Sakhir Grand Prix - Preview

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Following a dramatic Bahrain Grand Prix just a few days ago, Formula One drivers will be back in action this weekend as they are set to conquer the Outer layout of the Bahrain International Circuit.

Last weekend’s Bahrain round produced the most dramatic race of the season with Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean crashing out at high speed on the opening lap of the race. The Frenchman hit the barrier at the exit of Turn 3 at 137 mph, recording a force of more than 50g. After leaving the hospital, Grosjean now continues to recover and is forced to miss this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton will also follow the race from his hotel room after he tested positive for the coronavirus. This means that two drivers will make their Formula One debut this weekend with Pietro Fittipaldi driving for Haas and Jack Aitken competing for Williams, taking over the FW43 from George Russell who will step in for Hamilton at Manama.

Unlike the double-headers at Spielberg and Silverstone, the Bahrain events present a different set of challenges for teams and drivers as the second Sakhir round will be staged on the Outer layout of the circuit. This short, 3.543km layout will also present a number of set-up challenges.

This will be the third track Formula 1 has raced on at Sakhir, having also tried the Endurance layout in 2010 and it will also be the shortest on the calendar at 3.543 kilometres, as Monaco (3.337 kilometres) has no race this year.

While the first sector of the track remains the same, drivers will leave the normal layout at Turn 4 and power around a high-speed loop. The length and the high-speed nature of the track will mean that qualifying times are expected to be well below one minute. The only time that has happened before in Formula 1 was at the French GP at Dijon in 1974.

Drivers will need to complete the 3.543km lap 87 times to cover the race distance of 307.995km. There will be an offset of 246m between the finish and the start line just as it was the case last weekend. Pitlane speed limit will also remain unchanged with drivers required to adhere to a limit of 80kph in practice, qualifying and the race.

The track wil feature two DRS zones. The first has a detection point 50m before Turn 1, with activation 23m after Turn 3. The second zone features a detection point 110m before Turn 10, with activation 170m after Turn 11.

Pirelli will supply teams with the same tyre allocation as last weekend: C2 as the P Zero White hard, C3 as the P Zero Yellow medium, and C4 as the P Zero Red soft. This year’s nomination is a step softer than last year’s, where the vast majority of the drivers stopped twice at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Pirelli made the decision to bring a step softer allocation to Bahrain because drivers did not use the C1 compound last year and it wanted to make sure that the softer nomination bring all compounds into play.

The Milan-based tyre manufacturer expects that the Outer Circuit will be a bit less demanding on tyres than the standard circuit. The minimum starting pressure will be 23.5 psi for the front tyres and 21.5 psi for the rear tyres. The camber limit will be -3.50° for the fronts and -2.00° for the rears.

Matteo Togninalli, Head of Track Engineering for the Scuderia Ferrari also estimates that the tyres will be subjected to lower forces.

“Pretty much a new challenge but with a few known parameters. It’s true we’re racing at the same venue and on the same track surface, but it has different characteristics, as it misses out the slow section and the high-speed corners.

„The tyres will therefore have more time to recover in between corners. This affects the set-up and level of aero downforce, as well as tyre behaviour, given that they have to deal with 20 to 30% lower energy levels, particularly at the rear. So, some problems such as the overheating we saw last weekend should be less of an issue. In terms of efficiency, it is definitely higher than last weekend’s layout so I expect the cars to carry less downforce,” he said.