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Bahrain preview quotes - Mercedes, Ferrari, Force India & more

02 Apr 2014

The Formula One paddock heads rapidly from the Far East to the Middle East this weekend and Sakhir’s Bahrain International Circuit, which this year hosts its very first F1 night race. Those involved in the 2014 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix discuss their prospects…

Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber

2013 Qualifying - 18th, 2013 Race - 18th

“Bahrain is a track which we all know pretty well from testing. We have good references from there, and it will be very interesting to come back and to see what our improvements are in comparison to the first two races. The Bahrain International Circuit has a special track characteristic. Based on what we learnt from the first two races, I think we can make another step in terms of drivability. We made improvements on the braking and I believe we can push these even further. Everyone in our team and Ferrari are doing their best to get things done properly. My favourite part of the track is the last one with the fast corners. The left-hander which goes uphill is very interesting. Besides that, it will be a nice feeling to race for the first time in Bahrain at night. I do believe the track in Bahrain will also help us to have more stable tyre temperatures as the weather will be good.”

Adrian Sutil, Sauber

2013 Qualifying - 8th, 2013 Race - 13th

“This year Bahrain will host a night race, so it won’t be as hot, and the data collected during the pre-season tests will only be of limited significance, which makes it interesting. The tyres especially will behave differently, but we can go back to our data from the night race in Singapore. I am looking forward to the race weekend. Night races are always interesting and provide a great backdrop for the spectators. It is special to drive at night. I like the layout. The pit facilities are very modern with a lot of space. My favourite parts are the fast chicane in turns six and seven, as well as the fast section in the last sector. We have spent a lot of days testing at the Bahrain International Circuit, but driving there was always fun. I like being in Bahrain. It’s a small country, but it is interesting and has a lot of history.”

Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Sauber head of track engineering

“We went testing in Bahrain twice before the start of the season and were not happy with the performance of the car, which had a lot to do with a lack of straight-line speed and some issues under braking. However, since then, we have improved the car in different areas, particularly under braking. In addition, the performance in medium and high speed corners is quite good as well. However, we still have room for improvement in low speed corners, and the straight-line speed is still an issue. Pirelli will provide the medium and the soft compounds, hence, the same tyres we had in Melbourne. I think this is a good choice for the Bahrain track, because it is more abrasive. We are constantly working on fine tuning all the systems with the goal to provide the drivers with a car which gives them the confidence to push it to the limits. In addition, we will continue our weight saving programme during the upcoming races.”


Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

"Bahrain is a circuit where we’ve done two recent tests, so we go there with a lot of knowledge of the track, which we certainly benefit from. We know that there’s a big traction demand and that’s why we’re bringing the medium and soft tyres. Temperatures at the start of the race should still be reasonably high. We’ve noted a very big drop in temperature though as soon as the sun goes down: a variation that can be as big as 15 degrees. Managing that very wide range of temperatures to get the best out of the tyres is going to be one of the biggest challenges for the teams throughout the weekend. This should make it quite tactical in terms of strategy, so it should be a very interesting race from that point of view."

Jenson Button, McLaren

2013 Qualifying - 10th, 2013 Race - 10th

“It’s hard to believe that this weekend’s race will be the 10th Bahrain Grand Prix - I won this race back in 2009, I’ve had lots of good performances here, and I really enjoy the challenge the circuit presents. You always feel like you can get a little bit more out of yourself, and the car, which makes it a difficult but rewarding track on which to drive.

“Sunday’s race will be my 250th Grand Prix start. That’s crazy: it feels like only yesterday that I was celebrating my 200th, with a win for McLaren in Hungary back in 2011.

“Things never stand still in Formula One, and we go to Bahrain facing another new challenge: the circuit’s first night race. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of race we have under the floodlights - racing at night always adds to the atmosphere and sense of occasion, and I think this weekend will be no different.

“We’ve scored some useful points in the first two races, which was always our objective for the opening quartet of flyaways [ie, Australia, Malaysia, Bahrain and China], and I hope we can get some more points in the bag this weekend.”

Kevin Magnussen, McLaren

2013 Qualifying - n/a 2013 Race - n/a

“It’ll be a good experience to go racing at a circuit on which I’ve already driven a Formula One car - a first for me in fact because I already have four days’ running under my belt from the recent winter tests. While that doesn’t really make a massive difference, because you can learn a circuit relatively quickly, assisted by simulator experience, it does mean you can go straight into Friday’s practice sessions on the front foot. You don’t need to familiarise yourself with the track first.

“I really enjoyed the tests and filming days we did in Bahrain earlier this year actually - the track has a good mix of corners, and the high-speed stuff around the back of the circuit is really enjoyable when the car is working well.

“Although the Sakhir [Bahrain] track has several high-speed corners, it’s not as fast as Sepang [Malaysia] so I’m hopeful that we’ll be slightly more competitive this weekend than we were there. I still think the track temperatures and our lack of downforce will make it hard to get the car into the sweet spot we found for it in Melbourne, but I’m hopeful we’ll be able to achieve a decent balance for the race.

“The Grand Prix itself will take place in the evening, so the track will be slightly cooler than it’s been for any previous Bahrain Grand Prix. I guess that’ll help all the teams, but I think we can still benefit from it. It’s always fascinating to try new things, and I really hope this weekend’s event, the 10th Bahrain Grand Prix, is a great success.”

Eric Boullier, McLaren racing director

“Although we didn’t enjoy the same level of competitiveness in Malaysia as we had in Australia, we nonetheless took home 10 valuable world championship points That’s not enough, but it’s better than some of our competitors managed.

“At the moment, we concede that we don’t quite have the performance to take the fight to the front-runners, but the considerable in-cockpit abilities of Jenson and Kevin, and the ever-impressive resource, motivation and competitiveness of our race team, mean that we can expect to be in the mix on Sunday.

“Since the Bahrain Grand Prix will be taking place just a week after the Malaysian race, we don’t expect to see a significant change in the competitive order, so our main aim will be to ensure that we have a faultless weekend from a reliability and operational standpoint. Despite the short interval between the two races, we’ll be incorporating a small number of design tweaks, nonetheless.

“For our Mumtalakat shareholders, this 10th Bahrain Grand Prix should be a very special event: the prospect of a night-time race in Bahrain is truly tantalising. Although we already race in the dark in both Singapore and Abu Dhabi, the Sakhir track sits in the Bahraini desert and should look wonderfully spectacular when its illuminated asphalt is contrasted against the dark expanses of unlit sand and rock. More important, it should add a further dimension to the scope and spectacle of modern Formula One.”

Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso

2013 Qualifying - 16th, 2013 Race - DNF

“Sakhir will be the first track this year where we have already driven the latest car, as we had the two test sessions there. Regarding the new cars, from the cockpit, despite all the technical changes, they are not so different to drive, when compared to the 2013 models. You still have a steering wheel, a throttle and a brake!

“There are a few aspects of your driving that you have to adapt, but the real changes are on the Power Unit side, in terms of when and how you will work to save fuel during the race, compared to going flat out on a qualifying lap.

“I think this year’s Grand Prix here will be quite special, as it is the first time we will drive this circuit at night under lights. I think that will be cool, and it will bring a special atmosphere to this race, looking a bit like Qatar for the MotoGP race. The track itself presents nothing out of the ordinary, with the usual aero compromise so that the car is quick down the straight, but still has enough downforce for all the corners.”

Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso

2013 Qualifying - n/a, 2013 Race - n/a

“It’s a nice circuit, good for testing and racing with its long straights and hard braking, as well as a mix of corners and challenging ones like Turn 10. I am looking forward to racing there, as it will be the first track I will drive on this year where I have already tested. But really, that doesn’t make much difference to my approach, because whatever track we go to, I should learn it quickly enough.”

Phil Charles, Toro Rosso chief engineer

“There are a few tricky sections such as braking for turn 10 (while still cornering in turn 9!) and the section comprising Turns 5 to 7 where it is often difficult for the drivers to know whether to push or not. It is quite hard on brakes and rear tyres, and this often becomes a focus of our set-up across the weekend. On top of all of this, Mother Nature also makes it a bit more tricky, with high and gusting winds, a possibility which can affect car balance in the high speed corners. The high winds also mean that sand is blown on to the track, however the cleaning machines currently used do a fantastic job of clearing it up. Running the race at night for the first time should add interest. The drop in track temperatures at the end of the day during winter testing created large balance and grip level changes, so it will be interesting to see how the race unfolds later into the night.”

Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham

2013 Qualifying - n/a, 2013 Race - n/a

"Next it's back to Bahrain for race three, back at a track we've already spent a couple of weeks at this year in the pre-season test where we managed to build up some pretty good mileage at a time when our reliability was good, something that will be really important this weekend. We also now have something to build on, both in terms of performance and from where we are now, in tenth place in the championship and with targets ahead that we know we can race with.

"Reliability really is the main focus for Bahrain. We need to have three good practice sessions so we can go into qualifying and the race with an optimised setup giving us the chance to really find out what the real performance level of this car is. On my last day of the test in Bahrain we weren't able to do the final performance run because of a clutch issue, and we really haven't had a chance since then to run the car in full quali spec with optimised setups because of the reliability problems we've had, and the wet quali sessions we had in both Australia and Malaysia. Yes, we performed well in Malaysia for much of the race, but that was with a car that had almost no meaningful setup work done on it and with more still to come from the power unit. It's vital we have a full weekend so we can pick up where we left off in Sepang and continue to improve across all areas of the car's performance.

"Our ability to develop is what will be crucial this year. Our development program is starting in Bahrain with the first new parts coming from the work we've been doing in the TMG wind tunnel and it'll be good to see how they perform."

Marcus Ericsson, Caterham

2013 Qualifying - n/a, 2013 Race - n/a

"I left Malaysia feeling pleased that I'd finished my first full race, and excited about what we achieved on Sunday at Sepang. It was tough - even though we'd completed quite a few laps on Friday and Saturday, we still went into the race without an optimised setup due to the issues we had on Friday and the work we had to do overnight to rebuild the car on Saturday and Sunday, so the most important thing in Bahrain is to have a trouble free weekend. Also, the Bahrain circuit characteristics should suit our car better than Sepang so we may be stronger here than in Malaysia, relative to the competition.

"I obviously know the Bahrain circuit well after the tests and, like Malaysia, that means we can get on with the program right from the first laps in FP1. We have a lot of data that's helping us go to the race with a much clearer idea of where we want to go with setup than we've had in either Australia or Malaysia, but it would also be really helpful if we can have the sort of reliability we had in the second pre-season test - mileage is what will help us unlock the full performance of this year's car, and I know how hard both Renault and our team are working to make sure we can do that."

Robin Frijns, Caterham test and reserve driver

"I'm excited about being back in the car for my first FP1 of the 2014 season with Caterham, especially as I already have experience of the car at Bahrain from the day I did in the pre-season tests. It'll be interesting to see how much progress we've made across the whole car since I last drove it, but my focus will be on helping the team prepare for the race weekend, something I know I can add value to, assuming we have a problem-free session!

"After the race weekend we're staying on for the first of the in-season tests and I'm doing one of the two days of that test. Obviously that's a different proposition to an FP1 - quite a lot less pressure, more time on track and a much bigger run plan, but it's still really important to approach that day with the same focus and determination to do as well as I can for the team. It's another chance for me to continue to learn as much as I can about operating efficiently with the team on track, building on the work I've been doing with them in the simulator back at Leafield, and I can't wait to get back to work!"

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

2013 Qualifying - 3rd, 2013 Race - 8th

"Since the last test in Bahrain, we have made a big step forward in terms of the interaction between the electrical motor and the combustion engine. Everyone now has a better understanding of the rules, also for us drivers in terms of the driving style and how to manage this new Formula 1, so we come to this race with a much better basis than we had in the winter tests. The most difficult aspect of the Sakhir circuit is the braking, as there are long straights followed by heavy braking, then a tight corner and another straight. Braking performance and the feeling you get from the brakes gives you the confidence to attack and so get a better lap time. Apart from that, another priority will be to work on our top speed.

"We have seen different types of racing over the first two Grands Prix, with the first one highlighting fuel saving a bit and the other shifting the focus to tyre management because of degradation, due to the high temperature. I think Bahrain will feature a combination of both these factors. We will have to save fuel more than in Malaysia and the tyres will be affected by the temperature in the Bahraini desert. We can expect a tough race, as some of the competition is very strong and we will have to raise our game to close down the gap as quickly as possible."

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari

2013 Qualifying - 9th, 2013 Race - 2nd

“After testing in Bahrain in the winter, we now go back there with much more experience and knowledge after the first two races. We must put that learning to good use for this race. There is a lot to do, but everyone in the team is pushing hard to sort things out as quickly as we can.

"There are not so many corners on this Sakhir track, but it seems to be very difficult to get a perfect lap, due to the combination of high speed sections and some very low speed corners. You would think with only few corners it would be easy to get the lap right, but it’s actually quite complicated. The key will be to find the right set-up as soon as possible and then we can improve the car over the weekend. Obviously, every circuit can be different in terms of its effect on fuel use and tyres: looking at Bahrain, fuel saving will play a more important role than in the last two races, but it might not turn out to be too bad, as it was less of an issue than we had expected in Melbourne. Also on the tyre front, I think Sakhir could be a bit easier to deal with than Sepang and also if we can get the car perfectly right, it will make life much easier.

"What can we expect in Bahrain? In Malaysia, you couldn’t see it because of what happened on the first lap, but I felt I made a step forward in terms of understanding the tools I have to work with, so I think we can be better prepared this weekend. That should give us faster lap times and better positions."

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India

2013 Qualifying - 14th, 2013 Race - 12th

"The performance in Malaysia was very encouraging, especially because we managed it with a two-stop strategy and nobody else near the front managed that. We've had two good races and have scored a lot of points already. I think we have a strong foundation and we can now build on that. The car is good, but there are still areas that we need to focus and work on so we have to keep the development rate high. In terms of performance I expect something similar to Malaysia. I think the aim must be for us to qualify in the top ten again and score some more points. To be honest Bahrain hasn't been the best place for me and I've never had a good result there. So we're going to change that this year!"

Sergio Perez, Force India

2013 Qualifying - 12th, 2013 Race - 6th

"It's a very good thing that the disappointment will only last a couple of days before we go to Bahrain, so I'm looking forward to it. The whole weekend in Malaysia was frustrating, but hopefully we can achieve a great result in Bahrain. I feel that we are in good shape, so hopefully we can deliver a strong performance there. If we keep out of trouble, we should have the pace to score points and get our season back on track. Last year I had a good race with McLaren and it was one of my best races. Also, I won there in GP2. Normally it's a good track for me, so I'm looking forward to it."

Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India team principal

"I don't think there will be any surprises. In Malaysia rain is always the unknown factor and we had plenty of it during qualifying. We had a dry race and we wanted to see how we would cope with the heat, as that was an important element of the whole car design for this year. We were alright and all our temperatures were within our parameters, so that's good. In Bahrain it will be similar so we don't expect any unknowns there and hopefully we'll have a good race."

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

2013 Qualifying - 4th, 2013 Race - 5th

"It was great to kick-start my season with a win in Malaysia. Taking a one-two was also a fantastic result for the team and I can’t wait to see what we can do in Bahrain. I’ve finished on the podium here a couple of times here but, for one reason or another, I’ve never managed to get the win. Until last week it was the same story for me with Malaysia, so fingers crossed this can be the year of breaking those cycles!

"Malaysia was a really busy event for the team and we have a test coming up straight after this weekend’s race, so it would be great to give the crew another good result to head home with after a long road trip. 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 winter, but I’ll be pushing hard to keep those results coming."

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes

2013 Qualifying - 1st, 2013 Race - 9th

"The first two races have been a great start to my season and I’m already looking forward to being back in the car and carrying on that momentum in Bahrain. It’s a great track and I really enjoy driving it. I’ve never had much luck on race weekends here, but it’s definitely the one I’m best prepared for this year.

"I came to Bahrain for the Pirelli tyre test back in December and during winter testing a few weeks ago. Of course, it’s the same situation for most teams and drivers so we could see some close battles throughout the weekend. We may be leading both Championships at the moment but our rivals are breathing down our necks, so we need to stay focused and keep doing our job calmly and professionally."

Toto Wolff, Mercedes team executive director

"We can be very proud of our achievements last week in Malaysia but there is no room for complacency. After two races we are leading both the drivers’ and constructors’ Championships. But the most important thing to take from that is that it has only been two races. We are in the very early stages of what will be a demanding year for everybody and we have seen already that fortunes can change very quickly. We approach Bahrain with the same mentality as we have approached every challenge so far this season: in the knowledge that nothing must be taken for granted."

Paddy Lowe, executive director (technical)

"Malaysia produced a highly satisfying result for the factories at both Brackley and Brixworth, with a historic one-two finish for the team complemented by Mercedes-Benz powered cars occupying seven of the top 10 positions. This is down to the hard work and dedication of a fantastic group of people and is very much deserved. Having said that, it is essential that we do not relent in our efforts.

"With every team having run at the circuit during the winter, Bahrain can be seen as a benchmark in terms of competitiveness at this early stage of the season. The combination of heavy traction demands and variable grip levels are a challenge for both car and driver, while the long straights reward strong performance from the Power Unit. We expect a tight battle throughout the field this weekend and it will be interesting to see how far the cars have come over the past few weeks since our last visit."

Romain Grosjean, Lotus

2013 Qualifying - 11th, 2013 Race - 3rd

"It’s a good track and I’m happy to go back there. I’m especially looking forward to the first night race at a circuit I like. Twice I’ve raced there in Formula One and twice I’ve been on the podium. So that’s a good record! We were not very successful in the pre-season tests, but hopefully there will be some more updates and performance from our side. I’m sure everyone is going to work hard even though there are just a few days before Bahrain. The race finish at Sepang is a big encouragement. No matter what the challenge, we are aiming for podiums and strong performances wherever we go.

"To make major progress we need more days like Saturday and Sunday in Malaysia, where we learned a lot about the car. There are some encouraging signs. We know we have a lot of work ahead, but we also know which areas to work on. We will try new things in Bahrain and I’m confident the car will be better. We’ve been able to perform well there in the past. With the E20 and E21 we were able to take advantage of the car’s good balance and kindness to tyres. It’s early to say how the E22 will perform, but we head there with a positive frame of mind."

Pastor Maldonado, Lotus

2013 Qualifying - 17th, 2013 Race - 11th

"Bahrain is a good circuit. We’ve been there in the pre-season and I think all the teams will be happy to return, especially for the weather and the type of track. I would say it is a ‘complete’ circuit because it has a mix of high, medium and low speed turns, plus good sequences of corners. So it’s a good venue to test at, which is exactly what we need to evaluate our new developments. The facilities for the teams are great as well.

"I’m here to race so you never want to be sat in the garage when the car should be out on track. I had more than my fair share of unreliability in Malaysia, but every time we expose a problem it means we have something to fix and we take a step forwards. Good reliable laps in the car [in Bahrain] will be the starting point. It’s the first time at night in Bahrain so something new for us all to discover."

Nick Chester, Lotus technical director

"We’ve learnt more about our mapping and we’ve made some improvements with the braking of the car, but there is still a lot more to come. We have more work to do at Enstone including improving the set-up and operation of our brake-by-wire system, which is one of the areas where the drivers have the biggest complaints. It’s spoiling their entry into the corner and costing them quite a lot of time. We go [to Bahrain] without a lot of mileage in winter testing so we have more set-up work to do on the track. Obviously temperatures can be quite high, so that is one thing we will have to watch out for. Then it’s about getting more of our development parts on the car and doing more work with the power unit."

Felipe Massa, Williams

2013 Qualifying - 6th, 2013 Race - 15th

"Bahrain will be different from last season, normally it’s a very hot race but it’s not humid like Malaysia, it’s really dry which helps from a driver’s physical point of view. It will be a change this year as it’s a night race so we expect the temperatures to be cooler. We’ve been testing there in the winter so all the teams will have an idea about what set-up to use; we know what we have to focus on and where we can improve as well. Bahrain is a really nice place; I’ve won there twice in the past so I’m looking forward to getting back there."

Valtteri Bottas, Williams

2013 Qualifying - 15th, 2013 Race - 14th

"We have had a lot of testing in Bahrain so we have more of an idea about our set-up which makes things easier. Obviously the weather will be different as it will be night, but I think it’s going to be a great sight to see the cars under the lights, so I’m looking forward to that. We didn’t look too bad in testing in Bahrain, so we are looking to the race as a potential for some good points."

Rod Nelson, Williams chief test and support engineer

"Sakhir is well known to all of the teams as we spent eight days testing there in February and March with our new cars this year. It’s the circuit with the highest brake energy, and common issues are high brake wear combined with high brake temperatures. Due to a high track roughness and some of the highest track temperatures of the year, tyre wear and thermal degradation could both be issues here. We expect daytime temperatures to be several degrees higher than when we were here last. However for the first time in the race’s history we are to have a night race. This can present its own problems, with temperatures dropping after the start which is almost the same time as the sun sets. Whilst rain isn’t generally an issue here we often have quite high winds from the Gulf and not only can this affect car balance it means that sand on the track can be an issue, particularly at the start of the day."

Jules Bianchi, Marussia

2013 Qualifying - 20th, 2013 Race - 19th

"This has not been the best start to the season for me and I am hoping that Bahrain will be a case of ‘third time lucky’. Malaysia was disappointing for me but there is no point dwelling on what has passed because we need to have the focus on the next race, which is what I have been doing. We are perhaps better prepared here because of the work we did in pre-season testing, so we have to take that as a positive, and I am looking forward to the first night race to be held here. I really enjoy the flow of this track and I think its characteristics will help us at this early stage of the season when we are still learning a lot from the new package and how to get the best out of it."

Max Chilton, Marussia

2013 Qualifying - 22nd, 2013 Race - 20th

"On the one hand, this weekend is quite a quick turnaround for the Team, but at least we are returning to a track we visited only recently in pre-season testing, so we have a good engineering basis for the week ahead. I like Sakhir, so it will be interesting to race here in the different conditions presented by a night race; I do like a challenging race, but it would be good to achieve a better outcome this weekend. As ever, you learn a lot from the races that are most difficult, so I hope we can take the lessons from Malaysia and use them to improve here. They will be small steps but in the right direction."

John Booth, Marussia team principal

"We head pretty much straight into the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend with the motivation and determination to achieve a better result here than at our last event. Some of that will require rather more luck than we experienced in the race in Malaysia and some will hopefully be the product of a thorough examination of where we lost out performance-wise last weekend. We always enjoy a night race as it certainly adds to the spectacle and provides an extra dimension for the TV audience. For 2014 this race presents a rather different challenge. I am sure the heat, the wind and the sand will continue to be factors but these will be less of a known quantity by virtue of the revised running schedule. It is the later timing that will make the recent testing work completed here all the more valuable."

Mattia Binotto, Ferrari engine and electronics deputy director

"The third round of the 2014 world championship, the Bahrain Grand Prix, is without doubt the most severe with regard to the use of the power unit, both due to the shape of the Sakhir circuit - characterised by long straights - and for temperatures which, as was the case last weekend in Malaysia, will be very high. An important new factor compared to previous races is the fact that all teams have a good shot at this track and have in their hands a significant amount of data, which is crucial for optimising the performance and efficiency of the power unit. In fact, never before has making the most effective and efficient use of the power units required so much time and attention to every detail. In Bahrain we can start from an established base and with the support of the data collected in the first two races we can hone things even further in some respects. In a sport where every detail counts, this can make a difference."

More to follow.