By Alan Davies, Formula One correspondent
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton enters the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix weekend looking to complete back-to-back victories after his dominant display in Malaysia on Sunday.
* Race distance: 57 laps (308.238km/191.539 miles)
* Start time: 18.00 (local)/15.00 (GMT)
* Circuit length: 5.412km/3.363 miles
* 2013 winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull RB9) 57 laps in 1hr36m00.498s (192.632km/h)
* 2013 pole: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes W04) 1m 32.330s (211.017km/h)
* Lap record: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2004) 1m30.252s (216.074km/h)
The 29-year-old Mercedes AMG Petronas star from Hertfordshire took the chequered flag in Sepang, after making it successive pole positions in qualifying on Saturday.
Formula 1 heads to the desert for round three of the 2014 World Championship, but there won’t be any sunshine during this weekend’s Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.
The event, held at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, is the latest night race to be added to the calendar, starting under floodlights at 6pm local time.
After the disappointment of retiring from the season-opening Australian GP in Melbourne, Hamilton said: “It was great to kick-start my season with a win in Malaysia.
“Taking a one-two was also a fantastic result for the team and I can’t wait to see what we can do in Bahrain.
“I’ve finished on the podium here a couple of times but, for one reason or another, I’ve never managed to get the win. Until last week it was the same story for me with Malaysia, so fingers crossed this can be the year of breaking those cycles!”
Hamilton added: “Malaysia was a really busy event for the team and we have a test coming up straight after this weekend’s race, so it would be great to give the crew another good result to head home with after a long road trip.
“We know it’s going to be tough to maintain our current form, particularly at a circuit where every team has had so much running time over the winter, but I’ll be pushing hard to keep those results coming.”
Hamilton’s Silver Arrows colleague Nico Rosberg , who won in Australia and was second in Kuala Lumpur, said: “The first two races have been a great start to my season and I’m already looking forward to being back in the car and carrying on that momentum in Bahrain.
“It’s a great track and I really enjoy driving it. I’ve never had much luck on race weekends here, but it’s definitely the one I’m best prepared for this year.
“I came to Bahrain for the Pirelli tyre test back in December and during winter testing a few weeks ago.
“Of course, it’s the same situation for most teams and drivers so we could see some close battles throughout the weekend.
“We may be leading both Championships at the moment, but our rivals are breathing down our necks, so we need to stay focused and keep doing our job calmly and professionally.”
The Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) was the first F1 venue to be built in the Middle East. It hosted its first grand prix in 2004, since when it has earned a reputation for fast and furious racing.
The 5.4km (3.4-mile) layout is essentially made up of four long straights. The cars exceed 300km/h (186mph) along each, at the end of which are large 5g braking events, where car stability and a faultless energy recovery system, which harvests energy under braking, are essential.
Good traction is another important handling characteristic at this track, because the cars accelerate out of first or second-gear corners on four occasions around the lap.
1 Mercedes 68
2 McLaren 43
3 Ferrari 30
4 Williams 20
5 Force India 19
6 Red Bull 15
7 Toro Rosso 7
The middle sector provides some of the most challenging corners. Turn 10 is a tricky downhill off-camber left-hander, into which it’s easy to lock a front wheel.
Turns 11 and 12 are the circuit’s only long corners, through which good car balance is important because the drivers are hard on the power.
The asphalt at the BIC is abrasive, but the absence of any high-speed corners makes it relatively easy on tyres.
For that reason Pirelli officials are bringing their Soft (Option) and Medium (Prime) compounds to the race, which are the same as those used at the season-opener in Melbourne.
1 Nico Rosberg 43
2 Lewis Hamilton 25
3 Fernando Alonso 24
4 Jenson Button 23
5 Kevin Magnussen 20
6 Nico Hulkenberg 18
7 Sebastian Vettel 15
8 Valterri Bottas 14
9 Kimi Raikkonen 6
10 Felipe Massa 6
11 Jean-Eric Vergne 4
12 Daniil Kvyat 3
13 Sergio Perez 1
Bahrain is extremely hot during the daytime, but lower track temperatures in the cool of the night will help limit thermal degradation of the tyres.
Hamilton’s team boss Toto Wolff is looking for another good result in Bahrain, after Mercedes’ victories in the first two races of the season.
The head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport said: “We can be very proud of our achievements last week in Malaysia but there is no room for complacency.
“After two races we are leading both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships. But the most important thing to take from that is that it has only been two races.
“We are in the very early stages of what will be a demanding year for everybody and we have seen already that fortunes can change very quickly.
“We approach Bahrain with the same mentality as we have approached every challenge so far this season: in the knowledge that nothing must be taken for granted.”
Paddy Lowe, Mercedes’ technical director, added: “Malaysia produced a highly satisfying result for the factories at both Brackley and Brixworth, with a historic one-two finish for the team complemented by Mercedes-Benz powered cars occupying seven of the top 10 positions.
“This is down to the hard work and dedication of a fantastic group of people and is very much deserved. Having said that, it is essential that we do not relent in our efforts.
* First race: 2004.
* What makes it special: The desert location – and, for 2014, it becomes F1’s newest night race.
* Wins from pole position: 4.
* Track abrasiveness: High.
* Pirelli tyre choice: Soft (Option); Medium (Prime).
* 2013 winning strategy: 3 stops.
* Fuel consumption: High – one of the highest of the entire season.
* Brake wear: High – there are four big stops around the lap.
* Weather: Very hot, but the evening start will cause track temperatures to drop during the race.
* DRS zones: 2 – one on the start-finish straight, the other on the approach to Turn 11.
* Turbo effect: High, owing to plenty of acceleration-from-low-speed zones.
* Safety Car likelihood: Low – the track is wide and the possibility of rain is very low.
* Grid advantage: The left side of the grid holds a slight advantage.
* Pit-lane time: Approx 24s.
“With every team having run at the circuit during the winter, Bahrain can be seen as a benchmark in terms of competitiveness at this early stage of the season.
“The combination of heavy traction demands and variable grip levels are a challenge for both car and driver, while the long straights reward strong performance from the Power Unit.
“We expect a tight battle throughout the field this weekend and it will be interesting to see how far the cars have come over the past few weeks since our last visit.”