We preview the 2016 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, 1-3 April
30 March 2016,Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain – We’re at a windswept Bahrain International Circuit where the palm trees are taking quite a beating ahead of Round 2 of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship. In our Bahrain Grand Prix preview we find out what Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto took away from their Grand Prix debut in Melbourne and what lies ahead on the shifting sands of Sakhir this weekend.
Pascal, a big weekend in Melbourne. How was it for you?
“Melbourne was amazing. Nothing can prepare you for the feeling of lining up on the grid for the first time and taking the chequered flag at the end of your first Grand Prix. They are special memories for sure.”
Was there a standout moment?
“My start! I’ve replayed it over and over in my mind – and a little bit on TV! To find myself running in 13th place at one point was pretty incredible. To be honest, the whole first stint was really positive and a good reflection of the step the team has made since last season.”
Not all plain sailing though. What could have gone differently?
“As a team we learned a lot in Melbourne. Qualifying didn’t work out well for us and as we have the same format here in Bahrain we need to put those lessons into practice. We still have a way to go with optimising the set-up to counter the tyre degradation problems we experienced in the second half of the race. It was a good start, but there’s a lot of room for improvement in every area, including me.”
Hot on the heels of your first Grand Prix, your first night race! How about that?
“Yes, pretty exciting. My first F1 night race will be fun and it’s really cool to have that experience so early in my F1 career. I’m sure the circuit will feel spectacular to drive under the lights. I can’t wait.”
Rio. Despite the obvious disappointment of your retirement, you seemed pretty positive about the overall experience?
“My debut was an incredible experience and one I’d waited a long time for, so I tried not to dwell too heavily on retiring. There were too many positives to take away from the weekend so that’s what I did. On a personal level I was quite happy with my pace and how I translated everything I’d learned at the tests into a race weekend context. I know the team were disappointed with the problem that ended my race but it’s all about looking forward and there’s so much more to come.”
The support from Indonesia was massive. That must have put a big spring in your step all weekend?
“It’s really quite something to have that many people rooting for you. The appetite for Formula 1 in Indonesia is huge now and it makes me feel very proud to know that I’m flying the flag.”
What did you get up to in the break between races?
“I went home to Solo in Indonesia. Everyone wanted to hear about the racing so I got to relive the experience again and again! It’s my job to reward the support by sharing every detail of the experience with the fans back home, so there was a lot of media work and some appearances, and a little bit of time to prepare for Bahrain.”
What are you most looking forward to this weekend?
“My first night race will be pretty special! Generally though, I think the weekend here will be a lot smoother and I’ve got some really good experience to draw on in every area. Most of all, I can’t wait to see the chequered flag!”
Dave, your two rookies did a good job in their debut race. How would you rate the team’s performance? “We came away from Melbourne feeling a little disappointed, no two ways about it. The drivers did a great job and there’s a lot of potential in the car but we need to do a better job of bringing everything together when it counts. I’m sure every team can say the same as it’s only the beginning but I’m expecting us to make improvements in every area this weekend.”
What kind of Bahrain Grand Prix can we expect to see this weekend?
“This race always throws up a few surprises doesn’t it? It’s a bit of a moving feast to be honest, especially when you consider the weather we’ve seen here in the past few days. Rain is less of a factor, as it evaporates so quickly, but the wind can be a distraction for the drivers and the pit wall. Track conditions can vary significantly from the afternoon practice sessions to the twilight timing of qualifying and the race. So there’s a lot for the engineers and drivers to get their head around in order to make the right strategic calls.”
What about the new qualifying format?
“It’s back, so we have to work with it. Notwithstanding our opinion of it, we didn’t do a good enough job in Melbourne, so that’s where our team needs to focus its attentions. We’ve reviewed our approach and there’s plenty of room for improvement, some of which will come from developing the car and some from our performance as a team. They say the proof is in the pudding so let’s see how things look after the second helping!”