The Bahrain Grand Prix will, for the first time, be run in the evening under lights, with a consequent drop in track temperature expected to be around 15 degrees as the race progresses. Race start time is 18:00 local time, which is 16:00 BST. It’s a night race, like Singapore and the latter part of Abu Dhabi.
Mercedes, after strong showings in the first two race of the year, and having performed well here during winter testing, look to be in a very strong position from Practice 1, and Williams are also expected to show well at this circuit after their promising testing here, something which has not quite been delivered so far in early race results. Their pace and fuel economy of the Mercedes power unit, was particularly evident in Vallteri Bottas’ Australian race, making up a huge number of places after an early puncture.
Tyre performance is likely to be key in Bahrain, with the high-friction track and the high-traction nature of driving the circuit, as well as the dropping night-time temperatures likely to make tyre strategy key to this race. Cars that are kinder to their tyres such as the Force India may benefit.
“Bahrain is a circuit where we’ve done two recent tests, so we go there with a lot of knowledge of the track, which we certainly benefit from,” said Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery. “We know that there’s a big traction demand and that’s why we’re bringing the medium and soft tyres. Temperatures at the start of the race should still be reasonably high. We’ve noted a very big drop in temperature though as soon as the sun goes down: a variation that can be as big as 15 degrees. Managing that very wide range of temperatures to get the best out of the tyres is going to be one of the biggest challenges for the teams throughout the weekend. This should make it quite tactical in terms of strategy, so it should be a very interesting race from that point of view.”
“Sakhir is well known to all of the teams as we spent eight days testing there in February and March with our new cars this year,” says Williams chief test and support engineer Rod Nelson. “It’s the circuit with the highest brake energy, and common issues are high brake wear combined with high brake temperatures. Due to a high track roughness and some of the highest track temperatures of the year, tyre wear and thermal degradation could both be issues here.
At Ferrari, who have been off the pace at the start of the year, some new updates seem to be providing confidence for Kimi Raikkonen, but Alonso is more sanguine.
“Unfortunately, I see not much to do in terms of magic changes, because it’s only five days, but no one in the team is giving up,” the Spaniard says. “It’s going to be tough again, but somehow we manage always to be in the top five, which at the moment with the performance we have is giving us some good points.”
Red Bull’s fortunes are mixed, with Vettel gaining a podium behind the two Mercedes in Malaysia, but Danile Ricciardo faces a ten-place grid penalty after an unsafe pit release in Malaysia, one of a series of setbacks in the race for the Australian.
During first practice, in daylight and higher heat, Mercedes headed the times in early running, and it was noticeable that many of the cars were struggling for grip out of tight corners, and the Lotus was particularly prone to getting sideways when it should have been pointing straight on. They appear to still have trouble with getting their brake-by-wire system to perform reliably. Performance was not really comparable with Qualifying or Race conditions as the practice took place in the heat of the day.
The time sheets are show below.
Mercedes dominated, both as a team and as a power unit. An uncommon error by Lewis Hamilton saw him go wide at turn 1 as wound up for his final qualifying lap, meaning Nico Rosberg won pole. Ricciardo’s Red Bull waa 3rd, but he’ll drop ten places due to a penalty applied from the last race for an unsafe pit release.
The surprise news was Checo Perez making it to 5th, well ahead of his team mate Hulkenberg, and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the top 10.
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