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My Bahrain Grand Prix predictions

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Jonathan Legard | 18:01 UK time, Friday, 24 April 2009

The second practice times for Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix reveal just how tight the 2009 Formula 1 season is.

The 20 cars are covered by just one-and-a-half seconds - and the top 13 of those are covered by barely three quarters of a second. That's extraordinary, especially if you think that just four or five years ago you regularly saw six seconds covering the field.

It is all proof of what a phenomenal job the mechanics and engineers at every team have done in interpreting the new regulations for this season, which have made the competition as tight as possible.

It also means the task of predicting the top eight race finishers in Bahrain difficult. That said, here are my selections:

1. Jenson Button (Brawn Grand Prix)
2. Rubens Barrichello (Brawn Grand Prix)
3. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
4. Mark Webber (Red Bull)
5. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
6. Jarno Trulli (Toyota)
7. Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren)
8. Fernando Alonso (Renault)

I'll stick, as I have done throughout the season so far, with the Brawn GP duo as I still think they are the best in the field and I'm going for a one-two with this season's two-race winner Jenson Button leading home Rubens Barrichello as he did in the season-opener in Australia.

If the Chinese Grand Prix had been dry I think the Brawns would have been away. If the team had been more adventurous with their strategy in qualifying then I think that would have helped their cause too.

Nonetheless, there is no doubt the Brawns are on a roll and a dry race in Bahrain should work in their favour. Button has talked about the balance of the car feeling much better here than it did in China, and that is another encouraging sign for the Englishman.

Jenson Button in Bahrain

The Red Bulls may be kings of the road in the wet, as they proved with their one-two in China, but I predict they will still be in flying form in dry conditions this weekend.

There really is little choose between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber but after his victory in China I think Vettel has the edge. I predict the German will just out-perform Webber again in Bahrain and that is why I have him in third ahead of the Australian.

There is much more encouraging news from the McLaren camp and I think they are improving all the time. In Shanghai, Kovalainen finished fifth just ahead of his team-mate Hamilton but this time I am predicting the world champion to finish fifth with Kovalainen seventh.

McLaren don't have any updates to their car this weekend but they didn't get the chance to run in the dry in Shanghai and now the conditions are good I think they will show some form.

In China, I predicted Trulli would take his first points at the Shanghai track and that blew up in my face as he retired - but the Italian does have a decent record in Bahrain; he has scored points in four of the five races to be held here and finished second in 2005, so I think he will finish strongly on Sunday.

You will have also noticed by now that I never write off Alonso. Renault are not quite on the case yet and are still eight tenths of a second off the pace but I expect the double world champion to still be in with a shout of a point at least.

There has been some talk of sandstorms on Sunday in Bahrain and that will add something different to the race, to say the least. There are question marks about how abrasive sand being blown across the track will affect the tyres but, as we've seen so far this season, there's nothing like some drastic weather to turn racing on its head.

Once again we await Sunday's race with interest.


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