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Clearly Bernie Ecclestone has got his months muddled up. Yesterday was March 1 and he obviously felt it was April. I can't see any other reason behind his latest idea for trying to make Formula One more interesting.

Bernie was perhaps thinking out loud while he was watching Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton show off McLaren's new road car on a sleety track in Surrey. But the man with the marketing brains behind modern Grand Prix racing is suggesting having sprinklers to produce artificial rain in the middle of races.

"We always have exciting races in the rain, so let's think of making it rain," he suggested. "You could have a 20 minute spell in the middle of the race, or near the end with 10 laps to go. It would guarantee suspense."

Yes, Bernie, but so would putting Ashley Cole on one of the bends with his air rifle to see how many of the cars he could hit - or having a Ford Sierra towing a caravan round the track at the same time as everybody else was racing.

Arguably the only people who would welcome Bernie's hair-brained scheme would be the McLaren team because Hamilton is almost always the best bet when real rain affects a race. It seems to bring out his natural flair for driving - last year's triumph at the Belgian Grand Prix was an absolute master class in dealing with difficult conditions.

Hamilton certainly needs something. He's 6.6 third favourite for this year's drivers' championship, but the signs are that's far too short and a good opportunity to lay. While his McLaren masters were very proudly showing off their new road toy, the latest model for the track appears to be way off the pace. Meanwhile, the new Red Bull to be driven by reigning champion Sebastian Vettel has performed superbly in testing to make the German the 3.8 favourite to retain his title.

More worrying for Hamilton is that on the tests so far, it is not only Red Bull who are quicker, and not even just the traditional powerhouse of Ferrari either (Fernando Alonso is 3.85 second favourite). The early reports suggest that if a race were held tomorrow then Toro Rosso, Williams, Renault and even the new boys of Force India would be in front of him, with Mercedes probably neck and neck.

Hamilton was driving reporters around and admitted himself that mechanical issues on the F1 car had limited them to only 38 laps on one of their testing days. And while he optimistically talked of them being able to close the gap, there's a real danger that Red Bull will start the season with a run of victories which will make them too hard to catch - even if they did put the sprinklers on.

Five things you might not know about McLaren's new super car the MP4-12C

1. The core structure is built from magnesium, which is 50% lighter than steel
2. It has a 3.8 litre twin turbocharged engine, producing a top speed of 205mph and accelerating from 0-62 in 3.1 seconds
3. Despite all that power it's comparatively economical. If you can afford to buy it in the first place you might not be bothered, but it delivers 24.2mpg
4. The radiator for cooling the engine is set at the rear of the car
5. McLaren aim to manufacture 1,500 of them annually by 2012. To raise the £168,500 on the road price you could always try staking £12,000 on Jenson Button for the drivers' championship at his current price of 15.0!

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