Tag Archives: Bahrain GP

Bahrain GP Friday press conference

Today it was a case of old to new, as today’s press conference replaced world champions with up-and-coming youngsters. Today we had Lucas di Grassi, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Hulkenberg, Heikki Kovalainen and Robert Kubica. Here is the full transcript:

Q: Gentlemen, how is it to be in F1? Lucas, would you like to start?
Lucas Di Grassi:
For me it is a great honour to be here in F1. It is my first races as official driver, so there has been a lot of work, a lot of effort to arrive in this position, so I am just enjoying every minute I am in the car, trying to learn as much as I can and trying to evolve as a driver. It is a great feeling.

Q: Nico?
Nico Hulkenberg:
I mean it is nice and great to finally be here but I am sure every driver who has come here worked very hard and long for it, same for me. Just happy to be here and looking forward hopefully to a long career.

Q: It is the same thing for Robert and Heikki in a way; a new team for you, Robert. What are your feelings about that?
Robert Kubica:
Quite happy, actually. It is not easy to change after four years being with one team. It is quite a different mentality team, so we have done quite good work in winter to prepare for the new season, new challenge. It is okay.

Q: And for Heikki?
Heikki Kovalainen:
For me also. Obviously I had a very different winter. We started from zero with the team and have seen the team growing and building all the time. We managed to do a little bit of testing but arrived here a little bit on the back foot. But today has been fantastic. Both cars have been running without any problems so far. It is very good and the atmosphere is very good. I am enjoying it. I think F1 is good as always.

Q: Lucas, tell us about your day today and how things have been going?
LG:
I had pretty much a difficult start to the day in P1. I had some small issue in the car which did not allow me to do many laps and I need more mileage. Everything got back to a good position in P2 as I did quite a good run with both sets of tyres and we were able to do a different set-up change, so it helped a lot.

Q: How do you see the weekend developing for you and the team?
LG:
Everybody in the team is pushing really hard. As everybody knows the car came together months ago and we had a lot of problems in testing, so our main reason to be here and our main way of development is to get everything done properly and with it on time. We are not rushing anything. We are making sure the car is having the best performance. The team is working very, very hard and the team worked all night last night, so everyone is giving 100 per cent and I am trying to do the same when I am driving.

Q: Nico, a remarkable day for you ending up sixth. How has it gone?
NH:
It was okay. We were able to go through our programme and be able to get comfortable in the car on the track. It ran smoothly without any technical or other problems.

Q: In testing, you held the record for red flags, so you must be happy with the reliability today?
NH:
Yeah, I mean again also Williams has pushed very hard and still everyday there is a new guy coming from the UK bringing new parts, not only performance parts but reliability parts, to get our car better. A big thank you to the guys in the factory. Without them we would not be where we are.

Q: How good a teacher is Rubens Barrichello? The most experienced guy on the grid.
NH:
He is not really teaching me. I am just looking at what he is doing. As a team-mate he is always transparent. I can see how he drives, how he works, how he approaches the weekend, so in that aspect I can see and learn from him.

Q: You have got a new engine. Is it quite a surprise where you are?
NH:
With a new engine? I think Cosworth have also done a good and remarkable job. We did not have any problems during winter testing and again here the engine is running fine and performance wise it is not too bad at all.

Q: Heikki, you had the Mercedes engine last year and you can compare the Cosworth to the Mercedes. How does it come out?
HK:
I think to give a direct comparison is probably not fair as the performance of the car at this stage is very different. But I think so far they have done a very good job. Like Nico says, the reliability has been fantastic. I have not had a single problem. I don’t think if anyone had a problem with the engine and just the initial feeling is that the power is competitive. I don’t think that will not be an issue. I think it is good.

Q: What is lacking within the car? Is it your confidence?
HK:
It is not confidence. What is lacking is another 10 to 20 months of time and give the team a bit of a chance to put some performance into the car. We built the car and the team in just under six months time and you cannot ask for more than this. We put the car on the track in testing and today we looked like a professional race team. We were running the car first on the track this morning. I mean you cannot expect performance to be better than this yet. I am sure it will be. We have already shown many things that not many teams could do, so I have all the confidence that given a bit of time, give us a year or two, even less than that, we can put a lot of performance in the car and move up the grid. You have got to start somewhere and we are still growing, we are still building the team so it is not my confidence. I am very confident in fact. I have had a good winter and I feel 100 per cent shape and I feel today I had a very good today and we went forward but we need a bit of time.

Q: How do you see the weekend developing? Do you feel you will be able to close that gap to the established teams?
HK:
If we could find three or four seconds it would be pretty good, wouldn’t it. I am sure we will be working hard but we just do not know yet what everybody else has done. We have just focussed on our own preparation today like a professional race team does. We will prepare for the race, we have compared the tyres, we have done various checks with the set-up and tried to tune the car for the circuit and also for myself getting adapted to the circuit. That is what we are really worried about. I am sure eventually we can close the gap to the leaders and that is what we are here for but it will not happen overnight. The teams ahead of us are all good teams. Formula One is incredibly competitive but we have been quite brave. We have entered the competition and from what we have shown today I think we can go with chin up, full steam ahead.

Q: Sebastian, how do you feel about today?
Sebastian Vettel:
I would have loved to run more. I think this morning the circuit was not in very good shape with not a lot of rubber down, especially on the new part of the circuit. But in the afternoon I think we had quite a lot of rubber, but I did not run very much. I had a problem with the brakes, brake failure, and Mark had a problem as well, so I would have loved to do more laps.

Q: Is it a worry to have that failure? Brakes is a big thing this year.
SV:
It is not a nice feeling, but it depends where it happens. I think it happens if you go up in Monaco up to the casino it is the worst place. Here there is quite a lot of run-off, so it was no problem, but it is not something you like to happen.

Q: Fifth fastest with that brake failure. Do you feel that is where you are or do you think it should be better?
SV:
I think today is still very difficult to read. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it is a bit more difficult, but if you really want to say precisely where everyone is I think at this stage it is still a bit too early. From what I have seen in the session it is no secret that this afternoon Ferrari seemed to run a bit heavier whereas Mercedes tried with a little bit less fuel in the beginning and then put some fuel back into the car for the rest of it. I think at this stage we are in decent shape. I would have loved to run a lot more and get more laps and more data, but at this stage I think Ferrari and McLaren look extremely competitive.

Q: Last year the team did a fantastic job with the development. It is almost certainly going to be a development battle this year. Are you confident in the programme that Red Bull have?
SV:
Yeah, as you said it will be the same kind of battle as last year. Obviously that is not very cheap. But for everyone it is the same thing, so where we are now and I am sure the cars will improve a lot as they are still quite young. I think this year there is a lot to discover with the new regulations, no refuelling, the tyres are different, so I think everyone is in a steep learning curve and we will see. The cars we will have at the end of the year they might be better but you get 25 points for a win here as you do at the last race, so we will see.

Q: Robert, your feelings about today? You ended up 15th.
RK:
It was quite a good day. It was different running with this temperature compared to winter testing, so we have quite a nice run, smooth without major problems. We have to work a bit on the car to improve it and try to do our best tomorrow which will finally be the day of truth.

Q: You’re a former pole-winner here. What are your feelings about the circuit, particularly the new part?
RK:
The new part doesn’t look really interesting, at least for myself it’s a kind of a street circuit, it reminds me of a Monte Carlo a bit, the Monaco race track. It’s very slow, a lot of bumps, quite tough for the tyres and very appropriate compared to the old section of track. Yes, it was quite dirty as Sebastian mentioned. This morning it was quite slippery there. Afterwards it improved but there is still quite a big delta shift between the grip of the new section and the old section.

Q: And you’ve been quoted as saying that Renault could create a surprise?
RK:
When did I say this, a long time ago? Well, it depends how it goes but I think we were in pretty good shape in winter testing, maybe not in the last tests but before we were surprisingly good. But we have to keep working. Actually, we are doing it very hard. The guys didn’t go to bed last night, preparing the car because new bits arrived quite late, so it was quite a tough two days for them. But let’s hope we will pay them back on the performance side.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Mikolaj Sokol – Rzeczpospolita) Sebastian and Robert, with 23 cars on the track, some of them significantly slower than you, how can you deal with traffic? Is it a big issue?
SV:
Yes, I think it is a big issue, especially practice and at least the first qualifying session. Of course, speaking to Lucas or Timo or the other guys, Heikki, it’s not the easiest time that they have to face. Obviously they are just about to start, so I think it’s fair to give them time. For sure, if you arrive and you have that big delta between the cars and at least six cars are quite a bit slower than the rest and for sure it could be a problem and one or the other will suffer. It will happen in qualifying that you probably don’t get your lap time. These guys are trying their best as well, so you have to respect that, but if you’re five seconds quicker then it’s very difficult to estimate at the start of the lap if you will be fine or not. Here, I think it’s quite OK because you can see quite a lot, but if you go to Singapore or Monaco where half of the circuit is blind anyway then it’s very difficult. We’ve had problems in the past with traffic, it will be quite a mess but that’s life, I guess.
RK: Yeah, I’ve had similar problems to Sebastian. They are there, for sure they are not having an easy time to keep the car on the track, so that’s how it is. They are there and from our side we can only try and get some more space when they are in front of us, but it’s hard for them, it’s hard for us. That’s how it is.

Q: (Tomasz Richter – TV Nova) To you all, do you enjoy the new section of the track or would you prefer to go straight after turn three?
RK:
Old one, probably, old section, so old track.
SV: I think that the biggest difficulty is that you have a different level of grip as well, which makes the delta quite high. If you look at the asphalt of the new circuit compared to the new track it’s quite different. That doesn’t make life easy, it’s actually very slow, very bumpy, so I also prefer the old track.
HK: I don’t know the reasons for the change – I don’t know if there is a good reason. I thought the old one was good but for me, if we drove to the centre and back, I don’t really have a preference.
LG: I preferred the old one. I raced here in GP2 and it’s quite a fast part of the track which is now a very slow section and very bumpy, so I preferred the old one.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat ) Sebastian, how difficult is it to decide which compound to use for Q3 at this circuit?
SV:
Well, I think the biggest unknown is how the racing will look on Sunday. Obviously the temperature should help all of us but I think it will nevertheless be something new. Either it will be total excitement for the spectators, a mess for us in the car, because some drivers will struggle more with tyres, some less, or it will be boring and the cars will just follow each other because they’re stuck behind each other and they can’t do much, so I think we have to see. In qualifying, first of all we need to see what we have done today compared to the others. Then tomorrow morning – the latest at lunchtime, more or less, you have to decide what you want to do in qualifying. I think first of all you have to manage to get into Q3. It looks tight, so it won’t be easy. There is a strong midfield as well, so if you are talking of the top teams, you have a very, very strong midfield and they could easily ruin your day. I don’t know yet. If you ask me now, I have no clue. I also think it makes it more difficult, as I said, because we don’t know how the race will unfold. We will see.

Q: Nico, your ex-partner Nico Rosberg set fastest lap in his first race for Williams, so do you expect the same this year?
NH:
No, I don’t expect the same. I hope for a good points’ finish but as Sebastian mentioned, we are still a bit left in the dark as to who is where, even today. There are big differences in lap times, and obviously big differences in fuel loads, so we will have to wait and see where we end up but I hope for a good points result.

Q: (Cezary Gutowski – Przeglad Sportowy) For the Renault-engined guys: there is some noise about getting engines up to parity. Do you think your engines are that under-performing? Do you think you really need more horsepower?
SV:
I think an engine here, an engine there. Obviously engine regulations are frozen and yes, last year we didn’t have the easiest time, especially myself. We had some engine failures. Nevertheless, I think we did a very good job recovering. Reliability was fine after we fixed the problem and we did not have to change an engine, so we did not have to take a penalty. I think, last year, everyone had more or less the same opinion that the Mercedes engine was probably a bit ahead of the rest and as I said, the regulations are frozen, so what can you do? I think we don’t have anything to fear, no weakness from that side, so for sure, as I said, a little bit maybe, but it’s very difficult to measure as well. The cars are different. If you look at our top speed compared to the Renault top speed, it’s totally different because the car is a different car, different concept, different amount of drag on the straight, so you can’t really compare just from the speeds.
RK: If the regulations were the same I might have some sort of feeling because I switched from another engine supplier to Renault but we are running much heavier this year, so it’s difficult to compare. I think we just need to wait. Actually, in the past Renault has always been very good with their consumption. I think a lot of people improved that so we maybe still have a bit of an advantage but not as big as it was in the past, for sure. Horsepower is always welcome, more power is always welcome.

Q: (Oliver Knaack – Berliner Zeitung) Sebastian, you missed more than 30 minutes of this last practice, can you describe the exact failure of the brakes, what happened at the front or rear and what was the problem?
SV:
Maybe some of you, between the practice and the press conference were able to have a coffee. I was not. I just got out of my suit and had a short de-brief and came here so I don’t know the reason yet for the failure we had, so we need to see. It’s always difficult. You don’t really analyse within the session because you just make sure you change (the damaged part) as quickly as possible and use the amount of time you have left. It was on the front, the front left. I think you could see that from the TV.

Q: (Tomasz Richter – TV Nova) Nico, we could see some black smoke from the front tyres; do you expect some brake issues regarding the heavier cars and are they the same brake specification as last year?
NH:
It shouldn’t be a problem but Bahrain is always quite heavy on brakes. I’m sure every team is aware of that. We take that into consideration but it’s just brake dust. If you have big braking from 300kph down to 60 kph, there’s just a lot of smoke but right now I’m not too worried about that.

Senna: “Great start” for HRT

Bruno Senna in his first run in the HRT car

Bruno Senna in his first run in the HRT car

Bruno Senna believes that his HRT team are off to a “great start” following their maiden run in Bahrain today.

Senna set 3 installation laps in the first session, and 17 in the second. He finished 11 seconds off the pace of the leaders. Despite this, Senna believes that it is a relief to finally hit the track:

"It was certainly a relief to make history this morning. The car ran 
as planned and everyone is happy and proud. There is still a lot of 
work ahead of us.

Three laps this morning and seventeen this afternoon is a great start. 
Of course, we could not try the car at its limits.

I am confident that we will be working ahead and I want to congratulate 
my mechanics, engineers and the whole team for their incredible hard 
work."

Eh, sure. If you were watching Friday practice live today (a true F1 fan would!), you would have seen the huge problems Senna faced. First of all, on the onboard cameras, we saw him fighting for control even in the slow sections of the lap. On the external cameras, the car’s suspension looked all over the place, when examined closely.

I suppose the firing up and first running of the car is an achievment, but it should not be one that should be taken as any form of success in Formula 1. They were 11 seconds off the pace, for gods sake. Jean Todt has said that he wants the 107% rule reinstated (post coming up in a few minutes about this), and hopefully this should make sure that the “great start” for HRT doesn’t turn out to be a complete liability.

Sutil leads Bahrain Friday practice 1

Adrian Sutil in FP1 this morning

Adrian Sutil in FP1 this morning

The first practice session of the year got underway today in Sakhir, Bahrain, with Adrian Sutil topping the timesheets, with Felipe Massa also showing impressive consistency throughout.

Ferrari and McLaren also lead at certain points, but Sutil managed the two fastest laps of the session to take the top spot. The strange thing, to many people today, was that the times were much slower than last year. Adrian’s fastest lap was a 1.56.583. Compare this to Jarno Trulli’s pole position lap of 1.33.431, and you can see how much fuel they were carrying. However, you must also bring into the equation the extended circuit length, which may make up for a lot of this extra time.

As I said earlier, Felipe Massa in the Ferrari showed the most promise this morning. 10 of his 19 laps were within 1% of his fastest lap, which was a 1.57.055. He finished 4 tenths off Sutil’s time.

The most worrying aspect of today, however, is the complete lack of pace, or none at all, shown by the three new teams. Virgin only set a time for Timo Glock, who only got 8 laps in, with a best time of 2.03.680. Lucas di Grassi only did an in and an out lap, which means he didn’t set a time. Lotus were slightly slower than Glock,  but more consistent, with Kovalainen and Trulli setting 21 and 15 laps respectively.

Then we get to HRT, who set no laps at all. Bruno Senna went out for 3 laps, but didn’t set a time. Worse still, the car was reported to be all over the place to drive, with extreme handling problems. More on this soon.

Adrian Sutil was very happy with his pace this morning, saying:

"It's time to race now after so long out of the car. This morning we
 were checking all the systems and setup we learnt over testing but 
nobody really knew where we were going to be.

It's our goal to get two cars through to Q3 for this weekend and 
I think we now have a very good baseline with the car and good downforce 
compared to last year.

We can be a top ten runner with this car this year and myself and Tonio 
are working well together. If we can qualify in the top ten now, it can 
lead to decent points which is, at the end of the day, what we want to 
do consistently this season. I would say it's a promising start to get 
there, for sure."

An analysis piece on both practice sessions should be up by tonight.

Times from Friday practice 1:

Position Driver Car Fastest lap Difference # of laps
1 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1.56.583 18
2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1.56.766 0.183 18
3 Robert Kubica Renault 1.57.041 0.458 19
4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1.57.055 0.472 19
5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1.57.068 0.485 19
6 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1.57.163 0.58 19
7 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1.57.194 0.611 19
8 Nico Rosberg Williams-Cosworth 1.57.199 0.616 15
9 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1.57.255 0.672 17
10 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1.57.662 1.079 16
11 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.57.722 1.139 18
12 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1.57.894 1.311 20
13 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1.57.943 1.36 17
14 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1.58.399 1.816 13
15 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1.58.782 2.199 11
16 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1.58.880 2.297 13
17 Pedro de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 2.00.250 3.667 18
18 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 2.01.388 4.805 11
19 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 2.03.680 7.097 8
20 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 2.03.848 7.265 21
21 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 2.03.970 7.387 15
22 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth N/A N/A 2
23 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth N/A N/A 3
24 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth N/A N/A 0

Pictures will be added when possible.

Bahrain GP Thursday press conference

Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton at the Bahrain Thursday conference

Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton at the Bahrain Thursday conference

The first official press conference of the F1 2010 season began today, with the drivers being Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa. Here is the full transcript of the interview:

Q: A question to all of you. What are you most looking forward to during this season? Who is going to start? The World Champion.
Jenson Button:
The same as all of us I think, and that is getting out there. It has been a few months since we actually raced for three of us here, so getting out there and racing, that’s what we all love. Testing is part of the job but racing is the bit what we really enjoy. I am looking forward to getting out there. It is such a competitive season, it looks like. It is possibly one of the most exciting seasons we have seen in Formula One, so just being a part of that is very special.

Q: Lewis, what are you most looking forward to?
Lewis Hamilton:
Just getting on the track. Testing was good fun but obviously we did not have as much testing as we have had in the past and the more time in the car the more fun we have. Just looking forward to it all kicking off and to see where everyone else sits.

Q: Felipe?
Felipe Massa:
Well, to get back to racing after eight months. It is a long time. I am looking forward to getting back to racing, to starting in a good direction after as Lewis said not many tests. But it is nice to be back racing.

Q: Michael, after an even longer absence what are you looking forward to? And welcome back.
Michael Schumacher:
Thank you. The green light or the red light going off.

Q: The green light or rather when the red goes off?
MS:
Yes.
FM: You are very motivated. You are already in the overalls.
MS: Exactly.

Q: Fernando?
Fernando Alonso:
The same as everybody. Just starting the competition, the racing. Testing is okay but it is just preparation for the race itself, so looking forward to Sunday.

Q: Who has walked around the circuit? Any of you? Michael, what are your thoughts on the new section of the circuit? It is all probably fairly new to you.
MS:
The first part looks quite exciting. The later part a little less exciting, but then you have to drive it and feel it in reality.

Q: Has anyone else been around the circuit to have a look at it? Jenson, been around the circuit?
JB:
No, we are going out this afternoon.

Q: Lewis?
LH:
The same.

Q: Jenson, a new team. What are the greatest changes and challenges for you?
JB:
I think moving teams. I was with my previous team for seven years, so moving teams can be tricky. It is a completely new environment, it is a real challenge and most of us do not really like change, but it has been good. Even after sort of two months I really feel part of the team. We have not even gone racing yet and I feel a big part of the team. I have always worked very hard to make myself fit into a team reasonably well but the team have been great. They are so hungry for a good season. Last year for them was not the best and it has made them hungry for success this year. It has been good and having the simulator there has helped me a lot to get used to the environment of being in this car. I spent a lot of time at the factory, not just with the engineers, just spending time at the factory, so I am part of the furniture there. Testing has gone well as well. It is important to really use every second or every minute you are with the team as it comes around very quickly. We have Friday and Saturday morning before qualifying but it is not a lot of time, so you have got to be ready for when you arrive here in Bahrain.

Q: Having number one and being World Champion on the car. How motivating is that or is it even restrictive?
JB:
I can’t see it as restrictive in any way. You should look at it in a positive way. Stepping into the car and seeing the number one on it is a very special feeling, especially here in Bahrain at the first race. Just before I put on my helmet and I look at the car and see the No 1 it is going to be an emotional moment but as soon as you step into the car and close your visor last season is out the window and you are purely focussed on this year.

Q: You won here last year. Is it a good circuit for you?
JB:
I like it. It is a fun circuit to drive and it is a place you can overtake which is great. The new section is pretty slow. There are nine new corners on the circuit and most of them are slow now, so it is tricky and I look forward to getting out there and seeing what we make of it as it is difficult walking around it and trying to understand it. The simulator is useful but still in reality it is nice to get out there and feel it in the car. I hope it does make overtaking better but I am not sure if that is going to be the case. I think it could possibly make the racing more exciting as it is very tricky, so I look forward to getting out on the circuit tomorrow morning.

Q: Lewis, the man next to you is the reigning World Champion. How does that change things for you? Is that extra motivation?
LH:
I don’t think it makes a huge difference. Jenson has been welcomed into the team and he seems to be doing a great job, very productive, enthusiastic and he has really brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the team. I can only see it as a positive. On my side, for me, just from coming from not so good a year last year but to finish on quite a high I feel just as determined as ever if not more.

Q: Which of the rule changes has been the most challenging as far as you are concerned?
LH:
Probably just being a little bit heavier. Otherwise it has been pretty straight forward. Just trying to understand the tyres a little bit and understand the approach to the long stints being a little bit different to last year on lighter fuel but otherwise it is pretty straight forward. I am sure this weekend will be a challenge for everyone but we are all in the same boat.

Q: You finished second here in 2007, the first time you came here.
LH:
That seems like a long time ago. We had a good car back then. The last two years things haven’t been particularly special but hopefully this weekend will be a new start for us and hopefully a positive for me and Jenson.

Q: Felipe, a big welcome back to you. What is it like to return, to be back in the car and back at a race meeting again?
FM:
It is just nice to be back in business. That is my job for many years. I have lost a bit of races and just nice to be back. I feel really happy and a lot of motivation to get back to the job.

Q: You are a former winner here, but also in the past you have had some slow parts to the season. Is that something you are conscious of and determined to change?
FM:
I think it is something that we understood in the past that the first race is important to finish, important to score points. Even in the last years we always had some problems in the car to finish the race. That I hope doesn’t happen. I hope we can finish most of the races in good points as we know at the end of the season it is always important to be there on a good amount of points. Many people say at the beginning of the season what is important is the reliability. Reliability is always important. It is important to finish the race. We did a lot of kilometres in the winter test which helps when you have a good car to start the season.

Q: Michael, what’s it like to be back at a race meeting when you are a driver and fully involved after an absence of three years?
MS:
Well, naturally it is a bit more intense. From the morning to the evening with lots more details than you want and naturally you have to pay attention.

Q: How much are you still team building? People have spoken how you built a team at Ferrari. What is happening at Mercedes now?
MS:
I think it is difficult to say right now what is going to be the development. Naturally you have to adapt, you have to evolve developing into the team. It is probably the thing that you will find some potential, you still can improve, to understand how at certain moments the team will work, why it will work, how you can combine the two things. But so far I have to say that the guys are good guys. It is good harmony, particularly due to knowing the boss quite well and he knows me too. It makes things a lot easier, a lot smoother, but otherwise I am sure there is some potential we will have to develop.

Q: You are a two-time winner here. What are your feelings about this circuit?
MS:
Making it three.

Q: Fernando is a two-time winner as well, aren’t you?
FA:
Yes, three also.

Q: But Fernando, again new team, new challenges. What are the major challenges? What are the major changes?
FA:
As Jenson said I think every time you change team you need to adapt yourself a little bit to the new people, the new philosophy of working, of preparing the season. It has been a great time so far. I have been very comfortable with the team from day one to now, so I think we arrive at the first race with a good preparation and ready for the fight.

Q: Ferrari have been said to be one of the two top teams. Is that the way you see it?
FA:
Not really. We are not comparing too much the times in winter or making many predictions for these first races. We have just been concentrating on our programme to try to be as prepared a possible for the first race. I think the four teams – Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren and Ferrari – any of the four teams can be a favourite for this race and for the first part of the championship with, I am sure, some teams also like Sauber and Force India, they will have a very good race as well. I think we will do our best. We are well prepared for this start of the season but we want to be World Champions in November, not in March. We will do our best but the goal is to win the championship and we know this is not easy at all and we need to work very hard for 10 months, so it is only the start.

Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton at the Bahrain Thursday conference

Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton at the Bahrain Thursday conference

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Thomas Richtr – TV Nova) For all the drivers. If it was up to you and not working groups or the FIA, would you choose this year’s regulation regarding the refuelling ban and heavy cars at the start or last year’s regulation when it was a sprint from pit stop to pit stop?
FA:
I am happy with any decision. It is just a new challenge for all of us. For the engineers, teams, drivers it is change in Formula One, so any change is normally welcome as it offers you the possibility of discovering some new area of our sport. I am happy with the change but I was happy last year. We will see. We need to give some time to the new regulations to see how the races are. If we see more overtaking, if not? Maybe the races are very spectacular or maybe the races are very boring. We need to wait and see a few races to see if the new regulations are working or not.
MS: Last year… yeah, for the simple fact it leaves more scope for strategy. Naturally, as a race driver you want to drive the fastest car and if you have full tanks to half full tanks it naturally makes a big difference.
FM: I think the regulations have to be good for everybody: for the drivers, for the teams but also a lot for the guys who are watching the race. It’s very difficult to say which ones (regulations) I prefer, the new ones or the ones from last year. We haven’t yet done a single race, it’s very early to say which one I prefer, but I think if it’s good to everybody – for the moment I don’t think anybody is against the regulations, so if it’s good for everybody, it should be no problem to change. It’s also a new challenge for everybody, as Fernando says, so we just need to focus on every new point and try to do the best.
LH: I think it’s a new challenge in the sport for all of us and the key is that we’re moving forward, so I’m excited to see how it works and I’m sure we will do everything we can, collectively, to put on a good show.
JB: I think everything’s been said. I think turn one’s going to be pretty interesting with that much fuel – going down to turn one. I think we forget about qualifying as well. Qualifying is different to last year: we will be running on low tanks all the way through, which is great. I think we will have more of an understanding after qualifying than the last couple of seasons with the cars on low fuel. But I think the differences from qualifying to the races will be bigger than we’ve seen before. Some cars will be very good on light fuel, maybe not so good on 150/160 kilos of fuel, so it’s going to be interesting to see.

Q: (Jonathan Legard – BBC Sport) Michael, do you remember how you felt coming into the sport for the first time, up against champions who you had watched, the likes of Senna and Prost and so on? With your record and reputation, you’re very much the man to beat; is it going to be everyone else’s aim to attack you and challenge you on the track?
MS:
Yes. Basically when I arrived, I wasn’t that full of confidence to be on the same playing field but being with them the first time, I noticed that I could be (competitive) and I do feel pretty much the same now. There’s no reason why somebody should not feel in the position to fight me because all those guys who will be on the grid on Sunday have good reasons to be there because they’re highly talented. I have the greatest respect for each of them; for me, each one is a big competitor that I have to look at.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Michael, you always said you don’t like understeer in your cars, and this year, due to the weight of the car, the tyres, the nature of the cars, you have understeer. Do you think that because of that we may not see the best of you?
MS:
I think it varies very much from car to car, it’s a characteristic which is given to a car. Sometimes, you’re right, it may be given by the tyres, then it’s up to you and your team to get the balance that you want, because in the past, don’t forget a car suited me because I like oversteer, I like a neutral car, the fastest car, whatever that is!

Q: (James Allen – Financial Times) Fernando, you’ve talked about settling in; do you think you’re ready to win? And what do you think of Michael coming back?
FA:
Yes, I think I’m ready to win. Every time you arrive at the first race of the championship you’ve been preparing yourself all winter for this moment, so I’ve been waiting very long to be here at Ferrari as well, many years of preparation for this moment, so now I feel ready to fight and hopefully we’re in a position to do that. To have Michael here, OK – it was a surprise for sure when he came back but as I said many times, it’s a very good thing for all of us, for all the drivers, for our sport and that can only help Formula One and because we are part of Formula One, all the drivers, it also helps us, so I am very happy that he’s here and hopefully we can have good fights.

Q: (Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Question to Jenson and Lewis: just been watching the dynamic between you two guys while the other three have been answering questions at the front. You’ve been having a good laugh and a joke, sharing comments etc. Is that a good indicator of the friendship/relationship you two have already developed over the past few weeks together?
JB:
It’s all for show! Exactly what we were told to do by Steve (press officer Steve Cooper).
LH: I agree. We’re focusing on a potential move to acting in the future!
JB: And no one’s asking us any questions, so…

Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) I have a question for you, Jenson. How do you feel about defending your title this season against Fernando in the Ferrari, Michael back at Mercedes, Lewis in the same equipment as you will have? Do you feel you will need a dominant start again this weekend?
JB:
Yes, I think every championship, for any champion, I think it’s important to be quick out of the blocks. If you look back, normally the guy that really fights for the championship and gets the championship is strong from the word ‘go’, so yes, I think it is important for all of us to be up there at the front here in Bahrain. The competition is very fierce, I must say, but that’s why it is exciting. For a fan of Formula One, this season should be electric, it really should be. If it’s not, we’re doing something seriously wrong. It’s obviously great to have Felipe back after his horrific accident last year. Great to have Michael back because it makes me feel young again! Looking at this race, I don’t think there have been so many competitive drivers in competitive cars for a long time, so it’s great to see.

Q: (Jacques Deschenaux – GP Guide) To all of you, will the new distribution of points with 25 for the first, 18 to the second, change your approach and maybe your strategy for the race?
MS:
You still want to score the 25, so that’s the main strategy. It’s certainly a little bit fairer, I think, in a way that if you have somebody who wins most of the races, naturally you will most likely say that he is going to be the champion by the end of the year, rather than somebody there just sitting, waiting and taking second and third places and suddenly being World Champion. I don’t think that makes much sense, as it has been in past years. Actually I think I was the reason why it was implemented, the small gaps, because I was winning so much and nobody could find a way to stop that. I think it’s absolutely correct, the way it is now.
FM: I think it’s correct as well. I think the winner, the victory is always more important than anything, so if you win, maybe to have a little bit more points is always better. So I’m with Michael.
LH: Well, what they said was right. It’s another challenge, it’s a small change to the results. As Felipe said, when you win the race it should be rewarded perhaps a little bit more than the guys who come in second and third. I think it will be interesting to see how it pans out. I’ve not really thought about it too much to be honest.
JB: I think we need to see how it goes. It’s the same as before. You still want to go out and win as many races as you can. Obviously when you’re fighting for a championship – I know how that feels now – it’s about being consistent as well. When you’re fighting for a win, it’s very difficult to hold back and think ‘I’ll come in second and pick up the points.’ We all want to win races and that’s what we’re here to do.
FA: I agree.

Q: (Carlos Miquel – Diario AS) Fernando, in the past you have said Michael is the best driver in history. Now, Michael is back, do you believe the same? And a question for Michael: who could be your biggest rival this year?
FA:
Yes, if I said that, it’s because I really think that. If you see the World Championships that Michael has it’s something that is impossible to repeat and part of the history in our sport, as I said. Looking at the numbers, Grand Prix wins, pole positions, championships etc, I think we all agree that Michael is the best ever, so I’m happy that he’s here and as I said, hopefully winning a championship or winning a Grand Prix with Michael on the track has more value, so we will try.
MS: At my age, I keep forgetting things if they are too long away, so what was the question?
Basically, I think there are the four main teams that you’re looking at and in all those cars – so you’re talking about a potential eight drivers, seven around me that I have to look out for. Four of them are sitting here right now and there are three more that aren’t here right now. It’s very tough to mention which is the one, but it doesn’t matter who it is, because you’re focused on the one that it is.

Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) To all of you apart from Michael Schumacher: you were saying, Fernando, that winning a race ahead of Michael Schumacher would bring more importance. Don’t you think that if Michael starts to win too much, it’s going to be very bad for all of you in the end and for the sport too?
FM:
Well, for sure we need to work very hard not to let him win too much. Every team wants to win but it’s the best for the sport to have the best drivers on the track, the best teams fighting on the track and I think that’s always great for the sport. Anyway, everybody wants to win, everybody wants to keep winning all the time. But it’s a big competition, so I think it will be very difficult as we saw in the tests, to see a single car winning every race. But anyway, you never know. The race starts now and we need to wait and see.
LH: We have to wait and see, we have to wait and see.
JB: Yeah. I think you’ve answered it yourself.
FA: I agree!

Hot and dry conditions for Bahrain, which will affect tyre choices

The Bahrain International Circuit

The Bahrain International Circuit

As the Formula 1 teams make their annual pilgrimage to Bahrain, it is no surprise to see that dry and hot conditions are being forecast for the weekend.

Since Bahrain first hosted a Grand Prix in 2004, conditions have always been perfectly dry, but often too hot. This year, temperatures are forecast at around 35°C, with a southerly wind speed of 8-9kph. This wind speed will help speed the cars up slightly on the straight.

As we all know from last year, temperatures play a critical role in tyre managment. This year, it is even more important, as tyres will wear more heavily at the first stints compared to the last, due to the heavier fuel loads. Therefore, very hot temperatures mean that the teams may use the harder compound more.

As the same as last year, Bridgestone are supplying super-soft and medium compund tyres. Last year, we saw the Toyotas completely fall apart when they took on the medium tyres in the middle stint, so the super-softs will still probably be the optimum tyres. You may be right to say that the teams would want to put on the super-softs for the first 1 or 2 stints, then change to the mediums. But, the high temperatures combined with an extremely heavy fuel load will result in massive amounts of tyre wear, which is most noticable in the super-soft tyres.

Since there are large problems with both sets of tyres, and not much time to test them, get ready for some seriously strange strategies in Bahrain.

Simulator lap of new Bahrain circuit

With just a week to go until the Friday practice sessions begin in Bahrain, Red Bull have released a simulator video of the track, including the new section.

Mark Webber talks us through the entire lap, with nice facts as well. While there isn’t a great amount of detail on the new section, Webber does comment that it is “very slow”. Apart from this, it appears narrower from the rest of the track, and looks like it will offer less grip as well.

This doesn’t exactly point towards the “overtaking opportunities” we were told of when the new circuit layout was announced. Still, we should at least wait until we get onboard footage next Friday, and analyse it then.

Tyre compounds announced for first 3 races

Bridgestone F1 tyres

Bridgestone F1 tyres

F1 tyre supplier Bridgestone has announced their tyre compund allocations for the first 3 races of this year: Bahrain, Australia and Malaysia.

Circuit 2010 tyres 2009 tyres
Bahrain Medium / Super Soft Medium / Super Soft
Albert Park Hard / Soft Medium / Super Soft
Sepang Hard / Soft Hard / Soft

The compounds are one harder than last year for Australia. Last, year, they used the super-soft and medium, but the drivers complained that the super-soft tyre gave too much grip and wore out too quickly. This year, the soft and hard compounds are being used.

The same tyre types are being retained for the Bahrain and Malaysian races.

However, I am still annoyed to see the gaps in between the tyre compounds this year. We saw what happened at Melbourne last year: one wore out too quickly, while the other gave no grip. Of course, this stupid rule is to “improve the show”, as is absolutely every other rule introduced in the last few years.

This year, the drivers will have six sets of the harder (prime) tyres and five sets of the softer (option) tyres available to them for each race, while last year they had seven of each compound.

FIA states new teams can’t miss races

The FIA has clarified the rules regarding some new teams not being able to attend the first few races. Jean Todt recently stated that Campos and USF1 could skip the first 3 races, if they were not ready, and would avoid punishment.

This statement has been overturned by the FIA, however, who have released a short statement:

“From a sporting and regulatory point of view, each Team that has registered for the Championship is obliged to take part in every event of the season. Any failure to take part, even for just one Championship event, would constitute an infringement both of the Concorde Agreement and the FIA Regulations.”

The Concorde Agreement is, of course, the agreement of all the teams competing in Formula 1. If this contract is broken, the FIA have the power to disallow that team from competing in the sport.

This is good news for Stefan GP, who have already announced that they are sending equipment to Bahrain, in hope that either Campos or USF1 cannot make it. However, it seems that the team have overlooked the completely obvious. If a team drops out, the FIA don’t instantly hand another team their spot. Still, we might as well wait and see can Campos and USF1 get to the grid in time.

Stefan GP to launch on 25th, and test 2 drivers

Zoran Stefanovich with Mike Coughlan

Zoran Stefanovich with Mike Coughlan

Despite still having no entry for the 2010 world championship, Stefan GP have now announced that they are to test their new car at Portimao, Portugal, on the 25th February.

The car will be launched a few days before this test. I talked earlier today about them sending equipment to Bahrain, now they have moved forward with the news that they will spend 3 days testing in Portimao.

Stefan GP have also said that they are to test two drivers at this 3-day test. If they get a place on the 2010 grid, these two will probably become the team’s drivers. It is understood that Kazuki Nakajima will be one of the drivers.

The car, called the Stefan S01, has been developed by the team, but with technical support from Toyota, ever since Stefan GP bought their data, parts, and chassis. The engine, to be called the Stefan RG-01, has also been serviced by Toyota.

Clearly, the team are very confident, but will it pay off? It is understood that Zoran Stefanovich, the team owner, believes that two teams (probably Campos and USF1) are in trouble financially. He and the team believe that at least one of these teams will not make it to Bahrain, so Stefan will be ready to take their place. That is, if the FIA give them the place.

After all this effort, Stefan should be given a chance, but not while there’s 13 other teams on the grid. I’m getting a bit tired of all the rumours of the new teams struggling, so a stable new team would be a welcome sight.

Stefan GP heading to Bahrain

Despite not being on the entry list for the 2010 championship, Stefan GP will still turn up at the Bahrain GP in expextation of racing.

A statement on their site read:

“SGP becomes the first team in F1 history who [sent] a 40 foot container full of equipment to the race in Bahrain without having entry for 2010 season!”

Just a few days ago, we found out that Stefan GP had acquired Toyota’s technical data and parts. With their chassis, they certainly have potential.

Still though, it’s very risky (and quite arrogant) to announce this so early. I’m not sure the FIA would approve these actions. Anyway, the only way Stefan GP would get on the entry list is if one of the current teams drops out. Clearly, Zoran Stefanovich believes that either Campos or USF1 doesn’t have the drive to get to the grid.

Or, even if they aren’t allowed to race, they could always do a Hans Heyer

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