Pit Stop – Back in Bahrain – By Lewis Brearley

If the Chinese grand prix whetted your appetite for motor racing action then there’s not long to wait for another dose.

This weekend sees the Formula One season moving onto Bahrain, for the last Asian race before the European season.

The form of the Chinese grid looks set to shift again as the layout of the Sakhir circuit offers a different set of challenges for the cars than the Shanghai track.

As opposed to the long corners of Shanghai, Sakhir contains mostly shorter corners. This diverts the majority of the stress away from the front of the cars towards the rear, and therefore a strong, stable rear end is vital to success in Bahrain.

If you take a look at last year’s result, it’s hard to predict a very different result. Red Bull, Lotus and Force India all shone in conditions where the car’s control of tyre degradation was of prime importance.

These three cars look to have carried that trait forward into the current season, with Force India especially moving their game up. A Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen podium looks to be confident bet then, but the odds of Force India reaching a podium are much higher. To do so they would have to beat both Ferraris, Mercedes and McLarens; a near impossible task, although Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil are both strong enough drivers to pull it off should the chance arise.

The third podium spot could be filled by anyone. The ever-improving McLaren of Jenson Button, either of the two quick Mercedes, Fernando Alonso or Mark Webber.

A result for Webber is much in need already, due to the torrid month he has just endured. A podium would silence the critics and re-assert his role as the man who gives the champion a close race.

The rookie class of 2013 will also be looking to Bahrain as a place to raise opinions of themselves, particularly Esteban Gutierrez. The Sauber driver has looked completely out of his depth, just as most F1 pundits had predicted, the Mexican having appeared nowhere near as reliable for F1 in last year’s GP2 series. The Sauber management too were uncertain, but due to Mexican sponsorship they were required to grit their teeth and take him on.

Gutierrez has the raw speed to make it in F1 but, as shown in the case of Romain Grosjean, it takes a much more complete driver to cut it when racing the very best in the world’s fastest cars.
As the Bahrain grand prix unfolds we might just gain a few more answers to all these questions.

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