Lewis fastest in free practice one, Schumacher in FP2… but it’s what’s been happening off the track that’s been the news since we were last here, not all of it entirely palatable. Shame, just when it was shaping up to be an insanely great season.
So there will be a race in Bahrain next weekend. For now, anyhow. We’ll leave you to make up your own mind on whether the FIA, the teams and Bernie are doing the right thing in lending the Bahraini ‘government’ the implied international endorsement of a sporting event we are repeatedly told is on a scale commensurate with the Olympics or the World Cup, when even the most benevolent commentator would admit there are a few issues it might consider of greater importance than hosting an F1 race.
What we will say is the tenor of all the F1 communications — “it’s not about legitimacy or otherwise of the protests, it’s about OUR safety” — do seem to be avoiding the point. As does the sight of drivers when questioned directly about the morality of racing in Bahrain feeling obliged to give a ‘no comment.’ Sunday Afternoon Club has always been a fan of Damon Hill, and we moved his poster to a more prominent position on the SAC bedroom wall after his appearance on Radio 4’s Today last week. There’s substance to that man.
In other news… Well, what to make of Lotus? Head on over to Lotus Cars’ Facebook page (facebook.com/LotusCars) to read what reads like a rather late night posting repudiating rumours that it’s all starting to unravel in Norfolk, following the sale of its stake in parent company Proton by the Malaysian government last year.
Gossip-mongering started last week when the Lotus Formula One team announced the end of its deal with Group Lotus, with the implication that venture capitalists Genii Capital, owners of the team, didn’t want to put their hands in their pockets anymore. Au contraire, responded Group Lotus, the deal is still alive and, what’s more, Genii has a £30m loan from Proton and the assets of the team are security. That would explain why even Genii are saying there is no plan to change the name of the team or the cars.
But it does seem something will have to give. There is still speculation that Group Lotus has a large debt, continues to operate at a loss and, if it is to bring its six new cars to production, will need to find many millions more in investment. Watch this space – and remember nobody wants Lotus to succeed as a brand more than us.
And finally, as if it didn’t have enough on its plate, Lotus formally protested Mercedes’ trick double DRS system today… The appeal was thrown out, so the teams are faced with the choice of fielding another, more effective protest, or copying the system which stalls the front wing when the DRS flap on the rear wing stalls that one. They’ll need to do something. Michael Schumacher looked very much like… Michael Schumacher in China this morning, ending a rainy second practice almost two-tenths quicker than Lewis Hamilton.
Lewis was quickest in the first session, but it is he and Schumacher that looked to have the best sorted cars. Lewis however won’t be starting in pole no matter how quickly he qualifies tomorrow; a gearbox change after Malaysia means a five-place grid penalty come the race on Sunday, which will also be the first of the season to be shown live on the BBC this year.
And here’s your BBC weekend schedule:
Sat 14 April
3.55 – 5.05am BBC Red Button/Online/5 live sports extra
6.00 – 8.30am BBC One + HD – LIVE (from 6.55 live on Radio 5 live sports extra)
1.00 – 2.15pm BBC Two + HD – RE-RUN
Sun 15 April
Grand Prix live
GP 7.00 – 10.15am BBC One + HD (from 7.45am live on Radio 5 live)
Grand Prix repeat
2.50 – 4.50pm BBC One + HD – RE-RUN
7.00 – 8.00pm BBC Two + HD (rpt GP H’Lights 1.45am – 2.45am BBC Three)