2014 sees the tenth running of the Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit near Sakhir. It was the first track in the Middle East to host a Formula 1 race in 2004, and this year’s race looks to be a spectacular one as they turn on the lights and host the race at night for the first time!
Jenson Button, the 2009 Formula One World Champion, will be celebrating his 250th grand prix this weekend in Bahrain, while at the other end of the spectrum, Kevin Magnussen will be racing in just his third, but unlike the previous two in Australia and Malaysia, he has knowledge of the track. The two McLaren Mercedes drivers, as well as Racing Director Eric Boullier, look ahead at this weekend’s grand prix on a circuit the team have never won on.
“It’s hard to believe that this weekend’s race will be the 10th Bahrain Grand Prix – I won this race back in 2009 [for Brawn GP], I’ve had lots of good performances here, and I really enjoy the challenge the circuit presents,” said Button. “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.
“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 fly-aways and I hope we can get some more points in the bag this weekend.”
Team-mate Magnussen has finished in the points in both of his F1 races so far, taking a podium in Australia and ninth in Malaysia. He will be hoping to continue that points scoring run going when the cars hit the track on Sunday.
“It’ll be a good experience to go racing at a circuit on which I’ve already driven a Formula 1 car – a first for me in fact because I already have four days’ running under my belt from the recent winter tests,” said Magnussen. “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.
“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 track has several high-speed corners, it’s not as fast as Sepang 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 hopes the team can continue its god run of both drivers finishing in the points – both drivers having scored in both races to date. The team have scored 43 points already and McLaren currently sit second in the championship behind Mercedes.
“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,” said Boullier, who moved from Lotus F1 to McLaren during the winter.
“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.
“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.”
2013 saw McLaren finish with both cars in the points in Bahrain. Sergio Perez finished sixth after a wheel-to-wheel battle with Button who ultimately dropped to tenth.