Going into the Bahrain Grand Prix it was accepted that it would be another tough weekend for BMW Sauber. Malaysia and China proved beyond a doubt that the F1.09 was not where the team had expected it and in fact it is not a top 12 car.
That said Friday practice started surprisingly well when using the super soft compound tires. After free practice 1 both Heidfeld and Kubica sat 2nd and 3rd on the time charts, but unfortunately that didn’t last and by the end of free practice session 2 and Saturday morning practice, the car was once again over a second a lap off the pace.
When it came time for qualifying Saturday afternoon, the best the team could hope for would be decent placings in Q2, but not good enough to make it through to the final 10 pole shootout. This scenario was exactly what happened as Robert Kubica qualified 13th and Nick Heidfeld qualified 14th.
With these starting positions and the ability to now choose how much fuel they would carry the pit strategy for both drivers was fuel the cars heavy and go for a one stopper. While the front runners would be lighter on fuel Kubica and Heidfeld would be able to stay out longer and hopefully gain a few positions as a result. This strategy has worked for Heidfeld in the past, but there is always the danger of being involved in a first corner or first lap incident starting so far back. Both drivers got off to a good start, but were bitten by the first lap incident and both had to pit before the race was 2 laps long for new front noses.
Running dead last but for Nakajima in the Williams, loaded with fuel and using the slower but longer lasting medium compound tires spelled the end of any hope of making up any positions at all. Mid race Nakajima retired leaving both Heidfeld and Kubica to bring up the rear finishing 18th and 19th a lap down.
In two weeks time at the next grand prix in Barcelona BMW Sauber will introduce their first major aero update for the car. This will include a more efficient diffuser as well as major improvement to the overall aerodynamics of the car. Once this update is in place we will get a much better idea of how competitive the car will be, but keep in mind all updates to any team are untested due to the in season testing ban.
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