Following an intriguing opening race to the season in Australia, this weekend the action moves to Sakhir and the Bahrain International Circuit, home to round two of the 2016 FIA Formula One World Championship, the Bahrain Grand Prix.
As is to be expected, a permanent circuit carved into desert rock provides a very different racing experience to the park roads of suburban Melbourne. While not renowned as a power track, the four straights of the Bahrain International Circuit do place greater demands on the power units than those experienced two weeks ago. The short straights also contribute to the stopstart nature of the layout, which places a heavy burden on brakes. While not quite to the level that will be seen later in the year at the Canadian Grand Prix, Bahrain nevertheless requires performance and cooling at the heavy end of the braking spectrum. Allied to this, engineers and drivers will also have to pay particular attention to the traction demands in Bahrain. Lacking the flow of other circuits, comparatively big lap time gains are to be found in getting the power down early out of the low-speed corners.
For the second race in a row, Pirelli brings the medium, soft and supersoft compounds, with the medium and soft tyres being the mandated race sets (each driver must have both these sets available for the race, and must use at least one of them during a dry race). The supersoft tyre provides something of a wildcard this weekend, never having previously been raced at the Bahrain International Circuit. Compared to Australia, discretionary tyre choices for Bahrain show greater variety between teams but less divergence between team-mates.
Nico Rosberg comes to Bahrain having taken the young season’s first victory in Australia. The dry statistics from Albert Park detail another dominant Mercedes 1-2 finish but, amid the complexities of an exciting season-opener, its rivals will have drawn encouragement from the very close battles on track. It sets the scene perfectly for a thrilling Bahrain Grand Prix.
BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT
Length of lap: 5.412km
Lap record: 1:31.447 (Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren, 2005)
Start line/finish line offset: 0.246km
Total number of race laps: 57
Total race distance: 308.238km
Pitlane speed limits: 80km/h in practice, qualifying, and the race
DRS ZONE ► The DRS sectors at the Bahrain International Circuit will be as last year. The detection point of the first zone is 10m before Turn Nine and the activation point is 50m after Turn 10. The second zone’s detection point is 108m before Turn 14, with activation occurring 270m after Turn 15.
► This is the 12th Bahrain Grand Prix. The first race took place in 2004. The scheduled 2011 race was cancelled. The 2010 race was held on the longer ‘Endurance Circuit’ that features an extra loop between what are Turns Four and Five on the otherwise-used ‘Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit’.
► Six drivers have won the Bahrain Grand Prix. They are Michael Schumacher (2004), Fernando Alonso (2005, 2006, 2010), Felipe Massa (2007, 2008), Jenson Button (2009), Sebastian Vettel (2012, 2013) and Lewis Hamilton (2014, 2015).
► Always an early-season race, Bahrain has proved to be a good barometer of championship pedigree. On eight occasions the winner of this race has gone on to win the Drivers’ Championship and on ten occasions the victorious team has lifted the Constructors’ Championship at the end of the year.
► Pole position hasn’t proved especially relevant in Bahrain with only five of the 11 races won from P1. The race, however, has never been won from lower than fourth place on the grid – though Kimi Räikkönen did finish on the podium (P3) in 2006 having started 22nd and last.
► Pedro de la Rosa’s 2005 lap record of 1:31.447 set in the McLaren MP4/20 is over a second slower than Schumacher’s fastest lap for Ferrari in 2004. The discrepancy is due to kerbs being realigned at Turn Four, changing the racing line sufficiently for the revision to be considered a new track layout.
► Romain Grosjean’s sixth place for Haas in Australia represented the first wholly new constructor to score on its debut since Mika Salo took a point for Toyota in 2002, also with sixth in Albert Park. The last time a non-works team grabbed points at its maiden race was 1993, when JJ Lehto took fifth place for Sauber in South Africa.
► With the number of supersoft tyre sets available likely to once again influence the elimination qualifying format, the different allocations may have considerable significance for the grid order. Manor going into the weekend with four sets of the red-banded compound; Sauber and Toro Rosso have five; Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Force India and McLaren choose six, leaving Williams, Renault and Haas with seven.
► While never having raced, supersoft tyres have been tested at Sakhir, when teams conducted two winter tests at the circuit ahead of the 2014 season. While used sparingly, the 2014-spec supersoft recorded a longest run of 19 laps. The 2016 version is, however, different in both compound and construction.
► In 2006 and 2010 Bahrain held the championship-opener. Of the current grid, Nico Rosberg (2006) and Nico Hülkenberg (2010) both made their F1 race debut here, both driving for Williams.
► This is the third Bahrain Grand Prix to be run as a night race. It is one of three races to be held under floodlights in 2016, alongside Singapore and Abu Dhabi. [Source:FIA]