F1 makes contentious return to Bahrain

2013 Bahrain Grand Prix preview

Start, Bahrain, 2012The Bahrain Grand Prix has been a toxic subject for Formula One since the cancellation of the 2011 race in the wake of the government’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests which claimed the lives of dozens of Bahrainis.

Last year’s race went ahead amid a massive security operation. Despite this Force India team members were involved in a petrol bomb attack which led two of their members to leave the country and their cars to be withdrawn from the second practice session.

Bahrain has seen little improvement in the relations between the government and protesters in the 12 months since. In many respects the situation appears to be festering.

So far there has been been little to show from the resumption of talks between the government and the leaders of the opposition two months ago. It remains to be seen whether this is another ploy by the government to present an image of calm before the race, along with pre-emptively arresting protesters who live near the track. But the dialogue should be given its chance to bear fruit.

In the meantime F1 is taking a clear risk by allowing itself to be used for political ends and granting the government another propaganda coup. After the horror of Boston we do not have to search far back in our memories to be reminded about the potential for carnage were someone to make a target of a sporting event.

Bahrain Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

Bahrain circuit information

Lap length 5.412km (3.363 miles)
Distance 57 laps (308.2km/191.5 miles)
Lap record* 1’31.447 (Pedro de la Rosa, 2005)
Fastest lap 1’29.527 (Mark Webber, 2005)
Tyres Hard and Medium

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Bahrain track data in full

Sebastian Vettel won here last year and was on course to win the preceding race in 2010 before an exhaust problem forced him to drop back.

Having lobbied for more conservative tyres, Red Bull are unlikely to be disappointed by the news that Pirelli will bring the medium instead of the soft tyre this weekend. But Mark Webber’s weekend is already compromised by the three-place grid penalty he received following his tangle with Jean-Eric Vergne.

Ferrari

In previous years Ferrari have been less well-suited to Pirelli’s hardest tyres. But the aggressive generation of tyres being used this year means that may no longer be the case.

“As the conditions will be very different with much higher temperatures, we can expect this to affect the way the tyres perform,” said team principal Stefano Domenicali.

McLaren

Although the MP4-28 won’t see its major upgrade until the Spanish round, McLaren expect to build on the progress made at the previous races this weekend.

Lotus

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Bahrain, 2012Lotus were firmly in the hunt for victory in Bahrain last year with both drivers finishing on the podium. Kimi Raikkonen pressured Vettel for the win despite starting outside the top ten. That gave him the advantage of extra sets of fresh tyres to attack with.

Once again the team have a car that’s gentle on its tyres and they should go well on this track where traction and preserving the rear tyres is key.

Mercedes

Rear tyre degradation has been a notable weakness of recent Mercedes. This race weekend will be an important test of their car and will reveal much about how competitive they are this year.

“This should give us a good understanding of the car that we have to work with for the rest of the season,” said team principal Ross Brawn.

Sauber

Although the team were disappointed with their result in China, they are optimistic that they are now heading in the right direction with the C31. However Esteban Gutierrez carries a five-place grid penalty following his crash in the last race.

Force India

Paul di Resta, Fernando Alonso, Bahrain, 2012Paul di Resta had a strong drive in this race last year, bouncing back from the team’s pre-race disruptions to claim sixth place.

He believes the key to improving their performance at the moment is cutting out mistakes: “We need a clearer weekend; we don?t need things to go wrong, as they did in third practice in China.”

“It lost us a session, lost us a few hundredths, and that would have made the difference to put us out of position in qualifying to have an easier first lap. So that will be the plan – to be more consistent.”

Williams

Although the FW35 has not met the team’s expectations so far, they expect it to respond well to Bahrain’s combination of high brake wear, maximum strain on the rear axle and punishment temperatures.

“We feel that the current car, whilst not as competitive as we would like, will be more competitive in Bahrain because of these factors,” said technical director Mike Coughlan. “For engines it is a high power, high efficiency circuit that places a premium on straight line speed and the Renault engine should be robust at this sort of circuit.”

Toro Rosso

After scoring his best-ever finished in China, Daniel Ricciardo returns to the track where he achieved his best qualifying finish 12 months ago.

“I’m definitely coming in with some confidence after Shanghai,” he said. “Looking on paper I think we can fight for points again. We were quick here last year – or, at least, I did a quick lap on Saturday – so I think I’ve got a fair idea how to get around the track. Our strong points in China will serve us well here. We seemed to use the tyres quite well we weren’t too hard on them.”

Caterham

Heikki Kovalainen, Caterham, Bahrain, 2012In an effort to get on top of their current car Caterham are bringing former driver Heikki Kovalainen back to drive for them.

It may only be for practice, but it will inevitably raise speculation that he is set to replace one of their full-time drivers.

Marussia

Max Chilton said “it?s all starting to come together” for him after his third race start last weekend. However he lost a lot of running during practice with engine problems.

“I hope that we will have an easier time of it in Bahrain so I can make another positive start to the weekend and then have the opportunity to maintain that momentum,” he added.

2013 driver form

Driver G avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 3.67 2.67 1 4 3/3 Form guide
Mark Webber 9.67 4 2 6 2/3 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 3.67 1.5 1 2 2/3 Form guide
Felipe Massa 3.67 5 4 6 3/3 Form guide
Jenson Button 8.33 10.33 5 17 3/3 Form guide
Sergio Perez 12 10.33 9 11 3/3 Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen 6.33 3.33 1 7 3/3 Form guide
Romain Grosjean 8.33 8.33 6 10 3/3 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 5.33 4 4 4 1/3 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 2.67 3.67 3 5 3/3 Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg 11 9 8 10 2/2 Form guide
Esteban Gutierrez 16.33 12.5 12 13 2/3 Form guide
Paul di Resta 11.67 8 8 8 2/3 Form guide
Adrian Sutil 11 7 7 7 1/3 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 15.67 14 14 14 1/3 Form guide
Valtteri Bottas 16.67 12.67 11 14 3/3 Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne 15 11.33 10 12 3/3 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 11.33 12.5 7 18 2/3 Form guide
Charles Pic 20.67 15.33 14 16 3/3 Form guide
Giedo van der Garde 21.33 17 15 18 3/3 Form guide
Jules Bianchi 18.67 14.33 13 15 3/3 Form guide
Max Chilton 20 16.67 16 17 3/3 Form guide

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2013 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Images ?? Red Bull/Getty, Lotus/LAT, Force India. Caterham/LAT

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41 comments on F1 makes contentious return to Bahrain

  1. It’s interesting that Hamilton has a higher average grid position than Vettel: I know it is skewed from the fact Vettel didn’t run last race in Q3, but it does go to show both Hamilton’s qualifying ability and the one-lap pace of that Mercedes…

    • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 17th April 2013, 17:01

      @vettel1 well, up to this point Michael was just behind Hamilton in Avg Qualy last year. 4th at Melbourne, 3rd at Sepang, 3rd at China…

      • @fer-no65 – true, that stat can only become more meaningful with time.

        @craig-o I expect they’ll be better in Bahrain with regards to tyre degredation because if the last-minute change but indeed they seem brilliant over one lap but over a stint not so much. And thank you! Sticking with the Senna theme still ;)

        • craig-o (@craig-o) said on 17th April 2013, 17:34

          It works! I’m half-tempted to change mine now. That seems to be the same problem that Mercedes had last season, especially with Schumacher early on in the season. Seems to be a different problem every week with them at the moment…

          • @craig-o I particularly like that picture and it’s been my screensaver for some time so I thought I should just change it! It also has a slightly paraphrased quote of his saying “You are doing something that nobody else is able to do. The same moment that you are seen as the best, the fastest and somebody that cannot be touched, you are enormously fragile. Because in a split second, it’s gone.”

            It does appear that way that they haven’t been able to get a handle on their car the last few years: they’ll have degradation problems, which they will partially fix but just end up making the car slower! The car seems more promising in terms of consistency this time round though so perhaps they’ve gone a step in the right direction – we shall see! ;)

    • craig-o (@craig-o) said on 17th April 2013, 17:07

      @vettel1 Hamilton has always been a fantastic qualifier. Outqualifying Alonso a lot in 2007 and picking up a few poles in 2009 and 7 poles last season to Button’s 1. That Mercedes does seem quick in quali but shaky and fragile in the race though. Nice new picture btw!

      • Blackmamba (@blackmamba) said on 17th April 2013, 18:28

        I think Merc will mostly be there this season to throw the spanner in the works in a lot of the races, but ultimately fall short. One team being under-estimated a bit is the Lotus. That car is looking really, really good and I believe with a better start would have won the race. Not taking anything away from Alonso but in Qualifying for the first time that car showed that it has the best overall package, and if Kimi keeps qualifying right at the front he always brings the car home(20 races now), and this year he could be racking up big points all through the year while misfortune befall others.

  2. Roger2013 said on 17th April 2013, 16:54

    I know many hate Bahrain but I’ve always really liked this circuit.

    I was also never sure why it got the label of producing boring races with no overtaking?
    There has been some great races at Bahrain, 2004/2005/2006 were especially good, All produced lots of good racing & overtaking.
    I was also watching the 2007 race on sky last night & that was also a very good race.

    The only really dull races were 2009 & 2010 & 2010 was only dull because of the extended layout (which even killed the racing in GP2, Same cars/drivers had put on 2 fabulous races on the original layout 2 weeks earlier).

    We also have GP2 this weekend & they have always put on brilliant races on this layout so Im looking really forward to those races.

    • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 17th April 2013, 17:06

      There has been some great races at Bahrain, 2004/2005/2006 were especially good,

      ???? Were they? we hardly saw overtaking there ! Michael and Rubens cruised to the win in 2004, and the only interesting bit was Montoya failing letting Button get a podium. In 2005, Alonso was “pushed” by Michael in the new Fezza but his car failed and that was it. Job done for Fernando. And in 2006, appart from Massa nearly crashing into Alonso, the guys at Renault got him in the lead after the pits and that was it aswell.

      I can’t remember a particularly exciting race there. The track is particularly dirty everywhere, and the layout isn’t that interesting either, with many harpins and stuff like that.

      It’d not be missed, that’s for sure, if they dropped it from the calendar

      • Slr (@slr) said on 17th April 2013, 17:30

        I have to agree with Roger2013, the earlier Bahrain GPs were quite good in my opinion.

        • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 17th April 2013, 18:01

          @slr I guess if you watch them now you get that little “nostalgia” that makes everything good slightly better. But I still remember those races as very boring ones…

          • Blackmamba (@blackmamba) said on 17th April 2013, 18:41

            I guess for the purists it will serve to clarify the strengths or weaknesses of the title contenders especially on the rear tyres, and indeed who is contending. I think Malaysia flattered Red Bull with Alonso crashing out and Kimi stuck in traffic or they would not have won that race, or at least dictated it. Red Bull are supposed to be very good at Bahrain so after the weekend we will know weather they are truly the pacesetters as the bookkeepers say or if they have fallen behind Ferrari and Lotus.

          • Slr (@slr) said on 17th April 2013, 21:09

            I haven’t actually watched the earlier Bahrain races for a while, I just remember enjoying them quite a bit at the time.

      • Dizzy said on 17th April 2013, 19:26

        Were they? we hardly saw overtaking there !

        Thats actually a common mis-conception.

        Bahrain often featured a good level of overtaking, The overtaking stats were always above average or at least on-par with most the other circuits on the schedule.

        In 2006 for example there was 36 on-track overtakes which was well above what was normal at the time. Next best for overtaking that year was Istanbul with 27, Melbourne with 23 & Hockenheim with 20.

        Even looking at 2010, Most believe there was no overtaking & the entire race was a procession when in fact there was 21 on-track overtaking moves, 7th best track for overtaking that season on stats.

        Even dis-regarding overtaking for a moment, Watching the 2006/2007 races on sky last night there was some very good, close & competitive racing in the both throughout the field.
        There was a lot of side by side/wheel to wheel battles down the 1st 2 straights & some good braking battles into turns 1 & 4 & even thought not every instance resulted in an overtake it was still real exciting to watch because the potential for an overtake was there.

        • StefMeister (@stefmeister) said on 17th April 2013, 19:45

          I agree with Roger & Dizzy.
          I also watched the Sky re-runs of those 2 races last night (2008/2009 are on later) & thought both were great races, Much better than what the perception seems to be.

          Shame it only covers part the race as parts 2/3 are missing but heres an idea of what the 2006 race was like:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQmda9a1Wow

          And 2007:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sge7za2DzIo

          • Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 17th April 2013, 23:03

            Bahrain is one of the better circuits for overtaking. I don’t see how this could even be argued.

          • fangio85 (@fangio85) said on 18th April 2013, 0:03

            Agreed, some people want to complain so badly they re-imagine things in their heads. Bahrain has always had exciting racing. You can’t win with people like that though, the same people that used to complain that “f1 is boring and there’s no overtaking”, are now the people saying “its too easy to overtake with drs”

    • I agree apart from 2010 and the debacle of 2011 all Bahrain races were relatively great. Incredible is to think that some people can’t remember the double overtakes. I guess the 2010 and 2011 events really damaged the image of the Grand Prix and also some people may not like the GP because of the lack of success of their favourite teams or they just can’t stand the sand decor.

  3. andae23 (@andae23) said on 17th April 2013, 17:06

    De la Rosa holds a lap record? :O

    • craig-o (@craig-o) said on 17th April 2013, 17:08

      Apparently so! I always thought it was set in 2004 but then I remember there were minor changes to the circuit for 2005, so on the current layout he does, having raced for McLaren in 1 race in 2005 after Montoya broke his shoulder supposedly.

  4. svianna (@svianna) said on 17th April 2013, 17:11

    Eclestone’s greed is limitless, but you would think corporations directly and indirectly sponsoring F1, concerned with brand protection, would force a pull out from Bahrain. When you play in the lion’s den, you are just doing a very poor job of managing risks. When you bring the circus to an unstable country don’t complain if you have some unexpected events.

    • Joe Papp (@joepa) said on 18th April 2013, 4:16

      normal people the Western world over don’t care about disreputable agitators in Bahrain. As long as no one bombs the race like they just did in Boston at the marathon earlier this week, Joe 6-pack who watches F1 won’t give two hoots about “opposition protesters” being tossed in jail and tortured if necessary to ensure there are no petrol bombs getting chucked about on the streets outside of the circuit. And this is a good thing. The domestic political situation in Bahrain is the province of the Bahraini state and not something sanctimonious online social media do-gooders should be endorsing or encouraging coverage of at the expense of the focus on the sporting spectacle.

  5. foleyger (@foleyger) said on 17th April 2013, 17:35

    Track is awful boring. Tis the worst track on the calendar. Abu Dhabi is the next worst in my opinion

    • Joe Papp (@joepa) said on 18th April 2013, 4:16

      I love the circuit. Sorry you hate it. I also love Abu Dhabi – especially the marina.

      • Jackson (@f10072012) said on 18th April 2013, 8:10

        what are you talking about? Bahrain is horribly boring especially considering that they built it in the desert so they could have made any turn they could imagine. turns 5-8 are alright though.

  6. OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 17th April 2013, 19:33

    Is it going to be used in a “traditional” layout or in that so-long-and-boring one?

    • StefMeister (@stefmeister) said on 17th April 2013, 20:04

      The traditional layout.
      Since the extended loop was so unpopular in 2010 I doubt we’ll see that used again.

      The extended loop was designed for GT cars & has always been used for the 24hr race held there, No idea why they decided to run F1 on it in 2010.

      I didn’t think the 1st part of the extended loop was too bad (The fast left & the fast sweeping right over the bump into the fairly quick left/right chicane), But from the next slow right hairpin onto the old layout was terrible.

  7. mantresx (@mantresx) said on 17th April 2013, 21:20

    No idea why they decided to run F1 on it in 2010.

    @stefmeister Two reasons (or excuses):
    It was the 60th anniversary of F1 and backmarkers would be less of a problem, there were 24 cars and 3 very slow new teams in 2010.

  8. Yappy said on 17th April 2013, 22:53

    Shouldn’t Alonso’s worse result be DNF or 22 for his race in Malay which would make his average about 10.

  9. Yappy said on 17th April 2013, 22:57

    Shouldn’t Alonso’s worse result be 22 on account that he crashed out first in Malay?

    • Yappy said on 17th April 2013, 23:13

      Did not mean to post the same thing twice. My phone dropped the page on the first one so I thought it did not post.

  10. Jon Finn (@jon-finn) said on 18th April 2013, 3:58

    I will once again neither watch the race nor take part in this round of the Predictions Chamionship.
    As I said a couple of days ago…
    Well we are back to Bahrain buying international credibility for its regime. That is distasteful of course. It grates further that they are using our sport to do it.
    I’m perfectly aware that there are many that just prefer to ignore the issue, play down the issue, deflect from the issue or even attack a person who dares to raise it but my own personal choice is to continue to express my individual protest by boycotting the whole thing. The one thing the regime desires is an audience in order to showcase itself and that is the one thing I as an individual can deny them.

    • Jackson (@f10072012) said on 18th April 2013, 8:14

      what will one person do though?
      I completley respect your point of view but I’m just wondering

      • toddjamin (@toddjamin) said on 18th April 2013, 11:02

        Taking a stand is surely all we can do, even if we do it alone. Reducing viewing figures is the only way to show FOM what we think of this idiotic move.

        And @jon-fin will be joined by me and considerably more i’m sure. this race is a sick farce.

      • Jon Finn (@jon-finn) said on 18th April 2013, 17:18

        what will one person do though?

        I honestly appreciate the respectful tone of the question @f10072012. One person acting in this way is indeed insignificant to the powers of F1. However if enough individuals decide their own moral obligations prevent them from supporting this event then those cumulative indiviual numbers become significant.

        To be honest I was hoping @keithcollantine would have pulled the round from the predictions championship again but that hasn’t happened this year (and I understand that Keith has his own obligations to fulfil) so again I’ll be making a personal choice to not engage in that this weekend.

  11. Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 18th April 2013, 4:28

    I’m actually feeling pretty optimistic that this will be a good race.

    Basically because they haven’t put one DRS zone straight after another (Which is why Monza has had such good bad and forth racing in the past few years), and because Pirelli have scrapped the soft compound tyre in favour of the Medium (which was a great decision!).

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