Pirelli announces late change to Bahrain tire choice

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Pirelli has changed its choice of tires for the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend.

The official F1 tire supplier originally selected the soft and hard tire compounds for this weekend’s race. But in a late change the medium tire will now be used instead of the soft.

Pirelli’s soft tire came in for criticism during the Chinese Grand Prix weekend as drivers were only able to run it for short stints before it needed to be replaced.

Most drivers used the soft tire for only five or six laps during the race. Mark Webber ditched his after a single lap.

But Pirelli said the decision not to bring the soft tire to Bahrain was made before the race in China.

“When we made the allocation choices for Bahrain in December of last year, we had not done one winter test, let alone a race,” said motorsport director Paul Hembery.

“Our initial choice for Bahrain was soft and hard, but once we had seen the new generation of our tires run in Malaysia, a track similar to Bahrain, we decided that the combination medium and hard would be better suited for the Bahrain circuit.”

The medium and hard tire combination to be used this weekend is the same as was used for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Hembery added Bahrain is “one of the most demanding tracks of the year for the tires, mostly because of the high ambient and track temperatures”. Three-stop strategies were the norm in last year’s race and Pirelli expect that to be the same this weekend.

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “