2010 Bahrain Grand Prix preview

Ferrari's long-run pace marks them out as candidates for victory

Ferrari's long-run pace marks them out as candidates for victory

The off-season finally draws to a close and the teams have assembled at Bahrain for the first round of 2010.

After little to no testing the 12 teams have to tackle one of the most punishing tracks on the calendar in the first race of the year.

With Michael Schumacher returning, exciting new driver pairings at McLaren and Ferrari, new teams and more this is one of the most highly anticipated Grand Prix seasons I can remember. Who will start the year with a victory?

Practice clues to form

Pre-season testing has been even more difficult to read than usual now that the cars can have much greater differences in fuel loads.

That will also make practice tricky to suss but with 24 cars all on-track at roughly the same time we should have a much better idea of form by Friday evening.

Many teams will be running their latest aerodynamic upgrades for the first time, including Ferrari and Mercedes. McLaren already ran theirs at the last test session at Barcelona and are only bringing minor developments to Bahrain.

McLaren will also learn whether the stewards approve of their design of rear wing, which has been challenged by Red Bull among others. They have brought alternate parts if it is deemed illegal.

We also expect to see the first appearance of the HRT cars in practice, with Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok at the wheel.

High temperatures and high brake wear are the two greatest demands at Bahrain. Although we have already seen the teams testing their cooling solutions they haven’t been able to simulate the consistently hot 30C-plus temperatures forecast for this weekend.

Changes to the track

Bahrain International Circuit track map (Click to enlarge)

Bahrain International Circuit track map (Click to enlarge)

For the seventh running of the Bahrain Grand Prix the race will be held on the longest of the track’s configurations, which is now called the ‘new Grand Prix circuit’.

At a whisker under 6.3km this is the second-longest track on the calendar. Only Spa-Francorchamps is longer, but the two circuits couldn’t be more different. The new section at Bahrain adds even more slow corners to a track which had a lot of tight bends to begin with.

The extra section itself isn’t new, but it isn’t used much, so the teams will find it has even less grip than the rest of the circuit. It’s also quite narrow – as little as 11m in places whereas parts of the original track are 16m wide.

This all adds up to a section which is not likely to produce much overtaking but could provoke errors from drivers. Locked wheels and flat-spotted tyres could prove especially costly in the new refuelling-free era so drivers will have to exercise caution in the curved braking zones.

Drivers to watch

You could pick any of them, really, but here’s the four I’ll have my eye on the most:

Michael Schumacher – Obvious, really. Mercedes aren’t far off the pace and their upgrade could bridge the gap. Can he win on his return to F1?

Fernando Alonso – Finally back in a top team but the balance of power between him and Felipe Massa will be crucial.

Jenson Button – The other driver who’s made a big off-season move. We’ll get our first glimpse of how the two most recent world champions compare head-to-head in identical cars.

Bruno Senna – Both Senna and Karun Chandhok face daunting challenges in getting the HRT up and running. Will the car run? How far off the pace will it be?

Remember to join us for the F1 Fanatic live blogs during every session of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Keep an eye out for the live blogs on the site during the free practice periods, qualifying and of course the race itself.

Predict the pole sitter and top five finishers in the Bahrain Grand Prix for your chance to win F1 tickets, DVDs, books and more

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64 comments on 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix preview

  1. samakafuzzy said on 11th March 2010, 1:03

    Wow, looking at the racing line for the new section has made me decide that this will be one of the worst Opening rounds of Formula 1 ever! I just hope that it is then dropped and the old circuit is re-instated.

    • Bayan said on 11th March 2010, 1:30

      Why? It looks challenging.

      • Fer no.65 said on 11th March 2010, 2:04

        as challenging as Valencia… :P

        and still doesn’t guarrantee a good race :P

        I think we’ll all enjoy it anyway :D

    • MigueLP said on 11th March 2010, 4:01

      everyone is hoping some from bruno but hes a disgrace to sennas name he really only knows how to crash le manns cars

      • Adrian said on 11th March 2010, 5:29

        So that’s why Ross Brawn very nearly put him in a Honda last year…

      • maciek said on 11th March 2010, 8:06

        relax….

      • BasCB said on 11th March 2010, 9:52

        I don’t think, he is that bad. Only the name makes him have to live up to quit a level!

        His largest problem will be to get the car through the training and qualifying in one piece. If they make it to the start, then hold on for as many laps as it goes, trying not to be to much in anybodies way.

      • Mark Hitchcock said on 11th March 2010, 14:28

        I dunno about everyone else but while I think Bruno is good, I’m not expecting anything from him this year.
        He’s in what will probably be the worst car on the grid by miles, in which a race finish will be as good as a victory.

  2. ILoveVettel said on 11th March 2010, 1:21

    I can not wait for it…
    Bring it on !!!!

  3. Florida Mike said on 11th March 2010, 1:24

    Looks as “busy” as Hungary; not my favorite speed. Hoping for a clean race with few DNFs or penalties. I’m most interested in seeing the relative performance of the teammates; the rivalries this year are the big story for me.

  4. wasiF1 said on 11th March 2010, 1:38

    Is it true that the 2010 F1 season starts tomorrow?

    Driver to watch
    Kamui Kobayashi-can he show his pace again as he did in the last two races in 09?

    • macahan said on 11th March 2010, 1:55

      lol yes it really is true… can you believe it? A loong boring 3 months is FINALLY over.. Turn up the volume!!!! The race is about to start!!

  5. Cacarella a vento said on 11th March 2010, 1:59

    I have set up two PVR’s just to make sure that
    I don’t miss the practice sessions! I think Massa will also be one to watch as he’ll have a few things to prove to his team, fans, and management. He Always runs well at Bahrain.

  6. manatcna said on 11th March 2010, 3:43

    So, what channel can you record?

  7. explosiva said on 11th March 2010, 4:04

    OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG I CAN’T WAIT!!!!!!

  8. Prisoner Monkeys said on 11th March 2010, 4:36

    I’ve been looking forward to this race for along time. For a while now I’ve felt Formula 1 has been lacking something, and that that something was a grid that was too small. I’m disappointed that USF1 can’t make it a full twenty-six cars and that Stefan won’t be standing in for them, but twenty-four is more than we had last year, so I’m not feeling short-changed.

    Of all the races in the calendar, I’d say it’s the first round that is most likely to produce a surprise result (that and Hungary, which has the distnction of producing seven different winners in seven years). Nobody really knows where they ar relative to everybody else, and an extended off-season usually makes the juices flow. Add to that the fact that Bahrain is almost always hot and that there’s a new section of track and we could be in for a race of attrition.

    I’m really hoping the new section can produce some fun and games. Bahrain might have had a high number of slow crners to begin with, but the new section adds a high frequencey of corners. In fact, if you look at it, there’s ten corners in the space of a kilometre – the next most-frequent occurance of bends is just five over the same distance. The frequent changes in direction should have some influence on setup, because the new section really breaks up the rhythm of the old circuit.

    In the same vein, I’m very curious about turn nine. It looks like it’s about to become as important as turns seventeen and eighteen (already one of the most difficult corner complexes in the championship) when it comes to nailing a good lap. A mistake as early as turn six is going to have huge consequences through seven, eight and nine. But the reason I’m most interested in nine is the apex: in almost every video I’ve seen, the drivers are putting the inner wheels on the sand. Graned, most of these have been rFactor laps where the sequence is not prperly rendered, but Webber came exceptionally close to doing it in the Red Bull walkthrough. I think it’s because of the combination of the corner’s camber and a low ripple strip. We could be seeing a lot of cars – particularly in the early sessions – picking up sand and dragging it onto the circuit at the corner’s exit. Even if the sand is sprayed with adhesive, that will only cause problems with it sticking to tyres.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 11th March 2010, 8:00

      Even if the sand is sprayed with adhesive

      According to preview information issued by the circuit, it isn’t:

      Despite rumours, sand around the BIC has never been glued to stop it blowing onto the track.

      • Prisoner Monkeys said on 11th March 2010, 9:43

        Well then, that will create an interesting situation. Especially if thecars ar cutting through urn nine; they’ll be dragging sand onto the racing line.

    • maciek said on 11th March 2010, 8:15

      Nice take on the new section. To me, turn 7 looks like it could produce some interesting moments.

      • Joe Chick said on 11th March 2010, 9:48

        Your Hungary observation only holds true if you ignore the 2009 result in which Lewis repeated his 2007 victory ;-) Still, it’s a good spot that one. I hadn’t realised how varied Hungary is compared to other tracks.

  9. Enigma said on 11th March 2010, 5:54

    The new section will be boring I guess, but it will change the setups of the drivers the way that it will be easier to overtake!

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 11th March 2010, 6:05

      I wouldn’t bet on it. Difficulty in overtaking has more to do with overly-sophisticated aerodynamics thansetup. If someone really bothces their setup, they’ll be passed very quickly at the beginning of the race.

      • Andrew White said on 11th March 2010, 8:11

        I think it’s more a case of setting your car up for top speed to aid overtaking, or for high downforce in the corners. If the cars take a mixture of setups and a car set up for overtaking comes up behind one that isn’t, then it will make a pass more likely.

        Brazil is another track where this happens.

  10. Ben Curly said on 11th March 2010, 6:31

    I wish all the best to Bruno Senna, but I think he is in the sport only because of his last name, not the skills. That’s not enough to really compete in Formula One. Remember Nelsinho Piquet? I think we will se something similar here.

    • I believe not. You see, even Ayrton Senna himself said that Bruno will be better than him (And I believe Ayrton is not lying about it). And since Ayrton’s death, Bruno haven’t race in an single seater for a long time (unlike Nelson Piquet jr I believe).

      But, amazingly he finished 2nd (if i remember correctly) in the 2008 Gp2 series without the experience of a single seater. So you can imagine how good/fast he can be if his career is not interrupted by his family.

      • Ben Curly said on 11th March 2010, 9:31

        When Ayrton died, Bruno was eleven years old. Ayrton was a great racing driver, but he wasn’t a fortune teller :)

        The thing with imagination is that you can imagine anyone to be insanely fast. We will see, and I really hope to be wrong on this one.

        • Joe Chick said on 11th March 2010, 10:12

          Although he had an unspectacular time of it in F1, Nelson Piquet Jnr didn’t get in just because of the name. He also got in because he came second in GP2 in 2006.

  11. IDR said on 11th March 2010, 6:56

    Today there will be the first conference press with Drivers.
    11 WDC in the conference room plus Felipinho. Looking forward to read what they say… I would like ro be there!

  12. I don’t know why people think we’ll have a boring race – as far as I recall a season opener in 2006 was quite good.

  13. Peter said on 11th March 2010, 7:43

    This season and specially this race we will see a lot more DNF’s than we are used to the last years.
    For the new teams it will be very hard to get to the finish. Alguersuari always had a trouble to get to the finish. On the other side we don’t have the DNF of Nakajima.

    Is it me or is the time slowing down? Still one more day to go for the free practice.

  14. spawinte said on 11th March 2010, 8:57

    FOM have rejigged the website it seems, my old username and pass for live timing don’t work now and you need to be regged and logged in even to look at their streaming vids from last year.

  15. ajokay said on 11th March 2010, 9:02

    Just knocked this up:

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v325/ajokay/bahrain_circuit_2010.jpg

    Surely this would be a better use of the additional track. It makes the new wiggle a lot faster, plus you get a parabolic final corner!

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