F1 Power Rankings: Bahrain Grand Prix

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone likes to claim that the World Championship isn’t used for nor is allowed to be used for political purposes. However, the Formula One World Championship returns to the Kingdom of Bahrain, the land that the press covering the Arab Spring forgot. From the sounds of it, things haven’t gotten better for the people of Bahrain.

I’ll write a bit more about that during my race and news recap. For now, here are this round’s Power Rankings, assuming that this race is allowed to go ahead. Since Bernie appears to be oblivious to how Bahrain’s leadership is using the Grand Prix to portray a positive public image, let’s just assume there will be a race this weekend.

#1 Fernando Alonso (Last Race #2)
After the last race was largely dictated by the strategic use of the soft tyre, Pirelli has changed their tyre compounds for this weekend’s race. It was originally planned that they would use softs and hards. Now, it’s medium and hard tyres which is what was used in Malaysia. That worked out well for Red Bull and less so for Lotus. As for Ferrari, it all depends on if Alonso can keep his nose clean. When he does, he’s the fastest driver in the field.

#2 Sebastian Vettel (LR #1)
Seb talks about why drivers benefit from back-to-back weekends: “The positive is that on the Friday of the second race, you get into the rhythm quickly. You save time by travelling direct from one race to the next and can adapt to the time zone a bit quicker, as you don’t have to travel so far. The only thing is that there’s not much time for physical and mental recovery after the first race.”

#3 Lewis Hamilton (LR #3)
Lewis says that there are areas where the W04 can improve. Will Mercedes actually improve it for this season or not bother like they did in 2008 and 2012? “There are some areas where we need to improve to close that gap to the fastest cars and we’re working hard to identify and develop those. There’s a limit to what we can do before Bahrain but I’ll be talking to my engineers before we arrive at the circuit and seeing where we can improve in the short term.”

f1-kimi-raikkonen-helmet-2013#4 Kimi Raikkonen (LR #6)
Everyone says that blowing sand makes the track tricky but only The Iceman actually explains how: “It is not easy to find a good set-up as you do experience the track surface changing over the weekend and sometimes the wind can affect the balance of the car too. It’s one of the more tricky places to get the car exactly right, but at least you don’t often have to worry about rain!”

#5 Mark Webber (LR #5)
I might not like the two weeks on, two weeks off thing that Formula One does to start the season but @AussieGrit sees the benefit of it: “It’s good to have a back to back, then a bit of a break, and then back to back again. When we’re off we have a bit of a chance to regroup.”

#6 Felipe Massa  (LR #4)
Pirelli boss Paul Hembery expects high tyre wear. Does he mean high or higher than the last three races? ” It’s one of the most demanding tracks of the year for the tyres, mostly because of the high ambient and track temperatures. We expect about three stops per car, although we’ll have to wait to get some running in on Friday before we can look at the data and make a more accurate prediction.”

f1-romain-grosjean-helmet-2013#7 Romain Grosjean (LR #8)
Grosjean can’t figure out his car this season. What could they possibly do to change a car so much that a driver can’t figure it out: “I would be lying if I said the car is exactly where I want it and we are having quite an adventure to get the setup and feeling from the car how we want it. This is very frustrating for a driver, as you want your car to be obedient – to do what you want it to do – and to do it in a consistent manner… I’m spending a lot of time with my engineers and we’re all working hard to make improvements.”

#8 Nico Rosberg (LR #7)
Keke’s kid is disappointed with his first three races. Maybe things would be better if he stole Lewis’ car: “The first three races haven’t quite worked out as we had hoped on my side but the positive is that we have a car that we can really work with. So I’m looking forward to getting on with this weekend and the circuit at Sakhir is one that I like very much. It’s going to be very tough on the rear tyres and our biggest challenge will be to make the most out of the situation.”

f1-nico-hulkenberg-helmet-2013#9 Nico Hulkenberg (LR #9)
The Hulk expects brakes to be an issue. So Sauber should be able to catch up on Force India this weekend: “Other than high temperatures, the brakes will play a significant role. There are a couple of long straights where we drive at over 300 kph and then we need to brake very hard into the corners, so it will be the usual balancing act between downforce and top speed.”

f1-jenson-button-helmet-2013#10 Jenson Button (LR #10)
Generic quote of the week? “The Sakhir circuit requires a good overall car balance. There are some tricky and technical low-speed changes of direction; you need to place the car really precisely at the corner entry in order to maximise traction at the exit. And there are also some high-speed sweeps – Turns 6 and 7, for example – and some fast corners, such as the uphill left-hander at Turn 11. You need a good front-end, but also good traction, to get the best from those corners.”

#11 Paul di Resta (LR #13)
Dario’s cousin thinks that his car worked well in the Malaysian heat. IT BROKE IN THE HEAT! How is that working well? “We’re back in the hot weather and we were strong in the heat of Malaysia so there are no real worries. Last year the car worked well in Bahrain, which gives us confidence heading into the weekend.”

f1-sergio-perez-helmet-2013#12 Sergio Perez (LR #10)
Checo, can you actually talk about your car or the season or are you just tired of having nothing good to say about it: “With two DRS zones, I think we should see some decent racing: the two best overtaking opportunities are into the Turn 1 and Turn 4 hairpins. They’re both good places to attack – you can force another driver onto the inside line and then attack on the exit, when they’re more vulnerable.”

#13 Adrian Sutil (LR #12)
Sutil thinks that this track is easy. Without Tim O’Glock and Heikki Kovalainen, someone in the paddock needs to be honest: “With a good car I like almost every circuit. The track is not one of the most difficult ones, but it has a lot of big braking points, so you need a strong car on the brakes.”

#14 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #17)

#15 Jean-Eric Vergne (LR #14)

#16 Vattteri Bottas (LR #16)
Bottas might be a rookie but he knows what needs to be done to keep the car relatively competitive. He needs to work on those tyres: “The tyres also tend to drop off quite a lot at this circuit so in Friday practice we need to try and find a good car setup to maximise the long run performance for the race so we can keep the tyres alive longer than others.”

#17 Pastor Maldonado (LR #18)
For once, Pastor didn’t win the most generic driver quote of the weekend. Still, I’m fairly certain that he’s actually a robot pretending to be human: “The temperatures in the cockpit are also going to be very high so as a driver you have to be prepared both physically and mentally to deal with that and I’m expecting to lose between 2 and 3kg during the race.”

f1-esteban-gutierrez-helmet-2013#18 Esteban Gutierrez (LR #15)
Steve says that his Chinese GP was disappointing? Disappointing?! He plowed into the back of Sutil. He should be embarrassed, not disappointed: “To end the Chinese Grand Prix like that was disappointing. The mistake I made not only ended my race, but I also received a five place grid penalty. Of course, this will not make the race in Bahrain any easier, but it doesn’t change my approach or my motivation. I will fight and make the best out of the situation.”

#19 Jules Bianchi (LR #19)

#20 Charles Pic (LR #20)
Caterham is bringing its first set of updates to Bahrain. Maybe Caterham can claw their way out of the bottom of the table: “This is only the first stage of the 2013 developments we’re bringing so we’re very realistic about what we might find this weekend, and we’re not going to make any predictions about what they’re going to bring in terms of laptime, but we’ll focus on integrating them into the package we’ve used in the first three races and see where we end up.”

#21 Max Chilton (LR #21)

#22 Geido van der Garde (LR #22)
Gary talks about how timing your run in qualifying will have as much to do with circuit conditions as traffic: “It’ll be very sandy on Friday but with every lap that’s completed it rubbers in and the grip levels improve a lot – that’s important in each session, particularly quali as you need to time your run to make the most of the track evolution so strategy will be really important all weekend.”

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