Dueling in the Desert – The Bahrain International Circuit offers an interesting technical challenge for the teams. It may not have too many high-speed corners, but with its long straights, big braking zones and several low-speed sections, it is a circuit that requires good mechanical grip and a precise and responsive car.
In this regard it is quite similar to Melbourne’s Albert Park as the emphasis is on hard acceleration and stability under braking. A strong engine, good mechanical grip and sound brake balance are therefore the keys to a good lap in Bahrain, as Renault – winners of two of the four Bahrain Grands Prix to date – explain…
The team will run a similar aero package to Melbourne and Sepang, although the lack of high-speed corners in Bahrain means that the downforce settings will be a level lower than in the first two races. The three long straights also require a slippery car in order to get good straight-line speed in the race, although this can make the car nervous under braking.
A set-up compromise must be sought to ensure a stable balance in the quick corners and supple enough suspension in the lower sections to give good mechanical grip. Hitting this balance will also minimize oversteer on the exit of the slower corners, allowing the drivers to carry good speed onto the straights. Good braking stability is also important, especially in Turn 10 where the drivers must begin turning into the corner while still braking.
The Bahrain International Circuit is one of the more demanding circuits on the brakes, being similar to Montreal as one of the most severe tests of the year. With three big stops from over 320km/h into first- or second-gear corners, the car needs good stability to avoid locking tires during the race. The frequency of braking is also significant, especially between Turns 4 and 13, where the brakes are constantly running at high temperatures without the chance to cool down. Braking is further complicated this year by the absence of engine braking systems, and a mistake into the slow corners of 10, 13 or 14 could prove costly with the drivers having to be defensive down the following straights.
Tire energy is relatively low in Bahrain owing to the lack of high-speed corners and so the team will use the medium and soft option Bridgestone tires, as was the case in Melbourne. Tire wear is not a particular concern, although tire temperatures tend to be high because of the hot tarmac surface and the high brake temperatures that feed through to the tires. The presence of sand on the track surface also means that grip levels on the circuit are always relatively low and any sand will embed in the tires and reduce grip for several corners. Drivers must therefore stick to the racing line as much as possible to keep the tires clean.
The Bahrain Grand Prix gives a good test of the engine with around 63 percent of the lap spent on full throttle, but the latest generation engines are easily capable of running at peak revs in high temperatures. The only concern arises when high temperatures combine with especially dry air which can impact on engine cooling, or following the possible ingestion of sand which can impact severely on engine performance.
The fuel effect is slightly lower than in Malaysia because there are fewer quick corners that are critical to lap time. Carrying a heavy fuel load therefore has less impact in Bahrain, but a two-stop race is still the optimum strategy. We can expect the top ten cars on the grid to make their first stop anywhere between laps 17 and 21, with the second stops around laps 35 to 40. The bottom 12 cars will probably make their first stop between laps 20 and 25, and their second stop between laps 40 to 45.
Dennis Calls for 20 Race Cap – McLaren team principal Ron Dennis says he welcomes Formula One’s global expansion over the next decade but on the proviso that the sport’s calendar does not stretch beyond 20 races per season.
In his speech to delegates at the Motor Sport Business Forum in Bahrain, Dennis said he applauded F1’s drive into new markets, listing Russia, India, South Korea, Abu Dhabi, Qatar as new venues, but added that it was essential the grand prix racing stayed within its ‘natural logistical limit’.
“I welcome this expansion, and heartily commend Bernie Ecclestone for spearheading it,” he said
“But I have two provisos: Firstly, that the season never expands to more than 20 grands prix, which I regard as a natural logistical limit and, secondly, that we preserve a closed season over the winter.
“The closed season is essential not only for logistical reasons but also in order to stir up a sense of anticipation in the hearts and minds of F1 fans.”
Dennis explained that F1’s traditional winter break played a hugely important role in the build-up to a new season and that the hype generated by it was crucial to the sport’s global exposure.
“The best-selling editions of Formula 1 magazines are always the season preview editions, for example, not the editions that are published during the season.
“And that’s because a sense of anticipation has been stirred up in the hearts and minds of Formula 1 fans over the preceding winter. So, as I say, we must preserve that.”
My Bad – Max Mosley, the FIA’s recently embattled president, on Tuesday issued an apology to all Formula One teams for any embarrassment caused by a sex scandal. Mosley said he won’t resign. There have been several calls for Mosley to step down after a report in a British tabloid showed photographs of a man who appeared to be Mosley participating in a “Nazi-style” sadomasochistic orgy. The News of the World published shots that reportedly show the 67-year-old with five role-playing prostitutes in a London apartment–sparking outrage from racing circles around the globe.
In his apology, Mosley denied having any part in Nazi role playing and said he would pursue a legal case against the newspaper for invading his privacy. His current term as FIA president ends in October 2009.
“There is absolutely no question in my mind that Mosley should resign,” 1979 Formula One world champion Jody Scheckter told the Guardian.
In an editorial, the Times of London called for Mosley to step down, saying his actions threatened to tarnish the sport.
The pictures also touched off a firestorm of criticism from Jewish groups. Mosley is the son of Nazi sympathizer Sir Oswald Mosley, who founded the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s.
Meanwhile, Mosley’s plans to attend this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix are unknown. F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone told the Times that Mosley should avoid the race so as not to create a distraction. “He shouldn’t go, should he?” Ecclestone said. “The problem is he would take all the ink away from the race and put it on something which, honestly and truly, is nobody else’s business anyway.”
Mosley has been consulting with lawyers over the front-page News of the World story.