The tenth running of the Bahrain Grand Prix looks like it’s going to be a special one, with the event being staged under floodlights for the first time. The searing desert heat will be less apparent come Sunday, but that won’t do anything to appease what many expect to be a race featuring plenty of hot on-track action.
The event will also have special significance for the sport, which will mark its 900th Grand Prix in the modern-era World Championship.
|2014 FORMULA 1 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX||Date:||04-06 April 2014|
|Free Practice Session 1||Fri 14:00-15:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 18:00-19:30|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 15:00-16:00|
|Race (57 laps)||Sun 18:00-20:00|
|Lap Record||1:31.447 (2005)|
|2013 Winner||Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing)|
* All session times are quoted in Arabia Standard Time (GMT +03:00 hrs)
The entire concept of racing in the Middle East and Gulf states has been bubbling under the surface since the early 1980s, but it took almost a further 25 years to turn the dream into reality when the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain played host to the third round of the 2004 Formula 1 season, at the Hermann Tilke-designed Bahrain International Circuit.
Costing some $150 million to construct, there were initially fears that – it being positioned in the middle of a desert and all – that sand billowing across the track would pose a problem. But organisers found a clever solution: spraying exposed sections of sand with a chemical adhesive to bind it together!
The track layout is typical Tilke fare: long straights, big braking zones and a fiddly, twisty middle sector of the lap to punish tyres and cars with handling deficiencies. It’s one of the toughest circuits on brakes and cooling, with track temperatures regularly nudging upwards of 50 degrees Celsius or more.
Take a look at our Bahrain International Circuit Guide:
The History Bit
Curiously, the last two Bahrain Grands Prix have seen exactly the same podium line-up and exactly the same finishing order.
While Nico Rosberg planted his Mercedes on pole position with a scintillating lap, he suffered from major tyre wear issues in the race and tumbled down the order, which allowed Sebastian Vettel to ease his way into the lead.
The German looked set to be challenged by Fernando Alonso, however the Ferrari driver’s DRS became jammed open and he was forced to retire.
Through it all came Kimi Räikkönen and teammate Romain Grosjean, who both took advantage of their Lotus’ easiness on their tyres. While Räikkönen managed to get through the races on two pit stops, Grosjean was more aggressive on a three-stopper and claimed third place from Paul di Resta’s Force India late in the race.
The race also saw a major spat between the McLarens of Jenson Button and Sergio Pérez, who made minor contact several times while disputing track position.
So what have been some of the other Bahrain highlights? Here are a few of our favourites:
- 2005: With the race occurring the day after Pope John Paul II had died, Ferrari ran its cars with black noses as a mark of respect. Fernando Alonso comfortably won the race in his Renault, while Pedro de la Rosa – making a one-off appearance in the McLaren as a substitute for the injured Juan Pablo Montoya – provided plenty of excitement with his many attempts to overtake into Turn !
- 2006: Ferrari returned to Bahrain seeking revenge after an appalling 2005 season, and Michael Schumacher kickstarted the season by giving Fernando Alonso a huge fright in the race, challenging the Spaniard for lap after lap as the pair disputed first place. Ultimately, the battle went in Alonso’s favour, and he claimed back-to-back wins at the track. The race also saw the debut of Nico Rosberg, who posted fastest lap in his Williams.
- 2009: The last race to be held on the circuit’s conventional layout saw Toyota claim a shock 1-2 in qualifying, with Jarno Trulli claiming pole position ahead of team-mate Timo Glock. The pair reversed the running order as the race started, but a poor strategy by the Japanese team (again!) denied them a shot at their first Formula 1 victory. The race was won by Jenson Button, who claimed his third victory on the trot in the all-conquering Brawn Mercedes.
The Form Guide
It seems the more thing change, the more they stay the same, and being just one week after the Malaysian Grand Prix, the major themes are unlikely to change too much as the circus hits the Arabian gulf.
Despite a major rules shake-up, we still have Mercedes and Red Bull Racing up at the front of the field – albeit with the former as the pace-setters. Given the Silver Arrows have claimed two from two so far in 2014, Bahrain should deliver another battle between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton on Sunday’s 57-lap race. The intra-team battle might be a little bit more difficult to call, with both Rosberg and Hamilton looking to claim their first race win at Sakhir.
Over at Red Bull Racing, Sebastian Vettel showed yet again that he can’t be discounted, while his new Australian teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, suffered the same sort of appalling luck as his predecessor. Ricciardo takes a ten-place grid penalty, which will give him a tougher task of battling up at the front.
Most pleasing has been the rapid rate of improvement shown by the RB10’s development and that of engine partner, Renault, who seem to have cured many of the pre-season reliability woes with its new power unit. Cooling still remains an all-important concern – as last weekend’s race at Sepang showed – but the cooler ambient conditions expected for the event’s maiden night race might make things easier.
The form guide suggests that Vettel will struggle to make it a hat-trick of wins at Bahrain. While the RB10 has improved at a vast rate of knots, the fact that this race is scheduled a week after Malaysia will make the team’s hopes of returning to the winners’ circle somewhat premature. Their time will undoubtedly come.
The squabble for the final podium slot should also feature the runners from McLaren, Force India and Williams, who all scooped healthy points hauls last time out.
McLaren is talking down its prospects this weekend, although it would be a surprise not to see both Jenson Button – who marks his 250th Grand Prix this weekend – and rookie teammate Kevin Magnussen finishing well up if they’re running at the finish.
Williams is yet to demonstrate its one-lap pace after two rain-affected qualifying sessions, but that shouldn’t be an issue this weekend. Both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas should qualify well up on Saturday, giving them a much easier task of showcasing their great fuel economy in the race. But tensions will remain high between the drivers, following the team’s team orders call – ignored by Massa – last time out. While the justification of the order was valid, the team’s ham-fisted handling of it was unfortunate to say the least.
Ferrari should manage points’ finishes for both Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso, the F14T isn’t quite showing the pace necessary to genuinely make is a podium contender just yet.
Renault’s second major runner, Toro Rosso, has continued with its solid early-season form with back-to-back points finishes for the impressive rookie Daniil Kvyat, while teammate Jean-Éric Vergne was unlucky last time out at Sepang. Given the improved showing from its engine partner Renault, expect to see the STR9s threatening the lower reaches of the points.
Don’t forget to enter your Bahrain Grand Prix Predictions!
The third round of our 2014 RichardsF1.com F1 Predictions Competition is now open for business, and you can enter and edit your predictions for the race right up until five minutes before qualifying!
Entry is open to all of our readers, and it’s so easy to submit your predictions!
All you’ll need to do is predict:
- which driver will win pole position and the race
- which two teams will earn the best finishes in the race
- which eight drivers will finish in the top-eight positions
- who will post the fastest lap of the race
- who will gain the most positions relative to their starting position
You can also choose to ‘double up’ your points tally for the Bahrain Grand Prix – but be careful, you can only do this twice per season! Click here to see the current points’ standings.
To enter your predictions, click here!
Images via Sutton Images