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Guessing game for F1 teams at first ever Bahrain Grand Prix night race
Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Apr 2014   |  5:23 am GMT  |  125 comments

The teams did a significant amount of pre-season testing in Bahrain this year, which will give them a good baseline understanding of the best way to attack this Grand Prix, however this year the race is being held at 6pm local time as a night race for the first time and this will mean that the track conditions will be cooler than in previous races here and the temperatures will fall as the race goes on.

Pirelli has brought the soft and medium tyres from its range; although last year the medium and hard were brought, the tyres this year are a step harder so it is a similar situation. Last year the most common strategy was three stops, Much will depend on the performance and degradation of the tyres in practice on Friday in the cooler evening temperatures, but indications from testing suggest more two stoppers this year.

Bahrain it is one of the toughest circuits of the year on brakes, with four major stops per lap from over 300km/h.

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 characteristics – Click on Track Map to enlarge

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

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

Full throttle – 64% of the lap.

Time spent braking: 16% of the lap. 8 braking zones. Brake wear: High.

Total time needed for pit stop: 23 seconds.
Pit lane length 480 metres

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

For an at a glance printable guide to all the key strategy points about Bahrain, click here At a glance Strategy notes

Form Guide

The Bahrain Grand Prix is the third round of the 2014 FIA F1 World Championship.

Mercedes has the clear advantage presently, with two pole positions and two race victories. Its customer-engined teams McLaren Williams and Force India occupy second fourth and fifth places in the Constructors’ Championship table.

As far as drivers’ form is concerned at Bahrain, Fernando Alonso has won the race three times, Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel twice while Jenson Button has 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. Nico Rosberg took pole position in 2013.

Weather Forecast
Last year’s race was very hot, taking place as it did at the end of April. Track temperatures were well above 40 degrees. This year the race is early April and is being held at night so it should be cooler. There is little chance of rain and in general conditions should be stable across the weekend.

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Bahrain: Soft and Medium

This is the second time this combination of 2014 Pirelli tyre compounds has been seen, after Melbourne. Last season for Bahrain Pirelli brought the medium and hard tyres.

Last year’s event saw significant thermal degradation on the tyres, which pushed many drivers into three or even four stops. This year the conditions are likely to be kinder.

The rear tyres are the limitation around this track due to wheelspin out of slow corners, especially with the torque of the new hybrid turbo power units and the relative lack of rear end downforce due to the banning of exhaust blown diffusers and the reduction of the rear wing.

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 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

For the last two seasons, this has been a fairly clear three stopper for most of the front-runners, with some positive results for outliers using two stops, such as Lotus and Force India last year,

However with the race being held at night for the first time and therefore cooler conditions, this may swing many of the teams towards a two stopper.

The optimum two stop is to pit on laps 19 and 38, while a three stopper would be something like laps 14, 28 and 43. The choice of tyres and when to take them will be interesting and dependent on the difference in performance between the soft and medium tyres in practice.

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

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 2014 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season as follows. The results are cumulative and aggregated, anomalies like first lap accidents or starts from the pit lane are noted below.

Gained places

13 Bottas
9 Ericsson
4 Kobayashi
3 Massa, Chilton, Rosberg, Hulkenberg
2 Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Sutil, Grosjean,Magnussen, Maldonado, Gutierrez

Net Held position
Button [Perez/Bianchi – see Notes]

Lost places

10 Vergne
4 Vettel,
3 Hamilton, Kvyat
2 Alonso

Melbourne Notes: Kobayashi, Massa eliminated in a first corner accident; Perez, Gutierrez pitted at the end of Lap 1; Bianchi, Grosjean started from pit lane.
Malaysia Notes: Perez started from pit lane, Bianchi pitted at the end of lap 1

Pit stop League Table

Based on fastest time in the pit lane from Malaysian Grand Prix

1. Ferrari 24.222s
2.McLaren 24.415s
3. Red Bull 24.432s
4. Mercedes 24.484s
5. Williams 24.498s
6. Force India 24.887s
7. Lotus 25.046s
8. Toro Rosso 25.109s
9. Sauber 25.493s
10. Marussia 25.639s
11. Caterham 26.030s

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

For an at a glance guide to all the key points about Bahrain, click here At a glance Strategy notes

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