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Hat trick for Merc in Bahrain?

2014-04-03 08:17

HAT TRICK? Can the Mercedes F1 team pull off a third successive win of the 2014 season in Bahrain this weekend? Image: AFP


MANAMA, Bahrain - The switch from a steamy Malaysia to a night race amid the dunes of Bahrain is unlikely to be enough of a shift to prevent Mercedes making a hat trick of victories to open the 2014 Formula 1 season.

The team's Nico Rosberg won the season-opener in Australia on March 16; team mate Lewis Hamilton won in Malaysia on March 30 with Rosberg second to underline the dominance Mercedes is enjoying so far in the new V6 turbo/hybrid era.

Rival teams made no discernible progress towards challenging Mercedes in the two weeks between the races so have little chance of making headway in the week between Malaysia and Bahrain, now a night race like Singapore.


The only succour for other teams is that Hamilton and Rosberg shared the honours in the first two rounds but Hamilton scored zero points in Australia because of an engine misfire. Consequentially, the Drivers' championship is more open than it might have been.

Chief among rivals is Red Bull ace Sebastian Vettel, third in Malaysia but (worryingly for the team) had a higher fuel-consumption rate than Mercedes while just trying to keep up.

Beyond the Mercedes drivers and the indefatigable Vettel, it is hard to make a case for any other winner in Bahrain, with its stable weather and low incidence of pace-car periods, although many teams are still having teething problems with the new 'power units' so a surprise is possible.

Hamilton said: "I've finished on the podium a couple of times in Bahrain but for one reason or another I've never won. We know it's going to be tough to maintain our current form, particularly at a circuit where every team has had so much running time over the (northern) winter."


Vettel's new team mate Daniel Ricciardo has suffered a cruel reversals of fortune since he celebrated on the podium in front of his home fans in Australia. That second place was taken off him for allegedly exceeding new fuel-flow limits; in Malaysia he was running fourth before a botched pit-stop cost him too much time.

To make matters worse, he will have a 10-place grid penalty in Bahrain because of an "unsafe release" that saw a wheel come loose and his pit crew pushing the car backwards along the pits lane.

Williams seemed to have the race pace to challenge Mercedes, based on the Australia performance, but in Malaysia, as in Melbourne, was hampered by rain-affected qualifying which exposed the team's relative lack of downforce.

Williams is much more likely to get suitable conditions in Bahrain, although scattered thunderstorms and wind are forecast for the weekend.

The switch to a night GP also complicates matters for teams. The race will start around sunset which, given the track's low-humidity setting, causes a quick drop in temperature which can affect engine performance. At least all teams have plenty of data available after pre-season testing at the Sakhir circuit.

Team boss Frank Williams and his daughter, trackside chief Claire, have had more than downforce to worry about since Malaysia, where Felipe Massa ignored repeated instructions to let team mate Valtteri Bottas through to pursue Jenson Button's McLaren.


Massa, having always regretted pulling aside for then Ferrari team mate Fernando Alonso at the 2010 German GP, was not about to do the same for his junior team mate this time and insisted after the race that he was in the right.

It will take major fence-mending by Williams to placate the drivers - one aggrieved for being asked to move aside and the other annoyed that his team mate put team considerations a distinct second - and rekindle the harmony of which Williams had boasted.

By contrast the driver pairing many feared would cause headaches - Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari - has shown no indication of conflict. For now, both drivers are preoccupied by trying to improve the team's mediocre performance.

The Ferraris have looked solid and reliable but are a long way off qualifying and race pace.

Stay with Wheels24 for the 2014 Bahrain F1 GP weekend.

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