After much deliberation and debate, the stakeholders of the sport, the FIA, FOM and the Formula One teams finally decided last weekend that they would go racing in Bahrain this year. The GP was cancelled last year because of the same reasons — civil unrest in the Kingdom of Bahrain. While this decision to go racing has raised a few eyebrows in the political circles globally, here’s how it looks from a fan’s perspective.
First, we will witness a full calendar of racing this season, which means we will have 20 races in 2012. Given that the first three races this season have seen no single team or driver dominate, any amount of extra racing is welcome to the fans as it only adds to the entertainment and excitement. If the indications are right, the championship could well go down to the wire in which case ‘every race would count’ for the drivers, teams and of course us, fans!
Second, witnessing high speed racing action at the Bahrain International Circuit, known for its characteristic long straights and hot and dry weather. For the tech geeks, Bahrain is the only racing venue on the calendar where the teams bring ‘sand filters’ to avoid granules of sand from entering the engine as even a few grains of sand on the pistons or valves can have catastrophic effects.
And third, to see if the pecking order in the sport can finally be established before the teams go on yet another three week break and before the start of the European season with the Spanish GP in mid-May. The opening three races have seen three different team and driver combinations win races. Just when we thought McLaren were the team to beat this season, Ferrari snatched a win and so did Mercedes. After a dominating season last year, Red Bull Racing has not only failed to win a single race this season but have managed to finish on the podium only once.
The Lotus F1 team has seemed to have consistent race pace, but have struggled to have a single race weekend yet without external factors affecting their performance. So, who do we put the money on for Bahrain? From the races contested in the previous seasons, Ferrari and Renault (now Lotus F1 team) have scored multiple race victories. While Ferrari might be out of a shot for victory in Bahrain this weekend, the Lotus F1 team could have an outside chance if they get their tyre strategies right.
Raikkonen ran as high as second in last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix before suffering from heavy tyre degradation only to finish outside the points.The only other team to have won in Bahrain before is Brawn GP (now the Mercedes AMG team) and it is safe to expect the long straights of the BIC to favour their radical ‘DRS enabled duct system’. However, unlike the colder track temperatures which aided their victory in China, we can expect the hotter track temperatures in Bahrain to trouble the tyres of their W03.
And interestingly, neither Red Bull Racing nor McLaren have ever won here in Bahrain. Ditto for the likes of Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg! This makes the fight for top honours for the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix even more open and unpredictable. However, if you insist to know where to place my bet, it would be on a McLaren! And before I sign off, Felipe Massa has won in Bahrain twice before (in 2007 and 2008) and do I think he could open his Drivers’ Championship account this weekend? Well, he better do!