by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

Bahrain F1 Grand Prix 2012: Preview (VMM)

The Bahrain International Circuit is the Kingdom of Bahrain’s only racetrack. It was designed and built by Tilke GmbH in 2003 and it hosted the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix in April 2004. The race has been a regular fixture on the Formula 1 calendar since then, with the exception of 2011.

The 3.363-mile/5.412km track provides a complex technical challenge for the teams. The circuit has two clear overtaking places, into Turns One and Four, and acres of run-off. Its mix of long straights and predominantly low- and medium-speed corners force a compromise on car set-up, and this year’s race will also be the first time that Pirelli’s P Zero tyres and the DRS have been used at the venue.

Heat management is crucial, both for the cars and the drivers. Ambient temperatures regularly exceed 35 degrees and the cloudless desert skies push the track temperature towards 60 degrees – the highest of the year. Such extreme conditions affect tyre wear and result in the drivers losing up to three litres of fluid during the race.

Race distance - 57 laps (191.539 miles/308.238km)
Start time - 1500 (local)/1200 GMT
Circuit length - 3.363 miles/5.412km
2010 winner - Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 49 laps in 1hr 39m20.396s (186.272km/h)
2010 pole - Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing) 1m54.101s (198.739km/h)
Lap record - Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2004) 1m30.252s (216.074km/h)

McLaren at the Bahrain Grand Prix
- Wins: -
- Poles: -
- Fastest laps: 2

Car 3: Jenson Button
- Age: 32 (January 19 1980)
- GPs: 211
- Wins: 13
- Poles: 7
- FLs: 7

“I won this race in 2009 and feel we have a car that’s quite well suited to the track’s characteristics. The track is a good balance of tricky, technical, low-speed corners and faster, high-speed sweeps – particularly two sections behind the pits, which are very satisfying when you get them right. Our car should go well here.

“I think the original circuit layout, which doesn’t include the extended ‘endurance’ loop that we used for a single race in 2010, is better for Formula 1 – and it’s a positive that we’re returning to that configuration this year.

“It will make the approach into Turns Five, Six and Seven – the high-speed sweepers – more challenging as you’ll be entering at much higher speeds. Hopefully, we can get another strong result to bolster our chances in the championship.”

Car 4: Lewis Hamilton
- Age: 27 (January 7 1985)
- GPs: 93
- Wins: 17
- Poles: 22
- FLs: 11

“Unlike Jenson, I’ve not won in Bahrain – although I’ve had some strong drives there in the past. The circuit is a typically modern F1 track, with plenty of run-off and a good variety of corners. You can be really late on the brakes for Turns One, Four and 14, which is a particularly technical final corner.

“Still, there are definitely passing opportunities. Turn One is a classic late-braking opportunity, and it also gives you the chance to set up the other driver, by forcing him to defend up the inside and then compromising his exit speed, which gives you the opportunity to have a look inside at Turn Two, or even Turn Four at the end of the straight.

“I think we go to Bahrain with a car that’s well-balanced in every area, and I’ll be looking for another strong result.”

Martin Whitmarsh
Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
“Our result in China showed that neither Jenson nor Lewis has lost any of his fighting spirit; and to get both of them on the podium – after each qualified in a less-than-representative position – was further proof that MP4-27 appears to be consistently competitive wherever we go.

“The 2012 event will mark the first time Formula 1 has raced in Sakhir using both KERS Hybrid and DRS, and I think the combination, in tandem with a well-positioned DRS deployment zone along the main straight, will lead to another exciting race.

“This weekend, we’ll be looking for more points-scoring opportunities for both drivers – we’re fully aware that this is a long championship and that it’s often just as important to score regularly, and to keep scoring, as it is to win races. It’s consistency that will define the path to both world championships, I believe.

“This race will represent the last of the four flyaways that constitute the opening phase of the 2012 world championship. Vodafone McLaren Mercedes goes into the race leading both the drivers’ and the constructors’ world championships, and we want to come away from Bahrain having consolidated our positions in both. We’re determined to mount a consistent and sustained challenge for both titles, and we’re currently in a good position to achieve that.”

How McLaren defined five days in the history of the Bahrain Grand Prix
1. April 3 2005
Kimi Raikkonen finishes third for McLaren, but it’s F1 returnee Pedro de la Rosa who attracts the most post-race plaudits. He’s drafted into the team at the 11th hour to replace the injured Juan Pablo Montoya and he drives a tenacious race to fifth, setting the fastest lap of the race.

2. March 12 2006
A mechanical problem in qualifying forces Kimi Raikkonen to start the race from last (22nd) place. Undeterred, he’s up to 13th by the end of lap one and he executes a perfect one-stop strategy to finish third. Juan Pablo Montoya ends a solid day for the team in fifth place.

3. April 8 2007
Another race, another podium for McLaren’s new superstar Lewis Hamilton. He starts and finishes the third race of his F1 career in second place, just behind pole sitter and race winner Felipe Massa. Fernando Alonso brings the team’s second MP4-22 home in fifth place.

4. April 26 2009
The MP4-24 has some early-season grip issues, but that doesn’t stop Lewis. The reigning world champion uses the team’s new KERS Hybrid system to good effect, coming home in fourth place.

5. March 14 2010
Third place behind the Ferraris is a promising start to the year for Lewis, but he might have finished even higher had he not been held up by Nico Rosberg for the first half of the race. Jenson Button, driving his first race for McLaren, comes home seventh.

~ Official photo and details courtesy of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes ~

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