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?


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. Marco Aurélio said on 21st April 2009, 22:40

    Diffusers are made to fly not to swim.
    This diffusers doesn’t work with water, but wind.

  2. About the Red Bull vs. Toro Rosso argument, the cars were not the same in Melbourne. I read somewhere that Toro Rosso brought in some updates (for China) to make it closer to the Newey car. “Closer”, not “identical”, was quoted in the article.

    If we add the different engine/setup argument and different driver experience/skill levels, the performance gap is not surprising at all. In fact Buemi did quite well in China, so maybe a hint that, aero-wise, the cars are much closer now (in addition to Buemi getting more experienced race after race ;).

  3. FLIG said on 22nd April 2009, 1:26

    Ferrari and McLaren are done. Forget about them. Just as Massa and Kimi and I’d even risk saying Hamilton and Alonso are done too, if luck doesn’t come their way.
    (I heard an italian speaker say, during the Shangai GP, that Vettel is ready to drive for a big team. That he will soon be going to Ferrari. Why the hell would he leave the 1-2 winning Red Bull to go to a team that scored 0 points in 3 races?)

  4. m0tion said on 22nd April 2009, 4:04

    Barrichello is overdue as well, if his brakes don’t work at 100 he doesn’t perform, and this is longstanding with him. You have to give it to Button though in that he is much improved this year.

    Trulli and both Ferrari guys are going to be on a mission and their car is not hugely changed yet from when they tested at Bahrain.

    One thing I am noting is just how tough the Toyota and Brawn front wings are. They are built like bullbars and Glock in particluar knows how to use one doesn’t he?

    I think too that Webber is still faster over a lap than Vettel by a shade. Vettel was quoted as saying his new tub post the Melbourne crash was faster than his old one and that may not be just a jibe or related to the bolt on bits for Shanghai. Coming from behind in Shanghai Webber was also pushing purples and while Vettel matched & shaded him his tyres didn’t have to scrap their way into his race position at that point. Mark just has to watch his particular choice of puddles at times and rebuild confidence. It is so much easier being the young guy with early success on success than a guy who has done it tough for years not getting the laurels for lack of vehicle opportunity.

  5. Arun Srini said on 22nd April 2009, 7:28

    Someone teach Mr. Nico how to manage tires during races, that would make him win more. He is a great driver and has a much better car to fight the frontrunners than he has ever had. Like Nick had problems warming his tyres last year, this young genius is having this little problem. Move over McLaran and Renault, Ferrari. The new kids on the block are awesome.
    Four way fight I would like to see : Brawn, RBR, Toyota, Williams.

  6. CJD said on 22nd April 2009, 9:52

    Brawn tyre performance is interesting. If the car does not heat its tyre easily this could be due to
    1. low mechanical grip
    2. low braking force
    3. unagressive down force

    We have not seen any evidence of 1 or 2 so it would appear that the Brawn may have sufficient down force for the job and arguably has such good mechanical grip that downforce is not being piled on to make up for any lack in that direction. We should expect less drag and higher speed on the straight than any car of comparable cornering power though cars with less ability and slower lap times may appear to be faster because their setup has been distorted.
    We need an aero dynamacist, any volunteers?

  7. I think the season so far is unusual and you cannot predict the best team out there.Rain brings strange podium winners (Luck). Lets get a few dry races under out belts and then see who shines.

    All the teams know what there doing out there,they are the professionals with huge teams of designers.

    Lets all sit back in our armchairs and watch a few dry races.

  8. StrFerrari4Ever said on 22nd April 2009, 16:15

    Okay lets get one thing straight Toro Rosso arent slower than RBR it’s just they received their car later so they had limited testing time.
    Which meant they didn’t do as much setup work as RBR so these first few races are just understanding the car more and getting more data.
    It will take a couple of races more before we see the true potential of the STR4 i can understand people also saying the driver ability comes into play aswell but Buemi is a rookie so his still learning and is doing great.
    But hopefully they can win a race like last year and finish higher up in the constructors championship (i hope Buemi wins some races and challenges Vettel to become youngest drivers champion ever :D)Very hopeful but anythings possible & Bourdais cut the Bull yeah you cant take being beaten by a younger teammate (like last year) just leave F1 i backed Sato for the seat his a faster driver IMO

  9. Simon said on 22nd April 2009, 16:35

    This year was always going to set the cat amongst the pidgeons with all the new changes and more impotantly the testing ban. Yes, at the moment it looks like it will be a Brawn (Honda)dominated year with Red Bull and Toyota in hot pursuit. But to quote the great Murray Walker. “Anything can happen in Formula One, and it usually does” Button to win in Bahrain. One Ferrari in the points and another retirement for Nelson Piquet. Fastest lap for Nico Rosberg. Barrichello on pole.

  10. Raceaddict (@raceaddict) said on 23rd April 2009, 0:37

    My guess is that the Button car has the A_team personnel at Brawn. And Vettel could have them on the Red Bull team. I say that because I think a team has a motivation to put it’s best resources with a May instead of September driver, all other things being equal.

    Also, I think Toyota will be right up there with their 2nd generation DD (which is now a TD). At Red Bull they will have to be content to hot-rod their existing diffuser until later in the season. I don’t know if Brawn are messing with success.

    So who will prevail? I think I’m going 1st) Toyota/Trulli 2nd) Red Bull/Vettel and 3) Button/Brawn (not my final sweepstakes guess however, wanna see some practice sesions first! ;-)

  11. Brawn4Constructors said on 23rd April 2009, 4:09

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is that Button had a HUGE chance to win the Chinese Gran Prix.

    There was a Safety Car mid race that absolutely screwed him. His fuel strategy was working right and if he could have maintained pace and gotten the proper IN and OUT Lap…he might very well have stayed in front of Vettel.

    I’m surprised no one has talked about this and the British Press did not run the headline: “Safety Car Dashes Button Hopes in Shanghai.”

    Am I right about this or was I bleary-eyed at 5am NY time??

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