F1 heads back to original Bahrain track

2012 Bahrain Grand Prix preview

2010: Leading in round one at BahrainThe deeply divisive question of whether F1 should be racing in Bahrain has been addressed here earlier today.

That debate notwithstanding, what does F1’s return to the desert track this weekend have in store for the teams?

The last time a race was held here in 2010 the organisers, in something of an over-reaction to the presence of an extra four cars on the grid, elected to used the convoluted ‘endurance’ version of the track.

The result was a tedious race, enlivened only by a late problem for Sebastian Vettel which handed victory for Fernando Alonso.

Before last year’s race was cancelled the organisers had already decided to switch back to the track configuration last used from 2005 to 2009 (there were minor tweaks to the layout following the inaugural race in 2004), and that’s what awaits the teams this year.

The high temperatures – mid-30C air, mid-40C track – make cooling a priority. With four long straights and several slow corners, Bahrain places an emphasis on traction, straight-line speed and braking.

Bahrain circuit information

Lap length 5.412km (3.363 miles)
Distance 57 laps (308.2km/191.5 miles)
Lap record* 1’31.447 (Pedro de la Rosa, 2005)
Fastest lap 1’29.527 (Mark Webber, 2005)
Tyres Medium and Soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Bahrain track data in full

Expect to see teams keeping a close eye on the latter on Friday, as well as sussing out top gear ratios and rear wing settings as DRS is being used for the first time here. In the race, drivers will be able to use DRS on the start/finish straight.

The little-used facility lacks grip, especially early in the weekend. The shifting desert winds blow dust and sand across the track which has to be kept out of the engines. It settles on the track and can create problems with tyre graining.

“As the track surface is rubbered-in grip levels improve dramatically,” said Heikki Kovalainen, “so you’ll see lap times dropping fast over the weekend, and that means you have to be on it for qualifying, to make sure you can get the most of out the session.

Teams will use the same tyre compounds as in China – medium and soft – albeit on a much hotter track. This will be the first time they have have raced on Pirelli tyres in Bahrain, although the rubber has been tested here before in the winter of 2010/2011.

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel’s post-race warning over the team’s lack of straight-line speed will be ringing in their ears as they arrive at a track which will expose that weakness.

The first question of the weekend is whether Vettel will continue use the old exhaust configuration on the Red Bull again as he did in China. The new one offers better performance but Vettel doesn’t get on with as well as team mate Mark Webber.

Remarkably, Webber is 3-0 up on his team mate in qualifying heading into this round.

McLaren

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Shanghai, 2012Despite Mercedes’ success in China, McLaren still look like the form team at the moment.

However their margin is slender. They need to iron operational errors such as the the pit stop problems which delayed Hamilton in Malaysia and Button in China, to lock out the opposition.

Ferrari

Ferrari are marking time until after this race, when a major upgrade package is due to arrive for their car.

The team’s pre-release statement spelled out their fears: “The Sakhir track characteristics seems purpose made to highlight areas, traction and top speed, in which this car is far from brilliant.”

Mercedes

Coming off the back of their victory in China, can they do it again in Bahrain? With 70% of the lap spent at full throttle, this looks like another venue where their Double DRS will prove valuable.

Nico Rosberg found the car’s race performance much improved on Sunday, in cooler temperatures and without much pressure from behind. If they can show similar performance in much hotter conditions in Bahrain they will be looking in very good shape indeed.

Lotus

Lotus continue to show a lot of potential but haven’t quite managed to deliver on it yet: Kimi Raikkonen started fourth in China but slipped to 14th as he struggled with tyre wear.

“A podium should be possible and I think it has been at all the races we?ve been at so far,” said Raikkonen. “We don?t know exactly how good the car will be until we get there, but we don?t expect any problems.”

Force India

Paul di Resta, Force India, Shanghai, 2012The gaps in the midfield are very narrow indeed. Force India may find Bahrain suits their car better with higher temperatures alleviating their tyre warm-up problems and the long straights playing to the strength of their Mercedes engines.

Paul di Resta said: “We will have the same car in Bahrain because it?s just a few days away, but it?s a very different track and we expect different weather conditions so we will try to make the most out of that.”

Sauber

After the high of Malaysia, China was something of a let-down for Sauber. Unusually for a team which has tended to have better results on Sunday rather than Saturday, they qualified well but slipped back during the race.

Neither of their drivers have competed in an F1 race on this configuration at Bahrain before, but Kamui Kobayashi has tested extensively on it and Sergio Perez won a GP2 race there in 2009.

Toro Rosso

Following a strong start in Australia the STR7s have slipped to the tail end of the midfield and Jean-Eric Vergne has been eliminated in Q1 in the last two races.

He won’t want to make a habit of that, but it hasn’t stopped him finishing in front of Daniel Ricciardo in the last two races.

The team ran the cars in differing configurations during the last race, which they hope will point to a way forward on set-up in Bahrain.

Williams

Racking up more points is the order of the day for Williams after their double-score in Bahrain. The teams will re-use their engines from China in this race.

Caterham

Kovalainen has been ahead of his new team mate in qualifying so far, but has been frustrated by problems during the races. The team need to stay sharp to capitalise on any retirements to claim tenth in the constructors’ championship from Marussia.

HRT

Narain Karthikeyan, HRT, Shanghai, 2012Narain Karthikeyan’s completed just two racing laps on his single previous visit to Bahrain. He’s concerned about how well the car’s cooling systems will cope:

“I don?t know the circuit in Bahrain so I?m going to have to be extra focused and make the most of my time in the car. We have an idea of what we think the set-up should be, so we?ll see if this works.

“We?re going to try a few things in Bahrain and, hopefully, this will help us to improve and progress further. What I do know about this track is that the weather is going to be very hot and we?ve struggled a bit in hot conditions this season so far because of the cooling system in the car, so we?re going to have to work very hard on this.”

Marussia

Marussia have started the season rather better then expected. According to team principal John Booth, they’re continuing to make progress: “Going into last weekend?s race in China we?d eaten into the gap to our immediate competitors by 0.8s since Malaysia.

“Combined with the 0.6s decrease we’d seen between the first two races, that means we?ve found almost 1.5s of lap time in the first three races which, considering the challenges we faced with our late start, is very pleasing to all of us. It is still very early in the season of course, but it is nice to see that we are heading in a good development direction.”

2012 driver form

Q avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 7.33 6 2 11 3/3 Form guide
Mark Webber 5 4 4 4 3/3 Form guide
Jenson Button 3 5.67 1 14 3/3 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 3 3 3 3 3/3 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 9.67 5 1 9 3/3 Form guide
Felipe Massa 13.33 14 13 15 2/3 Form guide
Michael Schumacher 3 10 10 10 1/3 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 5 8.67 1 13 3/3 Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen 10.33 8.67 5 14 3/3 Form guide
Romain Grosjean 6.33 6 6 6 1/3 Form guide
Paul di Resta 14.67 9.67 7 12 3/3 Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg 13.67 12 9 15 2/3 Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi 11 8 6 10 2/3 Form guide
Sergio Perez 13 7 2 11 3/3 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 14 12.67 9 17 3/3 Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne 15.67 11.67 8 16 3/3 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 10.67 13.33 8 19 3/3 Form guide
Bruno Senna 13.67 9.67 6 16 3/3 Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen 20.33 20.5 18 23 2/3 Form guide
Vitaly Petrov 19.33 17 16 18 2/3 Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa 22.5 21 21 21 2/2 Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan 23.5 22 22 22 2/2 Form guide
Timo Glock 20.33 16.67 14 19 3/3 Form guide
Charles Pic 21.33 18.33 15 20 3/3 Form guide

F1 Fanatic Predictions Championship

Enter your predictions for the Bahrain Grand Prix here. After making your predictions you can edit them at any time before the start of qualifying:

Image ?? Red Bull/Getty images

Advert | Go Ad-free

71 comments on F1 heads back to original Bahrain track

  1. Robert McKay said on 18th April 2012, 17:09

    All I can say is thank goodness it’s not the extendo-boring-ring version.

  2. Eggry (@eggry) said on 18th April 2012, 17:13

    Lewis Hamilton 3 3 3 3 3/3

  3. Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 18th April 2012, 17:23

    Bahrain is a new venue for Narain Karthikeyan, who is concerned about how well the car’s cooling systems will cope:

    Didn’t Karthikeyan race there in 2005 with Jordan?

    • alexf1man (@alexf1man) said on 18th April 2012, 17:41

      That’s what I thought! What planet has he been on for the last 7 years?

      • RIISE (@riise) said on 18th April 2012, 18:00

        It’s the article writer that is stating he hasn’t raced there, not Narain himself.

        • LosD (@losd) said on 18th April 2012, 18:11

          Sounds to me like he’s saying it as well:

          I don’t know the circuit in Bahrain so I’m going to have to be extra focused and make the most of my time in the car.

          It seems like he has indeed raced there in 2005, but only for 3 laps:

          On lap three, Narain Karthikeyan’s car suffered an electrical failure that looked similar to Christian Klien’s.

          • RIISE (@riise) said on 18th April 2012, 18:19

            Good point, but 7 years away is a long time for a racing driver. He will have lost memory of definitive track details. There’s a lot more to the track than just knowing which way to turn when you get to the corner. I’m sure he’s just saying what he did with the intention of getting across the fact that he has a very vague memory of Bahrain.

          • montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 18th April 2012, 19:05

            @losd Didn’t last very long in 2005 race but had a pretty good practice and qualifying indeed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSDhUTazwqQ

            And probably the guy from HRT PR office who wrote it on NK’s behalf didn’t really understand what he said.

  4. Slr (@slr) said on 18th April 2012, 17:37

    At least with the old configuration, there will be more oppotunities for overtaking as there will be more laps. The section used 2010 was an absolutely pointless, it was slow and there were no overtaking oppotunities there.

    I think Mercedes will win; Rosberg in particular. Red Bull may find themselves further back with the time they’ll lose on the four big straights, I don’t see Vettel or Webber on the podium this weekend. Sauber may be stronger if their straight line speed is as good here as it was in China.

  5. McLarenJB2009 (@mclarenjb2009) said on 18th April 2012, 17:41

    ”Racking up more points is the order of the day for Williams after their double-score in *Bahrain*.”
    *You mean China*

  6. d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 18th April 2012, 17:43

    Keith, know of any racing sims which have this configuration to check out? Does F1 2011 have this track in the 2012 layout or no?

    And thanks – I really love these previous posts :)

  7. William Brierty said on 18th April 2012, 18:15

    I think Bahrain will be Lewis’ first 2012 win. He thrives when the track temperature is hot (see UAE 2011, Bahrain 2009, Hungary 2009, UAE 2010), as does Fernando, but I think Button and Vettel will struggle. I also think the Mercedes might struggle too bearing in mind their tyre issues and that hot track temperature, which I think may catch Raikkonen out too. I am expecting a good showing from Sauber, but I think the requirement for downforce at Bahrain will play to the 2012 downforce kings – McLaren. You know I think we will not hear a peep of disturbance despite the situation in Bahrain, because the security operation will probably be the biggest in Bahrain’s history. I think it’s just an issue that will be silenced by what I expect to be a truly great race – despite the boring history of the Bahran Grand Prix.

  8. Cornflakes (@cornflakes) said on 18th April 2012, 18:29

    You can really see the amount of camber on the front of the HRT there. Looks like the wheel is on wonky

  9. James (@goodyear92) said on 18th April 2012, 18:48

    I think the qualifying average is being worked out the wrong way. It should be where you actually qualified, not where you started. For instance you have LH at an average of 3, which is 1+1+7 = 9 divided by 3 = 3. When it should be 1+1+2 divided by 3 = 1.3. After all that is a better guide of form. The penalty gives a false indication and shouldn’t be taken in to account of how a driver has performed in qualifying.

    • Mads (@mads) said on 18th April 2012, 20:18

      @goodyaer92
      But then we also need to remove penalties in the race when calculating that average, and what if a driver has a major engine blow out on the way to the finish line in a race. Should we also assume that he actually made it when we calculate the average finishing positions?
      Whether an issue with a component is encountered between sessions resulting in a penalty, or in the middle of a race or qualifying resulting in a a lower finishing position shouldn’t make a difference should it?
      I see that it is easier to know that Hamilton would have qualified 2nd thus making it slightly different, but where do you draw the line? The driver has the same amount of control over the incident, whether it happens before the race or in the middle of the race.
      And imagine the day that a race on Monza or Spa where engine power is especially important, driver Y receives a grid penalty for an engine change (to a brand new unit) before qualifying, giving him a 10 grid penalty (or is it five for engines as well?, anyway the technicalities aren’t that important, this is purely theoretical).
      Driver X has an engine in the car that has already done 4 grand prix’s.
      Then driver Y goes on and qualifies 1st, with driver X just 5 thousands of a second behind.
      The sector times indicate that driver Y was just slightly faster on the parts of the track where power is demanded.
      What are we going to do in this case?
      It looks like driver Y got pole because his engine was brand new, thus having slightly more power.
      The only way he would have that power would be with the brand new engine, and the new engine will result in a penalty.
      Should we use starting positions as that would be more fair to driver X, or should we use the fastest times from qualifying even though they are a little off but will still be a better indication of driver Y’s performance?
      I understand that there are a few flaws in my scenario, as most teams bring brand new engines to Monza, and usually Spa anyway, but it could have been Abu Dhabi or whatever as well.
      My point is, using non official results can easily result in unnecessary misunderstandings and arguments.
      Statistics are what it is, and will only tell you half the story anyway.

      • James (@goodyear92) said on 18th April 2012, 21:31

        Then it shouldn’t be called a form guide really should it? I think qualifying penalties for gearbox and engine should be excluded as it gives a false guide to form. Jenson Button has exactly the same average as Lewis in Qualifying when Lewis has beaten him in every session so far. LH 1st, 1st, 2nd. JB 2nd, 2nd, 6th. Lewis has never Qualified below 2nd, yet he has an average of 3rd. I understand it would be complicated for the race results, because as you say engine failiures and such make it impossible. It isn’t complicated for qualifying, I would like to know what is the actual average form for each driver and this doesn’t tell me that. It’s as simple as just not taking grid penalties in to account. I guess the easiest thing to do, would be to not call it a form guide. Because it just isn’t lol.

      • Jake (@jleigh) said on 18th April 2012, 21:54

        @mads All of your arguments are redundant as a grid penalty is officially counted as a race penalty. Therefore, technically, Lewis qualified 2nd and the form guide should reflect this, not because it’s a better guide, but because that’s what’s factually correct. As Jake Humphrey said on the BBC pre-quali coverage, if Lewis had got pole, it would count as a pole because a grid penalty is a race penalty.

  10. F1ll (@f1ll) said on 18th April 2012, 18:50

    What are the odds now for Spain to be Buemi’s first win?

  11. dennis (@dennis) said on 18th April 2012, 19:22

    German site “auto motor sport” apparently have it confirmed by Helmut Marko, that Vettel will have to run the new version of the exhaust, as the team wants to concentrate on developing that solution.

  12. sato113 (@sato113) said on 18th April 2012, 21:05

    why not put DRS on the final straight? for the whole length of it. even if it lets you catch up, you;d be able to do a natural pass down the main straight. and even if you did overtake on the final straight you’d have to defend down the main straight.

  13. Overwatch (@overwatch) said on 18th April 2012, 21:11

    Good, that part of track was tedious not only in reality but also in F1 2010 game…

  14. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 18th April 2012, 21:16

    Sebastian Vettel’s post-race warning over the team’s lack of straight-line speed will be ringing in their ears

    Has anyone actually confirmed that Red Bull were slow on the straights, or was Vettel simply frustrated that he couldn’t overtake Raikkonen?

    I vaguely remember from the speed trap information in the qualifying analysis article that Red Bull were somewhat down the order, but still just as fast as McLaren.

    • Toro Stevo (@toro-stevo) said on 19th April 2012, 0:52

      http://www.fia.com/EN-GB/MEDIACENTRE/F1_MEDIA/Documents/chn-race-trap.pdf

      They were slower, but not by much if the speed trap is to be believed.
      These are the best speeds recorded though, so it’s hard to infer what the average difference in top speed was, especially using different tyre sets or fuel loads.

    • nefor (@nefor) said on 19th April 2012, 4:08

      @adrianmorse
      I had thought about this too, Lewis’s quote in the press conference:

      For you Lewis, a lot of battles throughout the race but a very exciting one at the end with Sebastian Vettel. Tell us about it?
      LH: It wasn’t just with him. It was with everyone really. They [Red Bull] were massively quick on the straight, even when we had the DRS engaged. You had to use all your KERS to get right up behind and obviously you get to the DRS zone and try to use the DRS to catapult past. Finally, I got close enough to do so. I guess he was out a bit longer on his tyres. Nonetheless, he put up a good fight. So did all of them really. I think we lost a little bit of time behind, I think, maybe Pérez. But nevertheless it was still exciting racing.

      and Sebastian’s quote:

      We were generally too slow on the straights, and we’re losing time there; it made it difficult to pass other people.

      from the post race quotes seem to contradict each other.

      What I remember from the race backs up Lewis, I seem to recall JB and Lewis both taking some time to get past Seb and only really achieving it because they had newer tyres and had a better exit and could commit more to the hairpin at the end. They didn’t waltz past as others had done.

      Of course maybe Seb was only able to defend due to KERS and early in the battle having DRS activated from following Kimi.

      • Dave (@davea86) said on 19th April 2012, 6:42

        Part of the problem was the huge train of cars. Even if you had the DRS activated, chances were that the car in front also had the wing open.

        I think they got the DRS zone spot on in China. If you need a good run out of the preceding corner, a lot of KERS and the DRS just to get close in the braking zone then it’s still up to the driver to get the move done under brakes and gives the leading driver a chance to defend. It probably helped bring more cars together as well which made the racing more interesting.

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 19th April 2012, 13:56

      @adrianmorse It’s pretty much a given that they’re slow on all straights. That’s the philosophy they have employed for at least the past 2 seasons. They usually make up for a lack of top speed by destroying everyone else in the corners. However, the EBD doesn’t suit Vettel at the moment so he’s losing out in both areas, hence the frustration.

  15. ECWDanSelby (@ecwdanselby) said on 18th April 2012, 21:23

    (there were minor tweaks to the layout following the inaugural race in 2004)

    Never realised there were changes – What were they?

    Cheers!

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.