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)

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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’.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Chalky said on 21st April 2009, 15:52

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

    1. Piquet

    2. Nakajima

    3. Bourdais

    How long will Bourdais last with Buemi doing so well? I thought Bourdais, with a season under his belt and now on slick tyres would be better. I guess I was wrong.

    • Patrickl said on 21st April 2009, 15:59

      In the Q&A published today Bourdais complains that he’s unhappy with an oversteering car. So these regulations would not be in his favor. Although he’s hoping the new rear will give him more rear downforce and thus better balance.

      I’m not holding my breath though. It’s really starting to look like this is the last season of Bourdais in F1.

    • Gman said on 21st April 2009, 20:42

      Could be right- it’s still early but I am also expecting more from him. Buemi has been a great surprise, but Bourdais needs to at least keep pace with him, or else Red Bull will put one of those many young drivers of theirs in the seat.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st April 2009, 23:14

      Patrickl – Didn’t he say something similar about last year’s car not suiting his style? I might’ve bought it once, but…

    • Patrickl said on 22nd April 2009, 0:13

      Yeah, I do remember Bourdais using the “this car doesn’t suit my style” card last year too. I don’t think it’s allowed to do that twice in a row …

      Still utterly amazing how such a great champion (F3000 and 4 times successive IndyCar/Champcar) cannot succeed in F1.

      Maybe F1 just doesn’t suit his style altogether. IIRC Zanardi had the same problem and maybe Andretti too.

  7. Damon said on 21st April 2009, 15:52

    I’ve got a serious question:

    Why aren’t the Torro Rossos as fast as the Red Bulls???
    Both cars were designed by Newey, they look exactly the same. Did Newey make sure they only look fast but are not able to compete with those of the team he works for?

    • Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 21st April 2009, 16:11

      You’re forgetting the engine. The engine plays a part not just in the power it provides, but its weight and how it fits in the car.

      The RBR chassis is optimized for the Renault engine, which is why Ferrari-powered STR is a bit behind in this regard. It was only Vettel’s ability that masked this last season.

    • Patrickl said on 21st April 2009, 17:17

      Or maybe Bourdais’ lack of ability is what was making the STR look bad? Buemi is doing fine with this years STR. If he hadn’t knocked his front wing on Vettel, he would have been nicely in the points.

      Still even Buemi is not getting close to the “mother” cars.

      Could be that they lack the facilities to get the best out of the car. Look at A1GP where all teams basically get the same car, but a few companies prepare the car a lot better than others. France dominated the first two seasons and then their tech team went to support Germany, New Zealand and Zwitserland. Then all of a sudden those 3 teams started winning races.

  8. Accidentalmick said on 21st April 2009, 16:09

    @Damon
    Newey would not intentionaly design a flawed car (neither would anyone else at this level).

    Don’t forget they are using different engines (see previous posts about Ferrari engines).

  9. Rick DeNatale said on 21st April 2009, 16:12

    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.

    Was that Bridgestone’s decision? I thought that it was required by the 2009 rules.

    Brawn vs. Red Bull? maybe it’s really (Ross) Brawn vs Ferrari. I was interested to see the Niki Lauda has opined that the real problem at Ferrari is the loss of Ross Brawn as technical director. Niki suggests that Ferrari’s successes during the Shumacher era were largely due to a combination of Brawn’s technical abilities and his ability to act as an intermediary between the Ferrari “spaghetti culture” and Michael’s germanic nature. As an Austrian who had a great deal of success driving for Ferrari, I suspect Herr Lauda has some real insight there.

    Then again maybe it’s just that I became an F1 fan during the Lauda/Hunt/Fittipaldi/Andretti era.

  10. Nayanesh said on 21st April 2009, 16:55

    I tip Barrichello to win this one.No doubt Brawn GP would be strong in dry conditions.Red Bull could be there challenging……….How i’d love to see Webber win!Ferrari will struggle yet again

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

    Haha, no. Or only if Sutil gets a drive at Renault in return. Piquet should not be in F1.

    • patrickl said on 22nd April 2009, 11:45

      I don’t think Sutil is any better than Piquet though.

      Sutil crashes about as often as Piquet does and I wouldn’t be surprised if a big part of the poor performance of that FI can be attributed to the drivers. Imagine two Bourdais’s in the STR or two Nakajima’s in the Williams. Those cars would look a whole lot worse too, if both drivers were not quite up to spec.

      Don’t forget, when Hamilton and Sutil were in the same F3 team, Sutil was destroyed by Hamilton. The battle between Hamilton and Piquet in GP2 was a lot closer.

  12. Oliver said on 21st April 2009, 17:47

    Torro Rosso didn’t do much testing as they got the car late. Aerodynamically, there isn’t much difference btwween the RBR and the STR.

    Barichello suffered from a brake balance problem. Apparently one of his brakes wasn’t working so the car had a tendency to yaw under braking.

    Currently, the Ferrari is faster than the Mclaren. Ferrari is just failing on strategy and reliability.

    With the teams not getting any in season testing, they will sure welcome a few dry races. Its easier to estimate the true pecking order when the circuit is dry.

    Brawn and RBR are now in contention for wins. Toyota may already be on the decline, as for williams, I’m yet to understand how they’ve missed so many opportunities.

  13. Oliver said on 21st April 2009, 17:49

    I’m just beginning to wonder if STR shouldn’t have gone for Sato in the other car. Bourdais is looking like he’ll struggle all season.

  14. The Red Bull v Toro Rosso argument posted earlier covers most of the points about the cars but surely the drivers make the difference. Exchange that promising newcomer Buemi for Vettel , my money would still be on Vettel. Lets not take that argument too far. Mark is a great supporting act and may get a win one day. Bourdais has had every chance to prove himself and came up short. Piquet is out of his depth at Renault too.

    Ferrari are in a peculiar place. We warmed to Domencali and Felipe in the last two years, it seemed to be a more Italian team, but their lawyer’s comments about Ross Brawn are taking them back to being the “nasty squad”. I hope Italian fans can convey to them that we do not want them back there.

    • trocadero said on 21st April 2009, 20:56

      @CJD

      You say Piquet is out of his depth at Renault. I think Jenson Button struggled at Benenton/Renault under Flavio Briatore and, now all Flav can do is say Button is a tallentless “concrete post!”

      | predict Ross Brawn and Jenson Buitton will evolve and get close to emulating the Brawn/Schumacher partnerships at Benneton and Ferarri.

  15. Gman said on 21st April 2009, 20:45

    I would expect Brawn to be strong this weekend, but also don’t forget that Vettel drove very, very well in Melbourne before the crash with Kubica. I think Red Bull will be right at the top of the grid again this weekend- my questions revolve with the other clubs that are a bit behind the curve- McLaren, Ferrari, Etc..

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