F1 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix: Hamilton’s tough desert challenge
PUBLISHED: 21:56 18 April 2013 | UPDATED: 13:48 20 April 2013
FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton goes looking for his third successive podium finish for Mercedes in Sunday’s 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Bahrain Grand Prix facts
* Race distance: 57 laps (308.238km/191.539 miles)
* Start time: 15:00 (local)/12:00 (GMT)
* Circuit length: 5.412km/3.363 miles
* 2012 winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing RB8) 57 laps in 1hr35m10.990s
* 2012 pole: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing RB8) 1m32.422s
* Lap record: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2004) 1m30.252s
The F1 roadshow heads straight from Shanghai in China to the Middle East this week with round four, the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix, taking place in Sakhir on Sunday.
After claiming back-to-back third places, 28-year-old Hamilton is encouraged by Mercedes’ early season form, but is looking for more speed to challenge Ferrari, Lotus and Red Bull.
“The weekend in China was really positive for both me and the team. With each race, I am becoming more settled in the team and more comfortable in my car, and we were very happy with the pole and podium finish,” said Hamilton.
“There are some areas where we need to improve to close that gap to the fastest cars and we’re working hard to identify and develop those.
“There’s a limit to what we can do before Bahrain but I’ll be talking to my engineers before we arrive at the circuit and seeing where we can improve in the short term.”
The Bahrain International Circuit was the first Formula 1-spec track to be built in the Middle East. Located at Sakhir, 30km south west of Bahrain’s capital city Manama, the track was completed in 2003 and it’s one of seven circuits on this year’s calendar to have been designed by German architect Hermann Tilke.
The 5.4km layout is made up of four long straights, all of which funnel into heavy braking zones and clear overtaking places.
There are also some tricky medium-speed corners that require a good car balance, and a demanding off-camber second-gear left-hander (Turn 10), where it’s easy to lock the loaded inside front wheel.
"There are some areas where we need to improve to close that gap to the fastest cars and we’re working hard to identify and develop those."
Car set-up is a compromise between straight-line speed and cornering grip, and with ambient temperatures expected to exceed 35 degrees this weekend, teams will also need to be mindful of cooling.
The abrasive asphalt, which is made from granite imported from Wales, has prompted Pirelli to take its medium and hard compounds to the race – the same specifications that were used at the Malaysian Grand Prix last month.
Cars exceed 300km/h on four separate occasions and 11 of the circuit’s 15 corners are taken at 200km/h or less, in fourth gear or lower. There are eight braking events around the lap, with five of them classed as heavy braking zones.
Hertfordshire-born Hamilton said: “The Bahrain circuit is a real challenge, particularly for the tyres with overheating and also the sand on the track, but this helps to make it unique.
“The layout has a great combination of fast, slow and medium corners which make it tough for the drivers and the car, so it will be a true test for us.
“I can’t wait to get back in the car and see what we can do.”
Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Nico Rosberg added: “The first three races haven’t quite worked out as we had hoped on my side but the positive is that we have a car that we can really work with.
“So I’m looking forward to getting on with this weekend and the circuit at Sakhir is one that I like very much. It’s going to be very tough on the rear tyres and our biggest challenge will be to make the most out of the situation.
“We’re better prepared than we were last year and we have shown that the car is much stronger so I really hope that we can achieve a great result in Bahrain.”
Mercedes principal Ross Brawn feels the team is heading in the right direction, but acknowledges there are still areas for improvement.
“With three race weekends under our belts, Bahrain will be the final race of the season-opening quartet,” said Brawn.
“With very different track conditions at each venue, this should give us a good understanding of the car that we have to work with for the rest of the season.
FIA F1 World Drivers’ Championship
Drivers’ standings after Chinese Grand Prix:
1 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 52pts
2 Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 49
3 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 43
4 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 40
5 Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 30
6 Mark Webber (Red Bull) 26
“The performances so far have been pleasing and perhaps even beyond our pre-season expectations, however there is work to be done.
“We have two main areas to focus on; we must improve the reliability and we have to lift our performance to find that extra couple of tenths to our fastest competitors. And of course, that’s a moving target to make the challenge even tougher.
“A strong two car finish will be our target this weekend, and we want to see both Nico and Lewis in a position to score not only points but podiums regularly.
“We’ve had a taste of success already this season and the slight feeling of disappointment with third place in China is our motivation.”
2013 Chinese Grand Prix result
Top 10 in China:
1 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
2 Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus)
3 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
4 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
5 Jenson Button (McLaren)
6 Felipe Massa (Ferrari)
7 Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)
8 Paul di Resta (Force India)
9 Romain Grosjean (Lotus)
10 Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber)
Mercedes director Toto Wolff echoed Brawn’s comments.
“After three races, we have an equal balance of reasons to be pleased and areas we need to improve,” said Wolff.
“Two podium finishes in two races for Lewis represent a strong start to the season. That shows our car is competitive in different conditions and on different types of circuit.
“But two technical retirements for Nico in three races are not acceptable, and everybody is working flat out at the factory to make sure we hit our target of bringing both cars to the finish at every race.
“Inside the team, the atmosphere is calm and motivated, with Nico and Lewis pushing everybody forward with their strong performances.”
This weekend’s race is set to be the hottest of the season and Wolff added: “Bahrain will provide another new challenge, with the combination of high temperatures, dust conditions and heavy demands on the rear tyres.
“We will need a smooth and reliable weekend to collect the required data for making the right decisions on Sunday.”
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