For the second time already this season there are two races back to back. It’s been a fantastic season so far with three thrilling races. F1 2009 is providing us with plenty of surprises, and a completely different grid order.
This weekend Formula 1 goes to Bahrain, which is a track with different challenges and conditions, which should be the opposite of the cool and wet weather we saw in Shanghai.
Track History and Guide
Bahrain is another of F1’s modern facilities built by Hermann Tilke. The facilities here are state of the art and no expense has been spared. Bahrain signed the deal with Bernie to host the GP back in 2002. The organisers then did a great job to build it in 2 years ready for the first race in 2004. All the organisers are extremely welcoming and provide exceptional hospitality for the F1 circus and all of the media.
Bahrain was the first F1 race to be held in the Middle East region. There were other countries from the same region hoping to brag that right, such as Egypt and Lebanon but Bahrain won the battle. They have reaped the benefits since as they are now the centre of motorsport in the gulf and attract a host of other racing series including: Drag racing, GP2, Formula 3, GT Races and more recently the Australian V8 supercars. Bahrain has been a relatively successful F1 event always providing interesting races, and in 2004 the track won the award for best-organized race of the year.
The track’s desert setting makes this track very unique. The sight of the track surrounded by sand makes it very nice to look it. The sand can be a problem but it is compacted down to minimize the amount of sand that comes onto the track. This process costs the organisers thousands of pounds. However there is still always sand offline, so drivers will lose time if they lose their line in any of the corners.
The teams will be hoping that there won’t be a repeat of the sandstorms which struck in winter testing.
It is very hot in Bahrain but the humidity is nowhere near as bad as in Sepang. Therefore it is more bearable for the drivers.
The track itself is made out of 3 long straights, with a tight and twisty infield section in the middle. The track is also extremely wide.
It’s been a long wait, but the start of the 2009 season is finally upon us.
With all the huge regulation changes, and a big shake-up of the established order, 2009 is one of the most anticipated seasons for many years. There have never been so many unanswered questions before the start of a Formula 1 season. It has never been so hard to try and predict who is going to win the championship.
I am going to have a look at some of these questions and big debating points, and give my views on them.
A lot has been said about how the cars look after all the new technical regulations. What have been the main changes, and what is your opinion on the new look?
The main changes are that the front wing has been made lower and wider (the front now covers the tyres). The rear wing has been made taller and narrower. Also all the high bits of aero have also been banned (referred to as winglets). Also barge boards have been banned.
The diffuser has been made smaller and less powerful. And of course there is the re-introduction of slick tyres. There has also been the introduction of KERs, which we will get onto later.
Overall there has been a 50 percent reduction on aero downforce on the cars. Although teams have already gained part of this lost aero downforce back. F1 engineers are extremely clever like that.
There is also a movable flap on the front wing, which the drivers can adjust twice per lap.
Overall I think the cars look much better than they did last season. Without all the upper aero devices, the cars have much cleaner lines. It does take time to get used to the mis-matching front and rear wings, but I think all fans will get used to the cars very quickly.
Surely nobody can deny how stunning the Red Bull and Toro Rossos look? Admittedly the Renault is the ugly duckling of the bunch.
The other thing about these new rule changes, is that there is a much bigger variety of different car designs. Teams have opted to go down different routes. It’s nice to have a different variety of ideas on show.
We will see in Melbourne who exactly has been going down the right development route, and who hasn’t.
Last season if you painted all the cars all white, it would have been hard to tell, which car belonged to which team. This season the same task may be a bit easier (although telling the Toro Ross and Red Bull apart would still be very tough).
To KERs or not to KERs? That is the question
Ferrari, Renault, BMW Sauber and Mclaren look set to start the season with the system installed. Others may install it later on in the season. Brawn GP on the other hand has said that they won’t be using the system at all this season.
The problem with KERs is the extra weight it adds onto the car. This limits how teams can distribute the weight on the car. This is a problem, which Brawn GP won’t face. They will be free to distribute the weight across the car however they want, without the added headache of KERs.
Most of the drivers have been on a diet so that it takes away from the overall weight of the car, whilst they are inside them.
I think teams will use KERs at some tracks, but not at others. On fast tracks, with long straights, the extra straight line speed will become a big advantage. It will help towards lap times, and for overtaking.
At slow twisty tracks like Monaco and Hungary KERs probably won’t be as beneficial so the teams may decide not to use it at these tracks. It will be interesting to see if they do or not. Reliability could be a problem for the teams running KERs in the early part of the season.
We will soon see whether running KERs is an advantage, or whether running without it is an advantage. It could swing either way. Toyota are convinced they have made the right decision, by not starting the season with KERs. We will soon find out who is right.
Having half the grid on KERs, and the other half not is a really fascinating prospect.
There have been some very memorable Australian GPs in the past. In this article I guide you through my personal top 5 Australian GPs of all time.
5. 2002– Melbourne
2002 had a very nasty first lap incident where Ralf Schumacher took off the back of Rubens Barrichello’s Ferrari. Ralf was very luck his car didn’t flip over, and he escaped the crash unharmed.
Schumacher got away badly from pole position, and Barrichello and Ralf got by. Barrichello moved across twice to stop Ralf from getting by him. Barrichello also braked earlier than Ralf was expecting, and this initiated the big accident.
This accident caused the midfield to trip over each other, meaning that 11 cars were eliminated after lap 1.
Coulthard then led as Schumacher hounded Trulli. Trulli was holding on well but he span and hit the wall. This brought out another Safety Car. As it came in, Coulthard mysteriously went off before turn 13. Montoya then had a great scrap with Michael Schumacher and managed to overtake. However as Schumacher’s tyres then got up to temperature, he managed to re-pass Montoya for the lead. Schumacher then ran away into the distance, and won the race.
Due to the high level of attrition, debutant Mark Webber scored 2 points for Minardi at his home GP.
TOYOTA – Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock
Jarno Trulli completely walloped Glock in the first half of 2008, but in the second half of the season, Glock improved and came back strong. In the end, it was Trulli who won the team mate war, but it didn’t end up as comfortable as it might have been.
Glock looks to be a very handy driver. After a tough start, he has adapted himself very well to F1. He will improve furthur and have a very good second season.
However, he will find it very hard to beat Trulli. Trulli is in the form of his life at the moment. He is also arguably F1’s best qualifier. If he can get a few cars between himself and Glock, then Trulli has a great chance of leading Toyota’s charge for podiums and wins.
Trulli can find an extra few tenths from nowhere when it matters most. This sets him apart from Glock, certainly when it comes to qualifying.
In 2009, Jarno will be able to get rid of his worst enemy—the grooved tyre. He will be one of the drivers who benefits most from the changeover to slicks. When Trulli first started in F1, he was super-quick on slicks. I think Trulli stands a chance of having his best ever season in F1 in 2009.
Glock will have a good season too but don’t expect to see Trulli’s No. 1 status in the team changing. Glock will push him all the way, but Trulli has enough to stay ahead and may edge further ahead of Glock.
If Toyota is going to win races this season, Trulli is more likely to be the man to deliver them.
FINAL VERDICT: Glock is a very competent driver who will keep Trulli on his toes. However, I don’t see No. 1 status shifting to Timo’s side of the garage this season. Trulli looks set to build on 2008 and will become harder to beat.
Scuderia Toro Rosso – Sebastien Buemi and Sebastien Bourdais
For Toro Rosso, it’s the battle of the Sebs again!
Bourdais may not have had many points last season, but in the final third of the season, he was very strong. Luck wasn’t with him at times.
He could have challenged for the win in Monza—it rained at the wrong time in Spa. Then there was that dreadful decision by the stewards in Fuji. Once he adapted to the car he was fast.
The decision to give Buemi the drive is a strange one. He didn’t finish that high up in the GP2 standings, and his best results came in the sprint races benefiting from the reverse grid system.
I think with so little experience, and having the new F1 cars to adapt to, it will be a very tall order for the young Swiss. As the season goes on, I am sure that he will get more adapted to F1, but it’s going to take some time. I don’t expect him to get results straight away.
Bourdais, on the other hand, could have a very strong season. These new cars could really suit him down to the ground. Over in Champ Car, he was used to cars with slick tyres and more emphasis on mechanical grip.
In Champ Car, there also was the “push to pass” button. This may give him a little head start, when it comes to making the most use out of the KERs system, when it comes to overtaking.
Bourdais could be one of the surprises of this F1 season. He could get the odd podium. I think that he will come out on top at Rosso this season.
FINAL VERDICT: Rosso has brought Buemi into F1 too soon and he may struggle. Bourdais has a chance of having a great second season. He will improve massively on what was overall a disappointing debut season. He will feel more at home with the new spec F1 cars.
Force India – Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella
In 2008, it was Giancarlo Fisichella who generally had the edge over Adrian Sutil. Fisichella made his F1 experience really count and made the most out of the Force India. Sutil struggled with the Bridgestone tyres, particularly in qualifying. He did improve as the season went on though.
This season should be an interesting battle between these two. Fisichella should be able to adapt to the new F1 cars quickly, thanks to all of his experience. He has also driven on slicks before, as they were still the tyre in use, when he arrived in F1 back in 1996.
Sutil clearly has talent but hasn’t shown it often enough. As I mentioned above, a lot of this has been down to the tyres.
The nature of his driving style should suit the slick tyres a bit better. However, he needs to tone down his aggression, as the tyre wear on the rears is going to be a big issue this season in the races.
Overall, I can see Fisichella still having the upper hand in this team mate battle. Fisichella is great at putting in giant-killing performances, when there is no pressure on him. This is unlike when he was expected to deliver big results every week at Renault.
These giant killing results should be more frequent with the Mercedes-powered Force India. Whenever Fisichella has had to race against the odds, as he has done throughout his career at the likes of Jordan and Benetton, he has often overachieved.
Fisichella will look after the tyres effectively and bring the car home each race. Sutil, I feel, may continue to struggle with regards to tyre conversation, and he can get himself involved in too many incidents.
I think this could be Sutil’s last season in F1.
FINAL VERDICT: Giancarlo Fisichella will comfortably come out on top, and will very likely end Adrian Sutil’s F1 career in the process.
Brawn GP – Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello
Last season, Rubens Barrichello was the better driver in the Honda camp. Button seemed to be a bit de-motivated because of having a dog of a car.
Barrichello, on the other hand, was far more positive about the situation and was fighting tooth and nail for his career. That was his source of motivation. He didn’t make many errors and got the points, when they were available.
I think Rubens will be very strong again this season. He is very adaptable and gets the best out of the machinery that he is given.
So. if the first Brawn GP car is a bit of a handful to drive, Rubens will make the most of it and deliver results. He will still be fighting for his F1 future, and he seems very intent on enjoying himself these days.
Jenson will definitely be more motivated this season. Despite a poor 2008, he is still a very talented driver with plenty to offer. His driving style is very smooth. In terms of looking after the tyres in the race, this could hand him an advantage over other drivers.
This is very close to call. However, I think Jenson will up his game this season massively and establish himself again as the No. 1 driver in the team.
Now that the team is definitely on the grid, he seems very happy and upbeat, rather than down in the dumps, as he was last season. This will make a big difference to his performance.
FINAL VERDICT: Jenson Button will be in much better form this year, and I think he will come out on top here. Barrichello will run him very close.