Mercedes boss Toto Wolff expects that the Bahrain Grand Prix will again be a challenging weekend, “but the challenges there will be completely different” when compared to Australia, admits Wolff.
“The desert race is tricky because the conditions between the sessions change considerably. The first and second practice sessions take place during the heat of the day, but qualifying and the race are held after sunset when it is much cooler. This makes it extremely difficult to find the right car setup. ”
It seems that Mercedes are reeling still from an Australian Grand Prix that they really should’ve won had it not been for mistakes. Wolff admits that the team made errors with timing delta given to Lewis Hamilton, what isn’t reported in the media is a possible combination of poor timing data along with a tardy right foot by the 4 time world champ. During this critical period of the Virtual Safety car, Vettel saw his chance and pounced, snatching the lead of the race.
“We expected the new season to be highly competitive and the first race confirmed that assumption. We all made mistakes and did not get our best performance. It reminded us once again that this is the toughest racing series in the world, punishing every little mistake. It hurt to lose so many points – especially because we know we had the necessary pace to win in Australia, ”
What to expect from the Bahrain Grand Prix:
Fireworks! While Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will rightly feel that Australia was a race where they should have banked an easy 25 points, there is no guarantee that they will have such an advantage in Bahrain. Indeed, Ferrari have generally looked quite strong at Bahrain in recent years even when struggling elsewhere, and they will be confident that they can take full advantage of their lucky Australian win to extend Sebastian Vettel’s surprise championship lead. Of course, we should not be writing off the ‘number 2’ drivers just yet, as Valtteri Bottas took a superb pole last year for Mercedes, while Kimi Raikkonen has delivered some of his more competitive performances of recent seasons at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Looking the race pace of Daniel Ricciardo in Australia, Red Bull are sure to be pushing to crash the party as well, so it promises to be one hell of a race at the front!
Behind the leading trio, McLaren will be looking to bring improvements to their car to try and bridge the gap, while Haas will be hoping they can keep it all together and bag some meaningful points before their rivals in the midfield start to outspend them in the development race. Renault will be encouraged by the improvement they have made since last year, but there is still a lot of work to do, while Force India know they are not yet at a level to compete at the sharp end. After a trying Australian Grand Prix Williams will be hoping they can put together a normal weekend, while following an impressive pre-season Toro Rosso will be hoping for a trouble free weekend after their race turned sour so quickly in Australia. Sauber know they will have to be patient as they are likely to be at the back of the pack for the immediate future, but Charles Leclerc performance will be worth keeping an eye on after his impressive debut.
Just like Australia, last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix saw Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel emerge with a wonderful victory in a safety car hit race, as Mercedes were left to rue what might have been. Mercedes had locked out the front row of the grid with Bottas a surprising pole-sitter, but things went wrong quickly for Mercedes, as Bottas was left with over pressured tyres on the grid and would struggle with his tyres in the first stint. Vettel meanwhile made a lightning getaway to jump Hamilton into the first corner, with Vettel pitting first of the front runners as he was unable to get by the struggling Bottas on track. While Vettel may have initially been cursing his luck as the safety car was deployed as Carlos Sainz slammed into the Williams of Lance Stroll as Sainz Toro Rosso exited the pits, it was Mercedes who would suffer. Vettel emerged in the lead, but as Bottas and Hamilton had to now pit together, Hamilton backed off in an effort to prevent Daniel Ricciardo getting the jump on him as he queued behind Bottas, with the result that Lewis was given a 5 second penalty for holding up the Red Bull. That mistake probably cost Hamilton the win, he clearly was the fastest man on the track from then out, the Mercedes pit wall under no doubt at that early stage of the season as they instructed Bottas out of the way to let Lewis have a go at chasing down Vettel, but the penalty would make it an impossible task, with Vettel holding on to take victory from Hamilton and Bottas, with Raikkonen finishing fourth ahead of Ricciardo fifth in the Red Bull. Max Verstappen had got the jump on Ricciardo into Turn 1 at the start, but his race was ended early by brake failure.
Only 3 current drivers have won the Bahrain Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso have the most Bahrain Grand Prix victories with 3 each, while Lewis Hamilton has won here twice.
History of the Bahrain Grand Prix
Bahrain is a relatively new addition to the Formula One, having joined the calendar in 2004, and run every year bar 2011 when it was cancelled. With no other facility to hand, the Bahrain International Circuit was constructed to give a home to the Grand Prix. The track was designed by Hemann Tilke, and features a number of layouts. The F1 races have all been run on the Grand Prix Circuit (5.412 km long), with the exception of the 2010 race, which was run on the longer Endurance circuit, which features an extra section tacked on between Turns 4 and 6 (with the extended track length 6.299 km). Originally run during daylight, the race transitioned to a twilight race in 2014, and has seen a number of intense battles in its short time on the F1 calendar.
The inaugural race saw Michael Schumacher take a dominant lights to flag victory (as was his wont at the time), leading home team-mate Rubens Barrichello for a Ferrari 1-2, with the cool temperatures caused by an early morning shower aiding the Ferrari cause as the cooler conditions better suited their Bridgestone tyres over their Michelin shod rivals. For 2005, Fernando Alonso took pole position for Renault ahead of Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari, and coasted to victory after Schumacher retired.
In 2006, the race was the season curtain raiser, and it was won by Renault’s Fernando Alonso after a tight time trial duel with Michael Schumacher. Alonso survived an early scare when Ferrari new boy Felipe Massa spun across his path, the Renault lucky to avoid contact and continue, with Alonso managing to leapfrog pole sitter Schumacher in the pits to claim the victory.
The 2007 edition saw Felipe Massa convert pole position into a victory for Ferrari, followed all the way to the line by McLaren rookie Lewis Hamilton, who had outqualified his double world champion team-mate Alonso, who would finish down in fifth position. Massa would take another victory for Ferrari in 1-2 for the Scuderia in 2008, leading team mate Kimi Raikkonen home. Robert Kubica, who had taken his first ever pole positon for BMW-Sauber, finished in third position, while McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton hit trouble (and former team-mate and title rival Fernando Alonso) after a poor start, leaving him finish outside the points.
In 2009, the year of Brawn GP, Toyota locked out the front row of the grid for that year’s Bahrain Grand Prix, with Jarno Trulli claiming pole ahead of Timo Glock, but Jenson Button came through for Brawn in the race to record his only Bahrain Grand Prix victory, leading Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel across the line, with a disappointed Toyota having to settle for a third place finish for Trulli.
For 2010, Bahrain again hosted the season opening race, which meant it was the scene of Michael Schumacher’s return to F1 with Mercedes after coming out of retirement. The race that year was held on the extended Endurance Circuit, with an extra 9 corners to test the driver. Schumacher had a low key return to the sport qualifying in seventh place (two places behind team-mate Nico Rosberg), and bringing the car home in sixth place, one spot behind Rosberg. Meanwhile Fernando Alonso, the man who hoped to replicate Schumacher run of dominance at Ferrari, enjoyed a dream debut for Ferrari, leading Felipe Massa home for a Ferrari 1-2, after pole sitter Sebastian Vettel dropped back from the lead after his Red Bull lost power due to a cracked exhaust.
In 2011 the Grand Prix was cancelled due to on-going anti-government protests, which had seen fatalities as the demonstrations were broken up. The race would go ahead in 2012 despite pressure to skip it due to the on-going situation in the country. The race was held under tight security, although that didn’t stop Force India electing to skip the second Friday practice session in order to leave the circuit before dark after some of their mechanics were caught up in an incident on the Wednesday, with Molotov cocktails being thrown near their hire car. Following their decision to skip the practice session Force India were noticeable in their absence in the FOM TV coverage for the qualifying session despite enjoying a run to Q3 with Paul Di Resta, with Bernie Ecclestone denying that they had been singled out for punishment! The race itself would go ahead as planned, with reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel claiming his first win of the season for Red Bull from pole, but only after coming under genuine pressure from the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen, who must surely have rued the time lost as he recovered from a disappointing qualifying session to work his way up to second past team-mate Romain Grosjean, who finished third. The race produced a number of on-track battles and plenty of overtaking, with Mercedes Nico Rosberg’s aggressive defending against first the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, who simply drove around him off the circuit, and then the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso drawing plenty of attention, with Alonso’s frustrated outburst on the radio providing the soundbite of the race…’all the time you have to leave a space’!
For 2013, Rosberg was back in the headlines as he grabbed pole position for Mercedes, but in the race he went steadily backwards suffering with heavy tyre degradation. The podium wound up being identical to the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix, with Vettel leading the Lotus pairing of Raikkonen and Grosjean. The race was a disaster for Ferrari, as Fernando Alonso saw his hopes of chasing Vettel for victory evaporate when his DRS stuck open after passing Rosberg – Alonso was forced to pit, and while the Ferrari mechanics were able to shut the DRS, it stuck open again, forcing Fernando back to the pits. He would stay without DRS for the race, and only come home in eight position. The race was also notable for an exciting wheel bumping battle between the two McLaren drivers which saw new signing Sergio Perez, who had been told to get his elbows out by team principle Martin Whitmarsh, eventually tag the back of Buttons McLaren. After Alonso’s angry outburst at Rosberg the year before this time it was Button’s turn to entertain us on the team radio, complaining bitterly of Perez tactics in hitting him up the rear…although Button didn’t seem to think running Perez off the track was unacceptable!
For 2014 the race moved to its twilight start, and the race was an instant classic, with the two Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg having a wonderful duel for victory, with no holds barred and plenty of use of the ample run off areas around the track! Was this the best ever Bahrain Grand Prix? Hamilton got the jump on pole sitter Rosberg at the start and looked set for victory after just about maintaining his lead prior to the first round of stops, only for a safety car caused by a moment of Maldonado madness later in the race to hand Rosberg a reprieve, and a short dash to the finish on the soft tyre starting on Hamilton’s gearbox, with Lewis forced to defend on the medium tyre. Despite Nico’s best efforts Hamilton prevailed, with the Mercedes team relieved to come away with a 1-2 rather than a double DNF!
2015 saw Mercedes again the class of the field, with Lewis Hamilton enjoying a comfortable drive from pole to victory, as the Ferrari’s got between him and the second Mercedes of Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes at the start, with Rosberg putting in an impressive race, passing and repassing the Ferrari’s to look to secure second place before succumbing to brake problems in the dying stages and losing second place to Raikkonen’s Ferrari.
In 2016 everything fell into place for Rosberg to finally win the Bahrain Grand Prix, with Vettel’s Ferrari expiring on the formation lap, and pole sitter Hamilton being clobbered by Valtteri Bottas Williams in the first corner after a poor getaway, resulting in damage for Hamilton who was also dropped back into midfield as a result of the crash. Raikkonen came home second for Ferrari after recovering from a poor start, while Lewis Hamilton was able to salvage third place.
Last year saw Sebastian Vettel take full advantage of Mercedes miscues to take a memorable victory for Ferrari at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Sitting just below sea-level, the Bahrain international Circuit, home of the Bahrain Grand Prix, has a mix of long straights and slow corners. With the long straights comes hard braking, making this circuit a challenging one for braking systems. The night running means teams need to account for the circuit temperature dropping during the race when searching for the right setup, while winds blowing in off the desert can also make finding the right setup tricky, with dust in the desert air sure to test the mechanical limits of the cars. The stop/start track layout also means fuel consumption is on the high side, and this will be something that teams will need to keep an eye on.
Off the starting grid the cars have a 400m charge to Turn 1, the track rising slightly just before the tight right hander that will provide the main overtaking opportunity during the race, as cars have DRS available on the kilometre long start/finish straight. The pit lane exit feeds onto the track on the run down to the corner, so expect some jostling for position here too during the race when the pit window opens. At the start, the combination of the wide straight and tight first corner can see races ruined in an instant (the Hamilton/Bottas collision here in 2016 prime example).
Out of turn 1 the drivers accelerate down a slight dip into Turn 2, a quick flick left, rolling out to the right over the kerbs and flat out as the track begins to rise through a right hand kink Turn 3, the cars drifting out to the left hand side over the kerbs as the track continues to rise on the long drag up to Turn 4, the high point of the circuit. Expect to see plenty of action on the run down to Turn 4, a favourite spot for overtaking attempts (also the scene of Nico Rosberg’s assertive self-defence moves against Hamilton and Alonso in 2012!). Exiting Turn 4 the cars will tend to run out wide to the left, and anyone attempting to go the long way around the outside at Turn 4 can expect to be run off the track here, so if you’re taking the outside line here, make sure to get fully past before committing to the corner (as Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen showed in passing the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo and the Williams of Felipe Massa here in 2016)!
From the exit of Turn 4 the track slips downhill through the fast left right of Turns 5 and 6, foot down as the cars are straight into a left hander Turn 7 that opens out into a short dip down to Turn 8, a right hand hairpin.
Coming out of Turn 8 the cars drift back over to the left as the track rises gently on a short burst before dipping down again into Turn 9/10, a blind double left hander. The first DRS detection point is located here, with a good exit out of Turn 10 (the slowest corner on the track) essential, with track opening onto a straight with the first DRS activation zone between Turns 10 and Turn 11.
Down the straight and another opportunity to overtake on the brakes into the left hander Turn 11 (Stoffel Vandoorne made his mark on his debut for McLaren as a sub for Fernando Alonso back in 2016, harrying the Force India of Sergio Perez around the outside of Turns 9 and 10 before using DRS to take the inside line under braking for Turn 11 and nip past).
The cars drift out right around the long curving Turn 11 as the track rises again before switching back to the left hand side and taking Turn 12, a fast flowing right hander, running wide onto the kerbs and braking hard as the track dips slightly down into Turn 13, a 90 degree right hander, with the cars running wide over the kerbs as the exit onto another long straight, the track dipping and then rising into another 90 degree right hander Turn 14, with the second DRS detection point on entry, flat out on exit as the track curves around to the right through the final turn, Turn 15, and back onto the start finish straight with DRS and another great chance to overtake into the tight first corner.
TYRES WITH PIRELLI:
The Bahrain International Circuit introduces the 2018 medium compound to a grand prix weekend, nominated alongside the soft and supersoft, but this medium tyre is already familiar to the teams, as it’s the same compound as the 2017 soft tyre. Also making its debut in Bahrain is the Pirelli Hot Laps programme, where Formula 1 and other well-known drivers will take to the track driving road-going supercars on P Zero road car tyres.
THE CIRCUIT FROM A TYRE POINT OF VIEW
- The grand prix gets underway in the late afternoon and finishes in the evening, meaning that track temperatures fall substantially as the race goes on, affecting tyre behaviour.
- Traction is a major factor in Bahrain, so drivers have to manage rear tyres in particular.
- It’s the same nomination as last year for Bahrain, but the compounds are all a step softer.
- Most drivers did two stops last year, with a wide variety of different strategies.
- Medium and soft are mandatory sets for the race, with teams having to keep at least one set of each compound available on Sunday.
- Bahrain is one of three night races held this year, along with Singapore and Abu Dhabi.
MARIO ISOLA – HEAD OF CAR RACING
“Bahrain provides a very different challenge to Australia, but one of the things it has in common is that is quite a stop-start circuit characterised by longitudinal rather than lateral loads, which also means that it is rear-limited in particular. Because of the abrasive surface and also thermal degradation we would expect more than one pit stop for most drivers, especially as the entire tyre range is softer this year and Bahrain has produced a variety of interesting strategies in the past. The race schedule, with track temperatures that fall considerably during the evening, means that teams need to maximise their learning from the sessions that are most representative and draw the most effective conclusions from the unusual track conditions in the evening.”
- Pirelli launches its brand-new Pirelli Hot Laps programme in Bahrain, featuring some of the latest road cars from McLaren and Aston Martin on track in different sessions with some well-known drivers at the wheel.
- Formula 2 – the premier feeder series to Formula 1 – also gets underway in Bahrain, featuring a new car for this year as well as a new turbocharged engine.
- The circuit and infrastructure remains unchanged compared to last year.
MIN. STARTING PRESSURES (slicks) EOS CAMBER LIMIT
21.0 psi (front) | 19.0 psi (rear) -3.75° (front) | -2.00° (rear)
Memorable Moments of the Bahrain Grand Prix
2006 – A classic teletext duel (watch the gap between the top two every lap in preparation for the pitstops!) between Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher’s and Renault’s Fernando Alonso, which also saw a charging debut from an aggressive young driver called Nico Rosberg.
2012 –An entertaining race that saw Kimi Raikkonen come close to his first win for Lotus, coming up just short in his chase of Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, who would record his first win of the season. There was plenty of action behind in a lively encounter, Nico Rosberg’s aggressive defending providing the main talking point, with Fernando Alonso sure to have his say on the radio.
2014 – A wonderful no holds barred fight for victory between the dominant Mercedes drivers, with Lewis Hamilton coming out on top.
Support Races for the Bahrain Grand Prix
The Porsche GT3 Cup Middle East will provide some background entertainment trackside this weekend, but this weekend also offers the first chance of the season to see the latest crop of F1 hopefuls battle it out as F2 returns! This year sees an updated Dallara chassis (the first new car for GP2/F2 since 2011) coupled with the introduction of a 3.4 L V6 turbo to replace the old 4.0 L V8 which could threaten to shake up the order in the series. McLaren development driver Nyck De Vries has made the switch to the PREMA team that has dominated the past two years and will be hoping they can still prove to be the team to beat with the new chassis/engine in 2018. De Vries managed to take a sprint race victory in his rookie season in Monaco last year with RAPAX, before making a late season switch to Racing Engineering. He will be hoping to show McLaren his potential by becoming PREMA’s third straight champion, after Pierre Gasly in 2016 and Charles Leclerc last year. De Vries is joined at PREMA by sometime Toro Rosso FP1 driver Sean Geleal who lines up for his fourth season of F2. Mercedes junior and last year’s GP3 runaway champion George Russel will be looking to make an impression as he makes the step up to F2 at ART, where he will be partnered by the driver he beat to the GP3 crown, Renault’s F1 reserve driver Jack Aitken. McLaren’s other bright young hope, last year’s European F3 champion Lando Norris also makes the move to F2 this season, and he will partner former Red Bull junior Sergio Sette Camara, who will be looking to build on his sole F2 victory in the sprint race in Spa last year. Also making the step up is exciting Honda junior Nirei Fukuzumi, who placed third in GP3 last year, and will line up for Arden this year. HAAS young drivers Arjun Maini and Santino Ferucci will pair up at Trident, while last year’s F2 runner up Artem Markelov will provide a good benchmark for any F1 hopefuls as he returns for a fifth season of F2. Luca Ghiotta and Antonio Fuocco were also both race winners last year in F2, and will be hoping they can build on that experience to overcome the newcomers. It promises to be an exciting season!
|2013||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2012||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|