2013 Bahrain Grand Prix preview

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Off the back of the Chinese Grand Prix, the teams have had little chance to catch their breath ahead of this weekend’s race in Bahrain. With Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and Lotus all impressing in China, will the four teams be vying for victory once again this weekend?

Bahrain Grand Prix Talking Points

Are Ferrari and Alonso pulling ahead?

Fernando Alonso perfected his strategy and pace in China to take a stunning victory, so Ferrari will be keen on continuing this form in Bahrain. Although rain is forecast across the weekend, a characteristically hot race could play into the Italian’s marque’s hands. After all, Alonso dominated in the heat in China after two damp races, so the F138 appears to be strong in the dry.

Red Bull look to bounce back

China was a difficult weekend for Red Bull, even with Sebastian Vettel finishing 4th after starting down in 9th. The world champion struggled for outright pace on the harder tire, getting stuck behind Nico Hulkenberg early on, whilst Mark Webber endured a nightmare weekend. Quite whether his fortune will change in Bahrain is impossible to predict, but starting three places back from his qualifying position is certainly a bad omen.

Can Mercedes finally win?

There appears to be four teams in the hunt for the 2013 constructors’ championship, and Mercedes is the only member of this group yet to win. Lewis Hamilton struggled from pole in China, whilst Nico Rosberg went backwards before finally retiring, making it a disappointing weekend for the German team after such a strong qualifying performance. Bahrain is where the team really has to prove its worth.

Further progress on McLaren’s agenda

McLaren was strong in China, with Jenson Button perfecting his strategy to finish in a best-case-scenario of 5th. However, Perez’s failure to score shows that the MP4-28 is still incapable of a podium finish, although the team has certainly come a long way since the opening race of the season.

Advantage Toro Rosso in the midfield battle?

China threw up some interesting midfield battles, with Daniel Ricciardo coming out on top in P6, and Toro Rosso appear to be in good shape for the rest of the season. For outright pace, the Faenza-based team was very strong, but Force India and Sauber also impressed (after they both lost one driver in the same incident), leaving us with a highly exciting battle for the small points in Bahrain.

Track: Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir (5.412km)
Laps: 57
Corners: 15
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:30.252s (2004)
Tire Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Hard)
2012 Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2012 Pole Position: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) – 1:32.422s
2012 Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) – 1:36.379s
DRS Zones: Main straight (T15 to T1); T10 to T11

Friday – Free Practice 1: 10:00am local/03:00am ET
Friday – Free Practice 2: 14:00pm local/07:00am ET
Saturday – Free Practice 3: 11:00am local/04:00pm ET
Saturday – Qualifying: 14:00pm local/07:00am ET
Sunday – Race: 15:00pm local/08:00am ET

You can watch FP2, qualifying and the race on NBC this weekend via http://stream.nbcsports.com/liveextra/, or on their phone or tablet by downloading the app http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/25481063/.

Alonso would be ‘very happy’ to finish F1 career with McLaren

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Fernando Alonso says he would be “very happy” to see out his Formula 1 career with McLaren after signing a new multi-year contract with the British team, announced on Thursday.

Alonso, 36, ended speculation about his future by agreeing a new deal with McLaren, hopeful of returning to the front of the field next year when the team swaps Honda power for Renault engines.

Alonso admitted to considering options outside of F1 before agreeing to stay at McLaren, and was thought to only be chasing a one-year extension in order to be in a position to snap up a more attractive seat in the volatile 2019 market.

However, Alonso confirmed in an interview with the official F1 website that the deal with McLaren stretched beyond the end of next year, adding he would be content to see out his time in the sport with the team.

“I never talk about contracts, but one thing I can say is it is a long-term partnership,” Alonso said.

“I am very happy to finish my career at McLaren. So I don’t think it is going to be only one year.”

Alonso also revealed he had options with teams high up the field in F1 for 2018 just a couple of months ago, but was always leaning to staying at McLaren despite not scoring a podium with the team in almost three years.

“There were some other options in F1. In the summer there were still some options at the top teams, but my desire was to stay with McLaren,” Alonso said.

“But at that time they were in conversation with different engine suppliers, so I had to give them time to sort out their situation.

“Then McLaren opted for a Renault engine which delayed my decision, because I had to understand what Renault’s plans were for next years.

“But when I had everything on the table, everything was pretty clear.”