As the leaves and the temperatures start to fall at VMP Towers, thoughts go to the warmth of the Bahraini welcome which awaits the FIA WEC family as we gather in the desert to watch the 6h of Bahrain, 2016 season finale. So, without further ado, it’s ‘last round gentlemen’ as windscreens get polished, tyres checked and mirrors adjusted for that last blast in the desert at the Bahrain International Circuit.
With the LMP1 manufacturers and LMP2 team champions already decided, it is just the small matter of the Drivers’ Championship together with the GTE Pro and Am classes to decide.
Last year was a very relaxed time. The warm sunshine and the end of season feeling was like the last day of term before the summer holidays. Time was spent chatting in the shade and looking forward with some certainty as to what 2016 had in store. This year, I suspect, will be very different as there is definitely a shortage of certainty!
Audi’s decision to withdraw at the end of 2016 sent shockwaves through the paddock, but perhaps it wasn’t surprising as the possibility always existed that one of the two VAG teams would withdraw sooner or later. Audi have not had their finest year, and to them winning is everything, even if it was the ‘wrong Audi’ that won.
There seems to be a whole lot of uncertainty surrounding the VAG LMP1 driver pool which has been thrown up in the air, with both Audi and Porsche drivers battling for seats in the two 2017 919 Hybrids. Although it has not been officially confirmed as yet, Nick Tandy is widely tipped as a strong candidate for a 919-seat next year. Personally, I like Nick a lot, he is really good guy as well as being a phenomenal driver.
With so much talent in the VAG driver pool, it is thought that Porsche might be keeping a seat for Audi driver Andre Lotterer in 2017, despite a lack lustre performance in 2016. All of this is still speculation of course, but there will be immense pressure on Bernhard, Hartley, Dumas, Jani, Lieb, Fässler, Tréluyer and Jarvis in Bahrain, as they vie for seats in the 2017 Porsche 919. I personally think Di Grassi and Duval will go to Formula E, so it will be interesting to see who has a seat when the music stops.
There will no doubt be much talk and speculation in the paddock around those well-worn favourites, BoP and EoT, and further column inches will be taken up by the new LMP2 set up for 2017 and the future of GTE Pro and Am.
Let’s hope the sideshows will not overshadow the main event, and that we have a good clean race to bring this year and the championship to an exciting and safe conclusion.
I bumped into Allan McNish in the paddock he said that his plans for next year are as the Head of Audi Formula E, a job he has been doing for the last two months. Although he didn’t seem to fancy the idea of being a driver in Formula E, he admitted that it represented the future of motor racing. On the question of what was to happen with the mechanics and technicians involved with the Audi LMP1 team, he said that they would be absorbed into Audi. When pushed on what would happen to the Joest operation, that he suggested was going to be trickier, at which point he said he had to dash, and scuttled off.
Harry Tincknell (#67 Ford GT) on the other hand was happy with their team’s performance having won the last two races. On the question of BoP though, Tincknell admitted that he hated it, and confessed that they were likely to suffer a BoP penalty in Bahrain based on their recent performances. He questioned why they bothered trying to improve, when all that happened was that they picked up penalties through the BoP index.
Written by: John Mountney
Photos by: John Mountney