Expect a Brawn resurgence at Bahrain (Bahrain Grand Prix preview)

They were stunning in the wet but can Red Bull challenge Brawn in a dry race?

They were stunning in the wet but can Red Bull challenge Brawn in a dry race?

Four races in five weeks ?ǣ the 2009 F1 season is off to a hectic start.

Bahrain is the last of the opening series of ??flyaway? races and, after two rain-affected Grands Prix, we?re likely to see a much more normal race at the desert circuit.

Can Red Bull repeat their form from Shanghai in the dry? And can Ferrari finally get their season started?

Brawn vs Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel might have been 40 seconds ahead of Jenson Button at the end of the Chinese Grand Prix, but in dry conditions this weekend Brawn will surely be the team to beat once again.

Last Saturday they were only out-qualified by three cars running with substantially less fuel. The BGP001s hadn?t seen a drop of rain until the Sepang deluge, so it?s not a surprise they lacked the edge in wet weather that they have in the dry.

However the race also pointed to another potential weakness in the team?s armour ?ǣ or, at least, Button?s ?ǣ tyre temperature. Button complained about the difficulty of getting heat into his tyres at Shanghai and also struggled with it at Melbourne.

Bahrain, of course, is one venue where you can pretty much rely on it being hot and dry ?ǣ more good news for Brawn there.

With the diffuser rules now ??clarified? Brawn have to make hay while the sun shines ?ǣ some teams have already brought revised rear undertrays (McLaren, Renault) and others are readying them for the Spanish Grand Prix (Ferrari).

Red Bull achieved their maiden one-two without superstar designer Adrian Newey present in Shanghai. He had been left in Milton Keynes, beavering away on a revised rear end design to. How much quicker will the RB5 be once he?s done?

Teams abandon KERS

One of the surprises of China was how few drivers use KERS: Renault and Ferrari ditched it, and Robert Kubica discarded the device after running it in testing. Only Lewis Hamilton, Heikki Kovalainen and Nick Heidfeld used it during the race.

The trade-off for the six-second 80bhp boost it provides is less than optimal weight distribution, which makes tyre management especially difficult. Therefore Bridgestone?s decision to bring a greater variation in tyre performance this year may be inadvertently making teams less keen to use KERS.

The other downside to KERS is greater instability under braking ?ǣ and Bahrain is one of the most punishing tracks for the brakes. How many teams will accept these performance penalties in order to gain those useful extra power boosts down Bahrain?s many straights?

Tyres

The teams will be using the super-soft tyre again this weekend, as at Shanghai where several drivers had grave concerns over its performance throughout a stint.

We may see a repeat of drivers running ultra-light first stints in a bid to get the super-soft tyre out of the way as the Red Bulls and Fernando Alonso planned to on Sunday, before the rain intervened.

Drivers to keep an eye on

Felipe Massa – Drove an excellent race in China until his car let him down. Wants KERS back for Bahrain, a track where the team tested during the winter. Due a result.

Fernando Alonso – Second on the grid in China was largely fuel-assisted but was also aided by Renault?s diffuser tweaks. We?ll find out how quick they really are this weekend.

Nico Rosberg – Strong in practice but not delivering in the races. Needs to re-capture the form of his swashbuckling debut here in 2006.

Timo Glock – Has picked up ten points so far despite starting from the pits in the first race and breaking his front wing in the past two.

More on the Bahrain Grand Prix

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65 comments on Expect a Brawn resurgence at Bahrain (Bahrain Grand Prix preview)

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  1. Achilles said on 21st April 2009, 7:24

    As the super softs were not used in Shanghai, do we know if the heat will make their longevity worse or will it be down to the abrasive nature of the track, and the ability of the car to maximise it’s tyres.

  2. rahim said on 21st April 2009, 7:31

    i feel kimi will be strong too…..he was good in the tests as he posted the fastest time of the tests of this track

  3. Dane said on 21st April 2009, 7:34

    RBR is going to smash the competition :)

  4. Rahzam said on 21st April 2009, 8:15

    Good to see competition between two designers (RBR and Brawn GP) instead of big budget teams like Ferrari and Mclaren. I think Ferrari time is over with departure of Shumi,Brawn,Toed.

    RBR has two superb drivers and they managed to get 1,2 but I think Brawn will be strong again in dry.
    Kimi is strong in dry so I will also count him in “keep eye on”

    • Striay said on 21st April 2009, 8:58

      I agree with the keep an eye on Kimi part there Rahzam! :)

    • Patrickl said on 21st April 2009, 9:42

      I’d say, add Hamilton to that list too. He’s been good in every race so far and he was faster in Q2 than Alonso.

      I doubt Alonso, Raikkonen and Hamilton can match the Brawns or the Red Bulls, but it would be nice if these 3 WDCs could duke it out amongst each other for 5th or 4th.

      BTW Odd that people mention Alonso’s great improvement in the Renault while Hamilton made an even bigger improvement in the update McLaren. Just goes to show that Alonso’s PR stunt in Q3 really did work as intended.

    • Ilanin said on 21st April 2009, 10:24

      Ross Brawn versus Adrian Newey isn’t exactly a new competition. Brawn and Newey cars have won something like thirteen world titles since 1992.

    • @Patrickl

      Your attention to detail leaves me baffled mate. If Sir Jackie is warning Brawn against hiring Hamilton instead of Rubens, i think i’d listen to it. He spoke of hamilton’s inexperience in that department. While i’ll agree that Hamilton can drive a fast car fast. I have doubts whether he can make a fast car go faster. Alonso also won 2 races last year with car in such horrid shape as it was. McLaren aren’t doing as bad as renault were doing with their car last year. McLaren’s rock bottom in this decade was in the year ’04.

    • Patrickl said on 21st April 2009, 21:57

      Sri,

      Facts are facts:
      – Hamilton has performed a lot better with his underperforming McLaren than Alonso has in his slightly better Renault
      – McLaren has improved their car more than Renault (obviously since Hamilton was now faster than Alonso in Q2 where before he was slower)

  5. Mussolini's Pet Cat said on 21st April 2009, 8:44

    With the diffuser nonsense behind us, and the other teams now starting to bring their versions along, i think this season is really going to hot up.

  6. Toyota should be strong as they tested here in winter time. They might be well and truly the team to beat to race win or podium. I expect a Brawn vs. Toyota clash in the race with Ferrari and BMW also strong, who also tested here.

  7. CJD said on 21st April 2009, 9:01

    Is Kimi getting close to a “great on the right day if the car is right etc” driver? Felipe has my vote for Ferrari team leader but perhaps Bahrein will be the right track for Kimi. Exciting, can’t wait, away from home then in zone of no mobile broadband. Envy you all

    • Patrickl said on 21st April 2009, 9:47

      Bahrein is one of the four “Massa” tracks (along with Turkey, Europe and Brazil). I doubt Kimi is going to beat him there.

    • Chris Y said on 21st April 2009, 12:33

      All drivers are great on the right day if the car is right ;) The question is, what happens on the other days?

  8. Erico said on 21st April 2009, 9:06

    I think Hamilton will be the man to watch in Bahrain.

  9. BRAWN GP 1-3 WITH TOYOTA and RED BULL completing the top 6…………Looks sunny all weekend around…..Tire temperature would not pose a problem ………..

  10. To Erico. Mclaren will be strong but not that strong.
    I count on brawn, red bull and maybe ferrari.

  11. PJA said on 21st April 2009, 9:55

    If it is a normal regular race I think the Brawns will be the car to beat again, followed by the Toyotas and the Red Bulls and hopefully Williams will have a good race.

    After there were sandstorms at Bahrain when some teams did pre season testing does anyone know if sandstorms in this part of the world are seasonal or if there is an equal chance of them happening at any time of the year.

    I seem to recall Button has had problems heating his tyres in the past, I think it was the 2006 Australian Grand Prix which had a few safety car periods. Button started on pole but if I remember correctly he kept losing places after the restarts because his tyres were too cold. Button is noted for having a smooth driving style so while this won’t damage the tyres as much as others it won’t generate the heat either.

  12. mkh1 said on 21st April 2009, 10:40

    I’ll laugh so much if it rains just like it did in that moto GP race in Qatar (it proberly won’t happen but we can all dream).

  13. I think we need a few dry GPs, especially some of the European ones. Too much rain and we won’t be able to see the real performance of some teams. Look back to the last couple of years where every race had a different car at the top. This year, it’s really been just Brawn and some competition from RBR. Would love to see Ferrari, McLaren, BMW and perhaps Renault fighting for the points. Would make for an awesome season!

  14. Giuseppe said on 21st April 2009, 11:55

    You should also add a “Drivers not to keep an eye on”

    1. Piquet

    2. Nakajima

    3. Bourdais

  15. kurtosis said on 21st April 2009, 12:21

    I predict Ferrari will once again fail to score points in Bahrain.

    It’s beginning to look like a lot of folks are in denial – it’s pretty clear that they are not in the top 4 teams. Red Bull, BrawnGP, Toyota, McLaren, and probably Williams all have better cars at the moment. That’s 10 cars right there. Ending the race in the top 8 with 10 clearly better cars on the grid is asking for too much from the drivers. (And this is not even counting Alonso and possibly Kubica).

    They just don’t have a top 8 car. It’s that simple. So no points.

    Their only chance of points is to go radical with their strategy and hope for attrition, safety car, etc.

    Maybe it’ll be a different story come Spain and new aero updates for the F60.

    • Kutigz said on 21st April 2009, 12:31

      Maybe Kurtosis…just maybe! I kind of have this innate feeling that Ferrari will bounce back pretty sooner that we all expect. I feel with their drastic mgt changes..we’re bound to see some massive improvements in their performance.
      The top achelons in Ferrari cannot just sit amid a ‘No-Pointer’ three races straight!! I see a surprise in Bahrain…it it might just be a ‘RED’ surprise Kurtosis!

  16. MartLee said on 21st April 2009, 12:26

    One of the things I enjoy most about this board is that it’s insightful, funny and (mostly) pretty friendly.

    It speaks volumes that on the very rare occasion someone adds those kind of comments, everyone ignores it. Nice.

  17. Sven said on 21st April 2009, 12:35

    It is true Piquet has not shown so far in GP racing but still he did very well in GP2 often beating Hamilton.
    Cant help but having the impression that Renault is not a good place for him. He makes the impression of a talented and sensitive person. Perhaps a new team with a good car would allow him to make a fresh start. What about Williams?

    • Patrickl said on 21st April 2009, 13:04

      That’s not an entirely fair comparison. Hamilton was a rookie in GP2 while Piquet was in his second year. Hamilton was champion in his rookie year. Piquet came 6th in his rookie year.

      Rosberg was champ in 2005 when Piquet was 6th. So by your analogy it doesn’t make much sense to put Piquet in the William?

      I’d say Piquet would be a good fit for a Force India, but not much more than that. Maybe a Torro Rosso.

  18. kurtosis said on 21st April 2009, 13:07

    @ Kutigz,

    Well, one can always hope.

    But you illustrate my point about denial very well. The F60 is technically deficient compared to its competitors on the grid. At the moment it is not a top 8 car. No amount of management fretting or shake-ups, commenting about driver motivation, leadership, or Ferrari’s history will change the fact that it is a broad-based technical deficiency in the F60.

    And the technical problems cannot be fixed overnight, and especially not between flyaway races. So status quo for Ferrari at Bahrain.

    Spain will be interesting, though I wouldn’t keep my hopes up.

    The technical problems include a lack of downforce, an inability to sit well without KERS (since it was designed around it), KERS reliability, and general reliability issues with the engine.

    • Kutigz said on 21st April 2009, 16:21

      Quite right Kutosis…ur arguments cannot be denied – ‘cos the F60 it is as it is – an unreliable bolt!
      But…and this where i’m basing my feeling…there was an improvement in their performance in Shangai..check the data stats (both in qualifying & race day)…and remember that’s in the wet. I still think they might pull a surprise one Kurtosis. And remember…’MIGHT’.

  19. Eddie Irvine said on 21st April 2009, 14:16

    OK Vettel is a great driver but what about Webber, he recovered from a broken leg and he managed to finished 2nd in his 3rd grand prix after that. Also it was very easy to see that in Shangai Red Bull team clearly support Vettel, in the first series of pit stops they put Webber in first while he was heavier than Vettel, something that made him fight with button for many laps costing him very important seconds.
    Webber did the most thrilling overtaking move in this GP
    Barrichelo did the fastest lap and
    Hamilton had the most eventful race

    After all it wasn’t an all-Vettel grand prix

    oh…almost forgot…BIG congratulations to the most talented Formula 1 designer…Well done Andrian Newey!

    In conclusion my prediction is that Brawn will be on top again with Webber closely behind and maybe McLaren^ gain some more tenths. I hope a better result will finally come for Williams.

    • Dougie said on 21st April 2009, 16:52

      I don’t think RBR are favouring Vettel… just yet… if Webber doesn’t start beating him they may well do though.

      The thing about the pit stops and who came in first was well documented on the BBC post race analysis article… Vettel was due to pit a lap earlier than Webber, but due to better fuel management in the first stint Vettel gained another lap on his fuel, and therefore they were both coming in on the same lap… in that situation the driver in the lead has the advantage, and Webber was brought in a lap early.

      I firmly believe that had Webber not had to fight and get past Button for those laps, he would have been right up with Vettel (maybe not enough to challenge for the win, but a significant amount closer at the end)… in effect, showing the same pace and ability in the conditions.

      My money is on Webber taking at least one win this year.

    • Dougie said on 21st April 2009, 16:57

      I guess re-reading my post, it could be argued that had Vettel came in first rather than Webber, then Webber would have taken the win and the whole race was decided at that point.

      All the signs are that Vettel & Webber are equal in my eyes.

    • Gman said on 21st April 2009, 20:41

      Indeed Webber did drive a great race, and I very much hope he ends up on top of the podium at least once this season. But the guy I would be talking about is Heikki- from what I could see he drove a better race than Lewis last week.

  20. Jonatas said on 21st April 2009, 15:00

    After the race Barrichello complained of brake problems and said that he often had to decelerate much earlier in the straights, which led to him being passed by Button. Something with the right-rear brake not working properly.

    It’s probably due to the limited testing Brawn GP had that they’re seeing these little kinks with the car that would have otherwise been taken care of in the testing phase.

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