This is the very first time that Bahrain has taken place so late in the season, but temperatures at the start and the end of the year are quite similar, so data from previous races should still be relevant. One risk present all year round is sand blowing onto the circuit from the surrounding desert, which can make the surface dirty and reduce grip.
Sakhir is a medium severity circuit with a focus on traction and braking rather than lateral loads and the 3.543-kilometre outer circuit – set to be among the fastest in Formula 1, with a predicted average speed of around 230kph – should be a bit less demanding on tyres than the standard circuit. The drivers will work hard though as the short lap will mean a lot of traffic that could make qualifying and overtaking tricky.
There will be quite a different approach to free practice at each race. For the Bahrain Grand Prix, two of the three free sessions are held in the heat of the day, so aren’t especially relevant to qualifying and the race. The same is true of the Sakhir Grand Prix, but as this is not only a new track but a totally new style of circuit, the teams will need to collect as much tyre and car data as they can by maximising every session.
Mario Isola: “We get to experience something quite different during both weekends in Bahrain. Perhaps the most interesting challenge will be the Sakhir Grand Prix, as it’s not like any other circuit where we have raced before: even though it uses about half of the standard grand prix track. While there’s some simulation data already, we need to wait for real data from free practice to understand the exact effect on wear, degradation, and therefore strategy. On top of that, we’re bringing tyres that are a step softer than last year, which open up more opportunities in terms of strategy.
“During the first weekend drivers will run the new 2021 tyres on Friday with the C3 compound, getting a first proper taste of the rubber they will use next year.
“Formula 2 is also back for the final round alongside F1, in a pair of races with different tyre nominations that will decide the title.”