Lando Norris, McLaren, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019

Sub-54 second laps will produce a “big mess” in qualifying on Bahrain Outer circuit

2020 Belgian Grand Prix

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Qualifying for the Sakhir Grand Prix on Bahrain International Circuit’s ‘Outer’ configuration will be a “big mess”, one team principal has predicted.

Formula 1 bosses indicated lap times could be as low as 53.9 seconds when the championship uses the short, 3.543-kilometre circuit for the first time in December, depending on how many DRS zones are used.

“We’re looking at qualifying with two DRS zones at a 54.3 [seconds]” said Formula 1’s technical director Pat Symonds. “If we have three DRS zones that’ll come down to about a 53.9.”

The track is around 200 metres longer than Monaco, which is typically the shortest track F1 visits. Drivers will have little opportunity to escape from traffic on its long straights.

“We didn’t do any simulations yet but for sure with 55 seconds per lap it will be a big mess on that traffic on the qualifying laps,” said Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur. “It will be nightmare.”

However Vasseur says F1 is doing the right thing by using different configurations of Bahrain’s circuit for its two races at the venue this year.

Bahrain Outer Circuit
An F1 race on Bahrain’s ‘almost oval’ Outer circuit is a smart idea
“I think it’s exciting to have different layouts of the tracks when we have a double event like this,” he said. “It makes sense to do something a bit different and the advantage with Bahrain is that you have at least three configurations for the layout of the track. It makes sense, it will be a bit different to the first one.”

Symonds said the traffic on Bahrain’s Outer layout will be little worse than at some of F1’s other short circuits like Interlagos.

“In the same way Brazil gets crowded,” he said. “Short circuits do. But it’s all part of the challenge.

“I think to be a complete driver in the drivers championship you have to handle things like this. The teams have so many tools these days to look at these sort of things.

“So it will be a challenge. It will be difficult, maybe someone will lose out from it, someone will gain from it. But I think overall we’re going to have a good spectacle.”

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Keith Collantine
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62 comments on “Sub-54 second laps will produce a “big mess” in qualifying on Bahrain Outer circuit”

  1. Perhaps they could tinker with the qualifying format for this race?

    Maybe either a ‘Q1a’ and ‘Q1b’ split between the top and bottom halves of the driver’s championship.

    Or have a ‘Q4’ for the top 5 drivers in Q3, similar to a ‘superpole run’ like in WSBK.

    1. Q3 shouldn’t be any problem as 10 cars on track can find themselves more than enough space. Q1 I can see being messy but I don’t see a reason to have to write in several new rules to legislate a split session of some kind. Track conditions can change due to temperature (fair to say that rain is unlikely in this case) which could provide an unfair advantage/disadvantage to some teams.

      I say let the teams figure it out. They can get their laps in early to find space, and if they get caught out at the last minute then that’s just part of the game.

    2. Why> ? the team should send their drivers out earlier and you have no problem. So if they decide on late i don’t care what happens it’s on their head.

  2. Great. If team principals don’t like it means it’s gonna be fun to watch.
    According to team principals good racing is what we saw in spa, predictability at 100% and cars cruising all the time.

    1. Exactly, it’s not like it won’t be the same for everyone or would hurt to spice things up after (in all likelihood) the championship is done and dusted. Bring on the minor chance of chaos, I say :)

    2. F1Recorder, you say that, but how many times has that actually been the case and how many times has it turned out that the team principals were right?

      After all, if you go back to what a number of fans on this site were saying during qualifying for the 2019 Italian Grand Prix, the general tone was not “that was fun to watch” – most fans were rather scathing about what they saw as a shambolic state of affairs, complained that the drivers were pathetic idiots and demanding that they be penalised for denying the fans the chance to see a proper battle emerge on track (some, for example, calling for the whole of the top 10 to be given penalties).

      There might be those saying now that it was a great show – but that’s certainly not what they said at the time, where it was more outrage at what they saw as a farce and a joke.

  3. I think it will be great fun – it should be a slipstream fest and I’m sure the teams will be able to manage to not all go out at the same time. Timing will be key.

  4. It might not actually be bad as Brazil/Monaco, as there’s very little in the way of real corners on this track.

    1. The middle sector will be very tight and twisty, that could certainly cause a problem.

      1. With 3 corners – “twisty”?
        In what reality?

      2. Even then, there’s probably only 3 corners that won’t be flat out; 4,7 & 8 and maybe 5.

  5. @ecwdanselby my thoughts exactly, if you’re on an in or out lap at Monaco or the middle sector of Interlagos there’s not a lot of places you can go to get out of the way, with a massive 1km long straights it should be easy enough

  6. I reckon the number of DRS-activation zones is going to be three like on the standard layout.

    1. I still dream of a race with zero

      1. How about drs that automatically shuts when the cars front and rear wheels (or thereabouts) draw parallel?

        (Been trying to discuss this without someone for years but nobody ever replies)

        1. I like the idea. How about if it only opens for set amount of time, not for the full straight. Like you get a 3 second boost and that’s it.

          1. Cool.

            Yeah that’s an idea too, maybe even alongside changes to zones and detection points..

            I strongly do feel that the fia got pretty lazy with it. They introduced it, fiddled with the lengths of some zones, and that was it.. they didnt try something else or develop it.. if myself and others alone can think of quite good ways of better using drs, why couldnt they right?

            The key thing being that it was supposed to help create *battles* not overtakes. That I believe is what we truly want, battles not overtakes.

            The red bulls in Malaysia 16 for example.. no overtake or ultimate change of position but a great battle. I’m sure theres plenty other examples

      2. This. With all those straights whats the need for any DRS zones?

  7. Gonna be some golden radio highlights, at least!

    1. The only highlights worth following these days.

  8. They could use the original circuit for out/inlaps in Q1/2 that will avoid the twisty middle sector.

    Because it takes longer to complete a lap on the original circuit there’ll be no need to adjust the timing system.

  9. Good. Giving teams and drivers some left-field problems to think around might result in a fun, topsy-turvy qualifying and a mixed-up grid.

    Earn your money, drivers and strategy boffins.

  10. As Symonds mentions, we can compare this with a rallye championship putting the contestants in all sorts of various settings and putting challenges up for them.

    I really like that this track configuration is quite different from what the calendar has and that way poses an unique challenge for teams and drivers to manage.

  11. Stir up the Track real good…

    Lewis will still win.


    Because he’s that damn good !

    100 poles 100 victories

    1. In a merc even Bottas could win, or latifi..

      1. Bottas is in a Merc and he barely wins 3 times per year…

    2. Most of the current drivers would also be winning in that rocketship!

  12. IndyCar splits up Q1 on all road and street courses and they still complain about traffic. It is just the nature of the beast. You just learn to deal with it.

    1. But Indy Car complain about road and street circuits. 😂😂😂

  13. There is a way to circumvent traffic and that is to not leave it to the last minute of qualifying to all come out together and drive as slowly as possible and bunch up in the final sector.

    1. Exactly. Crazy idea, use all the time you have available to you. With a short lap that means even more time for the same quali length. Don’t go out trying to be last person across the line. It’s not rocket science, even though F1 would like it to be more complicated than rocket science.

      A short lap will be brilliant because hundredths, not tenths, will result in big movements on the grid. Heck, we might not see the Noah’s Ark style two-by-two grid and wouldn’t that be just awful.

      And also, if it’s a short lap you might be more likely to get a couple of decent laps out the same set of tyres.

    2. I agree. Q1 takes 12 minutes, right? So, theoratically, taking account the outlap, they could do 12 qualifying laps. Sure, they’d want to switch tires, run low fuel, be last over the line. But maybe they should approach qualifying differently this time around, just to get the lap in.

  14. Great, what’s the problem?

    1. Blue flags are going to be a problem @john-h, in the race. The tail end cars will be caught quite soon, and then they’ll be caught by successive lead lap cars one after another, losing a couple of seconds each time.

      1. Sounds fantastic @zann, I don’t see the problem. Get rid of DRS and blue flags altogether.

        1. You weren’t watching in 2001 then @john-h, and Monaco. But see on Sunday. Not saying it won’t be a good race, but there will be this issue, even with DRS and blue flags. Without them it would not be any kind of race at all.

          1. If you’re referring to the DC vs Bernoldi incident @zann, yes I was watching (I started watching F1 about 1991). They were on the same lap and no blue flags were necessary. Also one of the most memorable incidents of the last 20 years, and disgraceful Ron behaviour. More of those memories please.

            “Without them it would not be any kind of race at all”

            Well, we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one!!

          2. Yes Bernoldi and a demonstration of when a car can’t pass. Cannot pass, irrespective of their pace and the intensity of wishing :) They introduced blue flags so that cars can pass backmarkers and continue racing, instead of for example being blocked by a rival’s junior team, and they introduced DRS so that while this aero persists the result has some meaningful relationship with the pace of the various cars.

            But at Bahrain Outer, the Haas, Williams, Alfas and possibly Ferraris, will cycle through blue flags from one to the next in series. It’ll be a grim race for them, as being lapped feeds on itself.

          3. Not sure about disgraceful Ron behaviour, @john-h (and boy, did I loathe RD). Enrique Bernoldi, whose English was rather poor, declared that RD threatened him with finishing his F1 career. Afterwards McLaren released a tape of the conversation which was transcribed “that was not sporting and you shouldn’t carry on like that.” This was probably just a misundestanding by Bernoldi.

            And of course you are right, this incident has nothing to do with blue flags, DC was trying to pass EB, not lap him. Bad recollection by @zann

            Reminds me also of the fresher incident between Alonso and Petrov (Abu Dhabi 2010) where Alonso lost his chance for a third WDC and Seb won his first one. I believe this incident was instrumental for the implementation of the (expletive deleted) DRS in 2011. But again, nothing to do with blue flags.

        2. Have to agree @john-h, get rid of blue flags for this race. Cars will start being lapped before lap 10 and there are plenty of straights for the faster cars to get past. Let them work for it.
          Not sure that they could get rid of DRS given how hard it is to follow in these cars, but live in hope :)

          1. Good point. For this race, blue flags should be binned. I saw there weren’t any at Indycar either. It worked perfectly.

          2. wow that’s convincing @john-h :)

          3. Honestly, what are we doing?:

  15. Why would this track need three DRS zones?
    By the way, are lap times below one minute allowed? As far as I know Hermann Tilke had to add some incredibly slow corners to the Fuji track in order to prevent this.

    1. There’s no rule defining lap length, only race length, which has to 305km(or 2 hours) with the exception of Monaco, 260.5km, because of its historic status.

      1. @f1infigures @chrisr1718 There is a minimum lap length, I think it is set at 3.5km which this circuit just meets (by 43m). Monaco is shorter than this but has a derogation. Lap time is not mandated.

        Not bothered too much personally since shorter laps will allow for greater strategy variation as there is less of a penalty from not pitting on the optimum lap.

        1. I’m certain there’s no minimum lap length.
          There’s a maximum recommend lap length of 7km, for new circuits and a maximum of 2km for any one straight.

          1. From the FIA regulations.

            “Minimum circuit length for FIA Championship competitions
            The following table may be taken into consideration when determining the eligibility of a new or established circuit applying for a competition counting towards an FIA Championship, Trophy or Cup which has not previously included a competition on the circuit.
            Minimum length in km for a duration up to:
            F1 3.5km
            NB : The minimum length for circuits applying for any international competition will normally be 2 km.”

      2. There is a recommendation that the minimum length of a track is 3.5 km (see Supplement 2 of the Procedures for the Recognition of Motor Racing Circuit by the FIA). No mention of a minimum lap time.

  16. A big mess for organisers and teams usually means something interesting for spectators. Bring it on.

  17. “We’re looking at qualifying with two DRS zones at a 54.3 [seconds]” said Formula 1’s technical director Pat Symonds. “If we have three DRS zones that’ll come down to about a 53.9.”

    How about not using DRS during this race, then?

    1. @faulty Because that would be common sense. Don’t you know anything about F1?

      1. Now and then I think of when we were together
        Like when you said you felt so happy you could die
        Told myself that you were right for me

        F1 was something that I used to know.

  18. Easy solution, just make a Q1a and Q1b 10 min sessions.
    Helped by the lap length that’s easily enough for 2 out laps, 2 hot laps and 1 in lap. 2nd in lap will be as the session has ended.
    One car from each team, championship points leader goes in a, other driver in b.
    Repeat for Q2 – positions 1-7 go in Q2a, 8-15 in Q2b
    Q3 as normal. Still only 50 mins of actual track time, qualifying may take 75+ mins to complete instead of 60+ mins.

  19. Alternatively make a longer Q2 session of 30 minutes and remove Q1.
    Ten cars are eliminated and have tyre choice. Top ten have to stick with tyres and progress to Q3 as normal.

  20. They could do the qualification on the regular Bahrain track. This should lead to some interesting results as teams would have to choose to optimize the setup either for the race or the qualification. I mean, it could lead to a “reverse grid”, but still retain the spirit of the sport.

  21. I don’t see crowding as a problem as much as the opposite—people trying to a position themselves for a tow with a competitive car will lead to some people “racing” for certain track position during the quali rounds. Given that the track is short and tire wear not likely to be an issue you can fuel for a few laps and jockey for the right position. It’s going to be wild and I welcome it.

  22. Christ just deal with it. With such a short track it’s not like your not going to get one flying lap in and run out if time is it!

  23. And I’m really looking forward to seeing it 😀

  24. Why F1 drivers are paid millions dollars/euros? They must show their skills dealing with all sorts of problems on the track. And NOT complain about the traffic! I like Bahrain Outer circuit very much.

  25. Mandate minimum laptime and be done with it.

  26. They will be alright. It’s about time for them to do something to spice it up a little. F1 has become so boring. Maybe this can make it exciting for once.

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