Will Gray

Gray Matter: How will Bahrain cancellation affect F1?

Will Gray

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The
cancellation of F1 activity in Bahrain over the next few weeks will clearly alter
team preparations for the new F1 season - but what are the key issues and what
effect will they really have?

The new
F1 season now starts on March 27 - some two weeks later than planned - and the
longer preparation time comes with a wide variety of benefits. However, the
scrapping of the Bahrain test could conversely have major detrimental effect,
as no running will be done in the types of weather conditions expected for the
opening few races.

In the
build-up to the season, one of the most crucial elements to get right before
the first race is reliability - and the consequences of not doing so were well
demonstrated by the new teams last year.

Although
there is a newly planned test in Barcelona for March 9-12 to replace the
planned March 3-6 test in Bahrain, no additional test will be introduced to
replace the running that would have been done by the teams during the Bahrain
race weekend itself, mainly, it is understood, because Pirelli could not
provide the tyres to do this having sent a batch to Bahrain already.

That
means the teams will arrive at the season opener with the same amount of track
preparation as they would have had in Bahrain, just two weeks later - but even
without extra track testing, those extra two weeks can be of major benefit.

A
fortnight is a long time in Formula One, and that extra time in the factory
will allow new development parts or modified designs to be created. The
mechanical rigs teams run back at base can be used to assess these new
developments, although any aerodynamic issues will be harder to measure without
track time.

All
teams will therefore be able to arrive in Melbourne with a more refined car
than they would have done in Bahrain - for some that will mean an advancement
in performance while for others it will mean they will have time to fix
elements that have caused reliability problems revealed in testing.

Importantly,
there are now 12 days between the final day of testing and the opening practice
session of the first race, rather than the four days there would have been
previously - giving teams more time to react to the developments they introduce
at the final test and the lessons they learn from running them.

This
could be crucial for Mercedes, who are expected to introduce a major upgrade
for that test, one that they hope will solve their cooling issues and put them
back up amongst the front-runners. It could also be important for McLaren, who
are currently reported to be struggling with exhaust issues.

But this
extra time will not be lost on the teams that already appear to be on top of
their game - namely Red Bull and Ferrari - and they will be keen to take the
opportunity to push their performance another step with new development parts,
particularly if the scrapping of the Bahrain race means some parts they would
have been developing specifically for that race no longer need to be developed.

For
teams that have come up with innovations in their designs this year, however,
the delay is a major disadvantage - as rivals will already be working hard to
test out the ideas on their machines and this gives them two further weeks
head-start without a competitive outing to work on the development of their own
solutions.

For all
teams, however, there is even bigger issue in the cancellation that could count
out all the advantages.

With the
Bahrain test, the plan was to understand how the new Pirelli tyres performed in
hot temperatures - and with the apparent degradation levels currently being
experienced even in the cooler climates in Europe that could have been a very
important test to undertake.

Although
Australia is often not as hot as anticipated, if temperatures do rise above
those experienced around the European tracks so far this winter, the teams will
be heading into the unknown in a competitive situation - and that will make
Melbourne an incredibly tough event for all involved.

Then, no
matter what detail work has been done in those two extra weeks of opportunity,
if tyres start to do unexpected things, it could all be for nothing.

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