2016 Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix, Preview

24 March 2016

Renault Sport Formula One Team previews the second race weekend of the 2016 Formula 1 season, the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Drivers Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen share their thoughts on the challenges of Sakhir, while our management and technical staff give the latest on the team and on the R.S.16-R.E.16 package.


Cyril Abiteboul foreword

Melbourne was a great opening race for Renault Sport Formula One Team. There were many positives, but the most important was that we showed we can race on track. Both drivers delivered exactly what we wanted. It was superb to see Jolyon defending hard against the opposition, especially as that meant a lot of airtime for us! Kevin fought hard to come back from a tough start and overtook late in the race. Furthermore, the car looked great on circuit – we have received a lot of positive feedback – and the team worked well together, leading to a lot of interest from a number of quarters. It’s only the first race but it’s been a hugely encouraging start. We can look forward to Bahrain with a lot of confidence and enthusiasm.


Fred Vasseur : Very encouraging

‘It was a very positive start to the season.’

How happy were you with your first race as Racing Director in Australia?

It was a great feeling and I would like to thank the team for the opportunity for a smooth, good weekend! At the end of the Grand Prix I had the feeling that we had been working together for a long time. For sure we need to improve, and we know we have a lot of work ahead of us, but so far I am very happy with how things are going and the collaboration between Viry and Enstone.

How would you review Australia? Did the team achieve its aims for the first race?

It was a very positive start to the season. We aimed to get to the end of the race and we got there with two cars. The end result was not excessively flattering, due to the number of incidents that did not go in our favour, but the pace at the end was good, comparable to Force India and not far from Williams, which is encouraging for the team and a good basis to build on. We need to maximise our qualifying form so we can take advantage of this strong race pace but that will come I am sure. If it wasn’t for the restart I think we could have scored points as we were in a great position, but that’s life. We know where we are and what we need to do to achieve what we want.

What did you learn about the car?

We didn’t have any major issues, it was good to drive. The first target was to finish the race and we achieved it with both cars. You always have to think about what was the objective when you start and if someone told me in Barcelona that we would fight in the race with a Force India and a Williams I would have laughed! It’s a good surprise.

How did you think the drivers performed?

I think we can be very pleased with the drivers. Jolyon had a very good debut. It was a shame for Kevin, but he built back up and was strong at the end of the race. It’s a bit disappointing we did not score points, but we did not truthfully expect to be in the points in Melbourne given the late start we had to the project.

What areas will you work on for Bahrain?

We don’t have to be focussed on one thing, but work on every side of the business: engine, chassis and drivers. We need to work as a team to move forward. But it is very encouraging to start like we did in Australia, we now need to keep the momentum going.


Jolyon Palmer: Feeling at home

‘I am looking forward to going to a track I know and have won at before.’

Jolyon, how would you review your first race weekend as a Formula 1 driver?

I really enjoyed it. Everything went very smoothly. I had a good qualifying and then maximised the car in the race. I was happy with the race; I had a good start and was wheel to wheel for quite a long time, scrapping hard – it was great fun. I wanted to get to the finish, and you always dream of stealing a point, but I just missed it with P11, which is really frustrating! But we can definitely build on this. In Australia we didn’t have any more pace in the car, but it was an encouraging start.

Did your dad give you any tips?

Not really! The only thing he kept saying was to drink – he kept repeating that I needed to say hydrated, but that was his only expert guidance! He let me get on with it…

How did you feel coming back to racing after a year out?

It felt completely normal. The difference from GP2 to F1 is that there are bigger variables. People are on different tyres and strategies, so you have to work out whether you can realistically fight and keep position, but it was not a problem. I had some good battles and really enjoyed it.

And how have you found the team?

I feel at home in the team. The team is operationally very good and we have more developments coming. The car is nicely balanced, the pace is good – all in all, it was a strong start, especially considering the takeover was completed just before Christmas. We have upgrades coming all the time and it should not be too long before we can fight for points consistently.

What can we expect from you in Bahrain?

I raced there in GP2 and it’s a track I have been successful on in the past. I won the last race I did there, then I also had a podium. I also drove in practice last year. The track is OK. There are a lot of straights so plenty of overtaking opportunities, so we will find out more about the car in this trim. There is a lot of track evolution as it is very sandy at the start of weekend, and then the track gets more and more rubber down, so conditions change a lot. The weather is almost always sunny, but it can be quite windy, which can blow sand onto the track. The fact it’s a night race is pretty interesting as it’s still very dry. In terms of set up, practice 1 and 3 are hard as they are a lot hotter than the race but there is a lot we can do in procedural terms, such as aero tests. I will be more relaxed now I have one race under my belt, particularly as I finished all 58 laps. I feel much more comfortable after pre-season testing and am looking forward to going to a track I know and have won at before.


Kevin Magnussen: Able to fight

‘If the race could be tomorrow I’d be there, no questions asked!’

How was your first race with Renault Sport Formula One Team ?

Having been out of F1 for a year, it was very nice to be back. It was a tough race, but I was really happy as the pace was very good. It was annoying to get that puncture at the start, which compromised our race. I didn’t have any contact as far as I could tell, but I saw the pressures coming down and knew that something was wrong. In some respects we were lucky to get the red flag, but it was even better that Fernando was unhurt as that was a big crash. We could get back to the pits and on to the grid and then I had the race from there. We had a good pace – on par with Williams and maybe even faster. We didn’t think we would have the pace of the top ten, but in the end we did. I’m gutted as we could possibly have been in the points if I had not had that puncture, but that’s life. For a first race, it looks very encouraging for the rest of the season.

What did you think of the R.S.16 ?

The feeling in the car was good and I was able to fight and overtake and put the car where I wanted to. It’s clearly very driveable. It is not fast enough to be on the podium or even in Q3 but it’s a good car that handles well and it’s something we will continue to work on. We don’t need to change the philosophy in any way, just keep developing and it will come to us.

What did you make of your new team in race trim ?

It is very clear that this team is a top team in F1. Maybe not in terms of pace : we know where we are and we are not happy with this, but when we get the car faster we will be there. We have a good baseline and something we can really work on. I didn’t have a good race but I am very happy as it looks good for the rest of the season.

The next race is Bahrain, is it a favourite race for you ?

It’s not the most exciting track, to be honest ! The heat is a major challenge and it is tough on the rear tyres so having a car that looks after them will be an advantage. There are also four long straights so it is a power orientated track. I will enjoy getting out there and if you ask me if the race could be tomorrow I’d be there, no questions asked !



Bob Bell: A great baseline

‘For a first race as Renault it’s a credible position to be in.’


Did Melbourne reach your expectations in terms of performance from the R.S.16?

Overall, I think it was a very credible start. The team gelled very well together and we were able to meet the technical and sporting challenges of our first race as a new team. We had a largely trouble free weekend, which was positive as we were able to go through our run programmes and get the best out of the car. We got the most out of the new qualifying format, which is a great credit to the team and its ability to think on its feet. In the race, we looked quicker than you might have expected from qualifying and we were able to manage the performance well. Kevin was unfortunate to get a puncture so early on but he recovered well, while we couldn’t have asked for more from Jolyon. Overall it was pretty good. We didn’t score any points, but we are eighth in the championship – first of the people not to have any points! – and I think for a first race as Renault it’s a credible position to be in.


What did you learn about the car in Melbourne?

The car behaved as we expected. We had ironed out any problems in testing or knew how to fix them so we came to Melbourne prepared. In qualifying we were a little better than expected but the pace of the car in the race itself was good. We looked after the tyre wear very well and in race trim the car behaved itself on short and long runs. That’s a great baseline and you can add real performance when you have that. We also brought a prototype front wing to Melbourne that Kevin used and it appears to have lived up to expectations. It will be on both cars in Bahrain.


Did the race in Australia highlight any areas for improvement?

We will obviously be approaching development on two fronts: engine and chassis. In the first half of the year we will concentrate on the engine and have a normal development programme for the chassis. We will have the standard aero developments from race to race, as everyone will do, then have the complex mechanical items that will come through when we get into the European testing programme. I think we have a credible plan to advance the car but obviously we have to balance what we want to do next year versus our aspirations for this year.


Where do you think Renault Sport sits in the order at the moment and what do you think is possible by the end of the season?

I think we need to consolidate our understanding of where we sit in the rankings and, once we know that, we can sit back and consider what is realistic for us to achieve by the end of the year and how we drive development to do it. We have a solid understanding of the car, we don’t have to work hard to understand performance problems, so now it is more a case of going back to base, reviewing, and then finding a clear route.


What can we expect in Bahrain given that it’s a very different type of circuit?

I don’t think we’ve seen anything at Barcelona or Melbourne that is worrying. Barcelona is pretty indicative of standard aero levels and mechanical grip so we haven’t seen anything that concerns us for the major tracks. Naturally we would like to repeat the form we saw in Australia, and maybe sneak into the tail end of the points if we can.


Bahrain Techfile

The Bahrain Grand Prix, which takes place at the Sakhir track in the desert south of the capital Manama, has become a modern classic. The circuit often produces a thriller of a race due to the multiple overtaking opportunities afforded by its long straights and tight corners. The race takes place around dusk and finishes under lights, giving extra variables as the temperature rapidly falls from searing hot to pleasantly cool.

Track notes

The pit straight is 1km long but the heavy braking for turn one means a good overtaking opportunity. No penalties for overshooting the corner so over-optimism is not unduly curtailed. The exit of this corner calls for driver delicacy on the throttle when tyres are worn.

The more kerb you can take at turn two, the more speed you can take down the straight which follows.

Turn four is another overtaking opportunity, with heavy braking from the 520m straight before and a wide entry and space on exit.

Front wing is set to balance the car through turns six and seven.

The entry to turn ten is difficult. You need to be in the correct track position after turn nine and the unweighted inside wheel can easily lock up. Sufficient speed needs to be carried through turn nine for the entry, but it’s easy to outbrake yourself here. There is a long serrated kerb at the exit to turn ten which is best avoided.

Another 520m burst between turns 10 and 11 and 600m from turns 13 to 14 really taxes the power unit.

Alongside turn 1, the exit of turn 14 is one of the most difficult turns, but it must be completely correct. The exit falls slightly off camber as it enters turn 15, but the driver has to get the line right as it is proceeded by the 1km pit straight. Finding the right balance between aggressive set-up and balance is a tricky balance.

Power Unit notes

  • Sakhir sits in the middle of the table for power unit demands. The circuit includes four straights and the ICE and turbocharger will work at full revs for around 60% of the lap.
  • Bahrain’s arid climate can have severe consequences for the ICE. Pressure inside the cylinder rises and knock can be a real problem. Ignition timing is therefore very tightly controlled and checked to prevent issues developing.
  • The corners of the back section from turns 4 to 8 and 11 to 13 have several heavy braking points. Around 27% of the energy recovered under braking comes from turns 1 and 4, which will allow the MGU-K to keep the battery reserve at high charge. This is very important since the MGU-K will also be required to feed the ICE on those four long straights.
  • The long straights give a steady stream of exhaust flow to the MGU-H. This is particularly important since fuel consumption over one lap is extremely high due to the frequency of heavy braking and acceleration. Sakhir has in fact the second highest fuel consumption per lap after Montreal.
  • The straights give plenty of opportunity for the MGU-H to recover energy from the exhaust, but it’s crucial for it to convert quickly to the ‘motor’ function to give good drive out of the slow speed corners. A smooth, neutral PU set up will show up in the lap time.
  • The braking points at the end of the straights call for particular engine maps. Coming after a long period of wide open throttle, the braking phase is a lot heavier and cylinders are cut for longer. As a result their temperatures drop and getting them firing again correctly is incredibly important.


Technical notes

Circuit length:                            5.412km

Race distance:                          308.238km

Race start time:                         18:00

Full throttle time per lap :           50% Race and 55% Quali

Fuel consumption:                    1.75kg with 3s of lift–off (Race 100kg/N)

Energy recovery :                     1.4MJ with the K in braking with possibility of recovering the maximum FIA allowed 2MJ with overload (using the ICE to charge the battery via the K in part throttle)

Longest time spent at full throttle: 13sec

Percentage of lap spent braking: 23% of lap time

Pitlane length:                           Approx 400m

Brakewear:                                Hard

Difficulty for PU :                      Medium-high

Aero level:                                Medium-high

Tyre choice for Bahrain

Medium (white)

The medium compound is ideal for all running. Like the desert camel it can go for long distances, but can sprint when needed.

Soft (yellow)

Like the soft compound, falcons are prone to bursts of speed but spend a great deal of time cruising.

Supersoft (red)

Like a desert dwelling scorpion, the supersoft has a real sting in its tail. It can attack when needed but then goes back to a dark hiding place.



What we’ve been up to…

Kevin returned to Denmark between Australia and Bahrain. He caught a flight back to Copenhagen after the race and spent some time at home.

Jolyon stayed out in Australia, heading up North to the Gold Coast for some R&R. He spent time on the beach, chilling out, and even learnt to surf! (Must have been those surf vibes from our livery launch…)

Esteban Ocon returned to Europe for sim sessions and engineering meetings ahead of the start of the DTM championship, which is due to start in May. He will leave Bahrain on Saturday evening as a DTM test will start on Monday.

The majority of the race team returned to Enstone and Viry after Australia, leaving on the Monday after the race and arriving Tuesday. Departure for Bahrain was from Monday onwards, leaving only minimal Easter egg consumption time.

What we will get up to this week…

Jolyon will fly into Bahrain direct from Australia. His first commitment will be an event at a hotel in downtown Manama hosted by Renault Bahrain on the Wednesday before the race.

To take into account the later timetable in Bahrain, our engineers and drivers will be doing their track walk later in the day than normal. Kick-off is due to start around 19:30 to be more representative of the cooler and darker conditions likely in the race.

A trip down memory lane

Bahrain Grand Prix, 2006: After winning the 2005 championship, all eyes were on Renault, who had taken a gamble in being one of the last teams to run the incoming V8 engine. Fernando Alonso wins a hard-fought victory to start his title defence despite heavy pressure from Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher.