Bahrain Grand Prix

Formula One's Latest Rumours and Talk: Paddock News from 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix

Neil JamesFeatured ColumnistApril 4, 2014

Formula One's Latest Rumours and Talk: Paddock News from 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix

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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    The 2014 Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix takes place this weekend against the usual backdrop of protests.

    Opposition groups will be holding demonstrations on Friday in a bid to draw international attention to their cause.

    On the race track, Adrian Sutil is set to drive in the desert without a drink as he battles his Sauber's weight problems.

    Elsewhere, Ferrari have cranked up the pressure in their fight for changes to the sport and Gene Haas could be an F1 team owner this time next year.

    Read on for more of the week's biggest F1 news and rumours.

Williams Apologise for Team Orders Controversy

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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Williams have issued apologies all round after the somewhat messy team orders affair in Malaysia.

    Late in the race, Felipe Massa was asked to let team-mate Valtteri Bottas past. The Finn was quicker at that stage, and the team believed he had a better chance of overtaking McLaren's Jenson Button.

    Massa ignored the team order, and Bottas was less than impressed.

    Deputy team principal Claire Williams told the press in Bahrain (h/t Autosport):

    For our fans, we want to apologise for that because we didn't handle it in the best way.

    It's disappointing for people who look at Williams and expect to see our guys being able to go out there and fight for things and to let them down or whatever. It's not the way we want them to go.

    We didn't handle the situation for either of our drivers particularly well, so of course we've apologised to our drivers.

    The drivers have, according to The Guardian, patched up their differences and are now more aware of how team orders may be used in the future.

Adrian Sutil to Forgo Drink for Bahrain Race

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    Adrian Sutil is set to race in Bahrain without a drinks bottle as he bids to reduce the weight of his car.

    The minimum weight for a car (including the driver but without fuel) increased for 2014 from 642 to 691 kilogramsa jump of 49 kilograms. However, the weight difference between the new power trains and the old engines is greater than that.

    This means driver weight has become increasingly important, and teams are struggling to get their cars down to the minimum. Taller (and therefore heavier) drivers are at a disadvantage.

    The disadvantage is increased when the car itself is overweight, as Sutil's Sauber is. Every scrap of weight makes a difference, so extreme measures come into play.

    When asked how he could save more weight, Sutilwho only carried a third of the usual drink quantity in Malaysiatold reporters (h/t Reuters):

    No drink bottle in the car is one thing for Bahrain. So Bahrain is one-and-a-half hours with no drink.

    Normally you have one litre, or even one-and-a-half litres in Malaysia, so you can drink during the whole race.

    But in this situation now we are talking about 300-400 grams and you also have to count the bottle that has an empty weight of 0.5 kg.

    Fortunately, this year's race will take place at night, so Sutil will be spared the usual daytime heat of the desert.

    But it won't be easy.

Ferrari Crank Up the Propaganda War

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    After their less than successful start to the year, Ferrari put a poll on their website to ask what their fans thought of "this new F1."

    According to an article on their website on Thursday, the results are in and it seems 83 percent of voters aren't keen.

    Ferrari add, despite there being no comment option on the poll, that fans dislike it, "mainly because of the drivers being forced to lift off to save fuel. In addition, the fans don’t like the noise from the new engines and are confused by rules that are too complicated."

    It's interesting to note that the published opinions of "fans" happen to be the same as those of Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo. Last month he told Autosprint (translated via Autosport):

    I don't like this sort of taxi-cab driving.

    What I don't like is this complexity in the interpretation of the race, both from the drivers' and the spectators' point of view.

    But the team's driver, Fernando Alonso, isn't toeing the party line. He said (via BBC Sport) that he felt the new rules need to be given more time:

    We need to try to do a better show but we need to think in which way and give the new races more time. We only had two. There will be some exciting races and some boring ones.

    Some [football] matches you watch a 0-0 and it's a terrible match and then the next week you see 5-4 and enjoy the game so much.

    We are all waiting for this exciting race that everyone hopefully enjoys and we see this weekend if we can put something better.

    Di Montezemolo, Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt will meet on Saturday in Bahrain to discuss their concerns over the sport's direction.

Haas F1 Team Given the Green Light for 2015

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    Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    A team run by successful IndyCar team owner Gene Haas has taken a step closer to becoming a part of F1 in 2015.

    Bernie Ecclestone had previously cast doubt on whether Haas would go ahead with the entry. In January, he said of the Haas bid (speaking to racer.com):

    They have been talking about it for three years. Two or three people there. I would say it is most unlikely.

    Somebody can have 10 billion in the bank but it doesn't mean they are going to spend it. It's nothing to do with having enough resources. You can't tell them to make a commitment because it's a commitment to do what? It's always been like that.

    The FIA is not introducing a new team, the team is asking for an entry. Somebody has asked, 'Can we have an entry.' I doubt they will get in.

    However, it seems things have changed, and he is now open to the Haas entrybut it's not a done deal just yet.

    The F1 supremo told The Independent:

    I think Haas will be accepted.

    They have got the money but it's a question of whether they are going to spend it. I've spoken to Haas but I don't know what they are going to do. It's America, so I don't know.

    Money will be the main influence on Haas' final decision, and Ecclestone added that he expects a new team to burn through $1 billion in just four years.

    If the Haas entry does go ahead, they will be the first American team to enter F1 since Penske and Shadow in the 1970s.

    The last proposed entry from the States, US F1, collapsed months before they were due to compete in their first race.

Protests Planned Against Bahrain Government and F1

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    Hasan Jamali

    The Bahraini opposition has protested against F1's visit (and the Bahraini government) every year since the 2011 Bahraini uprising, and more protests are set to take place on Friday.

    Main opposition group Al Wefaq issued a statement on Tuesday calling for demonstrations along the Budaiya Highway, a major road to the west of the capital Manama, to take place on Friday.

    It's not an essential route for team personnel making their way to the circuit, and according to Gulfnews.com, Al Wefaq's rallies are usually peaceful affairs.

    The same source reports demonstrations are also planned by the February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition. It is this group usually involved in the more violent side of the protests, and their intended demonstration sitethe Al-Seef Junction areais close to hotels used by some F1 teams.

    The slogan for the demonstration is, per The Guardian, "stop the blood formula."

    However, with the location publicised well in advance, the risk of disturbances to the teams and drivers should be low.

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