Sakhir: A feeling of déjà vu in the desert
17 April 2013 – When the words Bahrain and Formula 1 appear in a sentence, racing is rarely the subject matter. Protests and violence are again making up the headlines as the Grand Prix fraternity descends upon the Gulf State, with the questions posed 12 months ago resurfacing. But for the moment, at least, we’re going racing.
Let’s stop here. There are plenty of in-depth political views on offer around the web and in the printed media, but journalists dedicated to Formula 1 should be focused on the tarmac within the gates of the circuit. Political correspondents do not publish race summaries, just as Formula 1 reporters cannot pretend to be experts on a vastly complicated situation which began well before the country joined the calendar. Formula 1 cares about the Bahraini people, of that there is no doubt. But the FIA has its finger on the button and if the race is staged, those involved must follow suit.
No matter whom we’re talking about, however, tyres have been on the minds of all 22 drivers. Pirelli has come under a massive amount of criticism for degradation levels so far this season, but it is fair to say we have seen a fair representation of the pecking order with Lotus, Red Bull and Ferrari sharing the spoils. All three outfits are capable of fighting for victory again in just a few days’ time, although Räikkönen and Lotus may just hold a slight edge due to their traditionally strong tyre management.
One man looking for a vast improvement in Bahrain is Mark Webber. On the back of the ‘Multi 21’ drama, the Red Bull driver was firstly excluded from qualifying at Shanghai due to a fuel bowser issue, before he clashed with Jean-Éric Vergne in the race and later lost his right-rear wheel. He was hit with a three-place grid penalty for this weekend’s race and rumours of a Porsche LMP1 deal surfaced. However, a spokesperson for the marque told GPUpdate.net that nothing has been confirmed. There’s plenty of fight left in the Australian and he simply needs a smooth run.
At the rear of the field, Jules Bianchi is still producing fantastic performances and has impressed leading figures at Ferrari, who have been nurturing him for some time. We also have the return of former race winner Heikki Kovalainen, who has been drafted in by Caterham to complete free practice milage at Sakhir and the Circuit de Catalunya. This has been described as a development role as the team seeks to improve its CT03 chassis, but it puts the pressure on Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde.
I’m looking forward to this one...