Reports

Bahrain F1 Grand Prix

2017 BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX – SET UP

The Bahrain Grand Prix was first staged in 2004. Since then it’s been held every year except for 2011. There have been various iterations of the race and the circuit layout: in 2010 the longer, endurance layout was used and in 2014 the start time was delayed until 6pm. This year’s race will be the fourth to be staged under floodlights.

NEED TO KNOW

Race title Formula One Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix
Circuit name Bahrain International Circuit
First race 2004

TRAVEL

City Manama
Time zone BST +2
Population 700,000
Getting there The back-to-back nature of the Chinese and Bahrain Grands Prix means the team has been operating at two different racetracks simultaneously. While the race team was competing in China, a crew of three people were setting up in Bahrain, preparing the pit garage and the sea freight. Twelve McLaren engineers then flew overnight on Sunday from Shanghai to Manama, with the remaining 45 members of the race team travelling between the two countries on Monday
Surprising fact Bahrain is an archipelago of 33 islands. The largest, on which the Bahrain International Circuit is located, is 55km long and 18km wide
Weather It’s going to be hot. The daytime high over the weekend is expected to be 31 degrees, although it will be cooler during the race because the temperature drops rapidly when the sun goes down

Track

Track length 5.412km / 3.363 miles
2016 pole position Lewis Hamilton - 1:29.493s
2016 winner Nico Rosberg, 57 laps - 1:33:34.696s
2016 fastest lap Nico Rosberg - 1:34.482s (lap 41)
Lap record 1:31.447s (Pedro de la Rosa, 2005)
Tyre choice Red Supersoft | Yellow Soft | White Medium
Distance to Turn One 400m / 0.249 miles
Longest straight 1.09km / 0.677 miles
Top speed 335 kmh / 208 mph (on the approach to Turn One)
Full throttle 64 percent
Brake wear High. There are eight braking zones around the lap, the biggest coming at Turns One and 14
Fuel consumption 1.8kg per lap, which is high. The engineers will need to monitor fuel consumption during the race, especially if there isn’t a Safety Car
ERS demands Medium
Gear changes 52 per lap / 2964 per race

RACE

Laps 57 laps
Start time 18:00hrs local / 16:00hrs BST / 17:00 CET
Grid advantage Pole position is located on the racing line, on the left side of the track. Traction is better there, but it’s not a given that you’ll make positions on the approach to Turn One – as pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton discovered last year when he was beaten away from the line by his team-mate Nico Rosberg
DRS There are two DRS zones, on the approaches to Turns One and 11. The first zone is the most likely overtaking place because the cars slow from 335km/h (208mph) for a 50km/h (31mph) right-hander
Don't put the kettle on... at the start, which usually has high drama. The cars are flat-out for 10s before braking for Turn One. Any driver who misses his braking point by just a few metres can end up running into another car. The result is carnage
Pitlane length/Pitstops 420m / 0.261 miles. Estimated time loss for a pitstop is 21s, which is relatively short
Safety Car 20 per cent, which is very low. There is lots of run-off around the track, meaning the barriers are a long way back and there’s plenty of space for a driver to park a car in the event of a technical problem. There have been only two Safety Car deployments in the history of the race, most recently in 2014
Watch out for... Turns Nine and 10. This is a key combination because it’s very tricky to get right and it’s followed by the second DRS zone. It’s easy to lock an inside wheel on the downhill approach to Turn 10, which, if done, pushes you wide at corner exit and makes you slow down the next straight

THE DRIVERS

FERNANDO ALONSO

“I’m looking forward to going back to Bahrain, especially as I missed last year’s race – I have good memories from my three victories there, and racing in twilight is always a fun experience. The Bahrain Grand Prix is always a pretty long race, so our first priority is to ensure we have reliability against the heat and harsh conditions of the desert before we can start thinking about performance. 

“On the performance side, before retiring the car in Shanghai I was running in a very promising position, and our pace was much stronger than anticipated, so I’ll be pleased if we can have some more good surprises in Bahrain! 

“It will be another challenging race for us; the long straights don’t make it easy and there’s a lot for the engineers to work on. Brake wear and fuel consumption is high, and set-up is tricky as the track temperatures change a lot during the weekend, as we race later into the evening compared to the usual schedule. 

“I’m pushing hard to get the absolute maximum out of our package every time I leave the garage, and in Bahrain I’ll approach the weekend in exactly the same way.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

“I have lots of good memories from the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend in 2016. We’re a year on now, I’m a full-time McLaren-Honda driver, and I’ve already gained a lot more experience in the past 12 months, so of course my aim is to work hard and improve every time I arrive at a grand prix. This year will be difficult for us, but we’ll be racing hard as always. 

“The most important thing for me is mileage, and the weather will surely be better in Bahrain than it was in Shanghai, so I’m hoping to do as many laps as possible over the weekend. It helps that I know this track well and I won there twice in 2015 in GP2, so I’m already comfortable with the layout and therefore it’s a case of building on what I already know. 

“We were always expecting a difficult weekend in China, and I don’t know if it will get a lot better in Bahrain – it’s only one week later and there’s obviously a limit to how many changes we can apply in that time, but we’ll do our best as usual. The car is definitely improving and both Fernando and I feel confident and competitive, especially in the corners, so we’ll have to wait and see what’s possible at this track.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“Of the dozen Bahrain Grands Prix that have been held since the event’s inception in 2004, McLaren has surprisingly never managed to win a single one. By contrast, Fernando has won the race no fewer than three times, a victory total that eclipses the efforts of any other driver [Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa have all won it twice]. 

“Sad to say, however, Fernando is extremely unlikely to add to his impressive victory tally next weekend, and neither will McLaren break its Bahrain duck on Sunday. But the weather will be much better than we suffered in Shanghai, where it was dull, wet and chilly, and as a result we can expect a lot more running than we managed last weekend. 

“The race will mark the one-year anniversary of Stoffel’s first Grand Prix, which was a highly creditable one. He duly scored a point on his Formula 1 debut. Both he and Fernando will be striving for points finishes again next weekend – and, although we never make rash promises or predictions, we hope their efforts will be successful. After all, Bahrain has been a happy hunting ground for Stoffel in GP2; indeed he won well there on his series debut three years ago. 

“Last but far from least, Bahrain is one of McLaren-Honda’s three home Grands Prix, Silverstone and Suzuka being the other two. As such, it would be fitting it we could score our first points of the year there, and you can be well sure that we’ll be doing our best to do just that.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

"After a wet and cold weekend in China, we are now heading off to Bahrain where we expect the conditions to be the complete opposite, dry and hot.

“The race result in China was a big disappointment; despite the result, however, we took away a number of positives and, up until the retirements, we had an encouraging race in tricky conditions.

“I have more confidence in the progress of our PU reliability after the first two grands prix of the season, and I am now looking forward to seeing our performance in Bahrain, where hopefully we can continue to build on our momentum at what is something of a home race for McLaren-Honda.

“The hot conditions and two long front and back straights of the track will be strenuous on the power units, so we are not expecting this weekend to be easy for us. We will concentrate to find the best set-up during practice together with McLaren, as well as working on ensuring our reliability. We hope to show fans a good race here and we’ll make our best effort to collect some points.”

2017 BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX – FREE PRACTICE

“WE ARE MAXIMISING OUR POTENTIAL”

Under Friday's blazing desert sun and in 39 degrees, the team executed planned set-up changes on both cars between runs during the first practice session of the day. A floor change on Stoffel’s car and a rear wing change on Fernando’s car meant they completed 10 and 14 laps respectively. 

Despite the stop-start nature of the session, both cars ran strongly – Fernando clocking the eighth-fastest time, and Stoffel the 13th. Unfortunately, Stoffel suffered an MGU-H issue at the end of the session, curtailing his running and, in the interests of time, necessitating a full PU change, in order to get Stoffel out on track for FP2.  

In FP2, the team experienced contrasting fortunes. Fernando’s session ran smoothly and exactly to his run plan, and he completed 31 laps, which included high-fuel running in preparation for race day. 

On Stoffel’s side of the garage, the team did a sterling job after FP1 to get Stoffel back on track – his MCL32 fitted with a new PU – 40 minutes into the second practice session. Unfortunately, after his second run, the engineers detected a problem with his MGU-H that put an end to his programme for the day. The team will now replace this element in time for tomorrow’s running.

During FP3, the air temperatures peaked at 35 degrees and track temperatures at 40. Both sides of the McLaren-Honda garage enjoyed a trouble-free session, completing runs on alternate set-up configurations and practising pitstops mid-session. Fernando completed 10 laps, clocking the 12th-fastest time, and Stoffel 15 laps, setting the 15th-fastest time. 

FERNANDO ALONSO

#FA14 MCL32-03
FP1 1:34.372s (+1.675s) 14 laps 8th
FP2 1:32.897s (+1.587s) 31 laps 14th
FP3 1:33.922s (+1.728s) 10 laps 12th

“It was a good Friday for us, at least on my side of the garage, as Stoffel unfortunately had a lot of problems today. I was running OK and there was some positive news from today in terms of set-up and in terms of the directions to go with the car. We’re 1.5 seconds from the fastest car, which is by far the lowest gap so far. Also, we did 31 laps, which again is a lot of running. 

“Considering what we have in our hands, I think we are maximising our potential. 

“I think we’re moving in the right direction, but still we have a long way to go, and I hope tomorrow we can have a decent quali. We need to exploit every single lap we have on track tomorrow morning; we need to do a good qualifying and we need to attack in the race. We’re still not 100 per cent confident that we’re on top of our problems, so we need to keep working.”

Stoffel Vandoorne

#SV2 MCL32-01
FP1 1:34.997s (+2.300s) 10 laps 13th
FP2 1:34.230s (+2.920s) 8 laps 20th
FP3 1:34.027s (+1.833s) 15 laps 15th

“It’s been another troublesome day for me, let’s say. In FP1 we had some engine problems and again in FP2, so very limited running for me today. It’s a shame to miss that much track time, especially in FP2 when the conditions are very similar to qualifying and the race. It’s not been ideal, but hopefully tomorrow we’ll have a smoother run and get on top of the issues. 

“We’re going a bit blind into qualifying tomorrow, but Fernando did a lot of running today which was positive. We’ll have to start with a bit of a base of information from Fernando’s side of the garage, but I’m sure it’ll be useful for us as well. Our reliability issues have meant the start of the season hasn’t been ideal, as there hasn’t been a weekend yet where we haven’t had any issues. 

“It’s a difficult situation at the moment, but this is how it is. We knew it would be another difficult weekend and hopefully tomorrow will be better for us. I don’t really have any idea what might be possible for tomorrow – we shouldn’t set ourselves any targets – I think we just need to make sure we have a smooth run, and we’ll see what’s possible.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“On an extremely hot day here in Bahrain, the mercury nudging 40 degrees, Fernando got through his planned programme without interruption, garnering us a large amount of data to crunch this evening. 

“For Stoffel, things were quite a lot more tricky. His car was beset with serial MGU-H issues, which we’re now investigating with Honda, and as a result he was unable to do anything like as much running as we’d have liked him to. 

“But both our drivers enjoy the Bahrain International Circuit, and have indeed won here before, Fernando in Formula 1 and Stoffel in GP2, and they’ll do their best to qualify as well as they can tomorrow. Stoffel could obviously do with an uninterrupted FP3 in preparation for quali, so let’s hope it works out that way for him.”

SATOSHI NAKAMURA

“After the cold and wet conditions in China, it was the complete opposite here in Bahrain today: hot and dry. 

“Fernando showed consistent performance throughout FP1 and FP2, and we were able to go through our programmes on schedule in order to concentrate on finding the best set-up under varying conditions using different tyres and aero. 

“It was a tough day for Stoffel as he wasn’t able to complete his running plan in either session due to issues with his MGU-H. These issues are currently under investigation, and meanwhile the team will work hard tonight to change his MGU-H ready for running in FP3 tomorrow. 

“Despite Stoffel’s issues today, we are now looking ahead to tomorrow’s FP3 and qualifying. Fernando ran well today and we’re hoping he’ll continue to do so tomorrow, along with some better running for Stoffel.”

2017 BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX – QUALIFYING

"A CHALLENGING TIME HERE IN BAHRAIN"

In qualifying, both drivers were unable to fully capitalise on their track time. Stoffel, having had limited running during free practice on Friday, had done relatively little mileage under twilight conditions. He finished Q1 in 17th place.

Fernando took 15th spot in Q1, pushing him through to Q2, but an MGU-H issue on his flying lap meant he was unable to set a time during the second session, and he qualified 15th.

Fernando Alonso

#FA14 MCL32-03
Q1 1:32.054s (15th) Option tyre
Q2 No time set (MGU-H issue)

“Unfortunately, my lap in Q2 was good. I think until the last corner it was half a second better than my Q1 time, then I went on the throttle and there was an issue in the power unit. That hurt, because we had a chance of being a couple of places up, and tomorrow we’ll have to fit a new power unit, which won’t have the perfect settings or calibration. The first lap the engine gets will be the formation lap, so it won’t get any warm-up, we won’t get any laps to tune it, and we’ll probably therefore have an even tougher race than we’d expected. 

“The guys in the garage work day and night to prepare the car, there are parts we keep changing, we keep testing the updates, there’s hard work behind every weekend, but we don’t have a competitive power unit to fight at the front. 

“It’s not the ideal situation, but there’s nothing we can do just now, so we’ll see tomorrow what we can do.”

Stoffel Vandoorne

#SV2 MCL32-01
Q1 1:32.313s (17th overall) Option tyre

“Everything was more or less OK with my laps. I struggled a little bit with the brakes on the second run and had a couple of lock-ups, so I was lacking a little bit of confidence. But I think the lap was more or less the maximum possible – I don’t think there was much more left in the car. Our results are more or less the same as they have been during the past couple of races, so I don’t think we expected anything different here this weekend. We know once we get to qualifying that the others can turn up their engines and have a little bit more pace in their pockets, so we just have to drive the perfect lap and see where we end up. 

“Not having much running in FP2 cost us a bit, and meant it was difficult for me to get an idea of the grip available on track and what the Supersoft tyres were going to feel like, but in the end it’s more or less as expected. We’ll try our best tomorrow as usual; we know our race pace is difficult, especially with the straight-line speed we have, but we’ll see what we can do. The lap times in the evening are quite a bit quicker than in the daytime, but the track surface is still very hot, so it’s still difficult to manage the tyres. Tomorrow that will come into play. 

“We’re not setting ourselves any targets for tomorrow. We just need to stay out of trouble, do a good job, and hopefully we’ll have a good result – we’ll wait and see. The race will be tricky and there are difficult conditions out there, a tough race for everyone and a long race, but hopefully we can benefit from that and make a difference.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“In Q1, Fernando got everything he could out of our chassis / power unit package, and would certainly have set a representative lap time in Q2 but for an MGU-H issue that prevented him from doing so. As a result, he’ll start tomorrow’s race from 15th place on the starting grid. 

“Stoffel had a badly disrupted day yesterday, also as a result of MGU-H issues, but he recovered well today to post a Q1 lap just a couple of tenths off Fernando’s best. Super-competitive racer that he is, Stoffel was disappointed not to make it through to Q2, but we were very impressed by his performance here today. Given his acute lack of running yesterday, in fact, we reckon he totally nailed it. He’ll start tomorrow’s race from 17th place on the starting grid. 

“The 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix will be a long, hot and difficult one for both our drivers, but that’s the hand they’ve currently been dealt, and they’ll play it as best they can, of that you can be absolutely certain.”

 

 

 

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“It became a very disappointing day in the end today. 

“During FP3 this morning we were able to complete our practice programme as planned to find suitable qualifying and race settings. Unfortunately this afternoon in qualifying we had to end Fernando’s Q2 session prematurely after detecting an MGU-H issue. We are still investigating to find out exactly what the issue is and whether or not it’s related to Stoffel’s issues yesterday. 

“Despite the difficulties facing our drivers, they did a great job to extract the maximum power from our car. Fernando once again led us into Q2, and Stoffel was just 0.2 seconds behind his team-mate, which was a good performance considering the tough day he had yesterday. 

“After the issues with Stoffel’s MGU-H yesterday, our boys worked incredibly hard with McLaren to utilise the limited working hours and get Stoffel’s car ready to run today. Tonight, we’ll do the same for Fernando. 

“We’re having a challenging time here in Bahrain, but we’ll work as hard as we can to turn things around for the race tomorrow.”

2017 BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX – RACE

"WE’LL KEEP WORKING HARD, AND WE HOPE TO IMPROVE IN DUE COURSE"

The Bahrain Grand Prix started in frustrating fashion for the McLaren-Honda team, when a water-pressure issue was detected in the #2 car of Stoffel Vandoorne on the way to the grid. The problem could not be fixed in time, and the team had no choice but to remove the car from the grid. Stoffel did not therefore start the race. 

On the opposite side of the garage, Fernando made a good start – maintaining his starting position – and took full advantage of the Safety Car to pit on lap 13. By lap 19 he had battled his way up to 11th position. He enjoyed some exciting dices with the cars around him and was running in 12th position for the final third of the race. Two laps from the end, however, he reported that he felt something unusual from the cockpit, so the team elected to retire his car as a precaution following the reliability issues that have occurred throughout the weekend so far. The issue is now under investigation.

FERNANDO ALONSO

#FA14 MCL32-03
Started 15th
Finished DNF (undiagnosed issue) 54 laps
Fastest lap 1:35.595s (lap 47) +2.797s (14th)
Pit stops Two (lap 13 - 2.87s & lap 36 - 3.12s ) Option > Prime > Option

“It was a frustrating race. The deficit in power and performance we had on the straights today was amazing. Sometimes I looked in the mirrors at the beginning of the straights and saw the other cars 300, 400 metres behind, so I forgot completely about that car and started changing settings on the steering wheel and doing my own things, then the next thing I see when I come on the brakes is that car alongside me. We were running close to the points but that’s not enough. Today we never had the pace we had in Australia and China, and, in the end, we had a problem and we decided to retire the car. 

“It’s frustrating. When the red lights go off you’re motivated and you start fighting, but you’re so behind on the straights that there’s no way you can defend your position. You fight in a fair way with everyone, but you don’t enjoy the battle. 

“Everyone in the team has been working very hard over this weekend, day and night, and I’m sorry for Stoffel who has had so much bad luck all weekend and then didn’t even start today’s race. 

“But we’ll keep working hard, and we hope to improve in due course.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

#SV2 MCL32-01
Started 17th
Finished DNS (water pressure issue)

“It’s a real shame that we weren’t even able to start the race today. The team discovered a water-pressure issue on the way to the grid. It’s disappointing, obviously, that we come all the way here and can’t even start the race. 

“We knew from the beginning of the season that the situation we were in was going to be difficult. I have an extremely good relationship with the team, I believe that we’ll get on top of these issues, and I’m confident that I can do a good job when everything comes together. We’re going through a hard time – it’s not fun for us to go through this – but this is what it is at the moment, and today shows that. 

“It’s frustrating when you do all the preparation work, put in so much effort, we drivers train a lot to keep fit to be able to go racing, and then not being able to start is a shame. It’s been an extremely difficult weekend for me, having two failures on Friday in FP1 and FP2, and now in the race: it’s obviously very disappointing. But I’ll keep my head down, I’ll work hard with the team, and I’m sure there will be some improvements at some point. When they will be, it’s difficult to say, but I’m confident that they’ll come. We’ve lost quite a bit of mileage so it’s definitely not an ideal situation, and we need to make a good step forward soon. Hopefully we can show that at some point in the next few races.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“Well, what can I say? Fernando failed to finish, and Stoffel failed even to start. So today was a bad day for McLaren-Honda: there’s no point pretending otherwise. 

“Stoffel’s weekend went from bad to worse when, on the parade lap, his power unit suffered a water-pressure issue, having already sustained MGU-H damage on Friday. As a result of today’s failure, we had no choice but to abort his start. But, despite being understandably frustrated and upset by a series of problems that had ruined his weekend, none of them his fault, he joined our engineers in the garage to offer his advice and support. He’s a great lad. 

“Fernando drove his usual gutsy race, driving the wheels off his MCL32 despite its straight-line speed deficiency, until he felt something wrong on lap 55. In light of all the problems we’d already had this weekend, we then agreed to retire his car. We’ll now investigate what that problem was. 

“We’re disappointed to have put up such a disappointing performance for our Bahraini hosts, whose home Grand Prix was yet again both superbly organised and excitingly dramatic. The Bahrain International Circuit has now hosted 13 Grands Prix, and over that time it’s become one of the Formula 1 circus’s favourite venues.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“We’ve had yet another disappointing day today. We detected a water-pressure issue with Stoffel’s PU just before the start of the race, so we took the difficult decision to not start the race. The issue is still under investigation, but we suspect that it’s the same as we had on Friday.

“Despite difficult circumstances, Fernando had a better race, with some impressive overtaking manoeuvres. Unfortunately, with just two laps to go, he felt something wrong with the car and we had to retire it. 

“Now we have two days of testing here in Bahrain. Our aim for this will be to improve PU reliability as well as performance, and to test some updated parts. I hope we’ll see steps forward during the test.”