Bahrain GP Preview

Toto Talks Bahrain

Can Vettel win again in Bahrain
Can Vettel win again in Bahrain

We suspected that the new season would be close fought and the first race confirmed those suspicions. We made mistakes and did not perform to our maximum – and it reminded us that this is the toughest racing series in the world, where every error is punished. It hurt to leave all those points on the table, especially because we know we had the pace to win in Australia.

Back at base, we did what we always do after a tough weekend. We made sure that we understand what went wrong and put a process in place to make sure that we don't see a similar issue in the future. These painful moments are the real learning experiences. Mistakes become training.

We expect Bahrain to be another challenging weekend, although the challenges will be of a completely different nature. The race in the desert is tricky because the conditions change drastically between sessions. FP1 and FP3 take place in the heat of the day whereas Qualifying and the race itself take place after sunset so it's much cooler. That makes it extremely difficult to find the right set-up with the car.

Bahrain is also a power-sensitive race with the long straights. We saw in Melbourne that the Ferraris in particular were very quick, so I expect it to be a close battle. We've seen some great racing in Bahrain in recent years, particularly between our drivers back in 2014, so I think we can look forward to an exciting and competitive weekend.

Featured this Week: What Are Engine Modes?

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Over a million working hours have gone into designing, developing and constructing our 2018 Formula One car. While the result of some of that engineering work can easily be spotted by the untrained eye – for example the complex aerodynamic bodywork – other equally important areas are hidden from sight.

One of the all-important elements that lies underneath the bodywork is the Power Unit (PU). In this modern, 1.6-liter V6 Turbo era, it's much more than just an engine. The Power Unit is made up of six different elements – the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), Turbo, MGU-K, MGU-H, Control Electronics and Energy Store.

These elements are combined together to deliver different Power Unit modes, which drivers and teams can utilize throughout a race weekend. Over the course of the 2018 season-opening Australian Grand Prix weekend, these proved to be a particularly hot topic and sparked plenty of debate. So, what are Power Unit modes and why are they necessary?

PU modes are a combination of settings that adjust the performance of the ICE as well as the flow of electrical energy. The ICE performance is changed, for example, by varying the amount of fuel that is injected into the combustion chamber or by changing the timing of the ignition. For the Hybrid side of the Power Unit, the modes will alter the interaction and scheduling of the electrical energy for both deployment of the 120kW (maximum) MGU-K and recovery of both the MGU-K and MGU-H.

The main task of PU modes is to balance performance and reliability. Formula One is all about performance, but with just three Power Units per driver in 2018 (and only two of some systems), reliability is increasingly important. This is why the drivers have reduced mileage allocations of the higher power modes.

At Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, we use three basic modes over the course of the weekend – one for the majority of the free practice sessions, one for the majority of Qualifying and one for the majority of the race.

All three can be altered with various sub-settings for different situations, which control whether electrical energy is being net deployed over a lap, recovered or used in a balanced manner (with energy deployment and recovery balancing each other out).

At the start of the race, for example, performance is particularly important, so drivers will choose full deployment to either defend a good position on the grid or try and gain positions in the opening laps. But F1 is about a blend of ballsy on-track passing and tactical strategy, so the drivers will later switch to a recovery energy management mode and charge the battery – just to make sure they can have more energy available for their next attack.

Mercedes led early in 2017 but Vettel prevailed at the end.
Mercedes led early in 2017 but Vettel prevailed at the end.

Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas switched their race mode to lower performance during the Australian GP when they were stuck in traffic and the turbulent air of the cars ahead, in order to cool the engines and prevent them from overheating. A Safety Car presents a similar challenge – drivers want to conserve energy and the Power Unit, so the engine mode is set to reduce the duty and cool the hardware.

Conserving damage and the reliability of the Power Unit is also important in free practice. Pushing the engines to the limit in practice just doesn't make sense, as they need to last seven race weekends. There is one session, however, when the Power Unit is pushed to the absolute limit and gives the drivers everything it can: Qualifying.

In terms of engine modes, the setting for Qualifying will be the most powerful one. This mode is only required for a few laps each race weekend, and usage varies according to the competitive context – sometimes this Qualifying mode will be used throughout Qualifying, sometimes only in the final Q3 session.

The available mileage is dictated by what is termed the "phase document", which defines the limits to which the Power Unit may be used during each race weekend, and which is the same for the works cars and the Mercedes customer teams.

PU modes are defined when the first set of hardware is tested in Brixworth and the mileage limit is determined by the success of the long-run program. Some of these are circuit-specific, others are more general. Making the call on which mode to use can either be the driver's decision, or through the advice of the engineering team – who will communicate over the radio which settings to adjust and which mode to switch to.

If you hear some technical-sounding instructions over team radio, it might well be the Power Unit mode being changed. The drivers will then change the mode through the switches on their steering wheel.

PU modes are particularly significant at power-sensitive circuits such as Spa-Francorchamps or Monza, which are dominated by long straights and acceleration zones. The first power-sensitive track on the 2018 F1 calendar is Round 4 in Baku.

It will be interesting to see how the storyline around engine modes develops as the season progresses, particularly when F1 reaches those more power-sensitive venues.

Williams F1

Brace yourselves for Bahrain, host of the second round of the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship, where the midfield battle resumes in the Middle East. Williams Martini Racing travels to Sakhir off the back of a challenging weekend in Melbourne with Lance finishing 14th meanwhile Sergey retired with a brake failure on his Formula One race debut. Bahrain presents the team with a new opportunity to extract the full potential of the Williams Mercedes FW41. With poor weather limiting track time at the Barcelona pre-season tests, teams are still learning about their 2018 challengers, and Bahrain will be sure to throw up some surprises. The twilight race certainly isn’t one to miss!

For Bahrain, Pirelli has made available the medium, soft and supersoft tires.

Paddy Lowe: Bahrain is a great track with a unique atmosphere under the lights as darkness falls in the desert. It is a tricky race for car setup, as FP1 and FP3 occur in the afternoon with very high track temperatures and do not represent the cooler conditions seen in the twilight sessions for qualifying and the race. Therefore, FP2 is extremely important for our preparation. It will be interesting to see how the 2018 tires perform in Bahrain and if they throw up more variety in race strategies. It is the first normal race track of the 2018 season with more predictable weather, so we should get a more representative comparison of the underlying performance of each team. After Sergey’s unfortunate DNF in Australia from a freak plastic bag, we hope to get him to complete his first race distance and that Lance can show well at his second year at this circuit.

Lance Stroll: As usual, this will certainly be a hot weekend. I enjoy the track, and it has a good rhythm to it. The conditions during the weekend are always tricky because practice is during the day and then qualifying and the race are at night. This means there is a lot of adapting going on throughout the weekend. However, I think it is going to be a good one and am looking forward to getting back there.

Sergey Sirotkin: I can’t wait for the weekend to begin. It was a very tough weekend in Melbourne and I really feel like I need another shot to bring us back to where we think we deserve to be, and to start everything from zero, and to try and get some confidence back in all of us. I know the track quite well and I think it suits some strong points of our car. I’m looking forward to it and let’s see what we can do.

Alfa Romeo/Sauber

After the season kick-off in Melbourne, the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team is heading to Bahrain for the 2nd round of the FIA Formula One World Championship and the follow week to China for the first back to back races of the season. In the Australian opening round, the C37 showed potential and the two Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team drivers are motivated to extract the maximum performance of the car, knowing that the Bahrain International Circuit features different characteristics.

Marcus Ericsson knows the track very well and he is confident for the race weekend. Charles Leclerc knows the circuit from competing there in Formula 2 and he has good memories on this track as last year he disputed one of the best races.

Marcus Ericsson (car number 9):
“Off to the first back-to-back of the year. Bahrain is a track that I know very well. I have been there a lot of times and enjoy driving on it. The track has different challenges to it, one being the sand surrounding it. Depending on the wind and weather conditions, this can become a defining factor. In the middle of the track, there is a very technical left hand corner which is one of the most difficult ones of the season. It also offers some good overtaking opportunities which I look forward to. After seeing our potential in Australia, we are going into round 2 feeling positive."

Charles Leclerc (car number 16):
“After having participated in my first Formula 1 race in Australia, I look forward to going into my second round, as I will be familiar with all of the activities taking place at the track throughout the race weekend. I’m excited to go to Bahrain. I know the track from last year when I raced there in Formula 2, and have great memories. I had one of my best races there. The track is interesting. The temperatures are very high, which is very aggressive on the tires. This creates interesting strategies due to the degradation that takes place. Let’s see what the next race will bring."

Track facts:
The Bahrain Grand Prix is one of the three races held at night, starting at dusk. As the circuit is located in the desert, the surface is usually quite dusty for the first practice session and then gathers more grip during the weekend.

Haas F1

Romain Grosjean

The Australian Grand Prix was shaping up to be a milestone race for Haas F1 Team. How do you rebound from such a difficult set of circumstances, especially when the result could’ve been so rewarding?

“Well, put it this way – I’d rather retire fighting for fourth or fifth position than finishing every race in 15th position."

Despite the massive disappointment in the outcome at Australia, you made it a point to find each crew member, shake their hand and essentially say we’re in this together. How were you able to shake off your own disappointment and be there for your crew?

“It’s a team sport, and I believe my team has always been there for me when I needed them. Everything is pushed to its maximum –the driving, the engineering and the pit stops. Mistakes can happen. We’re a team, and I was happy to be there for my boys, as I know they’re happy to be there for me when I need them to be."

The silver lining in Australia was that the Haas VF-18 had speed. How comforting was it to carry the speed from winter testing into the reality of the Australian Grand Prix?

“It was great, it was amazing, and it gives us a lot of hope for the future. Obviously, we need to see how it goes on different circuits, but I think it’s a very positive start. We’re all very much looking forward to going to the next race."

How did the car feel throughout the Australian Grand Prix – from practice and qualifying and on into the race?

“It felt good. We’ve got a very good baseline and we know already where we can improve the car. We’re working on that. It’s exciting to see that we focus on getting some good performance from the car, rather than just trying to survive or be at the back. I think we’re in a good place. We can’t wait to get back racing."

More specifically, can the speed you displayed in Australia carry over to Bahrain?

“Time will tell, but I’m hoping so, because it’s much more fun fighting at the front of the field than behind."

How important is it to have a strong finish in Bahrain, where the disappointment from Australia can be forgotten?

“A good result will help us to forget Australia. Let’s get to Bahrain, let’s do our work, like we did in Australia, focus on our jobs and see where we are at the end. Hopefully, we can have another good surprise."

In six career Formula One races at Bahrain, you’ve had five point-paying finishes, including two podiums (back-to-back third-place finishes in 2012 and 2013). And in scoring those podiums, you came from seventh and 11th on the grid. In fact, in every race you’ve picked up positions from where you qualified – 24 positions in all. Is there something about Bahrain that plays to your strengths?

“I love driving in Bahrain. I’ve always had a good feeling there, and I think it’s a really exciting track for racing and overtaking. We’ll see how it goes again. As I said, it’s always given me a good feeling, and I’m hopeful I can keep it going."

You’ve proven that you can overtake at Bahrain. Where do you overtake and how do you do it?

“It’s one of those tracks where there are many opportunities to overtake, which is amazing. Obviously there’s turn one, but turn three, turn 11, turn 15 – they all make it probably one of the best circuits for racing."

The amount of run-off area at Bahrain is high. Does that allow you to push the limits of your car and its tires more than at some other venues?

“It’s certainly easier to find braking points in Bahrain than it is in Monaco or Singapore. You know if you miss it, or overshoot your braking point, you’re just going to go straight and have another go on the next lap. Some street circuits it’s straight into the wall. It’s a bit easier to get used to it and find the limit."

Are you able to learn more at a venue like Bahrain because you’re able to push harder and discover a car’s limits?

“I think once we’re on the racetrack, we push it all the time to the maximum, especially in qualifying. We just need to see how we go at different circuits."

With the race beginning in the late afternoon and ending at night, how much does the track change as the air and track temperatures cool?

“That’s the big challenge of Bahrain, as it is with Abu Dhabi. It’s something you really need to work on in FP2. You have to make sure the car works well in warmer conditions and then in the cooler conditions later in the day."

What is your favorite part of the Bahrain International Circuit and why?

“I quite like turns five, six and seven. They’re high-speed as you approach the downhill hairpin. You get a good feeling. The corners are flying together."

Is there a specific portion of the Bahrain International Circuit that is more challenging than other aspects of the track? If so, why?

“Turns one and two are pretty challenging. It’s a busy hairpin with big braking. Then you really want to go early on throttle as you’ve got a long straight line. Turn two is always a bit tricky on the rear end."

Explain a lap around the Bahrain International Circuit, especially now after having competed there with the faster, current-generation car.

“I think the biggest difference with the new generation of car is at turns five, six and seven. Later it’s (turns) 11, 12 and 13 – a series of mid- to high-speed corners where we carry much more speed than we used to. Those are the places where you have the biggest differences and you can gain quite a lot of lap time. When you carry more speed, it means there’s less margin for error. You just have to go faster and get more feeling."


Kevin Magnussen


The Australian Grand Prix was shaping up to be a milestone race for Haas F1 Team. How do you rebound from such a difficult set of circumstances, especially when the result could’ve been so rewarding?

“We try to refocus and look forward to the next one. We take the positives that we can from Australia, which is we have a good car. We take that forward to Bahrain."

Despite the massive disappointment in the outcome at Australia, you made it a point to find each crew member, shake their hand and essentially say we’re in this together. How were you able to shake off your own disappointment and be there for your crew?

“We win together and we lose together. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes – we have to make room for that – but we’ll learn from that and improve together."

The silver lining in Australia was that the Haas VF-18 had speed. How comforting was it to carry the speed from winter testing into the reality of the Australian Grand Prix?

“It was good to have a competitive car in Australia. I enjoyed driving the car all weekend, but there’s no guarantee we’ll be that strong in Bahrain, so we have to work hard to try and understand the car and make sure we carry the performance forward into the next race."

How did the car feel throughout the Australian Grand Prix – from practice and qualifying and on into the race?

“It felt good!"

How good did it feel to handily make into Q3 and then run up front in the race?

“It felt really good being competitive and being able to compete at the right end of the series. I hope we can continue that way."

More specifically, can the speed you displayed in Australia carry over to Bahrain?

“I’m not taking anything for granted. Again, we have a good car, but I’m cautious. We’ll take it one race at a time."

How important is it to have a strong finish in Bahrain, where the disappointment from Australia can be forgotten?

“It would be great to have a good result in Bahrain after such big disappointment in Australia. We’ve got to start building points, as we’ve fallen behind after Australia. We’ve got to catch up."

Bahrain has proven to be a track where overtaking is more than possible. Where do you overtake and how do you do it?

“Bahrain is a much better circuit for overtaking than Australia. I don’t think we’re going to have as many negative comments about a boring race in Bahrain because the track layout is a lot better for racing and overtaking. I’m sure we’ll see an exciting grand prix."

The amount of run-off area at Bahrain is high. Does that allow you to push the limits of your car and its tires more than at some other venues?

“Yes it does. I still prefer to have not so much run-off. It means that you are challenged more and the window for error is narrower."

With the race beginning in the late afternoon and ending at night, how much does the track change as the air and track temperatures cool?

“It changes the behavior of the tires, the wear life and so on. It’s something that you need to anticipate before the race."

What can you do to combat those changing track conditions during the race?

“Stuff like setup on the car, tire pressures, front wing – these are all things you adjust accordingly for when the temperatures drop."

What is your favorite part of the Bahrain International Circuit and why?

“Turns 11, 12 and 13 are a good high-speed section of the track. You’re carrying lots of speed into those corners."

Is there a specific portion of the Bahrain International Circuit that is more challenging than other aspects of the track? If so, why?

“Carrying the speed through turns 11-13."

Explain a lap around the Bahrain International Circuit, especially now after having competed there with the faster, current-generation car.

“Bahrain is a challenging circuit. There are good opportunities for overtaking and close racing."

Leave a Reply