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Pirelli changes tyres for Bahrain – In depth look at how the race will pan out
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Apr 2013   |  10:12 am GMT  |  215 comments

This weekend’s Bahrain promises to be another tense race and is likely to be decided on race strategy, if last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix and last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix are anything to go by.

And one important detail to note is that Pirelli has changed the tyre specification for this weekend from the soft compound tyres which proved short-lived in China, to mediums, which have been used in every race so far. Alongside this tyre is the hard compound, which was used in Malaysia. Due to lead times and logistics, this decision will have been made before the Chinese weekend, but when Pirelli announced the tyres for the first four races of the season, the soft and hard were the nominated tyres.

This will help the Red Bull and Mercedes teams, which have had more problems with the softer compounds and will work against Lotus, which has a more gentle action on the tyres. Nevertheless Kimi Raikkonen could have won in Bahrain last year and is one of the favourites this year.

So how will this weekend play out? As usual we can show you all the detailed considerations the teams will go through when planning their race.

With very high temperatures, lots of corners following each other and a heavy car at the start of the race, Bahrain it 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, as they were last year, which leads to increased tyre wear.

The track, being in a desert, is also at risk of being coated in fine sand and this can compromise grip levels. There is usually significant track improvement as the weekend goes on.

Track Diagram courtesy of the FIA

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 – 64% 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 2013 FIA F1 World Championship.

No team and driver has shown any significant advantage to date, with the top four teams quite closely matched on performance. Tyre management continues to be as important to results as any other factor.

Lotus could have won in Bahrain last year with Kimi Raikkonen; they came very close to beating Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull, so Lotus will be worth keeping an eye on this year, especially with their superior tyre management.

As far as drivers’ form is concerned at Bahrain, Fernando Alonso has won the race three times, Felipe Massa twice while Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel have both won it once. Lewis Hamilton has 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, and last year we saw the temperatures rise throughout the month and it is forecast to be very hot again, around 34 degrees or more over the race weekend, as it was last year. 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: Medium and Hard.

This is the second time this combination of 2013 Pirelli tyre compounds has been seen, after Malaysia. Last season for Bahrain Pirelli brought the soft and medium tyres.

The original plan announced by Pirelli in February was for soft and hard tyres at this race. But that has been changed.

Tyre degradation was very high last year, especially due to the heat. Degradation is a measure of the decline in lap time performance, whereas wear is the consumption of the tyre. Degradation on the soft tyre was very extreme in China, with tyres lasting no more than seven laps in the race and drivers reluctant to use them in Q3 for fear of compromising strategy by starting the race on a used set and making an early first stop.

Teams like Lotus and Force India also found that there was a significant benefit last year to saving a set of new tyres for the race compared to used sets from qualifying. So it could well be another disjointed qualifying session.

Based on last year’s figures, a new set of tyres compared to a used set is worth around 8 seconds over the course of a stint.

This race is likely to produce the highest track temperatures of the season so far. 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.

Number and likely timing of pit stops

Last year the race was a fairly clear three stopper for most of the front runners. This year the choice of the hard compound tyre as well as the medium should lead to better durability, but three stops is likely to be the order of the day. It’s how the teams break those stints down and which combination and order of tyres they use, which will be the key. Spacing the stops evenly and bringing a car out into gaps in the traffic are first order priorities. This requires careful planning, good data from Friday practice running and a strong grid position.

However Force India showed last year that there is another way; the team took the decision for Paul Di Resta not to do a lap in the final part of qualifying, but instead to save the tyres for the race, knowing that he was going to try to do a two-stop race. This gave him two new sets of soft tyres and one new set of mediums for the race.

The ideal two stop race was to stop on laps 19 and 38, but even though he had new soft tyres at the start, he couldn’t get further than lap 14 before the degradation became too great, relative to the three stoppers, and he had to pit. He was the last of the top ten to do so. This left him exposed on worn tyres at the end of the race, but he still got a sixth place finish.

For a car that is gentle on its tyres, this is a strategy worth thinking about for this year, depending on expected life for the soft.

Once again, it will be the degradation in tyre performance, especially the medium, 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 front runners, who must start the race on their qualifying tyres, will be likely to start on used medium tyres as it is clearly the faster tyre for a qualifying lap.

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

Getting a good start can make a huge difference to the way the strategy is managed and the final result, while a poor start compromises a race and makes it harder for the strategy engineers. As far as 2013 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season as follows:

+7 Van der Garde

+5 Gutierrez
+4 Perez

+4 Button

+4 Alonso

+4 Sutil

+2 Pic

+2 Maldonado

+2 Hulkenberg**

+1 Chilton

Held position


-1 Bottas
-1 Di Resta

-2 Hamilton
-2 Rosberg
-3 Webber*
-4 Raikkonen
-4 Ricciardo

-5 Grosjean
-7 Vergne
*Webber dropped from second to seventh after a clutch problem in Australia
** Hulkenberg did not start in Australia

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, including Red Bull’s fastest stop in the recent Malaysian GP at 2.05 seconds.

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

Interestingly the field has really closed up here, with just 1.4seconds separating the fastest and slowest teams. Williams has dropped to the bottom of the league table.

1. Red Bull 19.323s 

2. Ferrari 19.449s

3. Mercedes 19.600s
4. Force India 19.831s 

5. McLaren 19.862s

6. Lotus 20.083s
7. Toro Rosso 20.235s

8. Sauber 20.327s
9. Marussia 20.625s
10. Caterham 20.743s

11. Williams – 20.794s

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

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That should have said “chronicles”


Alain Prost has chimed in and mentioned that when he was racing they had to start with 250 liters of fuel on board and couldn’t push 100% at the beginning of a race for fear of the brakes or the tires not lasting the race distance. There was also mention of ’94 and how at that point refueling and tire changes were (re)introduced. Essentially driver’s from today’s generation and even Schumacher mostly were able to go all out between each pitstop, yet things were not always so, as mentioned above. How about an article that chronologicals the tire history (70’s through today)?


Tyre history???

Have we not heard enough about tyres already?


I really dont like DRS. It is just too easy to pass. The skill is removed and most of the drivers just yeild because they know their coming.. Its quite a joke. That mixed with tyres going off after 1 lap and team orders and and and… What happened to racing? Are they still racing??


Bernie Ecclestone sent an apology letter to the human rights activists of Bahrain. He said he can understand their cause, and is willing to meet Bahrain opposition. This is very surprising!


i think first race in bahrain was held in 2004 and i dont remember it ever rained there..and it seems again that all 3 days will be sunny… so isn’t it unnecessary for pirelli to bring intermadiate or wet tyres ? they could normally save some money…


Kimi will win this race. He will qualify on poll and never be seen again. He will start on mediums to lap 20, take mediums again on lap 45 and do 11 laps on the hards.


Merc or RBR will take pole.

Followed by an easy win by Kimi or Alonso.


Believe yer right.


Unfortunately Mercedes or Red Bull will be on pole. Not to say it couldn’t be done from behind the first row (see Alonso).


How long will his pit stops last?


Yeah I know 3.1 &3.2 sec ,he will make up for it in clear air !


I hope he does not do that, because he would have done 1 lap short 🙂

Hope that your prediction regarding the winner comes through though.


Thought it was 56 laps. He will do 12 on the hards


The DRS in China and Malysia particularly seemed a tad over-the-top.

I’m hoping the way they’ve split them up in Bahrain, rather than having one down the long back straight just before the one down the front straight, will work a little better.

It’s actually one of the first things I thought of when I heard they’d be running two DRS zones for most tracks this year. “Bahrain is going to be ridiculous”. I’d forgotten about that smaller stretch in the middle and just assumed they’d have them one after the other down the long straights.


I absolutely don’t understand why with 2 DRS zones, there are no 2 detection points.

As it is today you might overtake in the first zone and run away in the second, robbing the other driver of his chance to counter.


There are two detection points though. In Malaysia it was the exit of 12 I think for the first detection point, and the 2nd was actually in the final corner. We saw Rosberg take Hamilton going down the back straight, in front through the final corner, and then Hamilton would take him straight back down the front straight. Either Rosberg wasn’t really having a crack at him, or he wasn’t being very clever about it, as it would have been better to just use the first DRS to get right up behind him going into that last corner.

In Bahrain the first detection point is just before the corner leading into the DRS zone, and the front straight’s detection point is just before the 2nd last corner (that is… before the kind of double-corner that leads on to the front straight).


“Due to lead times and logistics, this decision will have been made before the Chinese weekend”

I’m sorry but I just don’t but this. Especially the logistics part. Even assuming the softs were already on their way to Bahrain and they need to make a second shipment, if I phone around enough companies and tell them I’ve got to get several hundred -new- tyres to Bahrain in 7 days then there will be companies able to deliver – at a price. If I (Pirelli) need to save face badly enough (which they do!) then they’ll pay that price.


Why on earth do they need to save face?


The soft tyres barely lasted a full qualifying lap in Shanghai. There’s no way they’d be up for completing a lap in Bahrain. That’s a pretty urgent case for needing to save face if you ask me!


The decision was made soon after Malaysia. I know this to be true


Yes, made right after the Malysian GP.


Why has it only just been announced? I can’t find any source to back this claim up?


What claim?

Heinzman (Fan of: ALO)

Let’s bring back Imola


Great idea!


I recall a race at Indianapolis (a track with massive loads placed on tyres) several years back. Half way through the race Schumacher’s engineer spoke to him over the radio. He told MS that the wear/degradation levels on his tyres were fine, specifically saying “more than 100 laps”. This was a 73 lap race. Meaning he could run two whole race distances on the one set of tyres. The only factor to consider was fuel.

If I could choose between what we have now and the above scenario, I’d go with what we have now. Although, I would like to see refuelling again.


Check out this absolutely wicked old video. Its just 3 laps. 3 laps! …But the amount of action in it could cover a full modern grand prix. Only Lewis and Kimi have that sort of race craft in this era.

Take note of how the cars attack, jinking from left to right, always on the limit. Its because the tyres of the era allowed it, any driver trying such in todays fake races would retire in lap one with wrecked tyres.


Bring back the golden age and bring back Murray Walker! 🙂


Yes, very nice. Gladiators on wheels. Now it’s everyone on their own race programme, and we’ll see how it all ends up in the final laps.


You’re not wrong! A great video indeed. But this was the 80’s/90’s era (the greatest era of F1). The 1993 season fielded the greatest Formula 1 cars ever designed; in particular the Williams. Specifications and rules were completely different.

Straight line aerodynamics for example, has evolved to a point where slipstreaming alone without the aid of DRS will seldom get you close enough to the next car to attempt a pass. At the same time, aerodynamic downforce is so significant that in turns a following driver can only get so close before the vacuum created by the leading car renders his downforce insufficient. This means he can’t close the gap any further. Combine both these aerodynamic factors along with grippy and durable tyres and the result is processional racing.

DRS, KERS, volatile tyres enable much more interesting and exciting races. To describe current F1 as ‘WWE’ is a rather extreme overstatement. When the cars line up on the grid the outcome of the race is still far more unpredictable than the early 2000’s racing was.

Personally, I would like the regulations to be overhauled. Very tightly restricted budget with totally unrestricted technical regulations. Traction control, ABS, ground effect, active suspenion, different engine types, ‘f’ ducts, continuously variable automatic transmission, moving aerodynamic devices, fan cars, even six wheelers! Innovation, imaginitive engineering. This is what Formula 1 is supposed to be about. A change such as this would hopefully return (even surpass) F1 to the quality of racing seen in the early 90’s.

With tightly restricted budgets, teams and designers would have to choose carefully what innovations and technologies they are going to pursue. Rules are for the racetrack, the workshop/factory/laboratory should not be hindered by such things. I bet men like Adrian Newey have some ideas they would love to implement if allowed to do so. 🙂


Great write James and love that you add the track lay out.(keep it up for every race)

As for tyres, everyone has the same choices and there are the same 2 choices for everyone for cost reasons, imagine the cost and management if Pirelli let the teams choose whatever they liked. it’s the same for everyone it’s up to them to setup to the tyres chosen.



I have wondered why it is not possible for teams to nominate their chosen tire compounds for each race in enough time to logistically make sense. Teams could pick the tires they would race on- say 2 months in advance of a race. Then teams with higher wear could decide on different strategies than teams with lower wear. To me this would spice things up and open the door for lots of different speculation on strategies when the team’s choices are published for everyone to see. Seems like a pretty simple way to spice it up and stop teams from crying about the tires they are given. Heck- you cold even see someone like Marussia throwing a flyer by choosing super-softs for a run at pole position on a track typically suited to harder tires. I wouldn’t mind seeing that!


Never thought of it this way… this could very amusing to see indeed…



Has F1 considered shorter pitlanes or increasing pit lane speed limit to encourage more attacking strategies ??


I think the pit lane speed limit is set as fast as possible at each race with special consideration given to the width of the pitlane and how close the garages are to each other.


You mean as fast as possible, as in Monaco in the early 90s (where there was no limit) or as fast as possible as in Monaco today?


This is fantastic James, just when I thought these pre-race summaries couldn’t get any better, you do yourself proud. Love the track graphic from the FIA.

Keep it up James, I’m so excited about the way the season is playing out already.


I’m not opposed to degrading tires, but if conserving tires is always faster than driving the hell out of them and giving them a few cool laps in between, then the concept is broken.

In a perfect world choosing “soft, hard, hard” and “conserving tires” would be just a tad slower but more secure than an aggressive “soft, soft, soft, hard” strategy. Taking some risks should always pay off, even though it may end in tears from time to time.


James do you know when Redbull and Ferrari intend on installing the FRIC suspension? Merc and Lotus will struggle to be at the front once those 2 teams implement these passive ride height controls.


James, as so many note, your efforts at providing the wider background articles are sincerely appreciated. Apologies for this suggestion being off topic, but it would be interesting to have some analysis of driver performance from the wider/career-type perspective, including team-related issues/politics. For example, it is mentioned above that Bahrain is one track where LH has not won. He arrived with a whole lot of “promise” in the media and continues to be noted as “fast” but the championships really haven’t followed and one woul think he can be truly called a “veteran” by now. There are several others in the field for whom this type of a look-see might prove interesting – Hekki and Button also comes to mind as arriving with significant promise proclaimed. Just a thought. Thanks again for your good work.


I’m surprised that no one mentioned that the hard is equal to last years’ medium and the medium is equal to the soft. So the hard or medium tyre makes no difference to last year. In other words, it’s theoretically the medium and soft (2012).

In my opinion, I still believe Ferrari and Lotus should come out good. This nonsense of Red Bull(sh*t) and Mercedes having an advantage is off the menu. I expect once again a fight between Lotus and Ferrari. Merc and RBR not far behind, maybe fight for pole thought. Let’s wait and see who is right come Sunday after the race.

Pole- Merc or RBR, maybe Ferrari and Lotus could surprise like China.

Race- Lotus with Ferrari maybe second or third!


Agree with your predictions there mate…


Agreed. The only time being easy on tires is a disadvantage is when you can’t get the tire up to temperature. That usually only happens only at the cold races or in wet weather; neither of which will happen in Bahrain.


You know when something is wrong in a sport when it dominates the discussion a little too often…



Seven different winners?

No mate, such seasons don’t happen everyday. Remember the last time we had that many different winners was in 1982.

Alonso too said that we won’t get 7 different winners.




Everyone and their dog complains about the tires. The tires get changed. Many of the same complain that about the tires now complain that changing the tires is unfair. Some people would complain if they were hung with a new rope (old redneck saying)

Here is my complaint, I think the hand wringing done by some about Bahrain fail to do the same about China. They fail to point out that Williams takes money from one of the more corrupt regimes in the world. As we speak Pastor Maldonado’s backers are stealing and election and suppressing protest in brutal fashion. Those MP’s that cry about Bahrain have not enacted legislation that would prevent Williams from receiving money from Chavez’s regime knowing full well of they stole that money by nationalizing the oil industry. Chavez went into power a poor man and died a billionaire all in the name of “helping the poor”. He accomplished this the old fashioned way, rig elections then suppress descent and killing your enemies. Me thinks some of those that protest might be a little inconsistent at best.

James if this is too strong and you wish to delete I understand.

On to the race, I for one hope this plays into RBR’s hands as I want to see them win the WCC and Vettel win the WCC. Webber needs to step it up here and try not to run into anyone. In a perfect world it would be RBR 1st and Second and Hamilton in 3rd.


When should they use used tires ? When this is good option ?


when they have run out of new ones…


What I really fear for, is anyone who has won a WDC in this era. In future, its value is going to be somewhat devalued.


I agree, and a thought experiment for you:

If Senna, that gold standard of F1 drivers, had DRS’d and KERS’d and his way to half his victories and simply relied on his opponents tyres disintegrating, or them being forced to run the sub-optimal tyre choice for a stint, or them having to pit-in for no other reason than because it’s in the rules that they have to, if he had done any of those things for the other half of his victories, you’d be asking me “Senna who?” right now because pushing buttons or exploiting ‘show enhancing’ rules to win just doesn’t demand the same level of respect. His wins and championships would have been dismissed as an curious artefact of the era, the same way Vettel’s accomplishments will be, and in some vocal corners already are.

A schism is coming.


Any team and driver that wins a championship in “this era” is like two in any other !-Limited testing, limited Budgets, 5-6 World champions , 19 races, difficult tyres, and tougher rules than the last generation where teams did pretty much what they like and tested all they liked .


Even if its won by Alonso?…


Unfortunately football fan partisanship is what you get when you make asinine comments about world championships being under valued because you do not like the driver that’s winning…


Please don’t belittle my arguments with footbal fan style partisanship. It is best to consider the wider health of the sport above all else.

This sort of partisan colouration of arguments in recent times is an unfortunate entrant into F1. I guess it comes with the gimmickry. I hope F1 fans are not going to be actually exchanging blows in pubs in the next few years; its time for the sport to do some deep introspection.


Hardly. With a float on the stockmarket in the pipeline F1 is going to get more gimmiky as time goes on. So people who started watching recently will consider these the golden years! I fear that 2010 will become the last good season F1 ever.


If 2012 was not ‘good’ by your own standards then you are right; we probably won’t have another ‘good’ season in a long while.

Mike from Colombia

2010 was the last good season.



No, I’m not disregarding 2012.


Disregarding 2012 due to convenience of course.


Yes, because a WDC won in an era of intensely close competition between the top teams is not an achievement that will be valued, but effortless dominations in previous years get the thumbs up.

…yeah right.


In spite of the fact that Pirelli is actually delivering on what F1/FIA (and whoever) tasked them to do, it is only resulting in negative PR for them.

I would not be surprised if they just get tired of it and leave the “sport” as soon as they can.


Good point. They are just doing as they’ve been asked.

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