Irish fans will feel a sense of Deja-vu when they tune in to watch the Bahrain GP this weekend. Having given the qualifying changes a “No” vote last time out we will be asked to try again as, having originally appeared to be unanimously rejected, 2016 Qualifying spec will return.
Elimination style qualifying without the quick refuelling systems or extra tyre allocations needed to allow teams to properly attack the proposed system remains in place for Bahrain. While we were treated to some drivers and teams being caught out in Q1 and Q2 by the time Q3 arrived we saw early single laps leading to early driver weighing as teams valued, and will continue to value, race strategy over overnight glory.
Bahrain features a twilight start and a finish under lights. Teams have now experienced the new tyre regulations, so may have more ideas as to how to get the best out of them. Certainly Ferrari will be looking to learn from the mistakes made when they failed to react to Mercedes’ switch to Medium compounds, effectively surrendering the race after blistering starts from Vettel and Raikkonen. The three nominated compounds (medium, soft and supersoft) are the same as those for Australia.
THE CIRCUIT FROM A TYRE POINT OF VIEW:
-The 18:00 start time means that track temperatures fall dramatically as the race goes on.
-The granite based asphalt is rough and abrasive, which increases tyre wear.
-Sand can often blow onto the surface from the surrounding desert, affecting grip.
-There are a number of slow corners where good traction is crucial, so the track is rear-limited.
-At the same time, there are four fast straights, so a versatile compromise set-up is required.
-Safety cars rarely affect strategy: there have only been two in the 12-year history of the race.
THE THREE NOMINATED COMPOUNDS:
-White medium: a low working range compound that is one of the most versatile in the range.
-Yellow soft: a high working range compound with the accent on performance.
-Red supersoft: a low working range compound that is rapid but with a limited overall life.
HOW IT WAS A YEAR AGO:
-Winner: Hamilton (two stops: started on soft, changed to soft on lap 15, medium on lap 33).
-Best-placed alternative strategy: Raikkonen, second (also stopping twice, but starting on soft, changing to medium on lap 17, then soft on lap 40).
-There were a mixture of two and three-stoppers. Vettel was fifth, with an unscheduled three-stopper (final stop to replace a nose-cone and take on new tyres)
PAUL HEMBERY, PIRELLI MOTORSPORT DIRECTOR:
“The new tyre regulations for 2016 proved to be a big success, providing many different strategy options and talking points for all the teams in Australia. Bahrain is a very different type of circuit, with tyre behaviour affected by a big drop in temperature as the race goes on. This provides a different set of challenges and parameters, so it will be interesting to see who has learned most from Australia in order to take best advantage of another new situation. There are some quite diverse choices from the teams, which will play a key role in the race outcome.”
Images courtesy of PIRELLI