F1 2012 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix

Bahrain International Circuit: The fourth race of the Formula One season took place at the Sakhir race track under relatively clear weather conditions with a three day forecast of partial sun, clouds, and partial sun for the practice, qualifying and race segments. The race is scheduled for 14 laps on the 5.4km circuit making a total distance of 75.7km and 210 turns. My objectives for the weekend are to qualify 4th or better and to win the race.

Bahrain is a demanding and technical track with a diverse range of racing lines, offering several overtaking opportunities for the drivers. There is a particularly nasty series of corners at turns nine and ten where an elevation causes the car to unload if braking at the wrong point. The circuit was designed by German engineer Hermann Tilke and features several long straights which allows for a top speed of 314kph (195 mph).

Prerace and Qualifying

My teammate Daniel Ricciardo is presently in 13th position and P1 on the team while I leading the Drivers’ Championship but P2 on the team. Hopefully this will change soon as I am beating my teammate in every conceivable category.

The Team Mate Challenge data displays the disparity that exists between us. If a contract offer from a top team comes my way later in the season I just may seriously consider it if I am not P1 by that point.

I am not complaining here, just wanting to receive the diva treatment I deserve at this point.

I would run the practice segment on white or prime tires and post a time of 1:40.010 over three laps placing me in the top spot.

In the first qualifying session the weather condition changed somewhat in being more overcast, however I ran on yellow or option tires and posted a fast lap of 1:38.577 to lead the field again.

In the second qualifying session I managed to improve my lap time to 1:37.434 and retain the top spot.

In the shootout session everyone was running slower laps and I post a personnel best lap of the segment at 1:38.727 having run four laps in trying to attain the pole position which went to Fernando Alonso who finished 0.269 ahead of me.

Race Strategy

Although I had significant issues with the debacle at the start of the previous race (having to pit at the end of lap one to change to option tires), I am not confident enough in my thinking about how a 25% race distance plays out to alter the suggestion made here by the AI crew chief.

Track Overview

Having some confidence in how the track will handle considering the consistent weather during the previous segments, I believe that I am in a good position to have another strong finish if not a win. However getting through the first turn of a Formula One race can be a crap shoot at best sometimes.

Event Information

Zero percent chance of the rain across the board is a welcome change from the previous few race weekends.

Research and Development

While writing this blog post I notice the menu option # 2 for Upgrades and am kicking myself for not noticing this during the race weekend. I am curious now as to what I have been missing in terms of potential improvement to the car.

Damn it…

Car Setup

I am going with the default settings here and I have been in the tuning section before so I know there are several options there to either improve or destroy the car.

Race Laps 1-5

Here we go…

The implementation of KERS at the start of the race is absolutely critical to avoid getting run over. Here it allows me to get into a prime overtaking position on the race leader Alonso.

Alonso could have forced me over and I would have reacted but he didn’t and it left the door open.

I am able to clear the leader and take over P1 as the cars behind bundle up in the congestion of the first turn. In many Formula One events the race would effectively be over at this point save for the leader experiencing some mechanical difficulty or making a catastrophic mistake to give the race away.

Stay tuned…

This is the notorious turns nine and ten sequence of double-blind apexes where turning and braking are required to be done delicately so as to not unload the rear end and send the car spinning off of the track. I would have some hairy moments here during the race that made me drive rather cautiously through this exchange.

There was a nice elevation change through this sequence in turns 11 and 12 that made it interesting in an otherwise brown pallet race environment with all of the sand.

Lap Time Results

Lap 1: 1:43.380 (P1)
Lap 2: 1:42.166 (P1)
Lap 3: 1:42.265 (P1) DRS Enabled
Lap 4: 1:41.937 (P1)
Lap 5: 1:43.966 (P1)

Race Laps 6-10

Alonso would stay near me and here at the start of lap six employ DRS to blow past me on the long front straight as the team signals me to pit at the end of the lap.

I would maintain the outside line and use it to out brake the Ferrari going into the hairpin turn one to regain the lead and enter the pits first.

The team would nail a stop of 3.368 which allowed me to get out in front of Alonso to rejoin the race in fourth place overall.

Felipe Massa stayed out on the track however I was able to settle into turn one ahead of him which probably slowed his teammate Alonso up a bit.

This is the backside of the elevation sweep mentioned earlier as the cars descend now into turn 13 in preparation for exiting onto the long back straight.

As some of the other drivers were finishing their stops I worked back towards P1 with Mark Webber in first place for the moment exiting pit road on the right.

I would hold steady and fly into the turn on the outside to pin the other driver to the apex allowing me to drift alongside and take the lead.

Red Bull gives you wings…

But apparently not ailerons…this error could have been catastrophic had I not any KERS remaining this lap to employ once I righted the ship.

The debris can still be clearly seen on my tires as I desperately try to hold off Webber going into 14.

I would make it to the front straight still in the lead while the other racers probably smelled blood in the water.

And it would be short order for them to go in for the kill as Webber employs DRS (note his rear wings opened up) to blow past me heading into the first turn hairpin where I am King on Earth.

Sit down and STFU…

Lap Time Results

Lap 6: 1:44.329 (P1) Pit Entrance Lap
Lap 7: 2:01.982 (P4) Pit Exit Lap
Lap 8: 1:44.180 (P1)
Lap 9: 1:44.916 (P1)
Lap 10: 1:41.671 (P1)

Race Laps 11-14

During the final laps I would set four consecutive fastest times as I was absolutely hitting the marks and taking huge chunks of time off of the various sectors.

I would set the fastest lap of the race on lap 13 at 1:40.481 with one lap remaining.

Pride goeth before a fall…

There is simply no excuse for pushing this hard in the closing laps when I had already built up a gap of 3.746 on Webber just before this potential disaster.

Once again having KERS in reserve saved me.

Webber can be seen just off to the right in a close finish thanks to my error. I would have thought the treacherous turns nine and ten would have done me in if anything, however I would run off of the track in the same spot in turn 13 twice.

Lap Time Results

Lap 11: 1:41.634 (P1)
Lap 12: 1:41.353 (P1)
Lap 13: 1:40.481 (P1) Fastest Lap of the Race
Lap 14: N/A (Race End)

Race Result

The total race time was 24:18.577 and I finished in the top spot 0.510 seconds ahead of second place Mark Webber.

Drivers’ Championship

This victory would solidify my place in P1 in the championship standings, extending my lead over Lewis Hamilton to 27 points.

Constructors’ Championship

The win would also improve Scuderia’s position having gained five points on Red Bull Racing to be 11 points out of a tie for the top spot.

Parc Ferme

Contract renegotiation!!

Race Recap

High expectations for the weekend are surpassed by the superior results (although the two errors could have been cataclysmic).

Team Mate Challenge Data

If this was a condensed Season Challenge effort (ten races) I would probably have had a contract offer now from another team.

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