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.


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 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.”


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 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.”


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.


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.


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.


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 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

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71 comments on F1 heads back to original Bahrain track

  1. xeroxpt (@) said on 18th April 2012, 22:09

    The layout is far from brilliant but its characteristics and possible air\track conditions may result on the best race yet, high levels of tyre wear and slow traction areas promote more overtakes than the sort on China, even the start first few corners promote loads of overtake and massive shunts, so looking forward.

    About the other side, Bahrain is just another anarchy a country that is facing something that almost all countrys have faced and its essencial for Bahrains future, they will learn and the country will became another representative democracy rather than complete anarchy.

  2. schooner (@schooner) said on 18th April 2012, 22:32

    Re: Red Bull … It seems that RB have confirmed that they will stick with the “Webber spec” exhaust for Bahrain. I’m not much of a Helmut Marko fan, but I got a kick out of his statement. “We will go with the Mark Webber car. Mark is less sensitive to the car’s behavior. He just needs four wheels, but it’s different for Vettel.”

  3. david white said on 18th April 2012, 22:43

    Hamilton’s average qualifying position makes no sense (3) and is misleading. He’s got 2 poles and a 2nd place but because of a grid penalty for a technicality that occurred BEFORE the race weekend his average isn’t reflecting this. If your car breaks down in a race then fair enough – who knows where you may have ended up – but this isn’t the case for a grid penalty BEFORE the race weekend begins. I understand “officially” he qualified 7th in China last week but this isn’t an official F1 results page. To be a meaningful form guide it needs to take out the grid penalty. When I see the stats i expect to see Hamilton having a nearly perfect qualifying record for the first 3 races, not an average of 3rd place – it’s miselading and not a true form guide.

    • Alex W said on 19th April 2012, 0:39

      You are assuming that the gearbox fault had nothing to do with Hamilton’s driving. Granted unlikely but rougher driving can cause more problems, the same drivers have more faults than others. It is YOU that is making assumptions and messing with actual, real, results. Ultimately Hamilton/macca CHOSE to change his gearbox, because pole didn’t mean as much as a race result, get over it.

      • M30 said on 19th April 2012, 1:30

        So a F1 driver cracked the housing in a computer operated gearbox?
        By doing what?
        Driving the f1 car in the Monster truck finals?

        Don’t make me laugh.

        • Alex W said on 19th April 2012, 8:19

          It was a cracked housing was it? The computer chooses where the car drives does it? OK I stand corrected.

          • Craig said on 19th April 2012, 19:57

            Don’t be ridiculous, drivers have no effect on the longevity on gear boxes now a days. Its all computer controlled gear shifts. They don’t exactly have gear sticks.

            It is a component failure that could happen to anyone – just bad luck.

            “The computer chooses where the car drives does it?” Likewise driving over curbs will damage other parts of the car before the gearbox.

            “the same drivers have more faults than others”

            How many gearbox failures has Hamilton had recently? This is the first i can remember in a long time.

            Just accept your wrong and move on – rather than resorting to juvenile sarcasm.

    • Dave (@davea86) said on 19th April 2012, 6:55

      I don’t mind Keith’s system. There are too many “what if’s?” otherwise. If he knew he was dropping down the grid he might only do one run and save a set of tires for the race. This could cause him to qualify lower than he would have so it’s still not an accurate measure of ‘form’. It’s like back when the drivers in Q3 had to qualify with the fuel load they wanted to start the race with. If a driver knew he was getting a penalty he might put less fuel in to counter the penalty and qualify in a position that doesn’t accurately represent his ‘form’.

  4. ozzy (@ozzy) said on 18th April 2012, 23:11

    I hate the 2010 Bahrain track so much! Every time I start a new championship on my F1 2010 I need to play on that track, Aarrgh. Can’t wait for F1 2012, and what it thinks about the rules, teams and TYRES!! Lets all be glad that this track will be gone from the calendar soon!

  5. Ed Marques (@edmarques) said on 18th April 2012, 23:21

    Either way, this track is awful.
    But i think the race will be good (as the first three)

  6. DaveW (@dmw) said on 19th April 2012, 2:02

    De la Rosa has the lap record. Bet that seems like a lifetime ago for him. Does for me.

  7. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 19th April 2012, 4:05

    Bahrain is a new venue for Narain Karthikeyan

    It isn’t, is it? he did race there in 2005 with Jordan.

  8. Nara (@narazdache) said on 19th April 2012, 5:14

    Win for Kimi

  9. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 19th April 2012, 8:50

    @keithcollantine – We’ve heard a lot about the Pirelli tyres and how the teams have never raced at Bahrain without them, but what about the DRS zone? Has that been decided? The FIA usually announces it by now.

  10. nemo87 (@nemo87) said on 19th April 2012, 11:38

    not the nicest of new but did anyone see this.. used to be factory boss for Jordan
    tragic :/

  11. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 19th April 2012, 14:01

    John Booth makes a good point about Marussia. Their development has been impressive. It’s just a shame that they couldn’t get into pre-season testing.

    I didn’t pay much attention to them in China but I did note that Pic managed to bring down the gap in qualifying from Glock quite considerably between Australia and Malaysia. I’ll keep an eye on him this weekend.

  12. ed24f1 (@ed24f1) said on 19th April 2012, 15:22

    I actually don’t think this version of the track is that bad, it will be interesting to see how the track goes with all the changes since it was last used in 2009.

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