Following Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ dominant one-two finish at the Malaysian Grand Prix two days ago, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and the team have travelled to the desert Kingdom of Bahrain for race three of the 2007 Formula 1 World Championship.
How has the test session in Bahrain aided preparation for the race?
The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team covered over 4,280km at the Bahrain International Circuit over six days of testing in February. The session enabled the team to develop the car set-up and conduct Bridgestone Potenza tyre evaluations, thereby arriving at this weekend’s Grand Prix with a valuable data bank regarding the performance of the MP4-22 at the track. As a result, the work plan for Friday’s Free Practice will focus on race specific set-up work rather than initial acclimatisation. The test at the Bahrain International Circuit was useful with regards developing an understanding of how the package as a whole works in warmer conditions, a prudent decision given the high ambient and track temperatures of the first three races. In Malaysia, for example track temperatures are typically around 50°C compared to 35-40°C in Europe.
Is the track characteristically tough on the cars?
The Bahrain Grand Prix is one of the hardest races of the season for brakes. The straights punctuated with slower corners and hairpins mean there are few opportunities for the brakes to cool. As with all races in hot climates, the temperature can lead to high rates of attrition for the race cars. The asphalt in Bahrain also tends to retain heat, with temperatures regularly reaching over 50°C, and this increases the need for excellent grip and durability from the Bridgestone Potenzas. At the Bahrain test, the team used the same hard and medium compounds that will be at the race, and they responded well to the conditions.
How do the weather conditions in Bahrain impact the race?
The weather conditions do not historically play as significant a role in Bahrain as they do in Malaysia. The weather is however changeable. In the desert this can happen very quickly, to the extent that conditions have been known to change during a session, especially when sand is blown onto the track. This is a constant threat during the weekend.
When did the team arrive in Bahrain?
The bulk of the team arrived in Bahrain late afternoon on Monday 9th April. Garage build began on Tuesday 10th with all the team’s equipment arriving from Malaysia during the night of the 9th.
Fernando Alonso: "After taking my first victory with the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team on Sunday, I cannot wait to get back on track already this weekend in Bahrain. There is a good feeling in the team at the moment and we all want to be out there racing and fighting for wins and points, but we also know that we need to find more speed and everyone is working hard on this. Like Sepang, the track at Bahrain has lots of space and always seems to lead to exciting racing. It is very wide and this layout gives you room to take more chances, but as the track is in the middle of a desert any part of the circuit off the racing line can be quite slippery due to the sand, so you still have to be very careful! I won the Bahrain Grand Prix last year, and would like to try and repeat that result this weekend. We had a positive test here before the start of the season, we learned a lot about the MP4-22 and the Bridgestone Potenzas. The car has developed a lot since then, and it will be interesting to see how it performs at the Bahrain International Circuit with these upgrades."
Lewis Hamilton: "To have started my debut season in Formula 1 with two podium positions is more than I could ever have expected. With the team I will keep pushing hard to develop and continue to fight for more results like these. However I am aware this is a dream start to the season in what is a difficult sport. Bahrain, like Malaysia, will be another demanding race and I will have new experiences and challenges. I am really looking forward to it though! Bahrain is the first track I have racing experience with, having tested on it in the MP4-22 in February and raced on the circuit in an F3 car in 2004. I really enjoyed racing there, it has some great sections to it, such as the sequence of turns five and six, which are very fast but you must be very precise to get it right and get a good time."
Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula 1, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: "The results for the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team over the first two races have been strong, and to be leading both Championships is fantastic for everyone involved. However we are not, in any part of our racing organisation, having any thoughts of complacency. We have another 15 races to compete in and there is a lot of work to do to maintain, and more importantly push forward with, the current performance levels. All our competitors will be working equally as hard and it is going to be a tough season. We need to take the momentum from the races so far and take the battle to the rest of the grid. After this race, the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team will return back to Europe following the season opening flyaways. In the gap until the first European race in Spain, the team will be focusing on the development programme of the MP4-22, incorporating the latest areas of enhancement and feeding into the process information gained from these races. We will next be on track testing with an important three day
test at the end of April at the Circuit de Catalunya, which will see us bring in more significant changes to the MP4-22 prior to the start of the European season."