2010 Bahrain Grand Prix – Preview
It’s finally here – the 2010 Formula One World Championship is about to begin. And it begins here, in the Kingdom of Bahrain, one of the smallest (and richest) countries in the Middle East. The circuit at Sakhir was built (well, most of it was) in time for the 2004 Bahrain Grand Prix, the first in the region. Although it has been shunned by many as dull and soulless, partly due to its barren location and partly due to its typical Hermann Tilke design, it has produced some good races during its time on the calendar, and is one of the best for overtaking, with 3 long straights that allow for overtaking. The 2006 race, which saw Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso, who went on to win the race, battle it out in probably the best race held there so far, was a good example, with several drivers making the most of the wide main straight to overtake rivals into turn 1.
This year the circuit is lengthened to make it one of the longest on the calendar. The new extension was built several years ago and is a narrow technical section that may not add much for the racing but will certainly prove challenging for the drivers. Whether it will win over the drivers and the fans is another matter. Other than that, we can look forward to the usual Bahrain traditions, such as the annual Gulf Air jet flypast, the interview with the Crown Prince on the grid, the dust offline and the attendance of a few of the rich and famous and a few camels. But it is a unique circuit on the calendar with one of the most spectacular settings for a race circuit in the world.
It provides a stunning backdrop for what will be the beginning of the clash of the titans. 4 teams and their 8 drivers enter the first race as clear favourites in the battle for the title. If the testing pace and what the experts say is anything to go by, we could be in for a classic season. We are also lucky to have what seems to be a very strong midfield, with Williams, Sauber and Force India on the pace of the leading runners at one point or another. But not all eyes are on the front of the field, with the intriguing battle between the 3 brand new teams: Lotus Racing, Virgin and HRT. The race also sees the debuts of 5 drivers: Williams’ Nico Hulkenberg, reigning GP2 champion; Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, the first Russian in F1; HRT’s Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok, one returning a famous name to the grid and the other returning India to the grid; and Virgin’s Lucas di Grassi, getting his chance at last after 4 years in GP2. This is set to be the first race with 24 cars starting since the 1995 Pacific Grand Prix at Aida. Oh and that old German bloke is back too.
This will also be the first race since the 1993 Australian Grand Prix where refuelling midrace is outlawed. There are also other subtle changes to the rules, such as alterations to qualifying (the drivers in Q3 now have to start the race on the tyres they use for that session), the new expanded points system (for the first time since 1990, there will no longer be 10 points for a win) and changes to the penalty rules (drivers now only have 2 laps to serve a drive-through penalty instead of 3 and the time penalties have been changed).
It will no doubt be an enthralling encounter. With so much change, the first race of the season is almost completely unpredictable. Who will be up on the podium spraying the rose water by the end of the race? We will find out a week from today. It will no doubt set the tone for the rest of the season, as the driver to win the first race has gone on to win the title in 16 of the last 20 years, so make the most of the unpredictability.
Roll of Honour
2009 – Jenson Button (Brawn-Mercedes)
2008 – Felipe Massa (Ferrari)
2007 – Felipe Massa (Ferrari)
2006 – Fernando Alonso (Renault)
2005 – Fernando Alonso (Renault)
2004 – Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)