Due to the current political climate and protests in Bahrain, the Bahrain International Circuit has deemed it fit to withdraw their hosting of the first Grand Prix of the 2011 season. Albert Park, Melbourne will now the be first port-of-call for the F1 circus two weeks afterwards on the 27th March.
It was the only right thing to do, with insurance companies, the teams, the drivers, media and the travelling fans too all being wary of holding such a high-profile event in a country that’s going through so much torment at the moment. Their safety couldn’t be guaranteed and it was an untenable position for the hosts, even if tensions had eased by the time of the Grand Prix’s scheduled staging. Bahrain has enough problems to sort out without worrying about a thousand high-profile people descending on the Sakhir circuit for a motor race.
This now means there will be a final test at Barcelona (moved from Bahrain itself) on the 8-11th March, before the teams then prepare for an opening race in it’s traditional slot in Australia in late March. This has given an unplanned, but useful, opportunity for the teams that haven’t had the best preparation in the pre-season tests for a little bit more time to work on solutions for their cars. McLaren, Mercedes and Hispania are the most immediate ones to think of at this time. McLaren haven’t had the mileage their expected rivals Red Bull and Ferrari have had, and now have an extra two weeks to work on anything they have planned to arrest the difference. Mercedes look to be in big trouble, despite Ross Brawn’s assurances they would have a competitive upgrade package for Bahrain. They now have two extra weeks to work on that and try to save something of their season before it’s even started. Hispania also now have extra time to get their new car completed. They were aiming to debut it at the Bahrain test, but can now debut it a week later than planned at Barcelona and have extra time before they need to race it.
It must be remembered though that all teams will try to take advantage of the added time, so those who may (for we can’t be sure of the competitive order until we see some competitive action of course) be behind will have some long nights ahead of them as they attempt to catch up.