Points just a mirage in the desert

Points just a mirage in the desert

April 17, 2017

After conditions in China more reminiscent of a winter test at Silverstone circuit in the UK, everyone in the paddock, including the Toro Rosso squad, was happy to feel the heat on landing in Bahrain's capital city of Manama.

It seemed even hotter than usual this year and setting up the garage and getting the pair of STR12s prepped and ready in just a couple of days, following on from Shanghai meant there was literally plenty of sweated labour from our crew during our week in the Gulf.

The Bahrain race has been held every year since 2004, so everyone knows more or less what to expect, even if these new Formula 1 cars were only tackling their third ever race this weekend. The Sakhir paddock is definitely one of the nicest we visit, in that it hits the "Goldilocks Factor" being not too big and not too small and with park benches every few metres set around tree-shaded patches of lawn, it looks very nice too. Especially as night falls and the trees are lit up as if it was Christmas!

The organisers are very friendly and go out of their way to make everyone feel welcome, even hosting a paddock party on the Wednesday night, at which delicious Middle Eastern food was served. With the Kingdom of Bahrain being around a 6 hour flight from much of Europe, this race draws a much bigger crowd of racing folk than the first two venues, Melbourne and Shanghai: you could hardly move in the paddock for former F1 drivers and personalities from the world of motor racing, not counting the ones who are now regulars as TV reporters.

On the downside, the working day in Bahrain is very long: unlike Singapore, where the timetable is really turned on its head with an 8pm race start and everyone effectively works a night shift, the Grand Prix at Sakhir and qualifying the day before, both get underway at 6pm. That means the teams all work more or less to local time, getting less sleep than usual.

Although Bahrain is where Scuderia Toro Rosso made its F1 debut back in 2006, this track has never been particularly kind to us and that was the case again on Sunday, with points just a desert mirage. It was something of a scrappy weekend, with technical problems robbing our drivers of track time. While Daniil Kvyat looked as though he might yet salvage something when he just missed out on a top ten grid slot as dusk fell on Saturday night, qualifying eleventh, team-mate Carlos Sainz had to settle for sixteenth spot, after being sidelined with a power unit problem in Q2. A real shame, as he was heading for a very quick lap and a place in Q3 before he had to park his STR12 at the side of the track.

The Spaniard's race didn't last long, KO'd in a collision with the Williams rookie, Lance Stroll. As for Daniil Kvyat, an off-track moment on the opening lap dropped him to the back of the field. The Russian is not the sort to give up easily and at least he entertained the crowd, dueling with various drivers all the way to the chequered flag, but there are no points for being entertaining in F1.

Australia, China, Bahrain and next up in a fortnight it's Russia: slowly but surely the calendar is heading closer to home. The work is the same no matter what the distance from Faenza, but the travelling time is reduced and jet lag diminishes. In the meantime, we will be working flat out to ensure these two things will not be the only positives for Scuderia Toro Rosso when we next race in Kvyat's home Grand Prix in Sochi.