Describing a lap of the Bahrain International Circuit isn’t all that easy. Why? Well firstly they’ve made some changes for 2010, with the track now 900 metres longer. Not that that’s a long way to travel in a Formula One car. The new additions are in sector two, and it’s a bit of a twisty affair; what Mark Webber would probably call ‘Mickey Mouse’.
Added to this there’s a total lack of scenery at the circuit. Suzuka has its Ferris wheel, Monaco has her yacht-strewn harbour, and Abu Dhabi has a giant, illuminated pink and blue hotel. These are things you remember. At the Bahrain track the visuals mainly consist of sand. Lots and lots of sand.
It also doesn’t help that the track’s corners are simply know by numbers 1 through 23 rather than proper names. Think of the Spa’s Eau Rouge, Maggots and Becketts at Silverstone, or Monza’s Curva Parabolica. You hear the name and you can see the corner in your mind. Now picture the Bahrain circuit’s turn 14. Doesn’t spark the imagination in quite the same way, does it?
It’s not a bad circuit though, and even if it was we’d still be excited- after all, it is the first race of the new season. So, with the cars set to hit the track in less than three days time, here’s Badger’s guide to a lap of the Bahrain International Circuit (you can follow it in video format below too)
We start on the long pit straight, with the grandstand to the left and the pit complex to the right. Here the cars hit a top speed of over 180 mph, before breaking heavily in to turn one, a tight right-hander. The drivers need to get a good exit here, as turns 2 and 3 quickly follow. Ideally they’ll want to be flat through these as they lead to another long straight before more heavy breaking for turn 4. Getting turn 1 wrong will compromise 2 and 3, and that could give the driver behind a good slingshot for overtaking in to turn 4.
Exiting turn 4 the temptation may be to go right, as they did on the old track layout, but the drivers will now bare left. Turn 5 should be flat, but they’ll break midway through turn 6 and thread it through 7 before getting their foot down again for the short blast to the next corner. This is a tricky double-apex right-hander, comprising turns 8 and 9, and only practice will make perfect.
They then take off again and ‘negotiate’ turn 10. This isn’t a corner, but they’ve seen fit to call it one. In reality however your gran could take this flat without so much as blinking. Turn 11 is a 90 degree right, following which is the quick kink of turn 12. This should be flat- and very fun- and is followed by 13, which brings us back on to the older part of the circuit.
There’s more fun to be had now as the drivers blast through the exciting downhill turns of 14 and 15 as quickly as possible and head for turn 16, a very slow right hand hairpin. This could be a decent overtaking spot, but you’d have to get it right. Another short straight now before the downhill left of turn 17, a tough corner that’s taken at some speed, and quickly feeds in to turn 18. This is one of the most challenging sets of corners on the track. It’s almost blind on the approach, and drivers will need to carry a lot of speed in to it. If they’re too quick however they could easily run out of road. Keep an eye out for how the top drivers are taking this one during qualifying.
Here comes another long straight, hitting 175 mph before turn 19, a fairly quick corner that curves round to the left as you climb the hill and feeds in to 20, a flat out right sweep that opens on the exit. Then you break heavily for 21, a corner where the angle makes it a bit tough to find the apex. Getting this right is vital, as it leads on to a long straight and could be the difference between passing the guy in front and being passed by the guy behind.
Heading down the straight we’re now approaching turns 22 and 23, the final corners of the lap, and getting these right is as important as the one that’s just gone. 22 is the key. The drivers will want to turn in late and get their foot back down as quickly as possible to ensure the best run out of the final turn. Turn 23 is another corner that doesn’t deserve to be called a corner- it is in fact just a mild bend in the road that they’ll pay no attention to. We’re now back on the start finish straight, approaching the grandstand and ready to start another lap. Phew!
Places to Pass: At the end of any of the three long straights, so turns 1, 4 and 22 will be the best bets. Turns 16 and 21 will also be worth a go.
Toughest Turn: Turns 17 and 18 are without doubt a real challenge, and several drivers have pointed them out as the most difficult on the circuit. Special mention for the downhill blast through 14 and 15; they may not be tough but they do look very exciting.