The Bahrain GP features one of the most fuel hungry tracks throughout the whole season. This is mainly due to extreme acceleration and deceleration. Most of the turns need to be taken with slow speeds which are then followed by long accelerations. Some teams who cannot meet the mileage requirements, turn down the power a couple of notches to save fuel. The drivers would be on throttle 64% of the time throughout the lap.
Looking at the times, it’s very clear that Mercedes AMG F1 are in a clear lead, both, in race pace and qualification runs. There’s a clear half a second gap between Hamilton who was first on both the practice sessions and the next driver from Ferrari in third, that’s Alonso. If you look at the race simulations, there’s a gap of around two tenths a second between Ferrari and Red Bull, but then that clearly depends on how much fuel is being carried by whom. Red Bull are on par with the Ferrari and maybe even better come race day. Red Bull’s race simulation times didn’t see huge drop offs which are due to tyre degradation, but can also say that they didn’t run the car to fast enough at a race pace, due to which there was no sudden degradation.
The Force India of Nico Hulkenberg wasn’t far off either. He has a great chance at claiming the place on the front grid come Saturday. Force India does extremely well at selective tracks and Bahrain is just one of them. However, Hulkenberg's average times are deceptive in the sense that his race simulation only lasted for seven laps.
Red Bull has brought a couple of upgrades which they will test and use for this race as well as the Chinese GP. They have brought a seven element front wing which was tested by Ricciardo. They seem to have the best downforce amongst all of them, but they are around 10km/h slower than the Mercedes AMG F1 on the straights. This will play for the Red Bull when overtaking opportunities come and when they’re supposed to overtake a Mercedes powered car.
The McLarens seem to be even slower than the Red Bull and Ferrari.
Lotus F1 seems to have a lot of problems. The car oversteers a lot, due to which the rear end slides which then causes the tyres to degrade a lot more quickly. There’s a lot less traction and you can clearly see it from the onboard camera when with Grosjean or Maldonado are fighting with the car through the twitchy steering wheel to control it. They have carried parts from Malaysia to further test them here, at Bahrain.
It will be extremely interesting to look at Turn 10 and how the drivers deal with it come race day, especially when the wind will decide how the drivers will deal with the turn. Jenson Button handles that corner the best due to his smooth driving style and takes the corner better than anyone on the grid.
Finally, Williams did relatively few laps as compared to their rivals, insisting that they have enough data from the two pre-season tests conducted at the same venue.
by Harshal Katakia