Only one week on from the Malaysian Grand Prix, F1 is back with the Bahrain Grand Prix. But this is not like any previous Bahrain Grand Prix. As this race marks a new era for Bahrain, with the race moving from the searing sun, to the darkness. This is the Bahrain Grand Prix, at night.
Yes, 10 years on from its Formula One debut, the Bahrain Grand Prix is being moved to a night race for the first time. Over the years this race has been tarnished by beliefs it has produced some “boring” races but over the past few years, this race has produced some top action. Can the night sky add that missing something to this race?
For the circuit management it must have been a tremendous task to prepare the track for a night race. Especially as the amount of lighting required to illuminate the 5.412 km is tremendous. The lighting, which was installed around the Bahrain International Circuit last year, comprises of 495 lighting poles, 450 light fittings and over 500km of cabling.
Around the circuit, compromising of 15 corners, there are few areas that guarantee action. With the aid of DRS and a very long straight, the first corner can see some possible overtakes made. But sometimes sending it down the inside isn’t always the case. As was the way in 2012 when Raikkonen, who was still only a few races in from his F1 return, had the chance to send his Lotus down the inside of Vettel but backed out of it, ultimately causing him to lose the race.
But without a win to his name this season and now back at Ferrari, who have won the most times in Bahrain (4). Could this race see Raikkonen securing his first win of the year? Not only do Ferrari have the most victories in Bahrain as a constructor, fellow Ferrari driver Alonso is also hunting down his first win of the season and is currently the driver with the most wins in Bahrain, with 3 wins.
Elsewhere on the track, turn 9 is usually a tricky corner for some. As the left hand bend is also a heavy breaking zone that leads onto the second main straight. This year getting this corner right can prove to be a key factor in the race. If a situation arises where two cars are following suit before this corner, with the aid of the 2nd DRS zone, overtaking is almost a certainty.
In terms of form, Mercedes should be hoping for another great weekend. After taking the chequered flag first in the opening two races and securing a one-two finish in Malaysia, could the Bahrain GP be win 3 from 3?
Looking back to a few months, during pre-season testing in Bahrain, Mercedes were beginning to show they had made the best power unit on the grid ahead of the new regulations. And along with a reliable, aerodynamically efficient car, the pace was clear to see. Looking even further back, to this time last year, the Mercedes had pace to show, with Nico Rosberg securing pole position. But can he do that this year? So far he has been unable to knock his team-mate of the top spot in qualifying, with Hamilton having 2 poles from 2 races.
But is the Mercedes still the quickest car on the track? Red Bull may still have an inferior engine but the car still has its trademark aerodynamics, and that’s not all. Despite showing serious signs off their issues breaking out of control with reliability in pre-season testing, the Red Bull team have managed to turn the car around rapidly to provide their drivers with a car able to challenge for podium positions. With that rate of progress is it only a matter of time before they are competing for the win? Maybe. But this question won’t be answered with a yes just yet in my opinion. Yes the Red Bull has improved dramatically but that does not change the fact that whilst they were focusing on improving the car, Mercedes were just storming away to take both wins in dominant fashion. Like what we are used to from Vettel in the Red Bull.
Of course Red Bull are not the only team looking to improve their car. This weekend is probably once again going to be a learning experience for the Lotus team as they try once more to get hold of reliability in their car. In all fairness to them, in Malaysia, some signs of reliability were beginning to be seen. Especially with Grosjean seeing the chequered flag at the end of the race. If Lotus can move forward from here and see a double car finish this weekend, or at least not a DNF from technical issues, they should be pleased. Then begin work on teaming that reliability with speed and they should be back near the front fighting for the higher points.
As for the tyres for this weekends race, Pirelli will be bringing along the white marked medium tyres, teamed with the yellow marked soft tyres.
But that’s not all. Not only does this Bahrain GP mark a new era for the race with it becoming a night race. It also marks the start of the 2014 GP2 season.
Like the Bahrain GP, GP2 is also marking its 10th anniversary this season, and as F1’s main support series it should be well worth a watch to see the next batch of F1’s future stars showcasing their talents for the world to see. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of the drivers who have graduated from GP2 into F1. Some drivers who have made the move include, Lewis Hamilton, Heikki Kovalainen, Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez and Timo Glock.
In case you are unfamiliar of how GP2 works, it consists of two races that take part over the Saturday and Sunday. The driver’s start the Saturday race (feature race) wherever they had qualified, whereas the main pack start the Sunday race (sprint race) wherever they had finished the feature race, however the top 8 positions are reversed for the sprint race.
The feature race is like a normal F1 race, where the drivers have to make one mandatory pit stop for a change of compound with their tyres. Unlike in the sprint race where, if they can make it, the drivers do not have to pit and the race is over once 120km has been ran, or 45 minutes has past. Apart from in the Monaco round where the race is run over 100km.
Now going back to F1, the Bahrain Grand Prix will be shown live, exclusively on SkySportsF1. Unlike the Malaysian GP, which was broadcasted live in the UK on SkySportsF1 and BBC. SkySportsF1 also has the rights to broadcast the GP2 championship live in the UK. The TV times for Sky are as follows:
Friday 4th April
10am – GP2 Practice – Live!
11:45am – Bahrain GP Practice One – Live!
03:45pm – Bahrain GP Practice Two – Live!
05:55pm – GP2 Qualifying – Live!
07:00pm – Team Principals’ Press Conference.
08:00pm – The F1 Show – Live!
Saturday 5th April
11:05am – GP2 Feature Race – Live!
12:45pm – Bahrain GP Practice Three – Live!
03:00pm – Bahrain GP Qualifying – Live!
06:15pm – Bahrain GP Qualifying – replay.
Sunday 6th April
12:10pm – GP2 Sprint Race – Live!
01:30pm – 1973 Season Review.
02:30pm – The 2014 Bahrain GP – Track Parade – Live!
03:00pm – The 2014 Bahrain GP – Race – Live! !
06:30pm – The 2014 Bahrain GP – Paddock Live!
08:00pm – Highlights of the 2014 Bahrain GP