x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Bahrain Grand Prix: Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil are out to be seen

Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil are not ruling anything out this time around at the Bahrain Grand Prix, writes Gary Meenaghan.

Paul di Resta was following Jenson Button around the paddock on Friday, but Sunday the roles will be reversed as the Force India driver out-qualified the McLaren driver at the Sakhir International Circuit for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Paul di Resta was following Jenson Button around the paddock on Friday, but Sunday the roles will be reversed as the Force India driver out-qualified the McLaren driver at the Sakhir International Circuit for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

SAKHIR // During qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix last year, Force India could not be seen.

This year, they could not be avoided.

Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil will start from fifth and sixth at Sakhir International Circuit today after being bumped up the grid courtesy of penalties incurred by Mercedes-GP's Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber. It marks the team's best qualifying result of the season.

Di Resta qualified a season-high 10th last year but television viewers did not witness it after the team, whose staff had been caught up in a skirmish outside the circuit, refused to take part in a practice session.

The theory was the marque were being punished by the sport's rights owners for the decision.

Di Resta climbed to sixth that weekend and believes a repeat of the feat is realistic today, although he acknowledges the first four turns will prove crucial to his chances.

If he can emerge from the opening lap having held position, he is refusing to rule anything out.

"We finished sixth here last year in the race, so we are hopeful that the long-run performance means we can be strong enough to fight for that this time," the Scotsman said. "If we can get good track position - to keep ourselves out of [traffic] and push the others on a bit - then that'll be great. The key thing is what happens between the start and Turn 4."

Sutil, who rejoined Vijay Mallya's outfit during the winter break after a year out of the sport, has not started as high on the grid since 2010 when he began the Malaysian Grand Prix from fourth.

The German - like his much improved team - has shown promise at all three race weekends so far this year, but suffered mechanical problems in the past two races.

"The track suits us, we like the warm weather and things look promising," he said of his chances this afternoon. "It's a good starting position to have both cars on the third row and we will be looking to move forward in the race."

Bob Fernley, the Force India team principal, remained quietly confident.

The Englishman said he has no concern with the tyres and believes his drivers' planned strategies can allow them to "make the most of our strong race pace".

The general feeling is, if the force is with them, a first podium is not impossible for the marque.

 

HOW THE RACE RATES

City Manama is 30km from Sakhir. Sparkling and sparse in equal measure. Taxis are a nightmare. 6/10

Race Decent overtaking opportunities, but large run-offs mean mistakes largely go unpunished. 7/10

Track Dusty environment. Engine havoc. Slow corners. Long straights. Severe on brakes. 7/10

History Inaugurated 2004. Fernando Alonso’s won three times; Felipe Massa twice. Cancelled in 2011 amid unrest. 5/10

Crowd Arguably poorest attended race of the season. Not helped by civil unrest. 2/10

Weather Stiflingly hot and humid as expected, drivers must be wary of dehydration. 7/10

Atmosphere Vast F1 village with live bands and entertainment means even less presence in stands. 3/10

He said it “It’s a big surprise that we’ve been coming here for 10 years ... It was a very good event from the first year and it’s still quite a good event now.” Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber, after finishing fourth last year.

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

 

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