After a disappointing start to the 2004 season, McLaren-Mercedes is hopeful that the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend will signal a change to its fortunes.

After a disappointing start to the 2004 season, McLaren-Mercedes is hopeful that the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend will signal a change to its fortunes.

It will be the first time that the F1 championship takes to the 5,417 km desert track and the McLaren team is upbeat about it chances there.

MD Martin Whitmarsh said the team had started to move in the right direction regarding its competitiveness at the scorching Sepang circuit in Malaysia two weeks ago.

Following Kimi Raikkonen’s failure to finish in both the season’s earlier races, McLaren’s testing at Paul Ricard last week was thorough, with test drivers Alex Wurz and Pedro de la Rosa covering about 2 000 km. The main purpose was to achieve reliability in the races and practice sessions and further improve the lap times.

Looking to make another performance gain at Bahrain this weekend, Whitmarsh said the team would arrive at the circuit with a significant level of intelligence regarding the track and the possible set-ups to employ on race weekend, using computer-generated data in the absence of race data.

The hot temperatures and fine desert sand are expected to create changing grip conditions. Raikkonen however, is keen to get off the mark.

"The Bahrain Grand Prix has the potential to be another warm race due to its desert location, but nothing like the heat and the sapping humidity we had in Malaysia," commented the Finn, "From what I have seen and heard of the facilities at the circuit they are outstanding, and I am very interested to see what the track will be like to drive.

Teammate David Coulthard has had a better campaign so far (although not really meeting pre-season expectations) by finishing sixth at Sepang and eighth at Melbourne. He, too, is optimistic about McLaren’s chances at the Sakhir circuit.

"With any new event, there are of course factors that are tricky to understand until the race itself, and the main example with Bahrain is what impact the sand from the surrounding desert will have. I understand the organisers have taken measures to combat this, but we shall have to wait and see what happens!" he said.

Original article from Car