W e are standing in front of the Double Bahrain and china. Not exactly our dream destinations. We would prefer the reverse order. First the China horror, then Bahrain. For Tobias Grüner and me, the trip to Bahrain starts unusually early on a Tuesday. The outbound flight is almost canceled. The originally planned Lufthansa aircraft is broken, an ancient Airbus A330 is being made available as a replacement.
Because the old seating arrangement no longer fits, I will be rebooked to the former First Class. No first class service, but first class seats. That's what you want on a 12-hour flight. On the way to Bahrain we make a stop in Kuwait. It's a new experience for me too. At night you can only see the brightly lit skyline. Kuwait City is a reflection of Dubai.
As always in Bahrain, a pick-up service is already waiting at the airport. The organizer doesn't just want us to feel comfortable. He also wants to make sure that we journalists don't do stupid things. When we finally got our rental car, we took the quickest route to the hotel.
In the pub, we saw Real Madrid vs. Juventus Turin for the last half hour of the Champions League match, and it felt like Cristiano Ronaldos was repeated 50 times sensational overhead kicker. From the parallel game Bayern Munich against Seville, there are only the goals compressed.
D-Day in Formula 1
The next day we are greeted by a cloudy sky. But at least it's warm. First of all we fill the tank of the rental car full. Costs less than 10 euros. Best type of premium gasoline that goes by the beautiful name “Mumtaz” in Bahrain. The calm before the storm prevails on Wednesday and Thursday. Everyone is excitedly waiting for Liberty to present its vision of Formula 1 from 2021. Many are already talking about D-Day of the premier class.
It has already been leaked that Liberty is planning a budget cap. But Mercedes and Ferrari will not play along. Will there be a big break on Friday morning? First we celebrate his 350th Grand Prix with our Finnish colleague Heikki Kulta. Heikki is depressed. His ice hockey team Turku loses despite a 2-0 lead in the Finnish playoff final.
The working hours in Bahrain take getting used to because of the night time. It starts between 11 a.m. and 12 noon, depending on the day, and ends between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. We're leaving a little earlier on Friday to be on the safe side. Could be the last day of Formula 1. But everything remains surprisingly calm. After an hour and a half of presentation, the team bosses come back with a manual. You have agreed not to disclose. Some still cannot shut up. Mercedes lets it be known that their team cannot be downgraded to a 150 million dollar budget by 2021. Red Bull welcomes the plans. The small teams anyway.
Renault still has no opinion, and Ferrari plays Sphinx. Oberboss Sergio Marchionne had promised and kept his word for once. You don't even have to ask. It is clear to everyone that Ferrari will be against a cost brake. Yet. The story of this season has a few curious twists that force Ferrari to give in.
Otherwise, Friday runs like every Friday. Pretty tough. In the evening Santana plays around the track. We only see the traffic jam of the concert-goers who, like us, want to go back to the city.
It's Verstappen's fault
Only on Saturday will the events on the track set the tone again. The Mercedes have problems with too hot rear tires. Verstappen crashes because with 95 percent gas suddenly 100 percent power comes up. So 150 hp extra. Mockery from Mercedes and Ferrari: We would also like to have a power button like this.
Another says: “It's never Verstappen's fault. He doesn't make any mistakes. ”One day later, Red Bull had to correct its version of the technology blackout. Apparently it was a pilot's mistake after all. Two Ferraris are on the front row. And that after the opening win in Melbourne. Mercedes has been warned.
Pirelli is causing stress after colleague Grüner posted a Twitter message that Mercedes asked Pirelli to reduce the tire tread after the test disaster with bubbles on the tread. That's not true, Pirelli denies. You have thatDecision for the three races in Barcelona, Paul Ricard and Silverstone made all by myself. And only because of the new, aggressive tarmac there.
Mercedes too is officially rowing back: “We didn't ask for anything, just addressed the problem.” Pirelli wants us to know that all teams were in favor of them To reduce the tread in these races by 0.4 millimeters so that less heat is generated in the tire. The truth is: Because you don't get the required 70 percent approval in the field, Pirelli asks the FIA to approve the measure for safety reasons.
Charlie Whiting shrugs his shoulders: “We would be stupid not to listen to Pirelli . ”A team boss rumbled:“ We had no problems with blisters on the tires during the test drives. If Mercedes can't handle it, they should convert the car. ”
Broken leg at Ferrari
Everyone is happy again on Sunday. The GP Bahrain is a super race with 52 overtaking maneuvers and many dramas. Kimi Raikkonen knocks over a mechanic during a pit stop who breaks his left leg. Damn pit lights, damn automation. That probably wouldn't have happened with the good old lollipop.
Because nobody notices that the mechanic at the rear left cannot remove the wheel and, by removing the impact wrench, suggests to the system that his work has been completed, the rear jack automatically goes to zero. All four corners report green. So go. Unfortunately, the mechanic is still standing between the wheels. Despite the chaos in the pits, Sebastian Vettel wins in front of two Mercedes.
For us, the hardest part of the weekend is yet to come. On Monday afternoon it transpired that Lufthansa flies to Frankfurt later, then earlier, then not at all. The airline is mute. In a roundabout way, I found out on the Internet that I was rebooked on Gulf Air the same night.
I'm lucky. My colleague Grüner has to sleep one night in Bahrain and flies with Emirates the next day via Dubai to Frankfurt. Not ideal because we will be jeting back to Shanghai on Wednesday. Some RTL colleagues even have towait three days for the return flight.
Lufthansa is talking its way out with a strike of the ground crew in Germany. We suspect this is a purely protective claim. The Airbus A340 took off in Frankfurt as scheduled and is ready at the airport in Bahrain while my Gulf Air machine rolls to the runway. Lufthansa could fly back to Germany just as easily. After all, baggage handling in Frankfurt is not affected by the strike.
The truth looks more like this: Lufthansa has changed the flight schedule and will no longer stop in Kuwait but in Riyadh from the middle of the week. Obviously not enough tickets were sold on the last flight over Kuwait. It is cheaper for the airline to wait a day in Bahrain and rebook the passengers. Of course, there is no compensation. After all, it was a strike. Fortunately, Gulf Air didn't know about it.