NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Slipstream Saturday: F1 News & The Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix

Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix

Much of the news surrounding Formula 1 has focused on the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. After Hamilton’s win in China, Rosberg accused his teammate of slowing the the pace, which put Rosberg closer to Sebastian Vettel chasing him in third place. The situation meant that Rosberg used his tires defending from Vettel rather than chasing for the lead.

The debate is whether Hamilton should run his own race or one for the team. That the two drivers took the first two spots means that Mercedes made out just fine. However, Hamilton’s racemanship meant that the event failed to feature the two drivers in the best cars actually racing each other, which works out well for the winner but not so well for Rosberg, or even the fans.

Having the two drivers go at it in the press only heightened the strange relationship that the two now have, and it’s nothing new to F1. One of the continued aspects of the sport is that the drivers tend to complain more about their teammates more than the do anyone else on track. What makes that aspect all the more fascinating is that these brouhahas tend to be with the teams running at the front. Vettel and Mark Webber. Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello. The list goes on and on.

What that means is that if a team knows it has the car to beat, the drivers are attuned to this reality which makes earning the wins and the championship all the more a possibility, for one driver, and a frustration for the other. The drama at the top, of course, pales in comparison to hearing the drivers of Force India make any remarks about being annoyed with their teammate. All part of the fun and games.

In Other News

  • It seems obvious to state this fact, but sand is an issue when racing in Bahrain. Earlier in the week a sandstorm pelted the track and left a massive amount of sand on the surface. Though it has been cleaned up this aspect is one that teams and drivers must account for. The teams run a larger air filter for this very reason. During the the second practice session rooster tails could be seen coming off the tires of drivers who left the racing groove, specifically Hamilton when he left the track on more than one occasion. The sand makes for more difficulty in figuring out breaking zones while also being problematic for the Pirellis, but also adds to the intrigue of the race.
  • Good ol’ Bernie. With races in Germany and France already off the schedule, Bernie Ecclestone is now noodling the folks at Monza, the Italian track, asserting that they must pay the competitive rate to keep their spot on the calendar. While there should be a certain understanding that any track, no matter its legacy, should still be faced certain financial aspects that make up the sport, there also seems to be a necessary requirement to recognize the sport’s fanbase and history. The go after another one of the European tracks is a questionable PR move and raises the question of how those fans might respond to another one of their own being discarded like a set of worn tires.
  • The acrimonious relationship between Renault and Red Bull may not have gotten any better since China but it hasn’t gotten any worse either. The French engine supplier announced that they have found that faulty pistons are part of the problem with their powerplant – however they do not expect to be able to remedy the issue for another couple months. So while it is good that Renault has figured out what the issue is and they are working to address it the lengthy time frame for making amends does not exactly bring encouragement.
  • Sergio Perez and Vettel got together in the closing moments of the second practice. The incident brought a review from the stewards, but there was seemingly nothing malicious about the contact and both drivers were cleared.
  • The first practice seemed to indicate that Mercedes might not be able to continue their dominance. Whatever. It appears that the Silver Arrow was just mucking about and that when the temperatures cooled and the second practice began under the lights the team displayed their true pace. The pecking order is beginning to be established for the season because Ferrari held the third and fourth spots with the rest of the top 10 filled out by Williams, Red Bull, Sauber and Lotus. The McLaren duo is again messing with their Honda powerplant and reliability issues so it is difficult to gauge where they may or may not be.

The Race

The first race held in Bahrain came in 2004 with Schumacher taking the victory. Though the track was reconfigured at one time, it is back to its original layout, which is 3.3 miles in length and features 15 turns, and though the track looks flat, that’s a bit of deception with surprising elevation changes. That fact makes the discrepancies in fastest lap a bit intriguing, similar to the statistics for the Shanghai circuit, as in 2004 Schumacher ran 1:30.2 while last year the fastest lap, posted by Rosberg, came in at 1:37.0. The trend this year is for the cars to hit a pace a bit faster than last year. Alonso is currently the most successful driver at the circuit, having won three times, but Vettel is nipping at his heels with two wins.

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