2017 FORMULA 1 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX PREVIEW
Foreword from Renault Sport Racing Managing Director, Cyril Abiteboul
China was once more a weekend of frustration for us as we were able to qualify in the top ten for the first time in Renault Sport Formula One Team’s history, yet we finished very far from the P7 that Nico started on the grid.
No sooner had we committed both cars to early pit-stops to change to dry tyres than the Virtual Safety Car was upon us, the timing of which gave our rivals the advantage and meant we were on damage limitation thereafter.
The positive is that we’ve shown the pace and reliability required to score but we’ve yet to connect all of the pieces of the jigsaw when required. We’re doing everything we can to ensure we are in the right place at the right time to secure points, and that means being in the top ten when the chequered flag falls.
For the sport, it was a positive to see such a good turn-out in China and the action on track was rewarding for the fans too. It was an exciting race for many reasons, even if it was a frustrating one for us.
And so, Bahrain. The weather is very different from that we saw in Shanghai and so we hope our race result will be too. The heat will test our power unit installation and drivers alike but both Nico and Jolyon are highly professional in their approach so the frustrations of Shanghai are forgotten even though the lessons are learnt.
This weekend we are very much trying to harness the potential shown in the past two races and finally get some points on the board.
Feeling the Heat
Heat and sand are two of the challenges for the R.E.17 power unit in Bahrain as explains Engine Technical Director Remi Taffin.
What’s the power unit feedback after the first two races?
It’s a positive start to the season. Our power units have proved reliable in the first two Grands Prix of the season and have delivered increased performance over where we were last year. This new unit has great scope and we will see later in the season how to introduce performance upgrades once reliability is fully under control. An example: we did see issues related to the MGU-K in pre-season testing for which we took the decision to revert to an earlier generation unit. This solution has proved effective so far and we will only use the newer specification unit once we’re happy it can deliver reliably.
What are the challenges of the Bahrain International Circuit?
The two particular challenges are the heat and the sand. It’s one of the hottest circuits we visit all year and this will test the power unit itself as well as the installation and cooling systems. Even though the race takes place later in the day than when we first started coming here, we do run daytime practice and there can be a load of heat radiated from the track surface. The other issue is the sand. It can be quite windy here and the sand from the surrounding desert means our air filtration systems leading into the engine have to really do their job.
Performance-wise, what’s possible in the third Grand Prix of the season?
The first two races have definitely shown that we car challenging for points. Nico’s P7 qualifying performance in Shanghai, which is quite a power-hungry track with its very long straight, shows we should be in the fight no matter what the location. We have run reliably on the power unit side at the last two races and we will always do what’s needed to achieve this target for both cars. Hopefully Bahrain will be our first points of 2017.
After a great qualifying performance in Shanghai it was a punishing and penalising Chinese Grand Prix for our Hulk, who’s hoping for better things in Bahrain.
How are you approaching race three of 2017?
I’m heading to Bahrain with fewer winter clothes in my suitcase after the cold and wet we had in Shanghai; it should be a big contrast and I have my sunscreen at the ready! In terms of the venue, the Bahrain International Circuit is a great facility and it’s quite a technical track with the added challenges of a variable wind direction and the scope for sand on track too. I really like Bahrain and the atmosphere there.
What’s the key to getting a good performance on the Bahrain International Circuit?
It’s a technical track and you have to be smooth and gentle yet, obviously, as fast as possible. Sand is a crucial element if it’s windy and gusty it gets blown on to the track so from one session to another can vary a lot. You’re always adapting to the grip levels as well as the wind direction, which can also present a challenge to getting the perfect lap. We know it’s going to be pretty hot, but that’s not so much of a factor now as we race far later than we used to here and it does cool reasonably quickly once the sun is down.
What’s notable on a lap?
There are a decent amount of challenges. There’s a long straight with hard braking into turn one where you need to lose about 240kph and it’s easy to go too deep into the corner. It’s pretty traction limited on exit so you’re fighting the rear end. It will be interesting to see how much difference there is with the new wider tyres and the greater downforce.
T4 is another heavy braking point into what is quite a long corner and a little off camber. T5-6 is a very fast combination and pretty good fun if you nail it right. T8 is a tight and slow hairpin and another place where it’s easy to out-brake yourself with front-locking, especially if you get off-line. T9-10 is a long left-hander where you’re braking deep into it, trail-braking is always difficult because of the propensity for front-locking once more as well as the variability of wind direction trying to trick you too; headwind is your friend for braking late, tailwind is your enemy. The final sector is very fast and flowing which sets you up for the long, fast pit straight.
Predictions for the race?
Let’s see what happens.
Desert Island Discs
Bahrain International Circuit is a venue that has been good to Jolyon Palmer in the past, with a visit to the top step of the podium in the GP2 Series in 2014 to his name. Points are the target for this year’s visit to Sakhir.
What can we expect from you in Bahrain?
I quite like the track and I have won there in the past so that definitely spurs me on after a couple of Grands Prix which have fallen short of expectations. I’ll jump in the car on Friday and be working with my crew to get the maximum possible from each session then we absolutely are targeting points from the race as we’ve seen the potential of the car; all I need is a clean weekend.
What are the challenges of Bahrain International Circuit?
There is a lot of track evolution as it is very sandy at the start of the 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. 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, and understanding this generation of car at this track.
There are a lot of straights so plenty of overtaking opportunities and it should make for a good race.
Do you expect a different weekend from Shanghai?
In many ways yes, especially with the weather! I’ll be very surprised if we have to fit the Wet or Intermediate tyres this weekend. With dry conditions there’s less chance of difficult circumstances like we saw in Shanghai so everything should be in our favour for a more straightforward race weekend and that’s what we need to get some points down.
Renault Sport Racing Roundup
Renault Sport Academy
Jarno Opmeer celebrated his 17th birthday this week meaning he’s now old enough for a driving licence in his native Holland and also the UK.
Thierry Koskas (EVP Sales & Marketing Renault Group) will be in Bahrain as will Renault Sport Racing Special Advisor Alain Prost.
Bahrain is an archipelago of 33 islands. The largest is 55km long by 18km wide.
The Bahrain World Trade Centre was the first skyscraper in the world to integrate wind turbines into its design. Each turbine is 29m in diameter with a capacity of 675kw via wind power production.
The highest point of Bahrain is only 122 meters above sea level and is called Jabal ad Dukhan or The Mountain of Smoke.
In Arabic, Bahrain is the dual form of bahr (sea), so al-Bahrayn means ‘the two seas’, attributed to the sweet water springs and sea that surrounds the island.al Garden of Eden.
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.
The pit straight is 1km long but the heavy braking for turn 1 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 2, the more speed you can take down the straight that follows.
Turn 4 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 6 and 7.
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 followed by the 1km pit straight.
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 61% 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 29% 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.
The same selection deployed in Shanghai has to contend with very different track and air temperatures relative to those seen in China. As well as the heat, sand blown on to the track can also provide an abrasive smart to the compounds on offer. Pirelli’s wet tyre range is unlikely to make an appearance in Bahrain.
The camel of Pirelli’s tyre range, capable of covering long distances with a surprising turn of pace.
Like the sand of the desert, the yellow branded Soft compound is likely to be seen frequently in Bahrain. It makes an appearance at every race in 2017.
The hawk of the range, capable of rapid bursts of speed but without the staying power of its more durable brethren.