Text: Alex Yoong / Photos: | posted April 21, 2013 14:46
Bahrain Grand Prix Preview
Bahrain is another modern F1 circuit like Shanghai and Sepang with a touch more dust and track surface heat to contend with. When the track has cleaned up the grip is good and the surface smooth. With good grip comes more wear and with the heat, we expect medium to high abrasion. There are also more slow corners compared to a typical purpose built track which means brakes are used hard. There are 4 times a lap where you brake from over 300kph.
Slow corners also mean you will need good traction out of it and we expect that the rear tire wear will be more of a factor compared to China where it was front axle dependent. With a few long straights it is also quite demanding for the engine but not as bad as say Monza or Montreal.
With the soft tire wearing so quickly in China, Pirelli have decided to bring the medium tires to Bahrain instead. With the hard tire there as well, the wear should not be as bad and we should see a mixture of 2 and 3 stops in the race instead of nearly everyone trying to three stop ala China.
So far this year tires have been tricky to manage, and the headlines have been about qualifying being less important due to having to save tyres for the race. This may be true to a certain extent but essentially qualifying is still a very integral part of the race weekend. Imagine if Alonso had qualified 9th instead of 3rd in China. I think the traffic would have ruined his tyre life and he would have found it very very difficult to win.
Ferrari will be going into Bahrain full of confidence and while Alonso did a good job of out qualifying his teammate for the first time in China, you still got the sense that he could have done a bit better on the Saturday. Essentially he lost 3 tenths of a second to Massa in the first two sectors on his Q3 lap before nailing the last sector. If Alonso does maximize his Saturday and qualifies on the first row, I think he will be very difficult to beat.
Next up has to be Red Bull and Lotus. I think China was slightly unusual for Red Bull and I expect them to change it around and be right in the hunt for pole. Kimi did an exceptional job in the last qualifying session, but I think he was flatted by others such as Red Bull not maximizing their Saturday. I think Lotus still need to work on the Qualifying a bit. But a bit like Alonso, if Kimi is on the first two rows, they will be right in the hunt for the win.
Mercedes is the one I’ll be watching, they were so impressive in China all weekend until the race. They will be fighting for pole again but I think the problems of being able to be quick enough on Sunday, so that they can put less energy through their tyres will still be there. McLaren will also be closer to the top four teams but perhaps still not quite in the hunt for a podium yet.
Expect the mid pack to close up a bit and it will be fun to see Force India, Sauber and Torro Rosso mix it up for best of the rest. I would not be surprised to see Force India even mix it with the top 5 teams as I think this track will suit them. The other mid field team, Williams is still struggling and pressure will be on their Rookie, Esteban Gutierrez to preform after a bad performance in China where he crashed into Adrian Sutil.
Talking about teammates and pressure, there will be a few of them under pressure to perform. Massa, Grosean and Perez are all drivers who have been very underwhelming on race pace. They need to try and sort out how they manage their tires to try and be there for the entire race instead of just the beginning when their rubber is fresh.
Whatever the case, its great to have 4, possibly 5 teams all with a chance to be fighting for the win. Expect another cagey but extremely close, hot race this weekend in Bahrain.
Catch Alex Yoong on STAR Sports’ coverage of this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix on Race Day and Chequered Flag, as well as in high-definition on FOX SPORTS PLUS!