Similarly Ashkanani, Binladen’s nearest rival, has recently been keeping the Gold Cup runners on their toes. Indeed, as his podium at Yas Marina and his battle with Al Faisal at the Reem International Circuit demonstrates, the Kuwaiti has sometimes been a little too close for comfort. A pair of sixth place finishes and a tenacious fight for position in Qatar fired a pretty decisive message, as did Mattar’s fifth and seventh place finishes, glued as he was to his Kuwaiti rival in a Team Bahrain entry that seems to go from strength-to-strength round-to-round. Indeed, even Al-Azhari has yet to stand atop the podium this season, and while the 2012/2013 is outside his grasp, a fighting drive in Losail (in which he took two fourth places) shows the UAE legend would no doubt love to finish his season with a flourish. And few come bigger than victory.
Regular contenders though may not prove the biggest threat. Former FIA Formula Two race winner Markus Pommer, who after qualifying a spectacular third went on to take the final step of the podium twice in his debut outing in the series. In much the same way that Fahad Algosaibi upset the apple cart last time out in Saudi Arabia, Pommer’s performance demonstrated that the one-off debutants – with nothing to lose and carte blanche to go for broke – may prove a championship undoing for somebody at the sharp end.
A lot then to consider for Schmid. His performances at the opening round in Bahrain were close to dominant, and it’s not outside the realms of possibility he could do the same again. But as he’s already found out to his cost, especially at Yas Marina, mechanical failure can strike at any time too.
This season is far from over.