In this mid-week review Formula One, GP2 Asia and the IRL go under the microscope.
Sunday saw the first race of the Formula One season at the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain. After much anticipation and excitement, the race was a bit of an anti-climax. Little overtaking and little action (on track or pitstop related) has the world’s press speculating as to whether the rule changes for this year were ill advised. Some are calling for the rules to be changed immediately, while others are calling for patience, given that it was only the first grand prix of the season. Mark Webber has certainly made his views clear on his Twitter feed.
The race failed to provide the entertainment fans were expecting. While the rules have been scrutinised, the new look Bahrain circuit didn’t do the F1 paddock any favours with its additional slow and tight corners. It would be good to see the Sakhir circuit revert back to its previous layout.
The RedBull of Sebastian Vettel and the two Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa looked a class above the rest. While Vettel was unfortunate to suffer a failure, the form of the Ferrari team must be a bit ominous to the other teams in the paddock. The bookies favourite, Alonso, looked at home and showed the class of a Formula One champion and Brazilian Felipe Massa drove very impressively on his return to the sport.
As a speculated long term target for Mercedes GP, Sebastian Vettel put in a fine performance in qualifying and drove well in the race. If he continues to drive so well, you may wonder what damage it will do to RedBull if he leaves. Of course, he could make RedBull a team of his own. They may well win the championship this year so he will see no point in leaving. The lure of a traditional brand in Mercedes may be too hard to turn down in the long term. Michael Schumacher made Benetton a team of his own in the mid-90s, before leaving for Ferrari. While you can argue that losing such a talent would hurt any team, the Benetton team were never the same. Whether RedBull will have a similar fate, it will be interesting to see how things develop.
On the broadcasting front, the BBC did a good job of the coverage this weekend, despite having to deal with a couple of items outside of their realm. The first being the lack of onscreen graphics during the practice and qualifying sessions (the race was not so much affected). While the onscreen graphics provided the time of the driver in the #1 spot, it failed to show the running order of the drivers in the session, so we were left to guess who was in positions 2 -24. The BBC has received a number of viewers feedback about this and will be talking to the authorities involved. The other issue was the bizarre no show of the F1 drivers on the grid. Martin Brundle, despite his best efforts must of thought it was a bad day at the office. The ban of drivers’ physios on the grid by Bernie Ecclestone, made the drivers stay away from the grid in protest. Hopefully this silly issue will be rectified and normal service can be resumed in Melbourne.
Next race: Melbourne, 28th March
The final two rounds of the GP2 Asia series supported the F1 crowd at the Bahrain circuit this weekend. Brit Oliver Turvey topped free practice, qualified 3rd but was unable to convert it into a good race result and finished 9th in the feature race and 11th in the sprint race. Fellow Brit Sam Bird qualified 11th and made good progress in the feature race, finishing 6th. On Sunday’s sprint race, Bird got his first podium with the ART Grand Prix team, finishing 2nd to Italian Giacomo Ricci.
Next race: Main GP2 series starts 8th May in Barcelona
The first race of the IndyCar season took place on the streets of Sao Paulo. The track proved to be a test for the drivers with its many bumps (memories of late 80s/early 90s US F1 races) and dusty surface. Qualifying was postponed to race day after the series director received feedback from the drivers over safety. The pole was eventually grabbed by Dario Franchitti.
The race itself saw a first lap, first turn pile up. New boy Takuma Sato appeared to lose control under braking, causing Scott Dixon to spin. In trying to avoid Dixon, other drivers collided and Mario Moraes’ car launched over the car of Marco Andretti. Andretti lucky to escape unharmed. Mid-way through the race, the weather took a turn for the worse and the race was red flagged for 35 minutes due to the standing water on the circuit. The race was won by Australian Will Power. The accolade of top Brit went to Dan Wheldon who finished in 5th place for Panther Racing. Dario Franchitti finished 7th, Mike Conway finished in 8th, Justin Wilson finished in 11th and Alex Lloyd finished 18th on his debut in the series.
Race highlights available here (Official IRL channel)
Next race: St.Petersburg on the 28th March.
[Image courtesy of the GP2 Media Service]