Nico Rosberg claimed first blood in Australia. But his team mate won the last two Bahrain Grands Prix and Ferrari are poised to strike.
Here’s how the teams line up for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Nico Rosberg say the first race of the year showed Mercedes has to take its rivals seriously. “Ferrari were a real threat all weekend in Melbourne,” he said, “and it’s clear that we’ve got a big battle on our hands.”
Brake problems gave them team a scare at this race last year and while Lewis Hamilton hung on to win it cost Rosberg second place. In a similar situation this year the new radio restrictions would leave managing the problem down to the drivers.
This was arguably Kimi Raikkonen’s best race of last season and one he came close to winning. His race pace in Australia was good until a turbo problem put him out.
A key question ahead of the race will be whether Mercedes has an answer for the phenomenal starts both Ferraris made in Melbourne. Containing both of them at Bahrain’s wide first corner may prove difficult.
Australia indicated Williams face a stiff challenge from the likes of Red Bull and Toro Rosso but the longer straights of Bahrain should tip the balance in their favour this weekend. The circuit will also prove an important test of what gains they’ve made with their slow-corner performance.
Like Ferrari, Williams have selected three sets of medium tyres, so we could see a lot of running from them during practice.
Last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix ended with Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault engine expiring at the finishing line. Its performance and reliability appeared to have improved – it was 4kph closer to the Mercedes in Australia than last year.
That allied to the Red Bull’s qualities on the softer tyres should mean they have a less painful weekend in Bahrain this time.
“On paper Bahrain should be a strong track for us,” said team principal Vijay Mallya. Force India has a new aerodynamic package for the front of its car arriving this weekend.
It may be optimistic to expect a repeat of Sergio Perez’s run to third place in 2014, but expect a competitive showing from him and Nico Hulkenberg.
Bahrain is “not the most exciting track” according to Kevin Magnussen. It may also expose the weaknesses of the Renault package more sharply than Melbourne did.
Although the RS16 chassis is “very driveable”, Magnussen says, he also believes “it is not fast enough to be on the podium or even in Q3”. “But it’s a good car that handles well and it’s something we will continue to work on,” he added.
The great work done by the team in making a late change of engine supplier and putting a competitive car on the track for the first race was undone by poor strategy and driver management in Australia. Max Verstappen ran fourth early in the race but the team’s cars came home at the foot of the top ten.
Verstappen will also need a bit of management following his mid-race outburst. He and Carlos Sainz Jnr will be consoled by the knowledge they’ll be less vulnerable on Bahrain’s straights this year.
There wasn’t an awful lot of encouragement to draw from Sauber’s first race weekend of the year. While fellow 2016 Ferrari power unit users Haas grabbed a dream points finish neither Sauber driver looked like troubling the top ten.
After a reduced pre-season testing programme due to the late arrival of their car, and rain during practice in Australia, Bahrain should at least give them an opportunity to conduct some more meaningful running with the C35.
Fernando Alonso’s violent accident in Australia left the team down a chassis and a power unit – and on Thursday came the new Alonso too has been ruled out of racing this weekend. While he might have battled through the pain of his fractured ribs, the possibility of them causing a more grievous injury if he were to crash again was wisely judged a risk not worth taking.
So for the second year in a row Alonso will sit out a race at the beginning of the season. In his place comes Stoffel Vandoorne, one of the most exciting junior talents on the periphery of Formula One. Over the last four years he has beaten Daniil Kvyat to the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup crown, finished runner-up in Formula Renault 3.5 as a rookie to Kevin Magnussen, finished runner-up in GP2 as a rookie to Jolyon Palmer, and then last season scored the most dominant GP2 title win in the 11-year history of the championship.
Vandoorne has had several opportunities to drive the team’s F1 cars and won all three GP2 feature races he started in Bahrain. It’s not hard to see why many expect big things of his grand prix debut, even if it has come in unfortunate circumstances.
Needing to get more mileage on their MRT-05, Manor has again opted for a generous helping of the harder compound tyres this weekend with the aim of getting plenty of practice running done.
With a somewhat basic chassis but the best power unit in the pit lane, Bahrain’s long straights will make an interesting benchmark of the team’s progress compared to 12 months ago, when it was over six seconds off the pace.
Despite their stunning result in Australia, Haas need to be realistic about their chances for the rest of the season. “We won’t finish sixth every weekend,” admitted team principal Guenther Steiner, “so we need to be careful with our expectations”.
The team appeared to underperform in their first qualifying session. With the elimination system remaining for this weekend both drivers will have to produce their best on their first attempt to stand any chance of reaching Q2.
2016 driver form
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2016 Bahrain Grand Prix
- Elimination qualifying officially replaced by 2015 format
- Haas mechanic credited for saving Grosjean’s race
- Caption Competition 101: Ecclestone and Warwick
- Grosjean takes back-to-back Driver of the Weekend wins
- Another decent race despite qualifying gloom
26 comments on “2016 Bahrain Grand Prix team-by-team preview”
31st March 2016, 17:07
Over the last four years he has beaten Daniil Kvyat to the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup crown, finished runner-up in Formula Renault 3.5 as a rookie to Kevin Magnussen, finished runner-up in GP2 as a rookie to Jolyon Palmer, and then last season scored the most dominant GP2 title win in the 11-year history of the championship.
And it took a monstrous accident before he even got a shot at a F1 drive, and its not even a full time one. I really do fail to see why McLaren wants to stick to the two old guy formula whilst let’s be honest their impact on development is minimal…
Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)
31st March 2016, 17:14
@xtwl I disagree completely. Vandoorne is a huge talent but McLaren has got two world champions and it needs them to wield their knowledge, experience and clout to push Honda on. Keeping them in the car is exactly the right thing to do. Button and Alonso are world class drivers and writing them off as a pair of ‘old guys’ is a cheap shot.
31st March 2016, 18:14
@keithcollantine Perhaps I choose my words poorly. I agree they are probably still among the best the sport has to offer but do they really need two of those? Could they really not have kept Magnussen in 2015, and that for a tenth of Alonso his fee. Is having two top drivers really that big of an influence on how Honda develops their engine, and is it not a better bet to use these poor years to train a youngster so, when the day comes that the car is ready, he is ready to perform too.
I’m not saying this because it now concerns Vandoorne and I’m Belgian, they were wrong to fire Perez, they were wrong to fire Magnussen and in my opinion wrong to replace Magnussen with Alonso. If Vandoorne does not get a seat in 2017 he will lose interest, he will look at other options and McLaren will have nobody worth mentioning in their line-up to fight in the future.
I have always been a strong supporter of the one experienced and one to learn from the experienced and unless your team is fighting for the constructors championship I don’t see any reason to hire two world champions that together cost you more than a tenth of your development budget. McLaren has to know they won’t be fighting for a title any time soon.
ferrox glideh (@ferrox-glideh)
31st March 2016, 20:36
Consider that having two ex-world champion drivers is perhaps what allowed McLaren to survive the buffeting of the last several years. When they solve their technical woes, then they will be able to afford the gamble on emerging talent. That being said, maybe this weekend will turn in Mclaren’s fortunes…
31st March 2016, 21:29
@xtwl, I agree to some extent. I think it’s clear Mclaren wants the best possible driver pairing. But in having Button and Alonso, they have two drivers who might “expire” simultaneously. Just like Toro Rosso, by replacing both drivers at once, they’ll lose all references. Knowing that Alonso is on a 3 year contract until the end of 2017, it would be wise to have a young talented driver in the other seat, ready to commit long-term. I think as soon as they realized they weren’t going to be at the front last year, and thus didn’t had much to lose, they should have given Vandoorne regular FP1 outings, and made him ready for this year. I think Button is still a great driver, but once the car is up to speed (2017..2018?) he will be too old, and lost some of his ultimate performance. Long term Vandoorne is the better strategy for Mclaren.
1st April 2016, 2:58
Agree 100%. It’s been years since Button belonged in F1 and Kimi and Alonso are both right there as well. Not saying they don’t have skills to develope, so did Reubens and Jarno, but there comes a time where they’ve lost their edge, eyesight, and reflexes. It happened to Schumi, it will happen to Vettel and Lewis if they live long enough and keep racing. But there’s no denying it’s already happened to Button and Kimi. I like them both, they both are faces of F1 and in their time benefited the sport. That was seasons and seasons ago, however.
1st April 2016, 10:45
And you know this how exactly? This is all a speculation on your part. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion but yours I’m afraid has no facts to back it up and therefore is without merit
1st April 2016, 1:26
So you’d stick a driver with zero experience in F1 in an uncompetitive car and hope to do what exactly? Button and Alonso are EXACTLY what McHonda needs right now. They know they’re not going to score a podium. They’ll not even get a whiff of one. Points would be a blessing. What they need is experienced feedback telling them exactly what is good and bad about the direction of development they’re going in. Vandoorne isn’t going anywhere any time soon as I’m sure he’s under contract for an extensive period of time if McLaren have their house in order. Why risk putting a sour taste in the mouth of potentially the next great F1 legend now for little to likely as not zero gain when you can further the development of the team and car with the still talented and vastly more experienced button and Alonso? Let’s be real, button is likely gone in another season, two at best. And Alonso may be as well. But at the very least in another season they can pair SVd with Alonso and have, hopefully, boosted their development by an increased rate vs placing SVd in the car now….there is a place for intelligent and consistent drivers in this sport yet. Lets not all rush to usher in the next great thing every season they pop up. Yes Verstappen and Sainz et al have been entertaining at the very least, but I wonder if now that they seem to have an edge on RBR in the engine department as well as at least even footing seemingly in the chassis too, what STR would give to have someone like Jenson or the like in one of the cars to give them just another edge when developing early in the season, or better still, when the new formula debuts next year vs relying on the feedback of two young men who have shown talent if not exactly level headed-ness.
1st April 2016, 3:01
tl/dr after your first sentence. Look at Vettel, Webber, Alonso, and in all probability Weirlein… all started in crap cars, showed great skill and had great careers with the former two being multiple time world champions. Can’t achieve anything if you don’t drive.
1st April 2016, 8:15
Yes, I’d rather stick a driver with ‘zero’ experience in a car now when it does not matter. When podiums and even points are unlikely. Let Button get all the ‘big results’ if you like and meanwhile in the other car you’re breeding the perfect racer. So that when the day comes the car can win races the driver is ready to do so too, and you don’t have to start from that ‘zero experience’ as you say…
1st April 2016, 11:51
I’m a dane and Kevin was let go for no good reason; the car was, difficult as it sounds, overrated and the podium in the first race possibly only enforced McLaren’s bloated self-belief. But even after the hardship McLaren’s agenda might just be to not care about about developing somebody, but simply believe they can hire available talent when the time comes. Currently having two established names probably helps bring sponsorship through a difficult period.
Arnoud van Houwelingen
31st March 2016, 17:29
The pressure this weekend is on Button for sure. If he is unable to finish in front of Vandoorne then that would be very embarassing for him.
31st March 2016, 18:12
Hopefully the trend of the last few Bahrain GP’s being good races will continue.
Good luck to Vandoorne on his debut and speedy recovery to Alonso!
I’ll be boycotting qualifying. Hated it, even before it became the predictable(for me and huge amount of other fans) debacle it was in Aus. If they chose leave it in place after Melbourne then they deserve nothing but contempt. So I’m not watching it,until it’s gone and buried in the best spot at the graveyard of stupid F1 rules of which there were many in history(especially lately) but rarely they were as stupid as this
31st March 2016, 20:57
Me too, no way am I sitting through that rubbish again. Might catch some practice though, to see how Channel 4 get on with the live stuff, and some drivers I’ve hardly seen yet like Wehrlein and obviously Vandoorne.
For Button it’s an interesting one – nobody was too bothered whether he beats Alonso or not, but there’ll be lots more attention on the new kid. And I’m hoping for a good race up front with the Ferraris as well as Rosberg applying some pressure to Hamilton. Any Red Bull, Toro Rosso or Williams involvement would be a bonus.
31st March 2016, 22:37
@bullfrog Yeah I might watch some practice, but not qualy.
Button situation for me is very simple. If you lose to a rookie on his debut, you have a problem. A huge problem if he loses in the race and a minor one if he loses only in qualy but then beats SV in the race. Everyone knows JB was never a great qualifier anyway, his strengths lie elsewhere
Ferrari can win this one, especially KR if he qualifies anywhere near the front. Bahrain is one of the most clear rear-limited circuits on the calendar and KR is a driver whose style is most radically optimized to protect rear tires, even to the detriment of everything else. It suits him like a glove that’s why he’s always done well there
This circuit also suits Force India usually so won’t be surprised if they’re lead of the midfield here
31st March 2016, 23:10
I see I’m not the only one then that’s not watching qualy @bullfrog, @montreal95 – with this system I just can’t see it being worth my time on a Saturday afternoon (early morning before wife wakes up, perhaps, but now, no).
1st April 2016, 10:58
@bosyber Yeah, well, I usually work on the Saturdays. So when the qualifying is in its usual time, I try to finish my tasks beforehand and then watch the qualy last thing before going home. But now with this system even if the qualy was in its usual time I still would not watch it. I’m fed up with F1’s bosses not listening to their despairing fans. Fed up with friends losing interest in F1. A few years ago I had 3 friends with whom we would gather to watch F1 and we were all huge fans. In the past 3 years they have all lost interest, one by one they had stopped watching, last one a few months ago. don’t know how much more I can take in myself
To the Max !
31st March 2016, 19:38
Good to see Stoffel having an opportunity to race.
So according to Sainz there are no team orders when both drivers are on the same strategy, and he himself also made the call to come in…that battle could get interesting again later on. Verstappen has apologized to the team for the way he spoke to them on the team radio.
FP2 will be the practice to watch as usual in Bahrain because of temperatures. I’m looking forward to see more of where teams are in the pecking order, lets bring it on.
1st April 2016, 11:05
Sainz unlike Verstappen didn’t make the call to come in. The team made the call(as it should be) because his front tires were locking constantly. Then MV went crazy thought that the team were favoring Sainz without seeing the big picture(had he not made the decision to come in when he had he was guaranteed P6) and ruined his own race. I don’t know if he apologized for the radio or for the whole thing but he should have done. He lost the team and himself 6 points
To the Max !
1st April 2016, 18:46
Sainz actually made the call himself he recently admitted. The remarks of Tost were as usual damage control. And Verstappen has apologized to the team.
Big Mag (@)
31st March 2016, 20:53
The enthusiasm and fan mania for some drivers, is one of the aspect of F1 I have difficulties to grasp. It is countless the number of drivers who has been announced the next world champion if “just got the right car”. But it been proven time and time again that there is a lot more than pure driving talent to be successful in F1, and that the difference between F1 and the feeder series is substantial. Now Vandoorne is on the hype, and I almost feel sorry for him. Fans “fail to see why McLaren wants to stick to the two old guy formula” and “If he (Button) is unable to finish in front of Vandoorne then that would be very embarrassing for him”. Fans and media expect Vandoorne to convince the world that it is a mistake he is driving in Super Formula instead of F1. But what if he doesn’t deliver? Why have drivers like Massa, Button and many before them been in F1 for years in spite of the arrival of one young star after another. Massa ans Button are talented too of course, but their pure speed does not increase whit age, but their ability to get every single drop of performance out them self, their equipment and race situations does. That is what Vandoorne is up against, but in the hype it often forgotten.
1st April 2016, 8:17
@bigfoot Because people inherently like to stick with what they know. Especially if it concerns several millions of euros.
ferrox glideh (@ferrox-glideh)
31st March 2016, 21:16
Kimi Raikkonen has had no luck except bad luck since 2013. Now he has a good car under him and nothing to lose. I would not be surprised by a stand-out season, if the Gremlins allow it.
31st March 2016, 23:45
It appeared to me that one of the big problems with the qualifying format is the lovely idea that they should have to finish the lap they are on PRIOR to the clock getting to zero. I have no idea why they put that rule in there….why not at least allow them to finish the lap they are on if the clock reaches zero, as long as they started it prior to it reaching zero. Haas and others had fast laps not count due to that strange twist in the new rule.
1st April 2016, 0:48
Haas didn’t underperform in qualifying in Australia, they simply got their timing wrong, times were good enough for top ten at least, but the clock ran out before the lap finished.
1st April 2016, 14:17
PorscheF1@xwtl is right: No doubt the financial stupidity of hiring Alonso and locking a very large part of the budget to his salary came from Honda’s totally over rated ego, aka, ‘we will immediately produce a winning car, therefore we need a proven World champion to drive it’. This kind of problem was named by the Greeks more than 2000 years ago!
If You want to develop a winning team You have to look at Your assets and Your finances. If You know for sure that You have a winning formula, You need a winning driver, but until then it is wiser to follow a more humble approach. And a new MacHonda era would be so much more convincing, if it was done by developing a young talented driver along with the technical package…
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