F1 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix Countdown, can anyone stop Ferrari?
This weekend sees the Formula 1 circus arrive at the Bahrain International Circuit for the eighth running of the event. The inaugural event in 2004 was won by Michael Schumacher driving at that time for Ferrari. This year’s event as last year’s is being held against the backdrop of political unrest in the desert kingdom and we can only hope that any protests at the running of the Grand Prix are peaceful in nature and do not endanger the lives and wellbeing of the teams and drivers as after all it is a sporting event and not political in any way.
The Bahrain International Circuit brings its own unique challenges for the teams, drivers and of course tyre supplier Pirelli. The circuit is very dusty and being a desert location is prone to having sand blown onto the track surface causing potential problems for engines tyres and any other moving mechanical parts on the cars. This combined with very high ambient temperatures makes the environment a pretty hostile one for all concerned.
The circuit is slit into three timing sectors and will have two DRS zones, one on the main pit straight and the other on the back straight between turns 10 and 11.
Ferrari will arrive at Bahrain with an air of confidence following Fernando Alonso’s victory in China and in the knowledge that he is a three time victor here winning for Renault in 2005, 2006 and for Ferrari in 2010. If that’s not enough Felipe Massa has also won twice in 2007 and 2008 and is currently enjoying a resurgence in his form proving a match for Alonso in terms of outright pace but as yet not in race performance. To put the icing on the cake in terms of statistics Ferrari is the most successful constructor in Bahrain with a total of four wins.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber who is going through a torrid time at the moment was awarded a penalty by the stewards in China for his part in the collision with Jean-Eric Vergne and will lose three grid places after final qualifying as a result. Also penalised in China was Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez who will lose five grid places as a result of ploughing into the back of Adrian Sutil’s Force India forcing him into retirement.
Webber’s misfortune in China eased the spotlight away from the potential conflict between him and Sebastian Vettel and afforded the team a brief respite. The tension between the two drivers is still high and although Webber will suffer the grid drop all eyes will still be on the pair should they come across each other on track at any point in the race.
Lotus has enjoyed a mixed start to the season so far with Kimi Raikkonen in second place in the driver’s championship just three points adrift of leader Sebastian Vettel. Romain Grosjean has been strangely off pace so far and unable to match his team mate in either qualifying or race performance so far. The only real mitigating factor in this is that Raikkonen’s E21 has been the first to receive upgrades on a number of occasions.
McLaren meanwhile are still struggling with the MP4-28 and although you can never rule out Jenson Button the car still seems to be far from able to cut it with the leaders so far. Sergio Perez has made an auspicious start to his McLaren career and so far has been overshadowed by Button in all respects. There has also been a report of Martin Whitmarsh urging him to be a bit more aggressive in his approach on track, never a good sign especially when a driver is new to a team. McLaren though is not a team to dawdle and will have been burning the midnight oil and making best use of its fantastic resources back at the MTC to deliver a raft of improvements to the car so surely it’s only a matter of time before they are back at the front. Despite all this though they do seem to be missing the outright pace and aggression of Lewis Hamilton who is often more than capable of pushing a difficult car to its limits.
Over then to Mercedes and although the team and its F1 W04 car has shown considerable promise in terms of race pace it’s not quite there. One thing massively in its favour though is the driver pairing of Hamilton and Nico Rosberg neither of whom is exactly slow in terms of single lap qualifying pace. This has enabled the team to run at or near the front so far this season before being overhauled as the races have progressed to a conclusion. There would appear to be little to choose between the two drivers in this respect although the stats so far show that Hamilton has out qualified Rosberg 3-0 so far and has also amassed 28 more points than his team mate. Perhaps this is more down to luck and team orders than anything else and we should wait a few more races before drawing any meaningful conclusions.
Force India is another team that has shown promise but suffered misfortune making judgements at this stage difficult. Following the disastrous Malaysian GP wheel nut saga, last weekend in China the two drivers clashed on track with physical contact between the VJM06’s which fortunately did not have particularly serious ramifications. Adrian Sutil however was the unceremoniously ejected from the race after a heavy rear impact from Esteban Gutierrez Sauber C32 causing his retirement. Again the drivers seem evenly matched with just two points between them and Di Resta out qualifying Sutil 2-1 so far.
In the other Sauber Nico Hulkenberg had a good race in China leading for a number of laps and currently enjoying a five point advantage and 3-0 qualifying performance against his team mate. The car however does not seem to be quite as good as last year’s at this stage of the season.
The Williams team continue to struggle with the FW35 with neither Bottas nor Maldonado able to score a point so far which must be a big disappointment for the team.
Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo impressed in China with an impressive seventh place in qualifying and going on to finish seventh in the race as well. Ricciardo currently enjoys a five point advantage over team mate Jean-Eric Vergne and has also out qualified him 2-1.
Caterham will welcome Heikki Kovalainen back into the fold this weekend as reserve driver. Heikki will take part in FP1 in Bahrain and Spain and will bring some great experience to bear no doubt.
The Marussia pairing of Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton have shown some promise so far with Bianchi being the more dominant of the two and 3-0 up in qualifying performance.
Williams, Caterham and Marussia have yet to score a point in the three races so far.