2014 Bahrain Grand Prix Preview

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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.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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