2015 Bahrain Grand Prix Preview

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The first flyaway leg of the 2015 Formula 1 season comes to a close this weekend with the Bahrain Grand Prix, as the teams begin to prepare their first major upgrade packages for introduction at the start of the European season in three weeks’ time.

Last year’s race at the Bahrain International Circuit went down in folklore as Mercedes teammates and championship rivals Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg enjoyed a spectacular fight for the race win in the final 10 laps.

That day, it was Hamilton who took the spoils, but it set the tone for an intra-team scrap that would eventually boil over in Hungary and Belgium – the repercussions of which are still being felt today.

Following his ninth defeat in the last ten races to Hamilton in China, Rosberg accused his teammate of deliberately compromising both his race and that of the team in pursuit of his own victory. The frosty atmosphere of the post-race press conference shows that the tension between the two sides of the Mercedes garage only lingers in 2015.

We now head to Bahrain with a fascinating battle on the cards. The last time Rosberg was so riled up after a race, he reacted by making contact with Hamilton at Spa-Francorchamps, thus becoming the villain. All eyes will be on the two Mercedes drivers in case of a repeat in Bahrain.

However, with Ferrari proving in China that its Malaysia pace was not a one-off, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen could also be candidates for the race win.

2015 Bahrain Grand Prix – Talking Points

Desert Duel v3?

The championship showdown between Hamilton and Rosberg in Abu Dhabi last year was billed as the “desert duel” – in truth, it was the second one following their clash in Bahrain. So does that make this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix the third instalment? If it has even half of the action that last year’s race in Sakhir did, then we are in for a treat.

Rosberg must bounce back this weekend – nine defeats in the last ten races to Hamilton, plus a 0-3 record in 2015 – or he’ll be facing an even bigger task to get back into this title fight. Most importantly though, he must do his talking on track. Beating Lewis this weekend would be an enormous psychological victory – another defeat could be equally as emphatic, though.

Ferrari’s next big opportunity

Sebastian Vettel’s shock victory in Malaysia proved that Ferrari can cut it with Mercedes at the front, particularly at races where temperatures are high. Bahrain is set to be another sizzler on Sunday, even when being run at night, which could bring Ferrari back into contention. It will be interesting to see just how closely Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen can fight with the Silver Arrows, particularly given the internal issues the German marque is facing.

The chasing pack continues to shape up

Lotus finally came good on its pre-season pace in China (well, Romain Grosjean did) whilst Red Bull continued to struggle and McLaren made some good progress to get both of its cars to the line. So who exactly leads the way in the midfield battle? Williams was in a rather lonely class of its own in China, easing to P5 and P6, and should expect to do the same this weekend. Just behind, the margins between Lotus, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Sauber are small, whilst a power upgrade for McLaren could yet bring it into contention again. If the battle at the front is a let down, the one in the midfield certainly won’t be.

McLaren’s rapid rise

It may be just one of two teams without a single point to its name in 2015, but McLaren has made some rapid progress over the first three races of the season. Honda has promised an engine boost for this weekend’s race in Bahrain before a bigger one at the start of the European season at the Spanish grand Prix, suggesting that everything is moving in the right direction. Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso are both former winners here, and could be outside bets for points should a race of attrition set in.

The rhythm of the night

Night races in Formula 1 are always special. The Singapore Grand Prix was the first, with Abu Dhabi holding a ‘twilight’ race that started at dusk. Bahrain followed suit with its first night race in 2014, which was an unmitigated success both on and off track. For drivers, it gives the event some extra spice and panache, whilst the spectacle is undoubtedly improved by running in the dark under floodlights.

Bahrain Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Bahrain International Circuit
Laps: 57
Corners: 15
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:30.252 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Prime)
2014 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2014 Pole Position: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:33.185
2014 Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:37.020
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T15 to T1); T10 to T11

Bahrain Grand Prix – TV Times

Free Practice 1: NBC Sports Live Extra 7a ET 4/17
Free Practice 2: NBCSN 11a ET 4/17
Free Practice 3: NBC Sports Live Extra 8a ET 4/18
Qualifying: CNBC 11a ET 4/18
Race: NBCSN 10:30a ET 4/19

Also, be sure to watch the premiere of Off The Grid: Melbourne following F1 Extra on NBCSN on Sunday as Will Buxton and Jason Swales show you all of the behind the scenes at the Australian Grand Prix. For a sneak preview of the show, click here.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”