2013 Formula 1 Guld Air Bahrain Grand Prix – Round 4
For our fourth race this season, the Formula One circus moves to the Bahrain International Circuit. Sebastian Vettel is three points clear at the top of the table from Kimi Raikkonen, but the 2013 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix could shake things up once again.
Last year, Vettel took his first victory of the season to kickstart his title challenge and reinforce his championship credentials, but can he win at the sandy Sakhir circuit once again?
The Bahrain Grand Prix was another sign of F1’s expansion into newer areas, as this was the first Formula One race to be held in the Middle East, an area without a large heritage of motorsport. The circuit was constructed in 2002 at the cost of £94 million as a symbol of a more open country, after King Hamad of Bahrain introduced more reforms in the nation. The first race in 2004 was embraced by the Formula One community.
The main issue with the Grand Prix prior to 2011 was that the circuit did not encourage exciting racing however as part of the events commonly referred to as the Arab Spring, protests in Bahrain started to campaign for more political freedom and greater equality.
Due to the government’s response, the protests became more widespread, and the violence that occurred led to cancellation of the 2011 event.
Controversially, despite a lack of progress since the 2011 event was cancelled, the race was put back on the calendar. If it had been removed for a second year in a row, the FIA would have been forced to cancel the contract completely unless it could be proved that these were due to force majeure.
So in 2012, amid violent protests and government oppression, the racing returned, with the eighth edition won by Vettel. Many international news websites and protest groups such as Anonymous have pointed out that protests are likely to be witnessed again this year.
Although it is difficult to focus on events happening inside the circuit complex, it must be remembered that as of April 18th, the race is still going to take place.
The race will be held on the 5.412km grand prix track, instead of the endurance circuit introduced for 2010. Total race distance is 308.238km and will be run over 57 laps. The track has 15 corners; 8 right and 7 left. This year will also feature two DRS zones, one on the main straight and the other on the short straight parallel to the main straight.
Cars are at full throttle for 70% of the lap, with drivers reaching 300 kilometres per hour going down the main straight. 52 gear changes are expected per lap, attributed to the mix of slow and fast corners and straights. The main overtaking spot last year appeared to be into turn one, however there are a few other opportunities to overtake in the lap, such as turn four and the final turn.
Due to the circuit’s location, it is affected by sand blowing onto the track, a factor that can interfere with running at the start of practice sessions. The high temperatures in the area (predicted to reach a maximum of 32 degrees Celsius at the weekend) are a cause of tyre degradation, with marbles expected off line.
A lap of the Bahrain International Circuit:
Pirelli and Bahrain 2013
Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport director says: “Bahrain was one of the very few circuits that was entirely new to us in competition last year, although we know it well from testing. It’s one of the most demanding tracks of the year for the tyres, mostly because of the high ambient and track temperatures.
We expect about three stops per car, although we’ll have to wait to get some running in on Friday before we can look at the data and make a more accurate prediction. One of the main challenges of racing in Bahrain is that the track evolution is very hard to predict, depending on how much sand is blown onto the circuit.
From what we saw last year though, there will be plenty of scope for different race strategies, which can even allow drivers who have not qualified as well as they hoped to recover during the grand prix.”
The tyre from a circuit point of view:
Bahrain is one of the most demanding tracks of the year in terms of longitudinal energy going into the tyres: especially under braking in turns one and 14, and traction in turn 10.
Braking is in fact a key characteristic of the Bahrain International Circuit: in the first corner the cars decelerate from 315kph to 65kph in just 130 metres and three seconds. This places a force on the tyres equivalent to around 4.5g.
Lateral energy is about average for the year, reaching a peak in turn 12. Last year, the medium and soft tyres were selected – but this year’s compounds are all much softer than their equivalents last year, meaning that the 2013 hard tyre is more similar to the 2012 medium.
The top five finishers selected a three-stop strategy at last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix, all starting on the soft tyre. However, the way they used the soft and the medium was quite different. The top-placed two-stopper came sixth.
Technical tyre notes:
The asphalt surface, made up of 60,000 tonnes of imported granite from England, offers good grip when clean and is classified as medium to high in terms of abrasion.
The expected lifespan of the hard tyre, when it comes to wear, should be 15-17 laps, whereas the medium tyre should last for approximately 13 to 15 laps. The first corner is a particularly critical one.
It’s important to exit turn 1 cleanly in order to make the most of the left-hand kink that follows and get a good drive onto the straights, while avoiding wheelspin and unnecessary tyre wear.
Many places are won and lost here at the start.
A lap with Pirelli
There are only two drivers who have won multiple times at the Bahrain International Circuit, and both of them are currently employed at Ferrari – Fernando Alonso has emerged victorious on three occasions (2005, 2006 and 2010), while Felipe Massa claimed victory in 2007 and 2008.
Unsurprisingly, Ferrari is the most successful constructor at the track, with four victories from Massa (2) and Alonso (1) as stated above, as well as Michael Schumacher’s win at the first ever Formula One race to take place there. Renault are the only other constructor to have won multiple times, also due to Alonso.
2004 – Michael Schumacher won the inaugural race, leading home a Ferrari one two finish with Rubens Barrichello.
2006 – Michael Schumacher was thwarted in his attempt to be victorious at the track once again, as Alonso’s strategy saw him fight out of the pit lane from the German, before pulling away to take a second victory.
2009 – Toyota started strongly and their drivers Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli were showing good performance, but a different strategy saw them lose out as Jenson Button increased his championship lead. Vettel put in fast laps towards the end of the race to finish second, while Trulli was third.
2010 – The race was held on the longer ‘Endurance Circuit’ for the first time, and saw Fernando Alonso take his third victory at the track, and his first for Ferrari in his first race for the Italian team. Sebastian Vettel was looking dominant until a gearbox problem dropped him down to fourth, behind Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton.
2012 – One of the most controversial Formula One races of all time, as while Sebastian Vettel narrowly held of the challenge of Lotus drivers Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen in one of the more exciting races at the circuit, the media attention was dominated by the political unrest occurring in the archipelago.
For the second time this season, the Formula One action will be complimented by the 2013 GP2 series, following their previous weekend together in Malaysia. Going into races three and four for the feeder series, Monegasque driver Stefano Coletti leads due to finishing in third position in the first race, where he led for a long time until the tyres dropped away from him, and winning the second race after learning from those mistakes.
Behind him in the championship are Fabio Leimer and Felipe Nasr, who are eleven and twelve points off the top spot respectively. Leimer won the first race, but he finished the second race outside the points in twelth, while Nasr has been more consistent, finishing fourth in the first race and second in the second race.
In addition to the series that is now firmly established as the tier below Formula One, a new series called Formula Middle East will also support the Bahrain Grand Prix this year. The series was launched with former Formula BMW cars, and was designed to showcase the best racing talent within the Middle East.
Rounds of the series is run in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain over the winter and televised to over 100 nations.
However, the reality is that of the eighteen races scheduled to take place over six rounds this year, it appears that the only round that has gone ahead so far was the first one, which supported the National Racing Festival in Bahrain on the 1st and 2nd of February.
After the four races that took place on those days, Emil Bernstorff is the championship leader with 82 points. The Brit – who narrowly missed out on winning the German ADAC Formula Masters championship in 2011 and secured three podium positions in his début season in F3 Euroseries last year – was dominant over these races, securing four victories, each time being followed by Malaysian driver Nabil Jeffri in second place and Raed Raffii from Bahrain in third position.