After a confusing winter of varying fuel loads in testing, no one knew for sure who had the edge going into the Bahrain Grand Prix - until qualifying, where a blistering performance by Sebastian Vettel gave Red Bull Racing the first pole position of the 2010 Formula 1 season.
AUTOSPORT heard from Red Bull boss Christian Horner after the session.
Q. We hadn't really seen the potential of the Red Bull car in testing, and you had a far from easy Friday practice here. Were you expecting pole position?
Christian Horner: To be honest, it has been very difficult to gauge performance over the winter because of the fuel loads. It was really impossible to tell. So we just focused on ourselves. We knew we had put gains on the car from where we finished the season in 2009 with RB5, and the effort that has gone in from the team at Milton Keynes has just been awesome. I doubt there is a car that has been designed and assembled in as short a time period as RB6, and it is credit to every single employee about what they have managed to achieve so far.
But it is a long season ahead of us. Development will be key to the year. We've seen the development that has taken place between day one of the test and now - and it's significant.
Q. Today has given us an order of pure competitiveness over a single lap. How do you rate the consistency of your car over longer distances?
CH: We are pretty happy with it. Today was the first day we have run low fuel all winter, with qualifying levels of fuel, so it was very rewarding to see the times come with both drivers in Q2. Sebastian did, on all three sets of his option tyres, each lap was good enough for pole position ultimately.
But we've been trying to understand the tyres. We have been doing a lot of work with set-up over the winter as well, and we feel we had a good run yesterday with the tyre and don't believe our degradation is any higher than any other team. For sure Ferrari look quite soft on their tyres, but they historically have done.
Q. Are you feeling quite confident for the race?
CH: I think it is a little bit of a journey into the unknown. For sure the best place to be starting is from the front, but strategies will be quite interesting as will the way the tyres behave with full tanks. It is going to be very interesting - so a fascinating race.
Q. Are you clear and settled in your head about how the race should pan out from a strategic point of view?
CH: It is a bit of an unknown because you don't know what everybody else is going to do. At least when you had fuel, you knew people had to stop and by this time you already knew what their fuel weights were, and within a lap what lap they are going to stop on. Now, they can stop at any time during the race.
So, we've run plenty of simulations in the factory - have simulated races we've worked through as a team, but it will still be a trip into the unknown. But, a fast car always gives you options.
Q. Do you believe that what we've seen here, with most people qualifying on the sort, will be standard practice?
CH: No. I think as the tyres converge there might be tracks where the softer tyre is a bit more marginal. You will see a variance of strategies - or maybe in Q3 a driver will go for it on both tyres and he well set a better time on the hard tyre. It was hard to do two laps here because the lap is so long.
Q. What are you expecting in length terms for the first stint?
CH: The degradation on the tyre is pretty good, so it's pretty difficult to say.
Q. Is it something you will leave to the driver?
CH: The driver has a big influence on it, but it is a matter of being in consistent conversation with him. It is how the field spreads out, whether there are any safety cars - so there are lots of permutations. It could become something like a GP2 race.
Theoretically tomorrow Adrian Sutil should lead the race if he stays within 25 seconds of the leader. Whether that is the best strategy overall we will see - but theoretically he should lead the race by going further on the prime. Where he drops out after his pitstop is impossible to predict. No one has a crystal ball.
Q. Before the season people were talking about the advantages of people stopping sooner, because of time benefits from new tyres. But is that really best?
CH: There is no point in effectively under-cutting a driver but then running out of tyres at the end of the race. You are just as susceptible to be overtaken at that point of the race - so you have just got to look after the tyres very carefully. And you rely very heavily on the drivers' input into that.
Q. The McLaren vent issue was a big talking point in the build-up to the race. Is that matter now settled?
CH: All we wanted was clarity, and we've had that. The question with all these things is that we certainly believe it probably goes against the spirit of the regulations, but to the letter of the regulations it is deemed to be okay. So therefore it is clever design. They have come up with an interesting concept there - the downside is that inevitably it opens a development route that is open to teams to pursue.
Q. How quickly do you expect to have one on your car?
CH: I don't think it is anywhere near as significant as the double diffuser, which was a total redesign of the car. I am sure most teams are looking at solutions already.