Friday, 4 April 2008

2008 Bahrain Grand Prix Preview

This weekend sees the Formula One circus move to the Kingdom of Bahrain for the fifth running of the Bahrain Grand Prix. As has all too often been the case over the past season or so, the sport has a cloud of controversy following it wherever it may go. However, I don't think the sport has ever seen one quite like the one that shook the world's motorsport fans last Sunday, the fallout from which looks nowhere near settling. With Max Mosley absent from this Grand Prix for obvious reasons, let's hope that all the talk this weekend is about what goes on on the black stuff rather than one what certain people choose to do (or have done to them!) in seedy London basement apartments. Somehow, I doubt it will be though...

Ferrari go into the race on a high after a very strong showing last time out in Malaysia, spoiled only by Felipe Massa's unforced error and DNF. They should have every right to be confident of a race victory this weekend, especially as they were only one of two teams (Toyota being the other) to have tested at this very circuit over the winter. Both Ferrari and arch-rivals McLaren have tried to play down the significance of this testing session, but the advantage should definitely be there, no matter how small, as Ferrari absolutely obliterated Toyota in that particular winter test.

McLaren will be looking to bounce back after they dropped the ball big time with their needless-penalty hit weekend in Malaysia. That's not a mistake we will ever be seeing again, as the rules for qualification have since been tweaked to avoid that situation, but McLaren will know that their weekend will need to be perfect if they are to keep pace with the Ferraris. One suspects it will also need to be perfect if they are to stay ahead of the BMWs, who have looked extremely strong so far this season.

After the two "fly away" races down under, this will be the first race we will be seeing some of the updated aerodynamic packages for some of the teams. We will see if anyone has made any significant progress back in the windtunnels while the race teams have been jet-setting around the globe. We probably won't be seeing any widespread, major updates until they hit Barcelona next time out, but there will be tweaks aplenty for the more well-heeled teams. It will be interesting to keep an eye on who has made steps forward or not.

The race will be the third hot race in a row for the drivers and teams to contend with, but this time out they will have new foes to contend with in the form of dust and high winds instead of the extreme humidity down under. Due to the very exposed nature of the track wind has often been an issue here, and this weekend the predictions are for it to be especially windy here. This is bad news for the drivers on two fronts: firstly the wind blows dust onto the circuit giving unpredictable traction; secondly it can play havoc with the cars' delicately balanced aerodynamic setups. A strong gust of wind during one of the Sakhir circuit's numerous high-speed, high-downforce corners can easily cause a sudden loss of grip.

The drivers should definitely be earning their wages if the winds are up as high as predicted, and it should keep things exciting to watch...

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