2014 Bahrain Grand Prix Preview

1 Comment

The Formula 1 circus arrives in Bahrain this weekend for a very special race. With 2014 marking the tenth anniversary of the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix, it is being promoted as a “celebration” for the island kingdom. Part of this ‘celebration’ sees the Bahrain International Circuit play host to just the second night race on the calendar, following in the footsteps of the Singapore Grand Prix.

It might be something of a final roll of the dice for Formula 1 in Bahrain. Although money is not a problem, the race has hardly been one that is looked forward to. Very few fans are stirred by the circuit or the racing it produces, but a night race may resolve this. Hundreds of floodlights have been erected around the circuit to illuminate the cars throughout the weekend, as we saw at the final round of the World Endurance Championship back in December.

Following his dominant victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend, Lewis Hamilton will be looking to go back-to-back and cut the gap to championship leader and teammate Nico Rosberg on Sunday. Both drivers enter this weekend’s race as favorites thanks to the immense pace of the W05 car, but with Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen all in the shake-up, it is by no means a foregone conclusion.

2014 Bahrain Grand Prix – Talking Points

Lewis versus Nico – Round 3

Round one of this inter-team battle went to Nico Rosberg as he won in Australia; round two was a convincing victory for Lewis Hamilton by a full 17 seconds in the exact same car. And so we come to round three in Bahrain. Both drivers are champing at the bit to be team leader and mount a serious title challenge, but with Red Bull rapidly catching up, now is the time for Mercedes to make the most of its advantage.

How much closer will Red Bull be?

Sebastian Vettel finishing in third place last weekend may not appear to be a momentous result given his glittering career, but following such a disastrous winter, it meant the world to Red Bull. Now, the team must use the momentum gained in Malaysia to push Mercedes even closer in Bahrain. For Daniel Ricciardo, it is merely about scoring some points. His luck makes you unsure whether to laugh or cry.

Ferrari needs to turn up

Fernando who? Kimi? Eh? It’s been that kind of start to the season for Ferrari. The erstwhile Alonso has picked up two solid fourth place finishes so far, but the pace of the F14 T has left much to be desired. Similarly, Raikkonen has – despite a slice of bad luck in Malaysia – been largely anonymous. However, write the team off at your peril. After two quiet races at the beginning of last season, Ferrari roared back into life to win the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix. It might take a bit more than aggressive tire wear this year, though.

Some dry weather answers

Wet qualifying for both the Australian and Malaysian Grands Prix has clouded our idea of the pecking order (over one lap, at least), but Bahrain should remedy this situation. Given that we have never seen a wet session at Sakhir, we should finally see just how great Mercedes’ advantage is. Further to that, we’ll also begin to appreciate the impact of the new tire rules that mean drivers start the race on their Q2 compound, not their Q3 selection as per 2013.

250 not out for Jenson Button

If it’s a celebration for Bahrain, then it’s also a celebration for Jenson Button. Having made his debut in the 2000 Australian Grand Prix, the British driver will now start his 250th race this weekend. In a career full of ups and downs, he has done it all: been a rookie, a backmarker, an unlikely winner, a world champion and a team leader. He won his 200th race at the Hungaroring in 2011, so could it be another big result to celebrate a big landmark for JB?

2014 Bahrain Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir (5.412km)
Laps: 57
Corners: 15
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:30.252s (2004)
Tire Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Prime)
2013 Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2013 Pole Position: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:32.330
2013 Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) – 1:36.961
DRS Zones: Main straight (T15 to T1); T10 to T11

For the complete schedule and TV times, click here. Please note that qualifying is live on CNBC.

Williams’ Massa, Stroll prep for new phases of their careers (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

In the video linked above, Williams Martini Racing’s Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll look ahead to what should be an intriguing 2017 Formula 1 season given their respective stages of their careers.

Massa, 35, returns to the Mercedes-powered team after what was meant to be a retirement following last season’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. But the subsequent retirement of Nico Rosberg at Mercedes AMG Petronas opened the door for Massa to come back once Valtteri Bottas left to replace Rosberg there, and has given Massa a second ‘farewell tour.’

Stroll, meanwhile, is just 18 – born a year and three days (October 29, 1998) after Williams won its last World Championship in 1997 with Stroll’s Canadian countryman Jacques Villeneuve. Having blitzed the junior categories, particularly the FIA European F3 Championship last year, Stroll’s arrival to F1 comes with some fanfare and some question marks as he’s been fortunate to have significant family support.

The two of them make up Williams’ team this season and along with deputy team principal Claire Williams, they look ahead to what is to come in 2017.

You can see this pair and the rest of the F1 grid as part of NBCSN’s coverage from Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix. All times are linked here.

Lewis Hamilton completes Friday F1 practice double in Australia

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lewis Hamilton continued his march at the top of the timesheets in practice for the Formula 1 season-opener in Australia on Friday afternoon, leading the way once again for Mercedes.

Hamilton entered the weekend unsure about his chances after an impressive display from Ferrari through pre-season testing, prompting the Briton to pick the Italian team as the favorite for victory in Melbourne.

Hamilton set the pace through first practice at Albert Park as the new-style F1 cars got their first official running, heading up a one-two finish for Mercedes with Valtteri Bottas in tow.

FP2 was expected to offer more insight into Ferrari’s true pace after it opted to limit its running through first practice, but it was Hamilton who led the way once again.

Running on the ultra-soft tire, Hamilton produced a stunning lap of 1:23.620 to finish half a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, the German driver unable to respond to his rival’s pace.

Bottas continued his impressive start to life with Mercedes, finishing the session third-quickest, while Kimi Raikkonen rounded out a Mercedes-Ferrari top-four lock-out in the second SF70H car.

Despite Ferrari’s inability to challenge Mercedes, it was Red Bull that came away from FP2 as the biggest disappointment after Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen had scruffy sessions en route to P5 and P6 respectively. Verstappen had been on a quick lap and due to improve his time, only to run wide at Turn 12 and narrowly avoid losing control.

Carlos Sainz Jr. finished a solid seventh for Toro Rosso ahead of Haas driver Romain Grosjean, who was fortunate to keep his car out of the wall as the American team’s brake issues arose once again. Nico Hulkenberg was ninth for Renault, with Daniil Kvyat rounding out the top 10.

FP2 was red flagged early on following a big shunt for Jolyon Palmer at the final corner. The Briton lost the rear-end of his car coming through the right-hander, causing him to slide into the wall and suffer a large amount of damage to his car. Felipe Massa was another driver to hit trouble, with his Williams FW40 grinding to a halt midway through the session, forcing the Brazilian to end his day early, while Marcus Ericsson spun off with five minutes to go, beaching his Sauber.

Lewis Hamilton sets rapid pace to open F1 2017 in Australia FP1

Getty Images
2 Comments

Lewis Hamilton kicked off Formula 1’s new technical era in style by heading up a one-two finish for Mercedes in opening practice for the Australian Grand Prix on Friday morning in Melbourne.

Despite predictions from many that Ferrari and Red Bull would pose a greater challenge at the top of the timesheets in Australia, FP1 offered a familiar result as Hamilton led home new teammate Valtteri Bottas.

The added downforce of the new-style 2017 cars had the desired effect of slashing lap times, with Hamilton’s best effort of 1:24.220 being less than four-tenths of a second off his pole position time for last year’s race.

Bottas made a good impression in his first F1 weekend session in Mercedes colors, leading the bulk of the session before Hamilton jumped ahead on the ultrasoft tires with around 30 minutes remaining.

Daniel Ricciardo led Red Bull’s charge, finishing third ahead of teammate Max Verstappen, but Ferrari decided against showing its hand early and limited its running, only pushing for fast laps in the final 15 minutes of the session.

Kimi Raikkonen ended FP1 fifth in the SF70H, 1.1 seconds off Hamilton’s best time, while Vettel was a further tenth back in P6.

The session went by without any major incident, although a handful of drivers did have minor technical issues that are part and parcel of the first session of the year.

McLaren’s difficulties continued from pre-season as Stoffel Vandoorne was limited to just 10 laps, while Jolyon Palmer and Esteban Ocon also had their running cut due to problems. All three featured in the bottom five of the standings.

Times are below:

Sean Gelael set for Toro Rosso F1 tests in 2017

FIA Formula 2
Leave a comment

Formula 2 driver Sean Gelael will play a part in this year’s in-season Formula 1 test running after agreeing a deal with Toro Rosso.

Gelael, 20, raced full-time in GP2 last year before the championship evolved into F2, scoring one podium finish in Austria.

The Indonesian driver also appeared in the final three rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship, scoring an LMP2 podium for Extreme Speed Motorsports in Shanghai.

Gelael will race in F2 this year with Arden, but will also get his first taste of F1 machinery in the upcoming tests for Toro Rosso.

All F1 teams will get four days of in-season running this year (two in Bahrain, two in Hungary following their respective races) as well as the traditional end-of-year test in Abu Dhabi.

Gelael will feature in all three for Toro Rosso, having undergone a seat fitting at Faenza earlier this week.

All F1 teams are required to allocate at least half of their in-season running to junior drivers who have made fewer than two grand prix starts.

Gelael will make his first appearance for Toro Rosso following the Bahrain Grand Prix, with running set to take place at the Bahrain International Circuit on April 18 and 19.