Bahrain to highlight performance of medium and soft P Zero
Bahrain will be one of just three circuits that Pirelli is yet to visit in competition this year, but unlike Hockenheim in Germany and the United States Grand Prix, the Italian firm has experience of the Sakhir track through two tire tests that were carried out there in December 2010 and January 2011, as Pirelli geared up to its Formula One return. On the first occasion, the test was interrupted by a sandstorm that blew sand onto the track and stopped the test car running: a situation that highlights one of the most prominent characteristics of the Middle Eastern circuit, which is located in the middle of the desert.
Sand frequently gets onto the track and reduces grip, but it is very hard to predict when and where. Pirelli will bring the P Zero White medium tires and P ZeroYellow soft tires to Bahrain: the same combination used in Australia and China.
The Sakhir circuit will revert to its original 5.412-kilometer track layout in 2012, having used an extended loop the last time that the race was run in 2010. The 15 corners and variable track width provide ample opportunity for overtaking. Traction and braking form the main challenges of the circuit, with the cars going from 315kph to 65kph in just 130 meters and three seconds at turn one. This generates forces on the tires equivalent to 5G. The surrounding sand means that the track can be very dirty, especially at the beginning of the weekend, so it is very important for drivers to stick to the racing line, particularly on the fast but twisty section from turns four to seven.
PIRELLI’S MOTORSPORT DIRECTOR SAYS:
Paul Hembery: “There are a number of technical challenges that we are anticipating for Bahrain, with the hot conditions in excess of 30 degrees centigrade putting the compounds into a different working range. We’ve gathered some data from the track as the result of our tests there in the past, but the tires and cars have changed so much since then that it is almost like starting again with a blank sheet of paper. However, we’re expecting a notable degree of degradation that should certainly test the teams in terms of strategy. With the circuit not having been frequently used, we are anticipating quite a high degree of track evolution over the course of the weekend. The risk of sand on the track can be an issue, as it takes time to clear and can cause graining. So tire management will again be crucial in Bahrain, with rear traction in particular the key to a strong qualifying and race pace.”
THE MEN BEHIND THE STEERING WHEEL SAY:
Pedro de la Rosa, HRT: “The Bahrain International Circuit is very tough on the rear tires because there are many first, second and third gear turns where you need plenty of traction and grip, and the tires suffer a lot as a result. That’s why it’s a good track for tire testing. We tested there with Pirelli twice, when I was the test driver. It was a fantastic experience and I enjoyed it a lot, as we even got struck by a sandstorm! I’ve experienced rain, hail and even snow but I’ve never encountered a sandstorm in a Formula 1 car, so that was quite incredible…The track is also tough on the brakes because you have turns such as the first, fourth and last one where you brake very hard, going from seventh to second gear. It’s a great circuit for overtaking with the kilometer-long main straight, another long one between turns one and four and a final incredibly long straight between turns 13 and 14. How the DRS works is also very important: with DRS and slipstreaming, overtaking should not be a problem. The wind in Bahrain has a big influence on the behavior of the car and braking, so when you go from 320kph to 70kph, if you get it wrong by a couple of meters, it’s very easy to lock the front tires and get a flat spot, and this is a common sight on turn one in Bahrain. You must try to reduce camber as much as possible, in order to put the maximum amount of the surface of the rubber on the asphalt to achieve good braking and traction. You need to reduce downforce because of the large number of straights. It is quite a standard circuit in terms of pit stops. I expect teams to carry out two-stop strategies since the tires are holding out longer this year and the new Pirelli profile is very beneficial to make the most out of the rubber.”
PIRELLI’S TEST DRIVER SAYS:
Lucas di Grassi: “I’ll always have very good memories of Bahrain, as in 2010 it was where I made my debut as a Formula One race driver, with Virgin. Bahrain is very challenging when it comes to tire consumption and car set-up. There are some long straights so you need to have a balanced compromise, but achieving the best possible traction is definitely the key to a good lap time. Using the DRS together with the tires effectively will be essential for qualifying. In particular, getting a really good exit from the corners onto the straights is a sure way to make up time. If you spin the wheels, that takes life out of the tires as well as slowing you down. Bahrain is always quite an unpredictable circuit in terms of track evolution. The sand is a very big factor. When the sand is blown onto the track, this decreases the grip and the effect is to make the car slide more, increasing tire wear.”
TECHNICAL TIRE NOTES:
• The asphalt surface, made up of 60,000 tons of imported granite from England, offers good grip when clean and is classified as medium in terms of abrasion.
• Fernando Alonso is the most successful driver in Bahrain with three victories to his name, followed by his Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa. Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button are the only other winners.
• The first corner is a critical one. It’s important to exit turn one cleanly in order to make the most of the left-hand kink that follows and get a good drive onto the straights. Many places are won and lost here at the start.