable of taking wins and points off each other. Of course, it will be particularly satisfying for me to go up against Michael as I did not come into F1 until the season after he stopped racing for Ferrari, so I have never had the opportunity of racing against him. But I have always known that he is a formidable competitor and the only way to beat him – and, indeed, the rest of the front runners – is to push all the time and keep the pressure on.”

Jenson Button

“I wondered to start with whether Michael might have bitten off more than he could chew but, having watched him in testing, he’s obviously totally committed and it will be great to have the opportunity of racing him again. You only need to be a casual fan to know that having four world champions – including Michael – on the grid this year is a fascinating prospect. All I can say is that I hope our car is better than his. I followed the Mercedes at one of the tests and it seemed to be locking wheels occasionally but, as I know to my benefit, they are not a team to be ignored.”

Fernando Alonso

“Michael is a tough, strong driver and you’ve got to face him down. For sure, it was sometimes very tense when you were battling with him at the front of the field because he never gave an inch and you never expected him to. Everybody will be wanting to beat Michael – the entire grid, not just the guys at the front. It’s going to be a great fight, because Mercedes are a really top-line team and I am sure that Michael has not lost any of his competitive edge.”

Felipe Massa

“Well, of course, for me there is a certain poignancy about going up against Michael because, originally, he was going to make his F1 comeback last summer standing in for me in the Ferrari team after I had my accident at Budapest. And, of course, he was my Ferrari team-mate before he stopped racing at the end of 2006. I am delighted he is back and I won’t be underestimating him. Beating Michael will be very difficult, but I feel confident because he taught me a lot when we were driving together.”

Nico Rosberg

“In a sense, this is going to be an inspirational season for me – to be paired with a seven-time world champion. You can always learn from watching people in this business and you could say, as his team-mate, I will be closer than anyone when it comes to watching how he works and what he’s doing. Having absolute parity of equipment is also going to be very important in trying to beat Michael, of course, but I have absolutely no doubts about Mercedes’ commitment to that. Yes, I believe in my own capabilities and believe I can beat him."

Sebastian Vettel

“You’ve got to be prepared to race someone like Michael from the front. Obviously, it will be great to have Michael on the grid because of his name and reputation, but my goals for 2010 are not simply to be the best German driver on the grid, but to be world champion. I want to beat every other driver on the grid, so if I can be world champion, it means that I have successfully done that. We had a strong car at Red Bull last year and I’m confident that we will be in the same position from the start of the new year.”

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12 March 2010

Two-and-a-half hours to go before first Practise, and we'll learn whether Mercedes has managed to give Schumacher and Rosberg the technical edge at which the whispers have hinted.

The most recent snippet of an interview with Schumacher shows the proud, strutting Champion of old, and this confidence has inspired real excitement. I was happy enough that he was back on the grid, but if he lives up to the impressions given by Brawn that he is more committed than ever, this season will be an absolute tinderbox and a dream come true for Michael's supporters - happily, he will have an army of those to inspire him.

At least four supreme drivers, Schumacher, Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso will be fighting tooth-and-nail over scraps, whilst, with fast packages, Sauber, Williams and maybe even Force India appear to have placed themselves firmly into the mix of the leading pack.

It seems unlikely that there'll be a huge points haul for any one team, as there was in 2009, especially with the battles that will go on inside the top teams between drivers.

Unless Lotus and Virgin shape-up, they're going to become mobile chicanes and embarrass themselves; in which case, the imminent return of the 107% rule will be an effective way to rightfully separate the wheat from this chaff.

McLaren appears to have resolved the row over its drag-reducing aero device, which is apparently an aperture above the driver's head that allows drag to be removed from the rear wing. It isn't a moveable or active mechanism, so it's deemed legal.

Other points of interest this year will be the increased penalties for teams that use more than their allocated eight engines, and the (frankly daft) restrictions on tyres. My opinion is that the best and most used strategy will be to qualify well, on softer compounds if necessary, and pit early with this relatively degraded rubber. When this pattern is followed by all leading teams, it will render the rule redundant.

In fact, there's too much to say about this year, and now there's only two hours to go before the season starts.

A reminder that coverage of Practise begins online and on the BBC Red Button service today at 6:55am.

This weekend, we can look forward to a veritable feast of Formula One, with the bonus interest of the parade of Champions, Jacques Villeneuve's BBC commentary and Prost acting as race steward.

12 March 2010

[quote VirginPower]Practise[/quote]

Is VP a septic?

12 March 2010

Good post VP

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