Worrying times in Bahrain

Bahrain
A car carrying four members of the Force India team was involved in a car bombing incident in Bahrain yesterday. While none of them were injured, it is believed that tear gas and Molotov Cocktails were thrown near the car. The action was sparked by protestors with petrol bombs, and the tear gas was the natural retaliation of the police. One team member not involved has asked for and been given permission to go home, while I have also heard from Twitter that one of those in the car has also asked to go home.
This may have been an isolated incident, but unlike the media who are bravely taking on extra responsibilities to seek out the protestors and find out what is really going on, the Force India guys were just there to do their job. Protests are expected to increase over the weekend, with one scheduled for tomorrow after FP2, and others over the remainder of the weekend.
Force India will still race on Sunday, though Nico Hulkenberg has expressed reservations. The team have put in additional security measures to make sure everything goes well.
This race will be overshadowed by the political situation, but I am going to watch it. Not to support the government, but because if the F1 and GP2 guys are going out there despite fears for safety, how can I – in the safety of Britain – not support them? I hope that they all stay safe and that no more incidents happen. F1 people are not a target, but they could get caught up in things.

Meanwhile many members of the press who were expecting to report on the race have been forbidden from entering the country, being turned back at the airport, while it’s rumoured that tourists are being forced to buy F1 tickets in order to enter the country.

GP2
In a very last-minute change, Brendon Hartley will be replacing Jon Lancaster at Ocean this weekend. Even the Ocean website has quotes from Lancaster, as well as his teammate Nigel Melker, about Bahrain. The British driver did tweet last Friday: “All that media attention in Bahrain, hope nobody tries to prove the decision wrong to race in Bahrain. #risky” (@Lancaster4F1)
Hartley drove two rounds for Ocean in the 2011 championship, picking up four points for the team in the feature race in Belgium. Shockingly, these were the team’s only points of the season. The Kiwi also picked up several podiums to finish fifth in the FR 3.5 series, but had not been given a drive this year.
I hope that Lancaster is OK. I recall last year that he had been hoping to drive in the Spa-Francorchamps round of F2 but had been unable to compete, leaving him without a drive for the rest of 2012 after budget problems. He’s a good driver and definitely deserves a seat in GP2.

FR3.5 Championship Down to Carlin

Today was a bit crazy for Jean-Eric Vergne. Qualifying on pole at Paul Ricard, he also won a race that happened quite a bit earlier in the season – the second round at Monza. He had originally been demoted to third with a ten-second penalty, but the penalty was removed on appeal by the team. This gave him ten extra points, but Ricciardo lost seven and Rossi lost three. The French driver now only had 24 points less than teammate Wickens.
With 100 points up for grabs, today’s race turned out to be a decider for Daniel Ricciardo, who was mathematically in contention. Held up by a very slow Alex Rossi for a good part of the race, he was unable to contend for a podium position. The win was taken from pole by Vergne, and in second was Albert Costa. Costa was disqualified, however, after his car was ruled underweight in post-race scrutineering. Crossing the line third and promoted to second was Robert Wickens. He now has 216 points to Vergne’s 199 – 17 points apart. In third was Brendon Hartley, and fourth was Jake Rosenzweig who crossed the line sixth, but was promoted due to Costa’s disqualification and also a ten-second penalty to Riccidardo for breaking track limits. Sergio Canamasas took fifth, with the Aussie demoted to sixth. The Aussie is now out of contention, with only 126 points. That’s 90 less than Wickens with three races to go. Ricciardo might be able to get third in the championship, but his F1 career might just get in the way. The two drivers behind him – Korjus and Costa – both have 120 points, and Rossi has 113.
So it’s down to new Toro Rosso reserve Verge and Virgin reserve Wickens. If Carlin keep Max Chilton on for next year, they’ll only be able to put one of them in their GP2 team. That is, if they don’t get snapped up by one of the other teams first, or if their respective F1 teams don’t take a punt on them next year.

Can Brendon break Ocean’s duck?

Kiwi Formula Renault 3.5 driver Brendon Hartley is driving this weekend and at Monza in the GP2 series for Ocean Racing Technology. The team are yet to score any points this season, but Brendon’s record is in his favour. Last season he drove in four races for Scuderia Coloni, picking up a point in the Abu Dhabi sprint race. He also came fourth in Formula Renault 3.5.
This season, he’s been driving for Gravity-Charouz, picking up a podium for the team in Monaco. The series has already been to Spa and Monza, so he has the benefit of experience. He will hopefully be able to help Ocean Racing to break their duck and pick up some points at the end of the season.