Let’s not beat about the bush on this one: Bahrain isn’t famous for it’s scintillating Grand Prix. Since it’s foray onto the calendar a decade ago, it’s been sand and politics that have reigned in the desert, as apposed to close fought wins (barring Raikkonen and Vettel’s battles in 2012 and 2013) and edge-of-the-seat racing.
But what’s this? LIGHTS I hear you say? That’s correct; the event organisers have made the leap from sun to filament light for 2014, with the race being run in the night of the desert. Poetic perhaps, but any more exciting? Let’s investigate…
Williams: 3rd Time Lucky?
OK, I know this whole ‘WILL WILLIAMS DO IT?!’ hype is becoming a regular occurrence in these pieces, but Bahrain is the perfect stage to for Williams to finally demonstrate the pace they undoubtedly possess in 2014. A dry qualifying session would seem odds-on, unlike in Australia and Malaysia, which should see them placed well according to dry weather pace for the race. Saying that, it did rain out in Sakhir on Thursday, oddly enough…
Furthermore, Bahrain isn’t a high downforce circuit compared to Malaysia, with Felipe Massa and Valterri Bottas’ relatively underwhelming pace in the wet pointing to a lack of out and out downforce, despite a strong powertrain/straight-line performance. Put it this way- Massa set the fastest lap at the track in pre-season, and sat only 0.3 off Lewis Hamilton’s ultimate pace on the medium/prime tire race simulations during yesterday’s Free Practice 2…
Unlike in Malaysia, and Bahrain races before it, this weekend’s race should be relatively chilly as far as Middle Eastern temperatures go. This is of course because of the race being run at night in a desert – two factors that will cause a whole host of complications for the teams.
Firstly, the cold breeze expected brings with it issues both in terms of low brake temperatures, an area that teams have been struggling with in practice thus far, and will do in qualifying at least. Add to that the difficulty for drivers attacking crosswinds when it comes to corner-entry, which is always an issue in Bahrain.
Sloppy brakes and poor turn-in points? Bring it on…
Hamilton vs Rosberg
At the forefront of practice, qualifying, and, well, pretty much all of 2014 so far has been the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. The team are streets ahead on single-lap pace at the moment, and a whole postcode ahead on race pace, so barring a reliability hiccup (which is entirely possible) the weekend really should be between the two Silver Arrows.
But which one? Hamilton had the edge over Rosberg last time out in Malaysia, and has in the past tended to have the merest of advantages over one-lap pace at least. That said, Rosberg took full advantage of Hamilton’s demise in Australia, and has always gone well at the Sakhir International Circuit. Who can forget his debut race in F1 for Williams? Uncompetitive car, first race, first fastest lap. The latter edges it in the opinion of yours truly.
Okay it’s not a ‘factor’ in the Formula One race, but it is a big talking point across the spectrum of the weekend in Bahrain. The start of the 2014 GP2 season sees the championship’s title favourites and established names Jolyon Palmer, Stefano Coletti, and Williams-reserve driver Felipe Nasr joined by the likes of McLaren and Ferrari-backed hotshots Stoofel Vandoorne & Raffaele Marciello respectively.
Want more context? Check out our GP2 Season Preview before today’s sprint race and certainly before tomorrows feature race then!
Hulk a Force to be reckoned with?
Here’s a question; what do you hear of more in modern-day Formula One? The word ‘powertrain’? Or Martin Brundle’s insistence that Nico Hulkenberg should be in a better car than that of the Force India?
The answer, to us, is the latter. As the majority would agree, with good reason, but that’s another storyfor another day.
This weekend, however, The Hulk is well positioned to claim his first podium. He’s in the bosom of a team that have always performed well in Bahrain. Who can forget Paul Di Resta’s drive to fourth in 2013? Sixth in the 2012 event wasn’t too shabby either, but can the Mercedes-powered Force India team, and the talents of their man Hulkenberg, break the podium that has thus far eluded them both?
Worth a punt, we’d say.