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Bahrain Grand Prix 2013: 'One of the most demanding circuits,' says Pirelli
15 April 2013
Whether it's the high temperatures of the desert climate, the dust and sand blown onto the track by the high winds that sweep over the region, or the distinctive long straights of the Bahrain International Circuit itself, the teams, drivers and tyres will be up against it this weekend when F1 arrives in Sakhir.
"It's one of the most demanding tracks of the year for the tyres, mostly because of the high ambient and track temperatures," admitted Paul Hembery, director of motorsports for tyre manufacturers Pirelli.
"One of the main challenges of racing in Bahrain is that the track evolution is very hard to predict, depending on how much sand is blown onto the circuit," he explained. "From what we saw last year though, there will be plenty of scope for different race strategies, which can even allow drivers who have not qualified as well as they hoped to recover during the Grand Prix."
Pirelli is one of the circuits that Pirelli have least existing knowledge of in race conditions, with last year's race one of the very few circuits that was entirely new to them in competition.
That's because there was no Bahrain GP the previous year in 2011, as the event was cancelled due to security concerns in the country at a time of civil social unrest. Last year's race went ahead under tight security and was without any major incidents, leaving Pirelli to concentrate on worrying about the track rather than what was going outside the circuit perimeter.
While they lack for race experience here, Pirelli did use Bahrain as their test track prior to stepping in as F1's official tyre supplier. The Bahrain circuit was selected by the company for its fast, flowing and technically demanding nature which made it the perfect test venue as they prepared their return to the support.
For Pirelli it's traction and braking that are the particular points of concern at the 5.412-km variable width track. At turn 1 alone, cars decelerate from 315kph to 65kph in just 130 metres and three seconds, resulting in a force on the tyres equivalent to around 4.5 times normal gravity. Longitudinal energy going into the tyres spikes under braking in turns one and 14, and traction in turn 10.
With tyre degradation expected to be very high this week, the company has elected to bring its hardest tyre compounds to Bahrain. Last year Pirelli provided medium and soft tyres to teams for the event, but with the 2013 compounds significantly softer than their 2012 counterparts the call is for hard (orange) and medium (white) tyres to counter the possible degradation concerns.
"Bahrain is also a physically demanding track, so a good level of physical preparation is necessary," commented former F1 driver Jean Alesi, who has raced here in the Speedcar series.
"It's a nice circuit that you definitely have to find a rhythm with," continued the former Ferrari stalwart. "If you do this, it will bring you a good lap time but it will also make sure that your tyres stay in the best possible condition, which will be an important part of the race."
Last year the order of race day had been three-stop strategies and the company is expecting the same to be true in 2013, although Hembery was hedging his bets until he was able to see how the cars fared out on the track for the first time in FP1.
"We expect about three stops per car, although we'll have to wait to get some running in on Friday before we can look at the data and make a more accurate prediction," he said.