Written by SFCMelbourne member, Michele Terminello
After Valtteri Bottas cruised to a dominant victory at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, round two of the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship returns to the hot desert and under the lights in Sakhir at the Bahrain International Circuit this weekend for the Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2019. This will be the 15th Grand Prix that Bahrain has hosted.
A Look at the Bahrain International Circuit
The Bahrain International Circuit is a permanent racing facility which opened in 2004 and is used for the FIA Formula One World Championship, FIA Formula 2 Championship, the FIA World Endurance Championship and the traditional 24 Hours of Bahrain. It is located at Sakhir, 30 kilometres south-west of the island’s capital Manama.
The circuit was designed by German architect Hermann Tilke, the same architect who has designed many other modern circuits on the Formula One calendar. The main contractor for the project was Cybarco-WCT. The multi-million-dollar project started back in September 2002 when the Kingdom of Bahrain signed a long-term deal to host the first ever Middle Eastern round of the FIA Formula One World Championship.
The circuit costed approximately 56.2 million Bahraini Dinars (US$150 million) to build and construct. It has six separate tracks, including a 6.299km endurance circuit, a test oval and drag strip.
The circuit posed a unique problem as it was positioned in the middle of a desert, there were worries that sand would blow onto the track and disrupt the race weekend. However, organisers of the event were able to keep the sand off the track by spraying an adhesive on the sand around the track to keep it still.
The surface of the track is made of Graywacke Aggregate, shipped to Bahrain from Bayston Hill quarry Shropshire, England. The surface material is highly acclaimed by circuit bosses and Formula 1 drivers for the high level of grip it offers. The same type of material is used at the Yas Marina Circuit for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The 5.412 km Grand Prix circuit was designed to give spectators the best possible experience, with 50,000 grandstand capacity seating, all providing great views of the circuit. Those spectators (A total of up to 100,000 on the race weekend) get to see the cars charging into the external desert area, before coming back into the oasis-styled infield section. Over 500 journalists from around the globe can also witness the action from the venue’s purpose-built media centre.
A modified ‘endurance’ style track layout was used for the season-opening 2010 event, with an additional complex starting at Turn Four extending the lap to 23 corners from its original 15 and 6.299 km, but the event reverted to its original track configuration for 2012. It gives the driver a unique experience in the way the circuit’s width varies at the end of the different straights. This allows for diverse racing lines, and the 15-turn design provides three great places for overtaking.
The circuit places a lot of great challenges on the cars including cooling, braking performance and traction. The smooth tarmac and gentle kerbs encourage the drivers to attack the many medium speed corners. Tyre wear is normally on the cusp between a two-three stop strategy although the evening’s race takes the extreme temperatures out of the equation with track temperatures dropping fast as the sun goes down.
Another tough challenge for the engineers and in particular the drivers are the variable levels of grip that afflict the circuit. With high winds common, the circuit is frequently swept with dust from the desert, leading to the unusual circumstance of the circuit sometimes “devolving’ during the sessions.
The Bahrain International Grand Prix Circuit runs in a clockwise direction and is 5.412km (3.363 miles) in length with 15 corners.
The race distance is 308.238km (191.530 miles) in length with 57 laps in total.
Pedro De La Rosa holds the fastest lap record at the Bahrain International Circuit set in 2005 with a 1:31.447 in his McLaren-Mercedes MP4-20.
Sebastian Vettel has the most Bahrain Grand Prix victories with four to his name.
Scuderia Ferrari is the most successful Constructor at the Bahrain Grand Prix with six victories.
The Last Five Winners
2018: Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Ferrari. 2017: Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Ferrari. 2016: Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1. 2015: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1. 2014: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1.
Pirelli will be bringing with them the red-marked C3 “Soft” tyres to Bahrain alongside the yellow-branded C2 “Medium” compounds and the white-marked C1 “Hard” rubber over the race weekend including the green-marked “Intermediate” and blue-marked “Full Wet” tyres in case of rain.
Rivals Mercedes and Ferrari have gone with the same selection, one set of the hard C1 rubber, three sets of the C2 mediums and nine of the C3 softer compounds for their respective drivers.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen followed the same choices as Mercedes and Ferrari along with Haas F1 Team’s Kevin Magnussen, Alfa Romeo Racing’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen and SportPesa Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll.
The only other driver on the grid with nine sets of the C3 softer tyres is Magnussen’s team-mate Romain Grosjean.
Four drivers on the grid have gone the most aggressive with 10 sets of softs. Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon and Daniil Kvyat have combined them with two sets of mediums, and one sets of hards while Renault F1 Team’s Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg have split entries with the latter following the Toro Rosso pairing and Ricciardo on two sets of hards and a set of mediums.
The remaining drivers including Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly, McLaren’s Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz and Williams’ Robert Kubica and George Russell have all opted for eight sets of softs with a bit of flexibility on their medium and hard selections.
There will be three DRS Zones for the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend. The first detection point is 50 metres before turn one with the activation zone 23 metres after turn three. The second detection point is 10 metres before turn nine with the second activation zone 50 metres after turn 10. The third detection point is 108 metres before turn 14 with the third activation zone 170 metres after the final corner.
ICYMI: Australian Grand Prix Rewind
Valtteri Bottas produced a flawless drive to take a crushing Australian Grand Prix victory and passed Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to clinch his first victory since the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale.
Hamilton outpaced Bottas in qualifying but his advantage slipped almost immediately after a slow run off the line.
The reigning champion was able to resist pressure from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to complete a Silver Arrows one-two, whilst Verstappen rounded out the podium to give Honda it’s first since 2008 British Grand Prix in its first race with Red Bull while Ferrari ended up fourth and fifth.
Bottas got off to a great start, out-dragging Hamilton into the first corner, enjoying a trouble-free Grand Prix, aided by Mercedes reacting to Vettel’s early pitstop and switching Hamilton to an inferior strategy.
Vettel was the first of the front runners to stop on lap 14, with Hamilton pitting a lap later to cover the Scuderia’s fresh tyre advantage.
Neither could lap as quick on newer medium rubber compared to Bottas on old softs, which allowed Bottas, Verstappen and Charles Leclerc to stay out longer.
Bottas pitted on lap 23 and continued uninterrupted for the remainder of the race, hammering his opponents by 20.886 seconds.
The Finn’s gap was complimented slightly by Hamilton having to nurse his medium compounds right to the end to come home second, but the five-time World Champion managed to see off Vettel during the midpoint of the race.
Hamilton then kept a small gap to Verstappen once the flying Dutchman flew by Vettel with ease around the outside into turn three.
Verstappen continued to push the Mercedes hard, keeping 1.5 seconds behind the Briton for almost the entirety of the second half of the race, before taking a trip into the grass after running wide at turn one.
The Dutchman fell back but continued to charge and posted the fastest lap of the race in the closing stages but was unable to get by Hamilton.
Bottas stole the fastest lap from Verstappen and the first bonus point of the season to take his points haul to 26.
Ferrari’s promising pre-season pace translated into a fourth and fifth place on the streets of Albert Park as Vettel continued to fall back from the top three, only finishing ahead of team-mate Leclerc.
Vettel ended the race 50 seconds by race winner Bottas, with Leclerc – who took an excursion across the gravel into turn one in the earlier stages of the Grand Prix – finishing fifth after appearing to back off once he caught team-mate Vettel.
Haas F1 Team’s Kevin Magnussen came home best of the rest in sixth place and ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg who was seventh.
Kimi Raikkonen crossed the line in eighth place on debut for Alfa Romeo and in-front of Racing Point’s Lance Stroll who took ninth – his first points for the Silverstone squad, and Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top ten for Toro Rosso in his comeback drive for the Faenza-outfit.
The other Red Bull of Pierre Gasly finished closely behind the Toro Rosso in 11th place. The Frenchman started a lowly 17th after a blunder in qualifying and emerged from his pit-stop ahead of Kvyat, only to be passed by the Russian on the rundown to turn three.
Qualifying star Lando Norris was unable to score points on debut for McLaren but finished as the top rookie in the field, taking 12th place. The young Brit managed to keep Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon at bay.
There were three retirements in the Australian Grand Prix, with Carlos Sainz the first casualty of 2019 with his Renault-powered McLaren burning up in flames.
Home hero Daniel Ricciardo on his debut for Renault was next to retire, taking a precautionary measure after breaking his front wing after running onto the grass heading into turn one.
The other Haas of Romain Grosjean stopped his VF-19 racer on track after running in the points earlier on before dropping out of the top ten due to a slow pitstop. The onboard camera showed his front-left wheel had come loose – which has been a problem during his stop.
The other Alfa Romeo Racing C38 of Antonio Giovinazzi, whose very long run in his opening stint, held up early and played a major role in settling the final points finishers.
The two ROKit Williams Racing FW42’s of George Russell and Robert Kubica finished at the rear with the latter losing his front wing on Gasly at turn one and remained a distant last for most of the race after being passed by Ricciardo.
Valtteri Bottas comes to the Bahrain International Circuit sitting on top of the Driver’s Championship after that sensational victory at Albert Park, taking the maximum points (including the bonus point for fastest lap). The Finn will be looking to go two from two and build his momentum further at the circuit where he has previously scored two podiums. There was trouble for Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton and arch-rivals Ferrari at the season-opener in Melbourne, but both the reigning champion and the Scuderia are expected to bounce back under the bright lights of the Sakhir track.
Formula 1 2019 World Driver’s Championship Standings – Top 10
Formula 1 2019 World Constructors Championship Standings
The Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2019 race weekend begins Friday March 29 with Free Practice 1 and 2, followed by Free Practice 3 and Qualifying Saturday March 30 and the 57 lap Race Sunday March 31.