Neil Smallwood: "As a Motorsport fan and journalist do you think F1 should take a stand when it comes to visiting countries with questions over their humanitarian record, like Bahrain? Do you think Sky/BBC should highlight or ignore political situation in Bahrain in their 'venue montages', and should journalists talk more openly about the situation as part of their coverage in general, or would you rather focus on the sport?"
Edd Straw: It's an extremely complex debate and one that is prone to over-simplification. Certainly, in the case of government-run races in particular Formula 1 needs to be extremely cautious about who it gets into bed with. Frankly, there is probably a wider debate that needs to be had as there are a number of countries that have deserved question marks over them. It's clear that in the case of Bahrain this is not a country in which all of the populations have freedoms that many of us take for granted.
As for ignoring the political situation in Bahrain, it's vital that this doesn't happen. News organisations must reflect what is going on accurately and fairly. Personally, I don't believe that Bahrain should have regained its place on the F1 calendar until certain clearly-defined things had changed here. The current situation reflects extremely badly on the sport and for the next few days there will be a continuing string of negative headlines. But seeing as F1 is here now it is very important not to sweep Bahrain's problems under the carpet and suggest everything is fine. This is a promotional race for Bahrain and it's essential to make clear that there are some things about this country that must be reformed. I think that journalists have been pretty open in their reporting - check out the press conference transcript to see how the questions were dodged by team principals.
I'd love just to focus on the sport. But F1 has very willingly blended sport and politics in a number of countries. The Bahrain GP is about more than just racing and you've got to be naive or wilfully stupid to deny that.
Bernie Ecclestone and Bahrain's Crown Prince were swamped by media © XPB
Connie Ann Kirk: "What makes the situation in Bahrain so unique to other troubled spots around the world, and is the decision to go or not solely in the hands of Mr. Ecclestone?"
ES: In this case, the regime and the race are inextricably linked. There are anti-race protests going on and if they turn bad and blood is spilled, then F1 will have been a trigger. In China, for example, you have a government-run race in a country with serious human rights problems, but F1 is at least one step removed. But that's not to say the time hasn't come for a debate on the wider issue of what countries F1 chooses to run in. The question is, where do you draw the line?
Calin Teodor: "In the end it's all about money - what Bernie knows best - and him persuading the teams to go there for his own large fee. Why are the teams are so obedient?"
ES: Contracts are tricky things. Teams rely on money from the income of the sport to survive and they agree to the calendar when they sign up to the championship. This means that, in many ways, their hands are tied. Failure to compete can have serious financial penalties for a multitude of reasons, so they find themselves backed into a corner. Frankly, if the teams hadn't so willingly handed sovereignty in F1 away over the past three decades, the situation would be very different.
Alexander Keep: "A lot has been written about the stresses tyres are placed under in long corners such as in Barcelona but what stresses and strains do the tyres suffer on tracks with long straights and tight corners (such as Sakhir or Monza)?"
ES: Long straights are generally a good thing as they allow heat dissipation. However, long straights also lead to very long, heavy braking zones that can take their toll on tyres. While long corners increase the loading on tyres, shorter corners can take a lot out of them under acceleration as the driver applies the throttle.
Lotus has been held back to some extent by mishaps and mistakes in the first races © LAT
Neil Smallwood: "What do you think Lotus is lacking that has stopped it getting on the podium?"
ES: The car has the speed, but Romain Grosjean's early-race mishaps and Kimi Raikkonen's problems in Australia and Malaysia that left him lower down the grid than his pace warranted, held them back. In China, Raikkonen was in the mix for a podium, but a pretty questionable strategy led to a very optimistic attempt at a two-stopper that failed by a mile and left him to drop from second to outside the top 10 in a matter of two laps. Grosjean finished sixth on a slightly differently structured two-stopper and certainly the Finn could have been at least fourth on the same strategy. The car is quick, but they just need some more 'clean' runs to get the results they deserve. But as it's very close in that part of the grid, it's going to need a good run to get the podiums that the car arguably deserves.
Shaun Livingstone: "There has been a lot of talk about Pirelli and getting into the right window. Do teams design their cars specifically for the tyres? In other words, is it a happy accident when they can switch them on, or is it purely by design? I'm thinking of the early season specifically, when they have little data to go on. I'm curious given Red Bull's slip, especially in one lap pace, and McLaren's gains. Is it accidental, incidental or a mistake from Red Bull?"
ES: Teams do have tyre data, not to mention windtunnel models, for the next-generation tyres when in the design and development phase of their cars. Ultimately, what makes a difference in terms of whether you switch them on in certain conditions depends on the way you load them - how much energy you put in and how quickly. In terms of degradation, things like car balance will have an influence as well.
Certainly, teams do design their cars with the tyres in mind, but there's not a huge amount you can do to transform a car that, say, struggles to switch on its tyres into one that does it perfectly with precision. You can take a car that fails to turn the tyres on at certain temperatures and make some changes with a view to doing it, but it's an inexact science. While tyre usage is one of the elements under consideration when it comes to design, sometimes teams are just in the lap of the gods.
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