x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

More practice is perfect for drivers in Bahrain break

The race teams were in Barcelona last weekend for testing and were scheduled to fly to Bahrain.

The removal of the Bahrain Grand Prix from the start of the Formula One calendar will inevitably have an impact on how the early race season evolves.

The race teams were in Barcelona last weekend for testing and were scheduled to fly to Bahrain for the final preparation session of pre-season on March 3-6. The grand prix meeting was scheduled the following week.

But when the race and the testing session were postponed, plans changed.

The teams will now return to Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona in early March before starting the season in Melbourne, Australia on March 27.

The season, lasting more than 37 weeks, is already seen as gruelling and congested and it might be expected that an additional two weeks to prepare the cars would be warmly received by those involved.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari's Brazilian driver who topped the time sheets at the end of the final day of testing in Barcelona, said he regretted that the Bahrain race was called off but backed the decision.

Michael Schumacher, the German Mercedes' driver, echoed Massa's sentiments.

Britain's Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes' 2008 world champion who had looked off the pace throughout testing was quick to look to the positives.

"I am not too unhappy about the World Championship only starting in Australia, because it gives us more time," said Hamilton, who finished fifth fastest at the weekend, more than 1.3 seconds behind Massa.

"We have some catching up to do and not a lot of time until the season starts."

Red Bull-Renault's Mark Webber was second-fastest in testing, 0.817 seconds off the lead. The Australian had been vocal in his belief that the Bahrain race should not go ahead, but said yesterday his team will not necessarily benefit from the additional two weeks of preparation.

"I don't think the extra two weeks will make a huge difference," Webber is quoted as telling the BBC.

"It's the same for everybody. We are always prepared to race in two weeks. The freight will still have to leave for Melbourne pretty early."

Webber, who finished third in the race for the drivers' championship last season behind teammate Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, said his Red Bull team were wary of the Italian manufacturers and would also be keeping an eye on Hamilton's McLaren.

"Fernando works for them and he's pretty handy," said the Australian.

"Ferrari finished the year very strong and they've come out of the gates very strong; the car is running, it's always out there, they aren't hanging around when they are out there.

"They're pretty quick and the team are always organised. [But] we're not sure what's going on with McLaren - it's obviously early days with their car."