Bahrain GP Preview: ‘Proper’ F1 Weekends Are Back

In the first of the double headers of the 2015 campaign, Formula 1 is in Bahrain for the first of the proper Grand Prix weekends. I say “proper,” what I really mean is the first race supported by the young guns in GP2. It’s a series I’ve enjoyed watching over the last couple of years, simply because its oozing with talent that either make it to F1 or other forms of top level motorsport.

GP2_Pre_Season_Testing_Bahrain_F1WeekendsWe saw in testing two weeks ago, the two DAMS cars driven by Williams development driver Alex Lynn and Red Bull young driver Pierre Gasly top the timesheets on numerous occasions in Bahrain, with McLaren test/reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne also setting times that were high up the order. Other notables include Alexander Rossi who went fourth fastest on the final day and Raffaele Marciello go fifth fastest in his Trident, despite the questions over his move from proven race winners Racing Engineering over the winter.

Of course this year sees the introduction of DRS in the championship, something I believed they didn’t really need considering the action we saw throughout the season last year. But if GP2 wants to remain relevant to F1 for drivers coming up the ranks I guess you could think of it the same way as the Pirelli tyres, although I still don’t know why they didn’t go with the more subtle solution adopted by Formula Renault 3.5.

Elsewhere we already have a team thats pulled out of the weekend in the form of Hilmer Motorsport, citing the lack of budget coming from drivers that enables them to race. Of course GP2 teams work off the budget given to them by drivers as opposed to the teams paying them, so unless they are backed by a title sponsor such as Red Bull they don’t race. Despite the teams involvement with Force India – who we know have been struggling financially since the start of the season – part of this can be attributed to the likes of Valencia and most recently Germany falling off the F1 calendar which has forced the series to look at races outside Europe to make up a calendar, costing the teams more in the process.

Its also bringing to light the associated issues that come with F1’s lack of love for the European flybys, and perhaps puts into perspective just how crucial they are for the economics of the sport, because without a grid full of GP2 drivers we wouldn’t have any for Formula 1.

Speaking of the main event, it seems we come to Bahrain set up for an interesting weekend after the comments made by Rosberg post-race. With this being the place of battle for him and his teammate 12 months ago, and without a race win so far in 2015 Rosberg will be looking to upset the rhythm Lewis has had so far kicking off this season.

But with the threat of Ferrari lingering again heading into this race, will Mercedes let their drivers race each other on track? I like to think they will but after the events of Spa last year and Rosberg openly admitting he’s not a fan of Hamilton’s defensive tactics, the team may play the ‘maximise team performance’ card and employ such measure if they feel it might be too heated between the two in the desert.

Most of the teams are planning major aero and Power Unit upgrades for Spain in two weeks, so this is really the last time we see the cars in their early-season form before we get their fully developed baselines for rest of the season. For Ferrari it could mean more downforce and more horsepower, which on the circuits that favours them could well open up the title battle in a similar fashion to what happened to Riccardo last year.

Finally you may remember the Bahrain Grand Prix was [and still is] in the news a couple of years ago due to the sport going to a country where human rights issues are quite prominent. Whilst not much was said about the time other than “We’re F1, we’ve got nothing to do with the Bahrain government” it seems FOM have been under scrutiny from the United Kingdom National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, after the Americans for Democracy and Human Rights group filed a complaint concerning the sports presence in the country.

In a post on the official F1 website, FOM have responded with “Formula One has committed itself to respecting human rights in Bahrain and other countries in which it conducts business.” It is perhaps a step forward for the sport amidst the controversy year-on-year returning to the country, although its interesting that it doesn’t concern the other places Formula 1 visits where the quality of Human Rights are an issue.

Image Credit: GP2 Series

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