Preview: Bahrain GP

F1 Grand Prix, GP Bahrain, Bahrain International Circuitbh

Bahrain is home to the third Grand Prix of the season, the first one ever at Bahrain to be run at night under artificial lighting. This year's race will also be the 10th Formula One race at the BIC.

The Malaysian Grand Prix already saw the pack close together with 10 to 12 cars within one second of each other. There is expectation that this trend will continue at Bahrain, even though the Bahrain Grand Prix comes just 7 days after the Malaysian event. The hard braking zones and long straight sections are set to play into the hands of the Mercedes runners. Williams in particular has show particular agility and high top speeds on straights, thanks to its low drag package and solid Mercedes power unit.

The circuit includes four straights, starting with the 1km pit straight. After that there is the 500m burst between Turns 3 and 4, then the slightly longer straight linking T10 and 11 and then the final drag from T13 to T14, which is approximately the same length as the pit straight. With the ICE and turbocharger working at full revs for around 60% of the lap, Sakhir sits in the middle of the table for Power Unit demands. The straights give plenty of opportunity for the MGU-H to recover energy from the exhaust, but it’s crucial for it to convert quickly to the ‘motor’ function to give good drive out of the slow speed corners.

The evening's running will also make sure that temperatures will be dropping throughout qualifying and the race, posing a very different challenge to the previously burning hot sun during the race. Bahrain's lighting system consists of 495 lighting poles around the circuit, ranging in height from 10-45 metres. Over 500km of cabling was installed to power the system and it features 5,000 luminaries. The entire lighting project at the circuit took just six months to complete.

Car setup

Front wing Front wing settings are optimised around turns six and seven.

Rear wing Relatively high levels of downforce are required for Bahrain so the car runs with a lot of rear wing. Not to Monaco levels, but comparable amounts to Albert Park and Malaysia. High temperatures mean less dense and aerodynamically effective air to cleave.

Suspension There are reasonable traction demands so the suspension needs to be sufficiently compliant for these requirements. The traction demands from lower speed corners mean a focus on enabling maximum usage of the mechanical grip from the tyres. Kerbs are used in turn two in order to maximise the straightline speed before turn three and the long kerb at the exit of turn 10 is generally avoided because its harshness can hurt traction.

Brakes Bahrain represents the first proper test of braking systems of the season. Long straights lead into slow corners, meaning brake temperatures and wear levels need close monitoring.

Tyres Pirelli’s P Zero white medium and yellow soft are nominated. Despite the circuit’s desert domain, the track is not as sandy as you may expect – due to the circuit’s impressive track cleaner! The asphalt has a high abrasiveness which gives good grip but can lead to high tyre degradation. So far the tyres this year have proven to be quite tricky to manage in the races having similar degradation than 2013 despite being a step harder.

Engine set-up
With four long straights over the course of the lap the MGU-H will have plenty of opportunity to recharge while the heavy braking points at the end of the straights allow the MGU-K to keep the battery reserve at high charge. The circuit is therefore in the middle of the table on the balance between electrical energy and fuel. One of the major challenges will be the hot temperatures of the Bahrain desert that will put the cooling system of the Energy F1-2014 under a great deal of pressure. With cooling requirements already at a premium with the high rotational speeds of the turbocharger and MGU-H, adding extra external temperatures will make engine cooling a priority task on the job list.