After a stellar start, the Turkish Grand Prix faded into frustration for Daniel Ricciardo. But he needs no reminder that it’s all to play for in the championship with the Australian more than fired up for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
What do you like about racing in Bahrain?
Daniel Ricciardo: I’m looking forward to being back in the heat in Bahrain! I know we’ve been to some awesome tracks across Europe recently and whilst they’ve all been fun for various reasons, the weather has been too cold for me! I much prefer the heat and it’s still pretty warm in Bahrain during the evening, which is great. Two of the three practice sessions are during the day when it’s really hot and both qualifying and the race are in the evening when the circuit is a lot cooler. This does make preparing for this race a challenge and adapting to different set-ups is important.
What’s there to say about the circuit?
DR: The Sakhir circuit in Bahrain is a good one, I’ve always enjoyed racing there and night sessions are always fun to take part in. In recent years, I haven’t had the best results in Bahrain, but I’m looking to set that right this weekend. There are some decent overtaking spots, especially Turn 1, which is probably the best place to attack.
How motivated are you, especially after the frustration last time out?
DR: We had a difficult time last time out in Turkey, with the low levels of grip and wet weather making it a very unpredictable race. Bahrain should be back to more ‘normal’ running, with a more familiar track surface. We need to get both cars back into the points. I’m feeling much more on top of the car since we were last in Bahrain, so I think we should be in a good place. We also have a bit of unfinished business there after last season, so I’m pretty hungry and fired up.
What do you know about Bahrain?
Esteban Ocon: Bahrain is a track that I first drove in 2015 in GP3 and a circuit I’ve driven quite regularly since then. I really enjoy driving there as it’s quite a complete circuit with plenty to offer. It’s also the first night race of the year and racing under the night sky and floodlights is always a great experience. It just gives you a sensation of speed even more to what we normally have in the day. As well as that, it’s going to be a lot hotter than what we’ve experienced recently, especially compared to Portimo and Turkey, where it was a lot cooler! It’s back to a more normal weekend in terms of the conditions.
What will the main challenges be this weekend?
EO: It’s certainly a challenge for the cars and drivers racing in the heat. It’s going to be a little more conventional to have the tyres working back to normal and then it’s up to us to do the best on car set-up. Bahrain brings some great opportunities for overtaking and it’s also usually a great race for strategy, so let’s see what happens this weekend. Turn 1 is the best overtaking spot and Turn 4 is also pretty good. Overall, it’s a cool track, so I’m really looking forward to going there.
What is your mindset for the race?
EO: I’m definitely feeling motivated after what happened at the last two races. I’ve said it doesn’t feel like we have too much luck on our side of the garage, but I believe it’s in our own hands to turn that around. There’s not much time to feel sorry for ourselves, so I’m determined to have a solid weekend and take some big points at a strategic time of the season.
With a return to more tried and tested track and weather conditions, Chief Race Engineer Ciaron Pilbeam looks ahead to this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
What are the expectations heading to a warmer weekend in Bahrain?
Ciaron Pilbeam: After several races at unfamiliar circuits in cold European autumn conditions, going to Bahrain is a change to more familiar territory. The drivers and teams know the circuit well and have a good idea of what to expect. One of the features of the Bahrain race weekend is the timing of the sessions, with practice one and three taking place in the heat of the day and practice two, qualifying and the race all later in the afternoon, when the track starts to cool down after sunset. This has a significant effect on tyre grip and performance, and makes practice two by far the most relevant practice session as it is the closest to the conditions of qualifying and the race. The circuit is generally quite hard on tyres, with some high speed cornering that generates a lot of energy, and a high traction demands out of the low and medium speed corners.
What did the team learn from Turkey?
CP: Turkey was obviously a very disappointing result for our team. The conditions were exceptional, with low track grip, low temperatures and two wet days, and some other teams dealt with these conditions more successfully than ours did. Although we are unlikely to encounter similar conditions very often, we need to learn what we can from that weekend and put the disappointment behind us and focus on the last three races of this year.
With only three races left, how is the team shaping up in the fight for third place?
CP: The team had a setback in the Constructors’ Championship at the last race in Istanbul, where our closest competitors scored well, and we have some ground to make up in the race for third place. It is still well within reach though, and we need to return quickly to the form that we showed in the races before that.