Le Grand Retour
Paul Ricard 2018
French Grand Prix
Rosberg stays ahead of the field as Force India opts out of practice
Posted By: James Allen  |  20 Apr 2012   |  3:02 pm GMT  |  105 comments

The first day’s running at the Sakhir circuit took place against in an edgy atmosphere as, for the first time in this Bahrain saga, events outside the circuit had a direct effect on the running of the Grand Prix.

Force India decided not to run in second practice, to respect the wishes of their staff who have expressed concern about their safety travelling back from the circuit at night. They came under pressure to revise their decision over the lunch break, but clearly there is a lot of anxiety among team members, especially as there appears to have been a second incident involving the team, which has not been discussed and the management led by Bob Fernley, needed to come up with a plan which respected his staff’s growing concerns.

So the mechanics started work on stripping the cars down after FP1, giving themselves a four hours head start on the worksheet. This should lead to them leaving the track before darkness falls around 7pm.

Meanwhile Sauber was forced to issue a statement saying that an incident involving 12 of their team members was not as dramatic as the rumours suggested. They said that they had merely witnessed masked men throwing firebombs on the opposite carriageway of the road and had not been directly involved in the incident.

For most people here there is no sign of any trouble, the town seems eerily quiet and only the significant police presence and the odd tank on the highway between Manama and the track indicates anything out of the ordinary. But clearly for anyone caught up in spontaneous violence, it is frightening.

On track the picture emerging is of what looks like a fascinating Grand Prix, provided that it goes ahead. Nico Rosberg set the fastest time on track, the Mercedes looking the fastest car here once again, particularly on the race track. But the tyres are going to be tricky to manage and the picture will be rapidly changing over the 57 laps of the race. It’s clear that the soft tyre is the one to qualify on for the front runners, but it will probably last only 7 or 8 laps in the opening stint of the race. Rosberg did a simulation of a qualifying lap, then 8 lap opening stint followed by a pit stop for the medium. This is likely to be a pattern we will see on Sunday. Michael Schumacher didn’t get to do a quick lap on soft tyres as he got blocked having set the fastest Sector 1 time, by one of the Caterhams.

It looks like there is only one lap in the soft tyre, though, so it will be vital to do a perfect job on the one lap they get in qualifying. After that the tyre performance drops off by 1.2 seconds per lap.

Red Bull ran both cars in the updated exhaust specification today, with Vettel and Webber up the sharp end in both sessions. McLaren had what team boss Martin Whitmarsh described as a “tricky” day, lacking grip on this Sakhir circuit, but there are sure to be contenders.

Immediately after FP2 Bernie Ecclestone and the Crown Prince of Bahrain gave an impromptu press conference in which the Crown Prince said that to cancel the race would be to encourage extremism,

“I think cancelling just empowers extremists,” he said. “I think for those of us who are trying to navigate a way out of this political problem, having the race allows us to build bridges across communities, and get people working together.

“It allows us to celebrate our nation as an idea that is positive, not one that is divisive. So I actually think that having the race has prevented extremists from doing what they think they need to do out of the world’s attention.”

Confusingly he then said admitted that the incident in which Force India staff were involved was “dangerous”, but “not directed at F1. “It goes to show that there are people who are out to cause chaos,” he said. This is despite pre-event assurances from Bahraini authorities, the FIA and Ecclestone that F1 personnel would not face any danger by coming to this country at this delicate moment to race.

“You [British people] had these problems last year in your country and there is a very big difference between protesting for political rights and rioting,” the Crown Prince added, “And the attack that happened around Force India was aimed at the police. It was unprovoked, and it was quite dangerous. But at no time was anyone from F1 in danger.”

There are several reports from F1 personnel who went into the downtown area last night of sightings of masked youths carrying Molotov cocktails. F1 people are treading carefully this evening, so as not to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But the increasing calls for the race to be cancelled by British politicians and the growing sense of anxiety inside the paddock did not wash with the team principals when they took part in an FIA press conference this afternoon.

“People seem to be trying to do something to make sure that this event is not happening,” said Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali in a fractious press conference, where the team principals refused to get drawn into a discussion about the rights and wrongs of going ahead with this race. Clearly they feel that the media has played its part in stirring up a growing sense of crisis.

Bob Fernley then said something very confusing: “Hopefully the F1 programme has brought the world’s media here and gives a good platform for debate and hopefully it will help with the healing process for Bahrain and that’s why we are here,” he said.

This seems to contradict what was said in the run up to this race, which is that F1 is here not to get involved in politics, but for sport, because the event is on the calendar and therefore counts for the championship.

This situation needs a firm hand over the next 24 hours. Time will tell what may happen this evening and tomorrow in Manama. Protesters will have noticed the effect Wednesday’s incident has had on the sport, the way the news agenda has been dominated by it.

At the moment it is nothing more than one team missing one session. But hopefully there will not be further events which lead to more widespread disruption.

1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m32.816s 35
2. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m33.262s + 0.446 26
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m33.525s + 0.709 28
4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m33.747s + 0.931 26
5. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m33.862s + 1.046 31
6. Jenson Button McLaren 1m34.246s + 1.430 28
7. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m34.411s + 1.595 34
8. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m34.449s + 1.633 31
9. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m34.615s + 1.799 32
10. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m34.893s + 2.077 34
11. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m34.895s + 2.079 29
12. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m34.941s + 2.125 29
13. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m35.183s + 2.367 33
14. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m35.229s + 2.413 26
15. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m35.459s + 2.643 38
16. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m35.913s + 3.097 32
17. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m35.968s + 3.152 35
18. Bruno Senna Williams 1m36.169s + 3.353 30
19. Timo Glock Marussia 1m36.587s + 3.771 32
20. Charles Pic Marussia 1m37.803s + 4.987 33
21. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m37.812s + 4.996 28
22. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m39.649s + 6.833 27

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The Speed F1 commentators pointed out that there were no pictures of the Force India cars reaching the world feed throughout qualifying. Are the Bahrain TV crews deliberately censoring the feed to punish the Force India team for pulling out of Practice 2?


I know, very strange that.

Bahrain doesn’t do the TV coverage, that is done at all rounds by FOM


Very interesting.

Bernie’s revenge?

Kris Grzegorczyk

The Labour party’s insistence on bringing this up and the fact that the death of one protester is bigger news than the death of more than a hundred in a plane crash tells us more about what is wrong with British politicians and the British press than it does about the rights and wrongs of F1.

If the media are truly interested in the human rights situation in Bahrain and not simply looking to stir up controversy about F1being there, then I’d expect any subsequent protester death to garner the same level of attention from the press. Something tells me, though, that I don’t expect this to be the case.


Although the people involved in F1, the team, hospitality & media personnel etc, clearly have nothing to do with the ongoing political unrest in Bahrain, the presence of the F1 community there, only serves to legitimize and endorse a regime that is responsible for gross human rights abuses – past and ongoing (these are well documented and reported by credible organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International).

Just over a year ago, what were largely peaceful demonstrations, were brutally suppressed on the orders of the rulers of Bahrain – the same people are still ruling the country – very little, if anything, has changed.

Does F1 really want to be seen to be supporting this?

On Friday, Bernie Ecclestone cut an increasingly pathetic and out of touch figure as he toured his superficial fiefdom acting as though nothing is wrong. Alongside him, the Crown Prince did his best to pull the wool over our eyes.

Peaceful protesters being beaten, killed, imprisoned, tortured; or some cars going around in circles. Which is more important?


I’d love to listen to radio5 too, but it’s geo-blocked 🙁 Now where was that proxy,,,, ? 😉


James. I can’t understand the logic of the FIAs decision to race here. Ignoring the truth of the threat level and the political situation (which is almost impossible to access), we operate unfortunatly in the realm of perception. If they race and something happens the FIA loose. If they race and nothing happens the FIA still have damaged F1 reputation. However if the FIA cancelled the event then they score alot of respect from many people. I realise there is hundreds of millions tied up in this race (as a previous post of yours) but F1 has resources and opportunities globally. I can’t see the logic of this decision. Jean Todt and Bernie eccelstone have damaged their and the sports reputation for little gain. What do you think?


Ps. Can we have a mobile site. I meant race and not rave, and lose and not loose. iPhone’s have their drawbacks.

Pss. Be safe mate


From the Anonymous rant:”And to anyone in the world who watches this race, either in person or on television – you also have the blood of the Bahrain Freedom Martyrs on your hands. Turn your face away from this abominable entertainment”

I can’t watch it – I can’t afford $ky 🙁 Is listening to that nice MrR Allen to Radio 5 permissible instead


F1 is so like James Bond movies!


After that the tyre performance drops off by 1.2 seconds per lap.

James can you explain a bit more please? How fast does it drop off the cliff and does it stay at 1.2 seconds thereafter?


Not much data but from Alonso’s run it looks that way, yes.

Rosberg had much better wear on his long run on softs in FP2. Looked much better, He’s a contender here


Are the locals supporting the race meeting, or are they totally against it?


Based on the view point of the tv cameras over looking the pits there were only a sprinkling of westerners in the grandstand during qualifying.


THere are quite a few actually. Many live here of course, but I chatted with a bloke from Stourbridge, who said he feels safer here than he does in his home town on a Saturday night!


As sure as I am that this was far from Bernie and the Barhaini Royal families intention, I think their insistence that the race happened this year is actually a good thing for the people of Bahrain. Hopefully without people being harmed wether involved with F1 or citizens of Bahrain, the staging of the race has helped to thrust the political situation in Bahrain even further into the public spotlight, with UK politicians and members of the Bahraini elite being forced to comment on the unfolding events. Perhaps Bernies transparent greed and toadying to the rich and powerful might have actually created a situation in which the mass media and sports media are reporting on circumstances that perhaps normally many of us might not be aware of, or concerned with. The situation in Bahrain is far from black and white and indeed there are aspects of it – such as indentured foreign labour which are still not being talked about, but due to this race it is becoming harder for the ruling elite to hide behind an arrogant wall of silence.

Perhaps Bernie is actually a closet social reformer hellbent on using F1 to shine a spotlight on inequality throughout the globe, Burmese and Syrian GPs for 2015 and Bernie for the Nobel Peace prize?


Track surroundings are very open as it’s a desert or else it will be easy to hide a snipper or whoever somewhere to disrupt the race. Crossing my fingers there’ll be no incidents from protesters on Sunday.

The tires are gonna fall off big time, guess it will be Merc, McLaren and Bull dominating again but who knows. Ambient and track temperatures was not as high as it should be for a desert environment. Noticed at the end of FP2 the track temp was only 32 degrees and 40 for FP1.

All the best to those who are at Bahrain and take care.


A pretty intelligent and balanced piece from the F1 journalist for the New York Times.



Interesting to see Vettel again trailing Webber by .2 or .3 seconds…

Any thoughts on that or testing programs were clearly different?

Grayzee (Australia)

So, all politics etc aside, regarding the racing, are we to once again see a the World Tyre Management Grand Prix?

I feel it is getting annoying, that we can’t see the true speed and potential of the teams because they are constantly having to “manage” their tyres.

Mind you, it makes for some cracker racing, as per China!

Still, is wholesale tyre management really what F1 is all about…..


Formula 1 is a racing series, not a procession series. Mixing up the variables that the teams have to deal with increases the amount of racing that goes on, and allows tactics to play a bigger part in the final result.

Personally, I was standing up in front of the TV and cheering for the last 20 laps of the Chinese GP as all the teams vied for position across the finish line. If this is what tyre management GP racing is all about, then long may it continue.


You do see the true speed – in qualifying, on a three stopper etc


Hi James

This is a bit off topic, but could you do a feature on onboard camera technology?


Yes, we plan to do that


I don’t feel comfortable about this weekend… wish we could fast forward to Sunday evening… it’s not right to be putting F1 employees both in teams and merchandising roles at risk over a car race.


James, the commentators from SPEED were speculating that it would have been safer for Force India to leave after FP2 with the rest of the paddock in a convoy, and that boycotting that second session may have been their way of a political statement to say “we don’t want to be here”. Do you think that could have played a factor? Stay safe this weekend.


I think Force India management handled this really well, they needed to stabilise the team and the gesture they made did that.

Now everyone in the team is focussed and on side


Correct they did BUT what F1 did today with showing near Zero coverage of the Force India cars on track as what appears to be an obvious retaliation on Force India for there unusual lack of running yesterday??

This is all Absolutely disgraceful F1 needs serious restructuring at the top immediately and if possible inc the tv rights etc i note the Sky coverage/reporting was c*** as ever today inc the very bored sounding Brundle!.

And to think i have posted comments commending Bernie and what he has done for F1 on previous posts, i am ashamed at myself!!


“the Mercedes looking the fastest car here once again, particularly on the race track.”

??? where else but the race track would it be fastest?


Good one!

Grayzee (Australia)

hahaha….good point! Even the best best reporters sometimes sound a bit confused.


maybe in the pits :))


Hi James,

i have real respect for what you and the other players are doing. You, and the others in your position (ie not really having an option about attending) did not sign up for this type of work. But the professionalism from all is shining through.

Just take care of yourself James.

Looking forward to this race being over so i am not stressed about what i might read next.


“Sky” have been denied permission to enter Bahrain? That’s what I’ve just heard over the Radio, is’t true? Why did Bernie give the GP to Bahrain, in the first place — doesn’t Abu Dabi suffice?

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

So the whole of the Middle East is the same?

So France should not be given a grand prix given that there is already one in Germany?..


Sky News reporter. Sky has dozens of people in the track and a Sky Sports News guy too


I’m amazed that despite the rights and wrongs of going that so many people in the F1 world think the race doesn’t send a political message. It very clearly does and if F1 is so concerned with avoiding politics they shouldn’t have gone, shouldn’t have had Bernie doing a press conference with the prince and shouldn’t be trying to squirm out of an awkward situation.


Bernie Ecclestone said this today: “It’s a lot of nonsense. You guys love it. What we really need is an earthquake or something like that now so you can write about that.”

Just astonishing.


What annoys me is the amount of politicians (primarily from the UK) who are now suddenly jumping on the bandwagon and calling for the race to be stopped.

Where were they when the calendar was announced? Where have they been during the discussion in the past month?

The decision to go to Bahrain was a complicated one, you can see points both for and against, but now F1 is there the race should go ahead if at all possible.


Rosberg set his fastest time at the right time. After that the temperature went down. It will be a different story during qualifying tomorrow and the McLarens will be on top.

Will there be enough spectators on race day?

Tornillo Amarillo

Good for Rosberg so far.

Next year maybe won’t be a race in Bahrain, there are more circuits to fill the gap.

James, can Force India to claim something to F1 because P2 was missing, legally, even for its own decision regarding security concerns?


More significantly, I wonder if they have any contractual recourse for being censored out of the TV coverage of qualifying ?

Are they going to also be censored out of the race coverage?

Given that F1 is driven by sponsorship, and sponsorship is driven by TV time, this is a much more significant financial penalty for Force India’s backers than loss of a practice session.


No, as long as they do a practice they can qualify and then race. No problem

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