PRIXVIEW – Bahrain Grand Prix

Features Prixview

Formula One remains in Bahrain off the back of pre-season testing for the opening round of the 2021 season, marking the third time the Gulf Kingdom has held the opening race of the season and the first twilight opening race of the season. Bahrain has been home to some dramatic races including last years incredible Sakhir Grand Prix.

The current layout has been used for all but two of the Grand Prix’s held in the country, the sixteen corner Grand Prix Circuit dates to 2005. Featuring three straights and a tight infield section, the straights mean drivers need to be on it through the braking zones.

The circuit has a mixture of long straights and a tight infield section which creates opportunities for overtaking. But its high speed that matters on the three straights and that means that good downforce and speed are very important, as well as breaking at the end of the straights.

Designed by Hermann Tilke, the circuit cost £112 million to build and features six different layouts, three of which have been used for F1. The track surface is made from graywacke aggregate, shipped to Bahrain from Bayston Hill quarry in Shropshire, England.

The circuit has a mixture of long straights and a tight infield section which creates opportunities for overtaking. But its high speed that matters on the three straights and that means that good downforce and speed are very important, as well as breaking at the end of the straights.

The track’s most challenging point is the tight, downhill, off-camber Turn 10 left-hander, while the fast run through Turn 12 is another highlight, allowing the drivers to really feel their cars coming alive. However, being a night race where practices take place in the afternoon sun teams need to be careful not to overreact if they are miles off in FP1 and FP3.

The Sakhir circuit is not the easiest but not the hardest circuit to overtake, however in the hybrid era, there has been some closer racing and more overtaking. This was despite very little in terms of overtaking, that theory that the circuit had for its first decade on the calendar has now been disproved.

Bahrain became a night race in 2014, this race ‘dual in the desert’ set the theme for the next three seasons as Mercedes Sir Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s battle throughout the races for victory. that saw a race where both Mercedes pushed each other hard with Hamilton coming out the winner. Rosberg would have to wait until 2016 to get the victory.

The race takes place in the evening meaning that the track will cool down throughout the day, meaning setup during FP1 and FP3 the teams need to be careful not to react to the changes to the car in the warmer conditions. Also off the back of testing, they need to be extra cautious with not going too far towards warm conditions as that could

Ferrari are the only team that has beaten Mercedes in the hybrid era, they have also taken six wins since Bahrain made its debut. But we know the circuit favours high downforce and speed, which was key in Sebastian Vettel’s two wins for Ferrari in 2017 and 2018.

Charles Leclerc came close to taking his first win in 2019, until the closing laps of the race when he developed a technical problem allowing Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to close the gap and pass the Ferrari. However, the young Monégasque hung on to score his first podium.

Last year’s race will be remembered for Romain Grosjean’s horrific crash on the opening lap, the Haas driver was launched through the barrier and his car burst into flames. While from then on following the restart, it proved to be an easy drive for Hamilton following the safety car, his eleventh and final victory of the season.

In the Sakhir Grand Prix, Sergio Perez became the first driver since 2010 to win from fifth on the grid, setting the record for most races before a win, scoring what is now the Aston Martin teams first win since Interlagos in 2003. Also, the first Mexican to win a race since the 1970 Belgian Grand Prix, and the first win for none Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull since Melbourne 2013.

Perez won having inherited the lead on lap 64 of the race after longtime race leader George Russell, making his Mercedes debut, following a pit stop error and a puncture. That error has led to an amendment to the sporting regulations removing the threat of disqualification to the driver if the wrong tyres are fitted to the car.

Facts and figures

Round 01 of 24
Race Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2021
Venue Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain
Configuration 2005 Grand Prix
Circuit Length 5.412 km (3.363 mi)
Laps 57
Race Distance 308.405 km (191.634 mi)
Lap Record Race 01:31.447 Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren – Mercedes, 2005
Outright 01:27.264 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2019
Most wins drivers Lewis Hamilton (4)

Sebastian Vettel

Most wins manufacture Ferrari (6)

Fast facts

  • This weekend marks the 500th start for Mercedes as an engine manufacture, also a return to supplying McLaren who were their main customer and de facto works team between 1995-2009 return to Mercedes power. While for the team it’s only there 214th
  • This year’s race is the third time the circuit has hosted the season-opening race, it has in 2006 and 2010. It was due to hold the 2011 season opener but that was postponed and ultimately cancelled as anti-government protests known as the Arab Spring led to protests.
  • Despite being owned by Bahraini investors McLaren has never one a race in Bahrain.
  • Kimi Raikkonen has finished on the podium eight times in Bahrain but has never won the race.
  • F1 has used three different layouts of the Sakhir Circuit the only Hermann Tilke circuit which has seen this many different configurations. The 2005 Grand Prix Circuit has held most of the races, expect the 2010 race which ran on the Endurance Circuit and last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix, run on the Outer Circuit.

Event timetable

Session

Local

GMT/BST

Friday

P1 14:30-15:30 11:30-12:30
P2 18:00-19:00 15:00-16:00

Saturday

P3 15:00-16:00 11:00-13:00
Qualifying 18:00-19:00 15:00-16:00

Sunday

Clock’s go forward an hour in the UK

Race 18:00 16:00

What happened in 2020?

Bahrain held two races in 2020, for the first race Lewis Hamilton took pole after beat teammate Valtteri Bottas by two tenths to claim pole. The seven-times champion found two tenths on his final run in Q3 as he pushed Max Verstappen to third, the Red Bull driver had set provisional pole, but he struggled to find grip on his final lap leaving him four-tenths off pole.

The start of the race saw a dramatic and frighting crash for Romain Grosjean leading to a red flag. The Haas driver went off between three and four going through the barrier before the car spilt into two bursting into flames. Remarkably the Frenchman pulled himself from the wreckage and only had minor burns.

Following the restart, Hamilton looked unstoppable and despite pressure from the two Red Bull’s, he managed to remain in control allowing him to equal Schumacher’s highest percentage win. Verstappen was unable to challenge Hamilton who went onto take his eleventh win of the season. The Dutchman was six seconds ahead of his teammate Alex Albon.

Lando Norris was fourth beating his teammate Carlos Sainz by a tenth and a half, key points for the team in the battle with Racing Point and Renault in the constructors’ championship. An excellent recovery drive for McLaren following a tough qualifying

Hamilton was ruled out of the second race after testing positive for coronavirus meaning Russell would make his Mercedes debut, which meant Jack Aitkin would replace him at Williams.

Race One Result – 1) L. Hamilton, Mercedes, 02:59:47,515 2) M. Verstappen, Red Bull – Honda,, +1.254 3) A. Albon, Red Bull – Honda, +8.005

What to watch for?

We go into this weekend with a bit of uncertainty after Mercedes finished off at the test on the back foot with Red Bull widely to be the leaders. However, we have been in this position before, where we went to Melbourne expecting Mercedes to be on the back foot only for them to go on to dominate the race weekend.

Mercedes have always been strong throughout the hybrid era, there has been a theory that they were holding back the final car which will start the season. We have new regulations this season meaning cars go into parc ferme at the start of FP1, it will be interesting to find out how this affects the teams throughout the weekend.

The Sakhir circuit is one which requires high speed along the three straights but the tight in field section needs downforce, we will learn lots this weekend about who is truly where in the pecking order. We only recently raced in Bahrain, and with testing also taking place in the last five months teams have a lot of data.

There is going to be a risk throughout the weekend given the amount of running we have had in Bahrain in the last four months that the teams over analyse the data they have.

The midfield battle is something we always see is close and we saw throughout last season, in the Sakhir race last year when George Russell’s tyre failed, we saw a battle between Aston Martin and Alpine for victory in the closing stages. Of course, Sergio Perez who took victory in December now is with Red Bull, which should give them a boost in fighting Mercedes.

But Aston now has Sebastian Vettel and Alpine Fernando Alonso, but you need to believe that in the opening race of the season it will be difficult for him to be fighting at the front right away. However, throughout the test, we saw McLaren emerge as the strongest challenger in the midfield.

Bahrain is for me really about understanding the really pecking order as we head into the early part of the season, this will settle down as we get into the season a bit. But I believe the order normally settles down around Barcelona, but last year we saw these incredible midfield battles. I think if the pace in testing is correct the battle is likely to be between McLaren and Aston Martin.

2019 vs 2020 Race Data (Grand Prix Circuit)

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

P3 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest

Race Time

Fastest Lap

2020

01:29.033 01:28.971 01:28.355 01:28.343 01:27.586 01:27.264 02:59:47.515 01:32.014

Diff

-1.321 -0.598 -1.124 -0.125 -0.460 -0.602 -01:25:26.380  

2019

01:30.354 01:29.569 01:29.569 01:28.495 01:28.046 01:27.866 01:34:21.295 01:33.411

Race red flagged following Romain Grosjean’s crash on the opening lap

A lap of the Bahrain International Circuit

Valtteri Bottas comes out of the last corner builds speed and opens the DRS, then he crosses the start-finish line. Stays on the outside all the way along the straight before breaking in-between 150m and 100m boards. Turns in and get close to the kerb and then heads to the outside for two. He then runs to the inside kerb, building speed which he carries through three. Builds speed along the straight, before breaking at the 100m board for four. Hits the apex and runs the car to the exit.

Breaks slightly into five before building speed through the corner. Good through six and seven, breaks going into turn eight, hits the apex then runs to the outside. Crosses the track on entry to nine, goes through the centre and then begins to break. Hits both the outside and inside kerbs, before running to the inside. Runs along the support pits, breaks at 50ish metres running through the corner close to the apex then to the inside.

To the outside for thirteen, runs close to the kerb and then to the outside where he stays all the way along the strait. Breaks a 100m before fourteen where he takes the inside apex and then back to the outside where he stays until he crosses the line with a 1:28.789.

Tyres

White Hard (C2)

Yellow Medium (C3)

Red Soft (C4)

Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.