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Teams will cope with Bahrain call off - Mark Webber

Bahrain GP

Bahrain GP called off because of civil unrest

By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport in Barcelona

Mark Webber believes the decision to call off the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix will not hurt the teams' preparations for the 2011 campaign.

The race was postponed because of civil unrest in the country and the season will now begin a fortnight later in Australia on 27 March.

"I don't think the extra two weeks will make a huge difference," Red Bull driver Webber told BBC Sport.

"It's the same for everybody. We are always prepared to race in two weeks."

The Formula 1 teams were due to complete their winter testing at Bahrain's Sakhir Circuit between 3-6 March before taking part in the race meeting over the following weekend.

Red Bull driver Mark Webber
Webber was eighth in the 2010 Bahrain GP won by Fernando Alonso

However, the race was called off on Monday by Bahrain's Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa so the country could focus on its "national interest".

The sport's governing body the FIA supported the decision to postpone the Bahrain Grand Prix, and added that it could still be rescheduled later in the year.

The teams have agreed to return for a second test at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya on 8-10 March before opening their campaign in Australia, which hosted the season-opener between 1996-2005 and again from 2007-2009.

"The freight will still have to leave for Melbourne pretty early," said Webber. "I suppose you've got another 10 days' headroom, but it is swings and roundabouts."

BBC F1 commentator Martin Brundle agreed that most teams' programmes would not be disrupted by the delayed start to the season.

"Drivers have a mindset that if there's a race on you go racing, if there's not, you don't," said Brundle.

"There were 19 events last year and there will be 19 this year by the looks of it. It's not like we're short of grands prix this year."

It would be nice to go racing as soon as possible to see where we are

Mark Webber

Holding the final test session and the first race of 2011 on the same circuit at Bahrain might have helped teams to set up their car and gain an increased insight into tyre performance.

However, there are some Formula 1 insiders who believe that the delay could actually help some teams who now have extra time before the season starts.

There is an unexpected opportunity to develop the cars at the teams' factories and to make sure any significant upgrades are now ready for the first race.

Brundle commented: "It will help some teams that were struggling to make fast and reliable cars. It will play into their hands."

The extra time could be important to teams such as McLaren, Renault, Mercedes and Team Lotus, whose testing has been hindered by reliability problems.

Bahrain call off was right decision - Horner

At the second test in Jerez, where McLaren debuted their 2011 car, the team were let down by a lack of spare parts, while hydraulic problems halted Jenson Button's progress in Barcelona. Lewis Hamilton was also hindered by technical issues and the team are yet to complete a full race simulation.

The 26-year-old did manage to clock 107 laps in sporadic runs on Monday but Hamilton finished 1.378 seconds off Felipe Massa's pacesetting time for Ferrari.

After two days at the wheel in Barcelona, Button had said: "I still don't know where we stand."

McLaren are understood to be working hard on upgrading their exhaust package at their technology centre and extra time to do just that might help them close the perceived gap on pacesetters Red Bull and Ferrari.

Renault lost valuable time in Barcelona because of problems with the kinetic energy recovery device (Kers), which makes its return in 2011.

Waiting to start the season in Melbourne could arguably also benefit Mercedes after an inconsistent showing from the German team in testing, while Team Lotus, who are hoping to chase down the midfield runners in their second season, had to cut short their test when a recurring radiator leak resulted in Jarno Trulli crunching into the tyre wall.

After three pre-season tests, Red Bull and Ferrari have emerged as the teams to watch from a field of 12. Both have hit the ground running in terms of reliability and have been around the top of the timings as well as successfully completing race and qualifying simulations.

F1 team insiders also believe the Red Bull and Ferrari cars have worked efficiently regardless of how much fuel they had onboard.

However, the delayed start of the season could give rival teams time to make up lost ground.

Webber was cautious about saying how far Red Bull, who won both titles in 2010, are ahead of their competitors.

"Not very," he added with a grimace. "We are burying ourselves in there. We've still got work to do.

"It would be nice to go racing as soon as possible to see where we are."

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see also
Bahrain GP off after civil unrest
21 Feb 11 |  Formula 1
Arab uprising: Country by country
31 Aug 12 |  World
Webber voices Bahrain GP doubts
20 Feb 11 |  Formula 1
Bahrain protesters press demands
02 Mar 11 |  Middle East
Sport and politics bound together
18 Feb 11 |  Formula 1
Ecclestone cautious on Bahrain GP
18 Feb 11 |  Formula 1

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