Why the desert conditions have special implications for the Bahrain GP


The Bahrain GP is next for Formula one on April 21st at a circuit situated in the middle of a desert. Its location offers a number of challenges for both drivers and cars, but which man and machine combination are best equipped to take the chequered flag?

Bahrain International Circuit: cars pushed to the limit


Sunday’s Bahrain International Circuit takes an April slot on the schedule for 2013, having previously alternated between the first, third and fourth race of the calendar since its inception in 2004.


The Middle Eastern circuit has a number of key characteristics that will present a different challenge for the teams than the previous three races. The track is made up of four long straights, all of which end in a high braking zone, offering clear overtaking opportunities. There are also a number of challenging medium-speed corners that require good car balance.


The track suits a set-up that sees a compromise between straight-line speed and cornering grip. With drivers at full throttle for just 50% of the lap during the race (and 57% in qualifying), the demands on the engine are less extensive than half of the courses in the competition.


Although the throttle might not be an issue, high temperature and low humidity could provide major challenges for the engines, while the circuit’s stop-start nature places a premium on the brakes – managing brake-wear is key.


Extreme temperature can play a part


With air temperature regularly close to 40 degrees (Celsius), the race weekend is a demanding Grand Prix for both humans and machines alike.


Being located in the middle of the desert means the track is frequently exposed to sand drifts, which create a number of challenges for the cars. Ever-changing grip levels coupled with swirling winds can affect a car’s balance and aerodynamics. Therefore teams must have flexible pit stop strategies allowing them the opportunity to react to any situation.


The sweltering heat and humidity also affects drivers and pit crews, with the slightest mistake potentially costing a win, ensuring all segments of the team are up-to the demands of the Bahrain Grand Prix is perhaps the teams greatest challenge.


Each of the previous eight Bahrain race weekends have been dry. The forecast suggests nothing different is expected this weekend. As always, however, the climate could change, so it is advisable to monitor the situation.


Will tyre wear prove problematic … Again?


The big story this season – apart from team orders – is the issue of tyre-wear. After a poor showing in China last time out, where the soft tyre lasted just seven laps, Pirelli have opted to use the medium and hard compounds as used in Malaysia.


With high track and air temperatures at the Bahrain International Circuit alongside a track surface that is made dirty by sand from the surrounding desert, it is one of the most demanding tracks of the year for the tyres.


Amid such tyre degradation, and the ever-changing track conditions, it is expected teams will utilise a three-stop strategy. Last year the top five finishers selected a three-stop strategy all starting on the softer tyre compound, while the top-placed two-stopper came sixth.


Qualification as a race performance indicator at Bahrain Grand Prix


We have already proved there was a good correlation between qualifying position and final race positions throughout the 2012 season.


We have now used the same model to examine the last eight Bahrain Grand Prix to indicate how much influence Formula One bettors can place on the relevance of qualifying at Bahrain as a race performance indicator.


The data shows a strong 0.68 correlation between qualifying and race position at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Interestingly the correlation is the strongest compared to the previous Grand Prix this season – Australia (0.45), Malaysia (0.48) and China (0.59).


Remarkably 88% of races at the Bahrain International Circuit had a correlation above 0.5, which stresses that qualifying provided a significant predictor of a drivers’ race performance for seven of the eight Grand Prix held at the track.


The 2010 Grand Prix showed a near perfect correlation at 0.91. The race was the opening to the season, which Fernando Alonso won after starting third on the grid. With near perfect conditions and only 21 overtaking maneuvers throughout the race, eight of the top ten qualifiers finished in the points.


The weakest correlation of 0.26 came at the 2005 race. The result was skewed despite Fernando Alonso winning the race from pole, after seven drivers were forced to retire, while Ruben Barrichello came from last on the grid to finish ninth.


The circuit is not known for its overtaking opportunities with an average of just 24.5 per race. However, with 72 overtakes last year (5th highest in 2012) the introduction of unpredictable tyres and unpredictable track conditions, has given the driver and teams an opportunity to gain an advantage by applying aggressive race strategies.


50% of drivers who qualified on pole at the Bahrain International Circuit over the past eight years have won the race, while the average finishing position is 2 – which highlights the difficulty of overtaking.


Other variables to consider


Both Red Bull’s Mark Webber 17.060* and Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez will have grid penalties at the Bahrain Grand Prix after the Formula 1 stewards penalised them for causing collisions in the Chinese Grand Prix.


Webber will drop three places for his collision with Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne while Gutierrez will be demoted five places at for his crash with Force India’s Adrian Sutil on Lap 4.


In China, Fernando Alonso – 3.510* on our Bahrain GP outright odds – claimed his first win of 2013 and the Spaniard favours the Bahrain International Circuit. Alonso is the most successful driver in Bahrain with three wins – 2005, 2006 and 2010.


The “prancing horse” is the most decorated car around this track with Ferrari winning 50% of the races – Alonso’s teammate Felipe Massa 21.080* has also won twice here in 2007 and 2008.


Three-time world champion Sebastian Vettel 3.610* remains on course to defend his title in 2013. Despite finishing fourth in China, Vettel still leads the drivers’ championship after three races.


Lewis Hamilton can be backed at 11.040* to win his first Grand Prix for new team Mercedes. However, the Brit has struggled historically in Bahrain with a second on debut in 2007 being his best finish – Hamilton’s average finishing position at Bahrain is 6.4.


Despite having a damaged front wing for the majority of the race in China Kimi Raikkonen 4.920* managed to finish second. After holding off Hamilton with little downforce, it showcased that running at its full potential the Lotus is a car capable of mounting a serious title charge.


With the potential for unrest due to the political instability it will be worth monitoring the situation to see if any teams’ preparations are hindered – 12 months ago Force India were caught up in an incident which saw there van hit with a petrol bomb.  Tmhe two drivers subsequently didn’t partake in free practice 2 leaving them at a disadvantage for the race.


(Source: Betfair)




Viewed 780 times

Comments and Feedback

There are no comments yet. Be the first to comment this article!

Register or log in to submit your comment.