It was bound to stir up controversy, and it’s no surprise the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix will take place amidst the same furore and atmosphere of menace it endured twelve months ago. Putting the political situation aside, the racing promises just as much drama, suspense and frustration.
With three different winners from the first three races, is it too much to ask for F1 2013 to provide us with a fourth?
Red Bull have a burning desire to reassert their authority over the field after a largely barren weekend last time out in China, with Mark Webber’s challenge blunted by a series of operational errors and Sebastian Vettel finishing off the podium for the first time in 2013.
Vettel will be hoping to claim his second consecutive Bahrain GP victory: “The corners can fool you and lead to errors because the track is very wide and quite often the apex of the corner is not obvious.” the German claims. “For example the apex of Turn 14 is hidden as you approach it.”
Jenson Button echoes the Red Bull driver’s comments on the track: The Sakhir circuit requires a good overall car balance. There are some tricky and technical low-speed changes of direction; you need to place the car really precisely at the corner entry in order to maximise traction at the exit. And there are also some high-speed sweeps – Turns Six and Seven, for example – and some fast corners, such as the uphill left-hander at Turn 11. You need a good front-end, but also good traction, to get the best from those corners.”
Down at Mercedes, frustration has tempered the solid start to the season with Nico Rosberg posting two DNFs from three races and Lewis Hamilton claiming the team is not yet capable of winning races despite taking pole position on China.
“The first three races haven’t quite worked out as we had hoped on my side but the positive is that we have a car that we can really work with. So I’m looking forward to getting on with this weekend and the circuit at Sakhir is one that I like very much.” says Rosberg. “It’s going to be very tough on the rear tyres and our biggest challenge will be to make the most out of the situation. We’re better prepared than we were last year and we have shown that the car is much stronger so I really hope that we can achieve a great result in Bahrain.”
Heikki Kovalainen, unceremoniously dumped by Caterham at the end of the 2012 season, makes his return to the pits this weekend in FP1 as stand-in for Giedo Van Der Garde as the Norfolk-based team bid to solve their puzzling early season lack of pace.
‘Super-rookie’ Jules Bianchi will also give up his unfancied Marussia cockpit in FP1 for young gun Rodolfo Gonzalez. Despite the potential of missing out on serious track time, the Frenchman doesn’t seem too concerned.
“Although it’s still early days, I am really comfortable with my understanding of the car, the direction we are heading in as a team and where I can continue to develop personally. There’s been a nice pace to the season so far, so although we’ve had just a week before this race, I think it will allow us the chance to consolidate the progress we have made with the interim updates and then catch our breath again ready for what we will bring to Europe.”
With Lotus, Ferrari and Red Bull all eager for win number two of the season, it’s difficult to look elsewhere if you want to pick a winner for the weekend. Lotus appear particularly strong having carried over much of the E20 (the 2012 car that finished 2nd and 3rd at Sakhir last year) into this year’s E21.