Alexander Albon, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020

Bahrain’s “Bumpy, punishing, tricky’ Outer circuit divides opinion among F1 drivers

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

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Formula 1 drivers offered mixed opinions of the Bahrain International Circuit’s short, 3.5-kilometre Outer layout after driving it for the first time yesterday.

Concern over the difficulty of avoiding traffic was a common theme among drivers. Lap times are already under 55 seconds, which means when all 20 cars are on the track at once there is less than three seconds between each on average. Formula 1 cars can be affected by turbulence when they get within seven seconds of each other.

Esteban Ocon was expecting the worse before practice began, but said the traffic hadn’t been quite as bad as he feared.

“It was a bit less busy than I thought it was going to be,” said the Renault driver. “But it’s still very difficult to handle all the traffic, to get everything right in one lap.

“There’s only four corners, pretty much, if you think about it. So it’s going to be extremely tight and we need to extract the best out of the car tomorrow.”

Vettel explored the new layout’s run-off areas
Other drivers have also expressed concerns over traffic. Sebastian Vettel said he “hopes nothing bad happens” in qualifying and Daniil Kvyat suggested dividing drivers into groups to reduce how many cars are on the track at once.

The Outer circuit links turns four and 13 on the regular grand prix track via a short and bumpy link road. Vettel said the new section is “quite tricky.”

“Turn four is more or less as it was last week,” the Ferrari driver explained. “It’s a bit faster because it opens up.

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Several drivers voiced concerns over traffic
“But then it’s quite bumpy around seven and eight. The kerbs are very aggressive and it’s just difficult to make it stick through that part.”

The quickest lap time during practice was set by Valtteri Bottas, though his 54.506 second tour was deleted due to a track limits violation at the new turn eight.

Bottas, who went off-track in the new sequence while driving it for the first time, described it as “a really technical section with the bumps and everything.”

“It’s definitely not the easiest section. It’s actually quite tricky and it is easy to lose a tenth, just like that.”

Daniel Ricciardo described the new sequence as “actually my favourite section of the track” though admitted that was “probably just because it’s new and I’m a bit bored of what we did all last week.”

Bahrain Outer Circuit
Bahrain’s compact Outer circuit
“It’s bumpy but it actually isn’t crazy,” said Ricciardo. “It is bumpy but it’s not undrivable. So it adds a bit of character in itself.”

The section adds a single new braking zone at turns seven and eight. Ricciardo says this chicane would benefit from having less severe kerbs.

“The only thing which would stop it from being even cooler is the kerbs in seven and eight. They’re too big for us to really kind of monster over, so we have to kind of drive around them.

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“If we could muscle the cars over the kerbs, it would probably add an even more exciting element. But I found it pretty fun.”

Lando Norris, McLaren, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020
Norris prefers “punishing” run-off areas
Ricciardo’s future McLaren team mate Lando Norris also relished the challenge of the new configuration and the more punishing run-off areas it has in places.

“It was quite bumpy,” he said. “There’s gravel on the exit of turn five, to the left, which caught a few people out. It’s more that you bottom out if you go tio wide on the exit kerb like Bottas did, then you can quite easily get in the gravel.

“So it’s punishing, it’s kind of good that it’s like that. You want to push, but you also don’t want to make mistakes so it’s kind of risk [versus] reward in some ways, it’s kind of a fun complex.”

However he admitted such a short layout with so few corners does not test an F1 car to its fullest. “In Formula 1 cars, you want these long nice cool corners and this is just very tight and twisty and makes it quite difficult. It’s good, it’s a challenge.”

But Formula 1’s most experienced driver was largely unmoved by the new configuration. “I think it’s very similar to anywhere else,” said Kimi Raikkonen. “Obviously we have more laps but they’re much shorter. I think in generally it doesn’t change anything, it’s just pretty much the same.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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14 comments on “Bahrain’s “Bumpy, punishing, tricky’ Outer circuit divides opinion among F1 drivers”

  1. I never really understand criticising a track (as long as it isn’t dangerous). Different layouts have different challenges; you’re the best drivers in the world… overcome the challenges!

    Some are long, some are short, some are bumpy, some are flat, some have lots of turns, some have very few, some with elevation changes, some with run off areas. I love the variety as it offers us different things each week.

    Stop whinging about it and crack on.

    1. @ben-n Even Turn 2 at Sochi?

    2. People are allowed to not like things.

  2. I don’t think they thought this circuit through. It will be a traffic jam drs train circle. 54 sec, 20 cars, 2-3 sec between. It will be endless traffic and not in a good slipstreaming oval kind of way.

    1. Probably by the second or third lap the first will be lapped.

    2. Paddock circuit would be even worse then. Only option remaining would be the International Circuit, which people didn’t like.

      1. @paeschli You mean the Endurance circuit? The International circuit is the standard one they have raced since 2004, with the exception of 2010 and 2011.

        1. Yeah I meant the Endurance one

  3. But Formula 1’s most experienced driver was largely unmoved by the new configuration. “I think it’s very similar to anywhere else,” said Kimi Raikkonen. “Obviously we have more laps but they’re much shorter. I think in generally it doesn’t change anything, it’s just pretty much the same.”

    Pretty much the same as in: it’s a bit of track that goes round and eventually joins up where it started. Has anyone ever seen Kimi Raikkonen and Eeyore in the same room?

  4. Random question, but how fast can the Medical car lap around here?
    Is there any risk that P1 completing lap 2 (less than 2 mins) could catch the Medical car still completing lap 1?

    1. @eurobrun the safety car lapped the track at around 1:20 the other day (search on YouTube), so no, they’d not catch him. The longer the lap the worse it is, actually, because the difference is much bigger on corners and braking zones that straights.

      1. @fer-no65 good to know thanks. Didn’t realise they put those kind of videos on YouTube.

  5. By Sunday night the real truth about this unusual layout will be known. Loved by some , loathed by others. I think it’s a hell of a challenge. Easy to get wrong so it’s possible that emotion may get the best of many at times. To chase a leader on
    an ”oval” with little chance to pass may create a wreckem rodeo. Gotta be perfect at Bahrain. This race will answer many questions too. Was this a smart idea?
    Smart for George Russell as his Mercedes Job Application may reviewed by management next week. I see him being pared with Lewis and that puts a great racer on the trading block. The time for a change like this is now. The seasons soon over. Smart money puts George with Lewis to keep that machine moving forward. When Lewis retires a viable system for Mercedes is already there. As for Bottas it’s just racing. You get another drivers ride and they get yours. The future of Mercedes is stronger longer with George at this point. But that’s racing.

  6. This reminds me of road courses in NASCAR. The cars aren’t made for it, but it’s the same for everybody. And of course the losers will say it’s not a proper track, and the winner will say it’s a great track and lots of fun and can’t wait to come back.

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