Bahrain History and Track Guide
For the second time already this season there are two races back to back. It’s been a fantastic season so far with three thrilling races. F1 2009 is providing us with plenty of surprises, and a completely different grid order.
This weekend Formula 1 goes to Bahrain, which is a track with different challenges and conditions, which should be the opposite of the cool and wet weather we saw in Shanghai.
Track History and Guide
Bahrain is another of F1’s modern facilities built by Hermann Tilke. The facilities here are state of the art and no expense has been spared. Bahrain signed the deal with Bernie to host the GP back in 2002. The organisers then did a great job to build it in 2 years ready for the first race in 2004. All the organisers are extremely welcoming and provide exceptional hospitality for the F1 circus and all of the media.
Bahrain was the first F1 race to be held in the Middle East region. There were other countries from the same region hoping to brag that right, such as Egypt and Lebanon but Bahrain won the battle. They have reaped the benefits since as they are now the centre of motorsport in the gulf and attract a host of other racing series including: Drag racing, GP2, Formula 3, GT Races and more recently the Australian V8 supercars. Bahrain has been a relatively successful F1 event always providing interesting races, and in 2004 the track won the award for best-organized race of the year.
The track’s desert setting makes this track very unique. The sight of the track surrounded by sand makes it very nice to look it. The sand can be a problem but it is compacted down to minimize the amount of sand that comes onto the track. This process costs the organisers thousands of pounds. However there is still always sand offline, so drivers will lose time if they lose their line in any of the corners.
The teams will be hoping that there won’t be a repeat of the sandstorms which struck in winter testing.
It is very hot in Bahrain but the humidity is nowhere near as bad as in Sepang. Therefore it is more bearable for the drivers.
The track itself is made out of 3 long straights, with a tight and twisty infield section in the middle. The track is also extremely wide.
The trickiest section on the circuit by far is turns 9 and 10. It starts off as a fast sweeping bend but suddenly gets tighter and tighter, and becomes a sharp left hand bend. It’s a very common site to see drivers lock-up and miss the apex here.
It’s important to brake accurately into turns 1, 4 and 13. It’s so easy to lock-up the brakes, and slide a little bit offline into the sand, which will lose the drivers time. On the plus side if you make a really bad error there is plenty of runoff. The fact that the run-off areas are the size of football pitches is one of the biggest criticisms of the track. Many feel that drivers should be more heavily punished when they go off the track.
In terms of setup it’s important to achieve a good straight line speed down all the straights. The setup will need to be compromised slightly in order for the car to handle well in the twisty infield section of the track. Most time can be won in the slow corners. However engineers can’t focus on the infield section too much, otherwise speed will be lost down the long straights.
Bahrain is a big test on the cars. At the end of the each of the three long straights is a heavy braking zone. Time can be won and lost here. Therefore it’s crucial that the car’s brakes are working well. Over the race distance brake wear could be a big issue, so the drivers that don’t trash their brakes early on in the race will benefit later on.
Bahrain is also hard on the tyres. With the usual hot conditions the track temperature can go sky high. A boiling track will increase the rate of tyre wear. Drivers will have to look after their tyres well over the race stints. The heat also means keeping the cars as cool as possible will be another issue, just as it was in Sepang.
Bahrain is the one of the easiest tracks to overtake on in F1. With a slow corner leading onto the long pit straight, it is easy to stick to the car in front.
Then there is a heavy braking zone at the end. We will see plenty of moves there in the race.
Turn 4 is another heavy braking area after a long straight. Same applies to turn 14. So that’s at least 3 obvious places where passing is feasible.
Even in the last few seasons, where overtaking has been near impossible, we have still see overtaking at Bahrain. With the new 2009 aero regulations the racing should be even better.
We should see KERs being more of an advantage. With a much longer run down to turn 1 than in China, more metres can be gained off the line with the KERs system on board. Also the drivers with KERs will probably make full use of the system on the exits of all the corners leading onto a straight.
Overall Bahrain is a great track with the possibility of providing great wheel to wheel action. The main negatives are that the circuit lacks the atmosphere and soul of classic circuits such as Spa and Silverstone. The other big criticism as mentioned early is the huge areas of runoff, which arguably makes life too easy for the drivers than it should be.