For the second time in the circuit’s history and the first time since the 2006 season, Bahrain finds itself hosting the opening round of the 2010 Formula 1 season.
With so much having happened in the off-season – in terms of rule changes, driver line-up changes, team arrivals and departures, scandals and intrigue aplenty – there is much to talk about and to keep everyone guessing.
Pre-season testing in a variety of weather conditions and with a range of fuel loads has made predicting a form guide for this year’s race nearly impossible. One thing seems certain: it’s going to be a titanic battle all season long between a host of drivers and teams.
|2010 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix
|Date:||14 March 2010||No. Laps||49|
|Lap Length:||6.299km||Race Distance:||308.405km|
|Lap Record:||1:30.252 – Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 2004|
The circuit follows the now famous Hermann Tilke template, with long straights leading into tight corners that require heavy braking in order to maximise overtaking opportunities. As is also the case with any of his circuit designs, the pit and paddock facilities are second-to-none.
As the teams will also experience at Silverstone, the track is using a new lap configuration this season, which sees the cars venture off the original Grand Prix circuit before Turn 5, and into a new 9-turn complex before rejoining the original circuit.
This loop – ostensibly added to accommodate for the larger grid size this season, has been met with polite but unenthusiastic reception from the F1 drivers. The circuit had a great flow with some very challenging corners in its original guise, and quite what value this slow and twisty sequence will add to the race (other than lap times) is yet to be seen.
The History Bit
Bahrain first made an appearance on the F1 calendar in 2004, and it saw the Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello waltz to a 1-2 finish. In spite of many fearing that the desert sand would play havoc with the cars’ cooling capabilities, this didn’t prove to be the case and the drivers loved the Hermann Tilke designed circuit for providing good overtaking opportunities at several points on the circuit.
In 2005 and 2006, Fernando Alonso took the spoils for Renault – holding off Michael Schumacher in a titanic battle for the race lead that saw the Spaniard take a title lead he would never lose.
The 2007 and 2008 races saw Felipe Massa assert himself as the new king of Sakhir with back-to-back victories in the desert. Last year we saw Jenson Button take a combative victory (one of six he achieved with Brawn GP) on his way to the title, as the Toyotas locked out the front row and faded into oblivion on race day.
What to expect?
With pre-season testing revealing little to the keen observer, it will be the opening practice sessions that will truly reveal which teams managed to get their packages sorted for the start of the 2010 season.
McLaren’s quirky aerodynamics have the entire paddock talking and furiously trying to emulate its features. Red Bull are rumoured to have been masking their true pace throughout pre-season testing, some fear that they will blow the others into the Arabian Gulf when their true pace is unleashed. Ferrari have had incredibly consistent pace in pre-season testing, and Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa have won this race four times between them. Mercedes GP are rumoured to be unveiling a ‘super diffuser’ as part of their first aero upgrade. Returning under its original name and owners, Sauber could spring a few surprises as well.
The new teams and drivers will have a battle on their hands this weekend, and the Arabian heat will not treat their mechanically-questionable cars kindly in addition to running on an unfamiliar circuit.
The changes in the rules to ban refuelling and offer points down to 10th place could see a few drivers spring some early surprises if their cars stay together and their strategists and pit crews can work some magic.
There is so much to look forward to!