Formula One Hits Bahrain
Momentum seems to be in Nico Rosberg’s favour at the moment as, following his maiden pole position and victory in China last week, he set the fastest time of the day during Bahrain free practice. After a quiet first practice were teams appeared to be concentrating on cleaning the track as much as anything, the second session came to life with Rosberg’s 1 minute 32.816 the headline lap. However, Force India skipped the second session in order to get away from the track earlier in an attempt to avoid the worst of the protests.
On track, not for the first time the talk was all about tyres – I wonder if Pirelli has everyone on commission? After struggling in the first two races, Mercedes appeared to have cracked their tyre degradation woes in China where they romped to victory. However, track temperatures in China were low but in Bahrain they’re anything but. Despite setting the fastest lap, underlining the team’s qualifying strength, Nico Rosberg remained pessimistic about how Mercedes would handle race conditions. However, they’re not the only ones in that boat. “Looking after the tyres here is going to be a real challenge,” explained Lewis Hamilton. “The track surface is extremely hot, and the amount of energy that goes through the tyres under braking is incredible: the temperatures keep on rising until it feels just like driving on an ice-rink. Tyre degradation will be a big issue for everyone around here and the weekend will be all about who can look after the tyres the best.”
“The most important thing still is to improve our race pace,” said Nico Rosberg. “For the moment, it looks reasonable but we need to analyse where we are on high fuel levels compared to our competitors and draw our conclusions. The conditions are really tough out there, so the race will be quite demanding from the tyre perspective.”
It was a reasonable start to the weekend for Fernando Alonso but was cautious about the value of Friday’s running. “This track is used only very rarely, which adds to making Friday hard to interpret, maybe more so than other places,” explained the Ferrari driver. “That is why, basing all your choices in terms of set-up on what one has seen today is not always the right move, because we need to bear in mind that the track will change a lot between now and Sunday.”
Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel was in a reflective mood. “Regarding set-up, I think we got the answers in China that we were looking for and that’s helped us here,” declared the reigning champion. “We now need to see where we are against what everyone else did today. I think others are the favourites this weekend, but we are focusing on ourselves and pushing hard.”
This week’s guest predictor is Ewan Marshall of GP Focus. “Should all things go to plan it’s hard to bet against McLaren for Bahrain,” says Ewan. “Fresh from his maiden victory if Mercedes build on China, Rosberg should carry good form here – who can forget his previous exploits at Sahkir in GP2 and early in F1. Last weekend, none of us banked on Mercedes being able to preserve their tyres but by our different combinations it came out as a three-way tie with 5 points each.
|Mav||1. Button||2. Hamilton||3. Webber|
|Salti||1. Hamilton||2. Webber||3. Vettel|
|Guest||1. Button||2. Hamilton||3. Rosberg|
Scores: Mav – 11 points, Salti – 14 points, Guests – 17 points, Top Guest – Pat with 9 points
Three points for a driver finishing in the predicted position with one point less for each position away.
Credit: Williams F1/Steven Tee/LAT Photographic