FORMULA 1: PREVIEW: Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2020

Updated: Nov 28, 2020

ROUND 15: Bahrain International Circuit


 

Where: Sakhir, Kingdom of Bahrain


When: Qualifying - SATURDAY, 28th November 2020 Main Race - SUNDAY, 29th November 2020


Time: Qualifying - 17:30 IST (17:00 Arabian Standard Time)

Main Race - 19:40 IST (17:10 Arabian Standard Time)


Where to Watch: Disney + Hotstar

 

Brief History

 

The Bahrain International Circuit was designed by German engineer and architect Hermann Tilke and consists of 6 different tracks, 1 test oval and 1 drag strip. The entire construction of this track cost ~ 56.2 million Bahraini Dinars (US $150 million) and is known for the increased grip it offers.


This spectacular circuit is built in the middle of the desert and therefore comes with its own unique challenge - the sand getting blown onto the track and disrupting the race! To tackle this problem, an adhesive is sprayed on the sand around the entire track before the Grand Prix.


The Bahrain International Circuit has hosted 15 races so far (2004–2010, 2012–present). The driver with maximum wins on this circuit is Sebastian Vettel with 4 wins to his name. Incidentally Ferrari have the maximum number of constructors wins on this track - 6 (the inaugural 2004 win was the courtesy of Michael Schumacher).

 

  • Construction of the Bahrain International Circuit was a project initiated in 2002 by Crown Prince, Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa as a matter of national interest. Bahrain had to fight tough competition from Egypt, Lebanon and UAE, each hoping to have the honour of hosting a Formula 1 Grand Prix!

 

Circuit Stats

 

  1. This circuit in Sakhir is an entirely clockwise track comprising of 15 turns - 9 to the right & 6 to the left.

  2. DRS Detection Zones: 3

  3. Lap distance - 5.412 km

  4. No. of laps - 57

  5. Elevation - 17.3 m

  6. Total Racing Distance - 308.238 kms


Tyre Compounds for this Race

 

Pirelli decreased the hardness of its tyres on this track by a notch and opted for the mid range of compounds. The track is relatively rougher compared to the others and offers much higher grip but also results in nasty abrasion. The tyre degradation, particularly the front left, was starkly visible after two practice sessions.


FP1 and FP3 are as always not very indicative of tyre performance as track conditions closest to qualifying and the main race are most similar to FP2. Nonetheless, after two practice sessions on Friday, the average time gap produced by each compound was observed to be as follows.




In an attempt to set faster flying lap times, Hamilton, Bottas & Ricciardo each used an extra set of softs making them one set short for FP3.

 

Although alcohol is legally consumable in Bahrain, drivers on the podium do not spray the traditional champagne. Instead they use a non-alcoholic rosewater drink known as Waard.

 

Driver Feedback

 

Track temperatures remained pretty consistent through both practice sessions allowing drivers to push themselves in FP2. Most drivers had problems with soft tyres losing life too quickly.


Mandatory testing of Pirelli's new prototypes for 2021 proved to be quite a hindrance to the tyre strategies for all teams. Drivers had to drive a minimum of 6 timed laps on the new compounds and provide feedback. However, Hamilton and Bottas both seemed to hate the lacking grip on their W11s. So did Sebastian Vettel who thought they weren't even relevant.


Two red flags halted FP2 - the highlight being Alex Albon's high speed crash on soft tyres at the final turn while trying to push hard. Albon safely walked away unhurt.



Max Verstappen looked pretty well paced as he thwarted the 2 silver arrows' claim to the front row by putting himself in P2 - 0.347 seconds behind Hamilton and just 0.018 seconds ahead of Bottas. Sergio Perez (P4), Daniel Ricciardo (P5) and Pierre Gasly (P6) looked in stellar form as well.


FIA update in FP3: Track limits removed at Turn 4 after 17 lap time deletions in FP1 and 16 in FP2.

Who to Watch For

 

Max looked really strong in sector one on soft tyres but lost time in sector two, thus retaining his best lap time on the mediums. On a good lap with soft tyres, Max is likely to go much faster and give Hamilton a hard time.

Perez looked powerful in sector two and finished only 0.085 seconds behind Verstappen in FP2. Although Hamilton continues to dominate the grid, the above two drivers seem to be in strong contention for the podium places as well.


 

All pictures used in this post are the courtesy of the Formula 1 website, F1 Instagram page and the Pirelli website.


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