Sakhir – watch out for turn 1

Just been looking through brake manufacturer Brembo’s analysis of the Bahrain circuit. All the teams now produce quite nice infographics for the GPs which I find really useful.

Definitely one of the most demanding circuits for brakes. The races on the Sakhir track, surrounded by the desert, are characterised by high temperatures that increase mechanical grip, and make it difficult to dissipate the heat generated during braking.

This aspect – combined with the presence of numerous high energy braking sections which are quite close together – makes Sakhir a hard bench test for all the braking system components which are continuously stressed by the high energy forces and the hellishly hot temperatures.

If the drivers want to finish the race, the high wear of the friction material is the biggest danger that must be avoided.

Since 2004, Bahrain has staged 10 Formula One Grands Prix. In the 2010 season the race took place on an extended layout: instead of the usual 5.412 km GP circuit, the 6.299 km configuration was used. The first man to win a race at the Bahrain International Circuit was Michael Schumacher in the 2004 season.

According to Brembo technicians who classified the 21 World Championship tracks on a scale of one to 10, the Bahrain track earned a score of nine on the difficulty index, identical to recently built tracks like Singapore and Baku, which has yet to be used.

Of the eight braking zones half are classified as difficult on the brakes, while the other four are of medium difficulty. The four most challenging braking sections – those with a deceleration greater than 4.4 g – are confronted by vehicles travelling at 300 km/h or just slightly less.

The one feared the most is the Schumacher curve (turn 1) because the drivers arrive at speed that reach 330 km/h and they have to face a 5.2 g deceleration: the braking force required is greater than 2,200 Kw, but more importantly is the brake time (1.76 seconds) which is one of the highest in the entire World Championship.

The four braking sections that have a medium level of difficulty on the brakes are all positioned in the central part of the track and are broken up only by curve 11, where a load of 143 kilos is applied to the pedal.

Q&A with Haas F1

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

Haas F1 now has its first grand prix under its belt. Obviously this was highlighted by Grosjean’s sixth-place result, but how did it go overall and what can you take from Australia and apply to Bahrain?
“We had our ups and downs. It started out with not being able to get enough testing in on Friday during practice. We tried to make up for it on Saturday morning during third practice, but we had an incident with a car colliding with Romain (Grosjean) as he was exiting the garage.

“It started off not too pretty, and then qualifying was not what we wished for, but the team bounced back and we got ready for Sunday. We showed a good race speed and we are ready to go racing. In the end it was all positive. It was hard to get to the positive, but with a lot of work with a lot of hard-working people, we got there. Now the biggest task is to replicate this, which won’t be easy, but for sure we will be trying again.”

Upon your return to Haas F1’s headquarters in North Carolina were you able to get a sense of how the team’s Australia performance resonated in the US?
“I think it resonated in a very positive way in all of racing in America. Even those who don’t follow Formula One considered it a big achievement for a new team to finish in sixth place and to be from America, which hasn’t had a presence in Formula One in 30 years.”

From the outside looking in, it appeared the team was taking a very unorthodox approach to building a Formula One team. And while that is relatively true, did the team’s performance in Australia vindicate your methodology, specifically in regard to partnering with Scuderia Ferrari and Dallara?
“I think our plan is working, but we won’t finish sixth every weekend, so we need to be careful with our expectations. I think we showed that you can start a new team and end up in the midfield. We were not last in Australia, which was one of our goals, and I don’t think we will be last this year. How far we’ve come is a sign that our plan is working.”

Haas F1 came out of the gate strong in the season-opener in Australia. History tells us not every grand prix will bring that kind of success. How do you manage expectations, internally and externally?
“We are not being arrogant about our early success and we will have our races where we will underperform. Our sixth-place finish in Australia keeps the team going, working very hard and trying to do the best possible job we can. If we continue to do what we did in Melbourne, good results will come.”

The flip side to Grosjean’s sixth-place finish at Australia was Gutiérrez getting caught up in a crash. There was a good bit of damage to the left-rear of Gutiérrez’s car. What needs to be done to repair it and what kind of logistics are involved to get it ready for Bahrain?
“Some of the parts, for example the chassis, were sent back to Europe to be checked and fixed because we can’t do it onsite in Bahrain. We have enough spare parts to build up another chassis, so we will use that. Then the chassis that is repaired will be sent to Bahrain via air to serve as our spare. The guys will have to work day and night to get to Bahrain, but it’s all doable. Our spare quantity is down, but we have enough to get going again, so we will just keep on working.”

You appear to have handled adversity extremely well – be it with technical issues during the second week of testing at Barcelona and when you endured a pit lane collision in practice Saturday at Australia. From your perspective, how well is this new group of personnel working together?
“We chose good, quality people. Nobody gets down in adversity. Everybody gets up. They are working on the solution, not on the problem. They work together because they are professionals and they know they can get it done together as a team. It all comes down to the quality of people, and I think our quality is pretty high.”

With wet weather Friday at Australia, it compromised the team’s ability to work on the car’s set-up for the race. The weather in Bahrain is usually pretty consistent, and that means consistently dry. How helpful will a full weekend of consistent weather be for you and the team?
“If we can get a good day of practice in with both cars and six hours of running, that will be fantastic just to learn more about this machine.”

With Gutiérrez’s lap 17 crash and Grosjean changing tyres during the red flag, you didn’t make any pit stops in Australia. How is the team preparing for pit stops and is there any worry this is one element of the programme that hasn’t really been tested?
“We didn’t complain that we didn’t have to do a pit stop in Australia, but we will have to do it in Bahrain, for sure. We will do a lot of things during practice in Bahrain to ensure that we are ready. We got away with not doing pit stops in Australia, but we won’t be able to in Bahrain. The focus will be on completing pit stops this weekend so the team goes into the race confident that they have trained properly.”

How did the addition of a third tyre option impact your strategy for Australia, and what impact do you think it will have on your tyre strategy for Bahrain?
“Everyone has the third tyre option, so you just deal with it. I don’t think it has a huge impact because it’s the same for everybody. We just need to make sure we use the three options we’ve got to the best of our knowledge.”

Qualifying again…

After much deliberation, the new qualifying procedure Formula One debuted in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix is back at Bahrain. In case you were wondering, it’s an elimination-style format broken into three sessions and it works like this:

Q1
Lasts 16 minutes, with all 22 drivers participating
After seven minutes, the slowest driver is eliminated
In 90-second intervals thereafter, the next slowest drivers are eliminated until the checkered flag falls
Seven drivers get eliminated, with 15 drivers moving on to Q2

Q2
Lasts 15 minutes, featuring the 15 fastest drivers from Q1
After six minutes, the slowest driver is eliminated
In 90-second intervals thereafter, the next slowest drivers are eliminated until the checkered flag falls
Seven drivers get eliminated, with eight drivers advancing to Q3

Still with me?

Q3
Lasts 14 minutes, featuring the eight fastest drivers from Q2
After five minutes, the slowest driver is eliminated
In 90-second intervals thereafter, the next slowest drivers are eliminated until the checkered flag falls
Two drivers will remain in the final 90 seconds, theoretically creating a shootout for the pole.

Any questions? Yes, it will be a disaster… again.

Formula One in the Middle East (Part 1)

Just a few years ago Formula One – and motorsport in general – did not have any presence in the Middle East. Now the region wants to be associated with what Formula One represents – technological excellence, innovation, the future.

Bahrain has not only built a venue that is among the very best in the world and deservedly won acclaim for its Grand Prix, but it has also built foundations for the current growth of interest and investment in Formula One across the Middle East.

Bahrain International Circuit

The Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) staged its first Formula One event in April 2004, winning the FIA promoters’ trophy for that season. Commented the sport’s dealmaker extraordinaire, Formula One Management CEO Bernie Ecclestone at the time:

“It was a real pleasure to bring Formula One to the Kingdom of Bahrain, and I’m pleased to confirm that this relationship will continue into the future.”

Since its inaugural race, the Bahrain event has drawn widespread acclaim for its facilities and its impressive programme of pre-race events. In 2006, it was honoured with hosting the season opener when Melbourne, the traditional first-race venue, was busy with the Commonwealth Games. Said BIC Chairman, Talal Al Zain:

“The success of the Grand Prix has however reached even further than we dared hope when we embarked on this great adventure, and we are delighted to see both interest and involvement in the sport from fans, sponsors and other ventures around the region has blossomed from our achievements. Our new agreement with Mr Ecclestone ensures that Formula One will retain its home in the Middle East long into the next decade, and that the Kingdom will continue to host the world’s biggest sporting series.”

The news that Abu Dhabi would host a Grand Prix in 2009 on a new racing circuit on Yas Island was also greeted with much fanfare. Said Bernie Ecclestone:

“We are delighted to bring Formula One to Abu Dhabi. It was a mutual decision to have a second race in this economically fast-growing region and I have no doubts that Bahrain and Abu Dhabi can co-exist perfectly. There are five countries waiting at the moment to have a race and we have decided to come here – this should speak for itself.”

The Abu Dhabi government said it had invested $40 billion in the Yas Island development, so the cost of an annual Formula One race is relatively low by comparison given that the aim is to build up a huge tourist industry on the island. Abu Dhabi is also able to attract more local spectators to the event as it is the highest per capita city in the world, unlike Bahrain where wealth is much more restricted.

The development is all part of the plan to wean the economy off its dependence on oil. Abu Dhabi started its own airline, Etihad Airways, in 2003 in an effort to emulate its neighbour and rival Dubai as a tourist destination and spent a huge amount of money expanding the Abu Dhabi International Airport.

For Ecclestone such projects are a gift as he looks for ways to expand Formula One’s revenues in the future with a new generation of high-paying races to follow in the footsteps of Bahrain and Shanghai. These will probably replace some of the first generation events outside Europe which have not yet lived up to local expectations.

Bahrain may not originally have been a success in financial terms, with very small crowds, but the publicity generated has been good for the country. Bahrain’s plans to be a holiday destination have long lagged behind Dubai, and Abu Dhabi is now embarked on an aggressive programme to catch up and rival both.

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