How the F1 teams will approach the Bahrain Grand Prix on track
Strategy Briefing
Posted By: James Allen  |  18 Apr 2012   |  7:04 am GMT  |  100 comments

There are quite a few unknowns going into this race weekend. Sakhir circuit has been modified from the 2010 event, without the extra loop, which was added just for that event. This means the track is shorter by just under a kilometer and four braking zones have been removed. The last time this layout was used there was still refueling in F1, so the strategy for this year will be completely new.

With lots of corners following each other and a heavy car at the start of the race, Bahrain is one of the toughest circuits of the year on brakes, with four major stops per lap from over 300km/h.

The late April date means that the temperatures are likely to be very high, which will lead to increased tyre wear. Also making the picture pretty interesting is the fact that there was no race at Sakhir last season, so Pirelli has not raced there before. It did conduct some tyre testing on the track however, during the early stages of its 2011 development programme.

The track, being in a desert, is also at risk of being coated in fine sand and this can compromise grip levels.

When you’ve read all about the considerations the teams will go through when deciding their plans for the race, see if you can find the best strategy using our Race Strategy Calculator. Click here to use it. Race Strategy Calculator

Track characteristics

Sakhir Circuit; 5.41 kilometres. Race distance: 57 laps = 308.23 kilometres, 15 corners in total, mostly medium speed, with three long straights

Aerodynamic setup – Medium downforce. Top speed 322km/h (with Drag Reduction System on rear wing) – 310km/h without.

Full throttle – 50% of the lap. Total fuel needed for race distance: 150.8 kilos.

Time spent braking: 16% of the lap. 7 braking zones. Brake wear: High.

Loss time for a Pit stop = 18.6 seconds
Total time needed for pit stop: 22.6 seconds.

Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.38 seconds (average/high). Fuel consumption: 2.6 kg/lap

Form Guide

The Bahrain Grand Prix is the fourth round of the 2012 FIA F1 World Championship.

The first two races of the season saw McLaren dominate in Australia, with Malaysia hard to draw many conclusions from due to changeable weather conditions, although Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso won the race from Sauber’s Sergio Perez. In China the Mercedes was fastest in qualifying and its race pace was strong enough to win the race in cool track conditions. McLaren has the fastest car in general, with Red Bull faster in the race than in qualifying.

As far as drivers’ form is concerned at Bahrain, Fernando Alonso has won the race three times, Felipe Massa twice while Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher have both won it once. Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have never won in Bahrain. As far as teams are concerned, Ferrari has four wins from the seven races held at the venue since the 2004 inauguration.

Weather Forecast
The end of April is quite late for a Bahrain Grand Prix, which has generally been held in March or early April previously. The temperatures rise throughout the month and it is forecast to be around 33 degrees over the race weekend. With very dark asphalt the track temperature tends to be significantly higher, well into the 40 degree range with such ambient temperatures.

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Bahrain: Soft and Medium.

This race is likely to produce the highest track temperatures of the season so far and it will be a learning experience for the teams and for Pirelli as the Italian tyres have never raced at Bahrain before. They have tested there in up to 50 degrees temperature and feel they know it well enough.

The high temperature creates more movement in the tyre compound and this accelerates the tyre degradation.

The stable weather conditions in Bahrain are likely to mean that the practice sessions will give strong indications for race strategy, which hasn’t been possible in the previous races this season due to interruptions and rainy conditions.

The pattern which has emerged so far from the first three races is that hotter track conditions tend to suit the McLaren, Red Bull and Lotus, while cooler conditions play to the strengths of the Mercedes, Ferrari and the Sauber.

Number and likely timing of pit stops

Before any practice has been done on the circuit, Pirelli predicts three stops in the race. It will be the degradation in tyre performance, which will decide the pit stop strategy and this is likely to be dictated by the high track temperature and by the way the teams get their cars set up to cope with it. The rear tyres will go off first due to the number of traction events out of corners.

The teams may also be looking to manage their strategy differently, possibly looking to use the medium tyre more as a primary race tyre than the soft, possibly using it for two stints rather than one. This proved a winning ticket for Mercedes in China.

The front runners, who must start the race on their qualifying tyres, will be likely to start on used soft tyres as it is clearly the faster tyre for a qualifying lap.

The simulations show that the difference between the soft and medium tyres will be around 0.6 seconds per lap, although this will come right down in the race and that the life of the soft tyre will be 18 laps, with 22 laps the longest the medium tyre will last.

Our own analysis, using the Race Strategy Calculator shows that a two stop strategy with stops on laps 18 and 37 for new medium tyres looks like a good default strategy. Saving a set of new soft tyres looks like it has some advantages too. See if you can find a better strategy.

Chance of a safety car

The chance of a safety car at the Sakhir circuit is low, due to the vast expanse of run off areas around the circuit. There was a safety car in the 2007 race to clear away on track debris, but otherwise the races have been fairly clear.

Recent start performance of drivers

Starts are crucial in race strategy and can make or compromise a race. In China we saw Kobayashi, who had been the best starter in the first two races, lose 4 places off the grid. Webber lost 3 places, as did Vettel, while Button, Hamilton, Perez, Kovalainen and Massa gained 2 places. Webber is already back at the bottom of the table, where he finished last season.

Glock, Kovalainen, Massa and Alonso are consistently good starters who gain places off the line at most races.
As far as 2012 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season, on aggregate, as follows –


+12 Kovalainen
+10 Massa, Perez

+9 Glock
+8 Alonso
+7 Kobayashi
+6 Raikkonen
+4 Pic, Di Resta
+3 Rosberg, Button, Maldonado

+2 Hulkenberg, Senna
+1 Hamilton, Schumacher*, Karthikeyan

Held position:

-1 Vettel, Vergne, De la Rosa
-3 Ricciardo,
– 6 Webber
* Senna, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg were all involved in accidents on 1st lap in Australia
** Schumacher and Grosjean collided on Lap 1 in Malaysia, Senna and Perez pitted for wet tyres on opening lap

Pit Stop League Table

Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds by F1 teams. It is clear that the field has significantly closed up in this area, as well as on track performance, with 8 teams within 1.1 seconds of each other – much closer than last season.

The league table below shows the order of the pit crews based on their fastest time in the Chinese Grand Prix, from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it. The 2011 league table positions are in brackets.

Worth noting is that Ferrari again had not only the fastest time outright, but the most consistent. All four stops were under 20.2 seconds, far quicker than any other team. They have improved a lot in this area.

1. Ferrari 20.024s (5)

2. McLaren 20.177s (3)

3. Red Bull 20.377s (1=)

4. Force India 20.387 (4)

5. Mercedes 20.645 (1=)
6. Sauber 21.012 (8=)
7= Lotus 21.184 (6)
Williams 21.184 (7)

9. Marussia 21.327 (11)
10. Caterham 21.851 (8=)
11. Toro Rosso 21.884 (8=)
12 HRT 23.151 (12)

Now you’ve read all about the considerations the teams will go through when deciding their plans for the race, see if you can find the best strategy using our Race Strategy Calculator? Click here to use it. Race Strategy Calculator

The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from several of the F1 team strategists and from Pirelli

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

A couple of strategies improving the standard 2 stop strategy here. One is a 2 stopper and the other 3 stops with no new option tyres…

I am sure the race will have a lot more elements to take into account and enjoy!!! cant wait



Mark mentioned that he broke the seat in his car during the china round. If it has damaged any other components what would he be able to replace without penalty?

I suspect although he has a good chance of a great result perhaps more damage than i thought may have occurred to his car and might bring him back down into the pack..

Richard Le Tessier

Great site James, & love the strategy simulator. I always go to new primes at the 1st stop while the car’s heavy, and it’s interesting to see what it does to race time when you don’t need to worry about track position.

My 2 stop strategy bettered your computer’s by ~ 4 seconds. My 3 stop was a further 8 seconds quicker – but I had to overtake the computer twice. It would be interesting to see what would happen in a real race.

Love visiting the site. It’s also great to see an F1 driver that went to the same High School that I did – Go Daniel Ricciardo!


Hi James,

will the RPM hosts continue on channel 10?

Iv’e been watching F1 for over 30 yr’s now, ever since I was a small child when it was projected upside down on the ceiling of my bedroom courtesy

of a hole in my bedroom door and a well place tv set in the living room. Parents never figured out why I always looked so tired on Monday mornings.

I always enjoyed the coverage and the team’s that hosted the show threw the decades.


Yes they will continue.

That’s quite an image you give us there!


Too much???



A three-stopper with to new options on 13, used options on 32 and new primes on 45 has potential.

You will be catching the two-stoppers just before their final stop so they won’t delay you too much and while you will have to pass them in the final stint, you will have much fresher tyres and you’ll catch them just as theirs start going off.


James, you have shown how many places people lost or gained from their grid position. At what point is this measured, is it after the first lap or taken from the final result of the race?


We do it from the end of first lap


I do think you should point out that Lewis has started from pole twice, so in that situation, it’s impossible for him to make up places – the same as Rosberg in China.

Those at the back have more cars to overtake after all!


James on a different note.. “Would it be legal for McLaren to re-introduce the F-Duct they had last year as long as it became transient to DRS system folowing the Mercedes Ruling?”, i.e. the F-Duct get activated not by driver movement but by DRS being activated.


You don’t need it now on rear wing as that’s the job DRS does anyway, to shed drag


My preferred strategy is a 3 stop strategy.

Start: Options(used)

Stop 1 on Lap 14 for used options

Stop 2 on Lap 28 for new primes

Stop 3 on Lap 42 for new primes

It is about 4 seconds quicker than a 2 stop race.


If you save the used options for the third stint, it’s about 8 seconds quicker.


4 stop strategy marginally better than 2 stop default. It is possible but requires one set of saved primes though.

Should the primes work better at the end of the race relative to the start? less fuel load, more rubber down on the track?

James, want to let Webber know, he likes to stop early and power through at the end 🙂

Stop 1 on lap 9 for used options

Stop 2 on lap 20 for new options

Stop 3 on lap 34 for used options

Stop 4 on lap 45 for new primes


I think the one thing this calculator misses – and can’t easily feature – is that it assumes you are the only car on the track. You can get sequences faster but you generally end up falling behind the ‘default’ at some point.

The calculator doesn’t take in to account the fact you would almost certainly be held up behind any cars following this pattern of stops, never mind any other traffic, so you wouldn’t make the lap times it estimates and would also have increased tyre wear trying to pass the slower traffic.

Even just assuming two cars, your strategy would result in you behind held up behind James just before your third stop and would also mean you would have to pass him in the dying laps of the race, although the previous delay would probably mean you’d not quite catch him before the end.

It’s a fun tool and I suppose if you think about it carefully shows just how hard it is to be an F1 strategist!


That’s the idea, it’s to give people a chance to get closer to the sport



I hope the race runs smoothly this weekend, although I fear that it won’t. F1 probably shouldn’t be in Bahrain this weekend, but nonetheless your there. Your readers will surely look forward to reading your thoughtful reports this weekend. At a personal level, you and most of the team personal I’m sure would probably have preferred to skip this weekend, but as a BBC reported you have a professional obligation to report the news. Good luck and stay safe.


Big +1 from Me!

Good luck James and the team, stay safe…


Optimal (but realistic) strategy according to the strategy calculator:

Stop 1 on lap 14 for new primes

Stop 2 on lap 28 for new primes

Stop 3 on lap 43 for new options

Overall about 13 seconds faster than the default strategy.


That does indeed seem to be the optimal strategy.

Stopping a on lap 12 is not a great deal slower, and in some circumstances could gain track position, so the leader will have to watch out for undercut attempts on the first and subsequent pitstops.

I don’t expect many drivers will manage to save three new sets of tyres for the race, but for those with the ability to go fast on their first qualifying attempt, it’s a good strategy – especially since two-stopping is riskier in the heat of Bahrain.


Highly unlikely that any team will have 3 sets of new tyres


If you manage to only use 1x primes in Q1, 1x options in Q2 and 1x options in Q3 – wont that leave you with 2x new primes and 1x new options for the race? Unrealistic? The Mclarens?

Other (no so competetive) teams, should be able to save a set (or two) in Q3 as well, by not running. Was thinking about Ferrari, Renault, Sauber…


Rosberg had three new sets in China, I think – though he only used two in the race.

It’s difficult, but ‘highly unlikely’ is a slight exaggeration.


Disappointing to see that Williams are only joint 7th fastest in their pitstops, after making such a big deal about the Michael Johnson tie up. That’s not really worked out well, has it?


James, am I right to say overtaking is not esp easy here, and the 3 longish straights are not long enough as in china for example?

Precise braking and tyre management point to Button, Alonso and Raikkonen, rather than Vittel and Hamilton.

Also do you think Webber is on a roll at present mo?


We’ve seen plenty of passing into T1 and will do this year too.

Webber is doing ok, like Hamilton, consistent with 3x P4. He loses out at starts though


Why IS that? Webber seems to have had very bad starts for the past 2 years at least. It’s such a major influence on Red Bulls results – are they any close to identifying and rectifying this problem?


I know some will reckon KR’s experience in china puts him out of the tyre management trio, but I think the team did reckon that Kimi could attempt the impossible and stay on wasted tyres another dozen laps…


Still Merc has no signed the Concorde Agreement, according to Speed tv, Bernie is making ridiculous proposals again, like teams can buy last years cars from other teams and some races may be worth more points. But the agreement is secret. Why not just have all the rules secret Bernie, half seem to be already? Then race in secret too. Then we don’t need to bother any more!


from what data I have got it looks like 3 stops are better than 2 here.


Here’s a three stopper which came out ahead by about 15 seconds of the default for those in the top 10: start on used options and stop on lap 13 for options, stop on lap 26 for primes, stop on lap 43 for options until the end of the race.


I’m wondering, does the aero setup affect tyre wear significantly? I would suspect there would be some effect, so would the strategy calculator not be more accurate if you could also adjust the aero setup of the car? Or would that be far too complicated in terms of the maths needed?


Hi James, it’d be great if you could get a layout of the track and refer/annotate it. This way, the track characteristics would be more apparent without having to flick between sites.


Great preview James! As always.

Just a shame that Australian viewers have had their live F1 viewing rights revoked for the rest of the 2012 season as of today 🙁

Dark days down under …


Cannot remember, but did they advertise to show all the races live (on ONE) before the season started? If so, then what happened to that (can it be called a promise?)?


Yes, they did promise all races live and in HD on ONE.

In this afternoon’s qualifying, they were advertising tomorrow’s race time as ‘live’. Now for someone living in SA like myself, that would be false advertising.


…”Then I suddenly noticed on my browser that the qualification is on”…it was between 7 and 8 pm.


Yep, that’s what I was wandering about (the false advertising bit). I’m in WA, and I think they had qualification announced at 8.30pm on ONE today, so I was thinking of watching it (since I thought at least the qualifying was going to be live). Then I suddenly noticed on my browser that the qualification is on (Ten’s live online-stream). Well, at least can watch it live on internet hopefully (if Channel 10 doesn’t restrict that also…you never know having seen what they are capable of).

I was just wandering if there would (hypothetically) be anything ACCC could do about it, if they didn’t tell truth to the customers about their product…


Article from The Australian explains it nicely.

I’ve no doubt F1 will be on the Foxtel network next year.

(pay TV for those who don’t know)

RPM has also been canned. These guys have hosted the F1 shows and done a great job. Very sad …


Delayed into SA now. Terrific. Have just wasted money on new F1 Live timing App to follow live coverage better. NOT HAPPY TEN!!!!

Tom in adelaide

Me too…. 🙁

James, I appreciate your attempt to put this in a positive light, but really it is a massive step backwards for us Australians. Channel 10 only broadcasts in SD.

Personally, i’ll be switching to live online coverage. Bad move channel 10.


Qualifying(ONE) and Race(TEN) live in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania. Qualifying live in South Australia and Western Australia. Race delayed in South Australia and Western Australia.

I am pretty sure about these details.


What’s this all about? What are the details?


please elaborate/ provide sources. i live in perth


Channel 10 will be showing European races live AEST, and will be delayed into SA, WA and NT due to the time zones. Each race will start at 10pm in that time zone; therefore, each race will not be live except those on AEST.

Furthermore, we have lost our HD coverage and only getting SD coverage.

JAMES – please tell me your view on this seeing as you do work for TEN.


Thanks, James. I have to say, though, that it isn’t exactly going to reach much bigger an audience as the majority of the nation has access to ONE anyway.

This move disadvantages many fans who will not get to watch the race live. Surely you can agree that the sport must be watched live to fully feel the excitement the sport has to offer. Theres nothing like sitting with live-timing on the app/website to the side whilst the race is unfolding in front of you.

What this will do is push away many viewers to online streaming obtained in a way which may not be legal.

The logical step would either leave it live on the main channel (as it will still be in primetime in all markets), or show it live on One for the disadvantaged states.


Channel 10 are probably thinking they can do this and not lose any viewers. Do fans such as us have no alternative and still watch anyway?

The race for me in WA will be delayed by 2 hours. I would have to avoid TV (popup news bulletins/updates etc) and the internet (obviously) for 2 hours on my bloody weekend!

Instead I’ll be jumping online to view a live broadcast. I pay a full subscription to foxtel monthly, bought myself a HD TV but I still have no legal avenue to view a live broadcast (let alone a HD broadcast) of what is supposedly one of the biggest sports viewer-wise in the world.

Very disappointing and such a shame as the 3 Australian hosts do such a great job. They’re down to earth, yet you can still see their passion behind the sport……


From what I hear the move means that F1 will reach a bigger audience than ever, so from that side it’s good.


Look on the bright side – you’ve still got your highly entertaining and ever evolving V8 Supercar series to enjoy.

What’s the scoop with the loss of live F1 TV though down there?


Correction required: V8 Supercar series is not entertaining nor evolving…



tom in adelaide



where did you hear that? the race is being shown live on channel 10 this weekend?


Correct, Chan 10 is pulling the HD feed, not the whole broadcast.

Does seem that we might lose the live feed when races return closer to out timezone



James, as the Middle East is in our daily news, is the Bahrain GP now an advertisement for Bahrain or the F1 Sport?


With the gap between option/prime being blurred as to which is the better race tyre are teams having to think a bit more on Saturday about whether they might need to save a set of new Primes?

Last year it was always about trying to save a new set of options for the race. Might we see teams trying to save an extra set of primes this year?

Ideal Saturday strategy (for top 10 team)

Q1 – 1 set of primes

Q2 – 1 set of options

Q3 – 1/2 set of options (start race on these)

Leaving 2 new primes and 1/2 new options to cover a 2/3 stop race.


Sorry what I didn’t articulate very well was that it’s no longer necessary to try and gamble on getting through Q2 using only prime tyre as the prime tyre is just as valuable for race day as the option.

so if anything it makes qualifying strategy a bit less of a headache.


Hi James,

What do you think the chances are of somebody getting into Q3 and then starting the race on primes?

I’m thinking of someone like Alonso who will probably qualify no higher than 8th/9th anyway. Might be worth a shot?


Or not setting a time at all in Q3, and starting on new options.

I believe Grosjean did this in China ?


We have to wait until after FP2 to know how prime performs relative to option


Just looked at the strategy calculator. There seems to be no indication of which tyres and condition you are starting on or whether you can select this. Apologies if this has been asked before or I have missed an obvious explanation in the text.


It presumes you start on used softs like top 10 must do


Unless they don’t run in Q3?


Would you say that Hamilton’s frequent ability to extract the maximum from the car (and therefore presumably the tyres) over a single lap means that he will have taken significantly more life from his tyres on the qualifying lap than Button who tends to qualify slower? For the purposes of this question I am assuming that neither of them had any other tyre damaging incidents during the lap such as a lockup or lairy slides.


In China, Hamilton used the same tyres in Q2 and the first run in Q3, which due to the cooling in track temperatures turned out to be the fastest lap in Q3. As such, at the start of the race, Lewis’ tyres were already 3 laps older compared to the others which explains why he was pittinbg first relative to the others.

I am sure Lewis will have an easier job with his tyres if he puts it on pole and leads from the front in clear air. Fingers crossed, it will happen this weekend.


That slightly misses my point which was that if all other things were equal, i.e. just one run on new options in q3 and then use them in the race, would a driver that qualifies faster because he gets more out of tyres then disadvantage themselves in the race because they had taken more life out of the tyres? Or is the difference negligible?


Thanks for this. Very informative as usual.

Can you clarify this please.

The rear tyres will go off first due to the number of traction events out of corners.

What is traction event?


when you see big black marks left on the road from the tires either when braking (smoke cloud) or when accelerating (11’s)


High Braking


No, High braking effects the fronts more, not the rears.


A moment when you floor the throttle out of a corner and the wheels spin


Wouldn’t that be a non-traction event 😉

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