Jenson Button, set to celebrate his 250th Grand Prix this weekend, headlined Thursday’s FIA press conference at the Bahrain Grand Prix. The McLaren driver was joined by Lotus’ Romain Grosjean, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne, Marussia’s Jules Bianchi and Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson.
Button spelled out the basics of how the field is looking ahead to the first ever Bahrain night race, but it was Nico Hulkenberg who commented on another Mercedes-powered team’s performance.
Force India, which finished fourth at Bahrain in 2013 with Paul di Resta, is a sleeper contender to do well this weekend. But Hulkenberg said a repeat of either that or fifth place achieved at Malaysia last week would be a bit of a surprise.
“I think here this weekend here is a little trickier. In Malaysia, we had surprisingly good performance on Sunday maybe stronger than we expected,” said the young German. “We were quite clear on McLaren and Williams, which was a little bit of a surprise, but I think here things might be a bit more tricky and a bit more tight.”
Toro Rosso meanwhile has three points finishes out of four possible attempts – Vergne looks for the team to do much better in Bahrain this go-around than in testing, when mechanical gremlins frequently occurred.
“I think Toro Rosso has done a massively good job during the winter and even before that, produced a good car and I believe there is still a lot more to come from this team,” he said. “Many things have changed in a good way and you can definitely feel it inside the team and I’m really happy, they’ve showed some really good results.”
His countryman, Grosjean, looks to get Lotus on the board for the first time this season. He just missed the points with 11th in Malaysia.
“I know that we still have in our genes the winning spirit and we can still fight back,” he said. “Of course, when you start the season with everything in the right direction it’s easier to move forward but at the moment we’ve had some issues, we’ve solved most of them, hopefully no more coming, then we can go from there.”
Bianchi and Ericsson didn’t get a ton of testing time at either Bahrain test and the pair look to continue the Marussia and Caterham teams’ respective methodical growth into the weekend.
The full link to Thursday’s press conference is here, via the official Formula One website. Times for this weekend’s Bahrain GP are linked here.