Bahrain Grand PrixView

By on Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Bahrain-2013-nightFormula 1 heads back to Bahrain this weekend for the third round of this year’s championship. Mercedes has won both races so far this season and has already opened up a commanding lead in the title battle as the teams return to a familiar venue for 2014. Two of the pre-season tests were held at the Bahrain International Circuit while it will also host the first post-race test of 2014 next week.

Bahrain hosts its 10th Formula 1 event this weekend on its 10th anniversary (it was cancelled in 2011) and to commemorate the milestone the race will be held under floodlights, with the start at twilight and the chequered flag falling in full darkness. The circuit has installed 495 lighting poles, mirroring the circumstances in which the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix takes place.

The later start time will mean that cooler conditions will be a feature, reducing the emphasis on tyre preservation compared to 2013 and rendering a lot of data accrued during the pre-season tests meaningless. Alongside Formula 1, the GP2 Series makes a welcome return as a support package in Bahrain, with the first race taking place on Saturday lunchtime. The series has retained its GP2/11 chassis for a further season, while the driving talent steps up a notch with both Ferrari and McLaren fielding their next young guns in the form of Raffaele Marciello and Stoffel Vandoorne.

For the first time in 2014 a couple of teams will hand track time to their test drivers during Friday practice. Erstwhile Caterham driver Giedo van der Garde will replace Esteban Gutierrez in first practice, while Robin Frijns will make his Formula 1 race weekend debut for Caterham in place of Kamui Kobayashi during the opening 90 minute session.

History

Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull/Getty Images

Bahrain joined the Formula 1 calendar in 2004 and an unmemorable race was won by Michael Schumacher, before Fernando Alonso won at the track in 2005 and 2006. Felipe Massa took top honours in 2007 and 2008, while it was Jenson Button who prevailed in 2009.

Traditionally either the third or fourth round of the season, Bahrain shifted to become the season opener in 2010 and to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Formula 1 the endurance layout was used. Sadly, it became an endurance for the worldwide audience who were treated to an insipid encounter as Alonso won on his Ferrari debut. The race was cancelled in 2011 following political unrest in the country and when it returned in 2012 it played host to a close race between Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen on the normal layout. Last year’s race was by far the most entertaining at the track as Vettel made some early moves to seal victory while there were scraps lower down the order as well. Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean completed the podium places for the second successive season.

Circuit

Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull/Getty Images

Aside from the visual changes caused by the floodlights – which Toro Rosso’s Jean-Éric Vergne believes will give the race a feeling akin to MotoGP’s round in Qatar – the first corner has been named after Michael Schumacher. The German advised organisers during the construction process and won the inaugural race in 2004. DRS zones will be in the same place as 2013: the detection point of the first zone is 10 metres before Turn Nine and the activation point is 50 metres after Turn 10. The second zone’s detection point is 108 metres before Turn 14, with activation occurring 270 metres after Turn 15.

Malaysian Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton explains the challenges that the Bahrain International Circuit provides.

"The layout has a great combination of fast, slow and medium corners which make it tough for the drivers and the car," he says. "The lap starts with a long, DRS-enabled straight heading into the first corner. This is very tight right-hander, changing down to first or second gear before immediately shifting up again as you head immediately into Turns Two and Three. After the second of four straights, Turn Four requires quite heavy braking and can catch you out on the exit. As you clip the apex the track starts to drop away from you and it can be quite tricky to stop the car from sliding wide. After the downhill section of Turns Five, Six, Seven and Eight, you rise up again briefly before a tricky slope down through Turns Nine and 10. These are off camber and it's easy to lock the inside wheel as the curve gets tighter and tighter.

"The third straight comes next, with a second DRS zone making the following corner at Turn 11 one of the best overtaking opportunities around the track. This is a flowing curve which switches back into the right-hander at Turn 12. You try to take this flat out before braking into Turn 13. You need a late apex through this corner and it's essential to get that right, as it leads into the fourth and final straight of the lap. The same applies for the Turn 14 and 15 combination, which bring you back onto the home straight."

Timetable (GMT+3)

Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull/Getty Images

Friday 4 April

  • Practice One: 14:00 - 15:30
  • Practice Two: 18:00 - 19:30

Saturday 5 April

  • Practice Three: 15:00 - 16:00
  • Qualifying: 18:00

Sunday 6 April

  • Race: 18:00 (57 laps or 2 hours)

If you liked this post then share it with your friends on social media websites. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with the latest F1 news.