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By Alan Davies, Formula One correspondent
Thursday, April 19, 2012
FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton is looking for a “strong result” in the Bahrain Grand Prix when the controversial 2012 race takes place in the island state on Sunday.
* Race distance: 57 laps (191.539 miles/308.238km)
* Start time: 15:00 (local)/12:00 GMT
* Circuit length: 3.363 miles/5.412km
* 2010 winner: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
* 2010 pole: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing)
* Lap record: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari, 2004)
First free practice for the desert race begins at 8am on Friday, with 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver Hamilton hoping to continue his consistent start to the season following three successive podiums.
“I think we go to Bahrain with a car that’s well-balanced in every area, and I’ll be looking for another strong result,” said the 2008 F1 world champion from Hertfordshire.
The Bahrain race has been a regular fixture on the F1 calendar since 2004, with the exception of last year when it was cancelled due to political unrest in the country.
The 3.363-mile/5.412km Bahrain International Circuit provides a complex technical challenge for the teams.
"I think we go to Bahrain with a car that’s well-balanced in every area, and I’ll be looking for another strong result."
The Sakhir track has two clear overtaking places, into Turns One and Four, and acres of run-off.
Its mix of long straights and predominantly low- and medium-speed corners force a compromise on car set-up, and this year’s race will also be the first time that Pirelli’s P Zero tyres and the DRS have been used at the venue.
Stevenage-born Hamilton has yet to take the chequered flag around the challenging circuit, while current McLaren colleague Jenson Button has, in 2009 for Brawn GP.
Lewis said: “Unlike Jenson [Button], I’ve not won in Bahrain – although I’ve had some strong drives there in the past.
“The circuit is a typically modern F1 track, with plenty of run-off and a good variety of corners.
“You can be really late on the brakes for Turns One, Four and 14, which is a particularly technical final corner.
“Still, there are definitely passing opportunities. Turn One is a classic late-braking opportunity, and it also gives you the chance to set up the other driver, by forcing him to defend up the inside and then compromising his exit speed, which gives you the opportunity to have a look inside at Turn Two, or even Turn Four at the end of the straight.”
Heat management is crucial, both for the cars and the drivers, in Bahrain.
* Car 4: Lewis Hamilton
* Age: 27 (January 7, 1985)
* GPs: 93
* Wins: 17
* Poles: 22
* Fasest Laps: 11
Ambient temperatures regularly exceed 35 degrees and the cloudless desert skies push the track temperature towards 60 degrees – the highest of the year.
Such extreme conditions affect tyre wear and result in the drivers losing up to three litres of fluid during the race.
Hamilton’s McLaren team-mate Button said: “I won this race in 2009 and feel we have a car that’s quite well suited to the track’s characteristics.
“Hopefully, we can get another strong result to bolster our chances in the championship.”
After claiming two podiums in Shanghai last weekend, team principal Martin Whitmarsh feels the Chinese GP proved McLaren’s capabilities.
“Our result in China showed that neither Jenson nor Lewis has lost any of his fighting spirit; and to get both of them on the podium – after each qualified in a less-than-representative position – was further proof that MP4-27 appears to be consistently competitive wherever we go,” said Whitmarsh.
“This weekend, we’ll be looking for more points-scoring opportunities for both drivers.
“We’re fully aware that this is a long championship and that it’s often just as important to score regularly, and to keep scoring, as it is to win races.
“It’s consistency that will define the path to both world championships, I believe.”
Whitmarsh added: “This race will represent the last of the four flyaways that constitute the opening phase of the 2012 world championship.
“Vodafone McLaren Mercedes goes into the race leading both the drivers’ and the constructors’ world championships, and we want to come away from Bahrain having consolidated our positions in both.
“We’re determined to mount a consistent and sustained challenge for both titles, and we’re currently in a good position to achieve that.”
1 Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 45
2 Jenson Button (McLaren) 43
3 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 37
4 Mark Webber (Red Bull) 36
5 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 28
6 Nico Robserg (Mercedes) 25
The 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix is due to start at 1pm BST on Sunday.