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Bahrain Grand Prix - Technical Analysis

FEATURE BY MATT SOMERFIELD
24/04/2013

Round four of the 2013 championship was hosted at the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain, a circuit often criticized by media and fans alike for a lack of action. I think this year's race seems to have dispelled that somewhat with overtaking up and down the field throughout the race.

Initially Pirelli had opted to supply the Soft (Option) and Hard (Prime) tyres for Bahrain but in a decision made before China the Italian tyre supplier made the switch from Soft to Medium tyres. Having seen high degradation levels in China from the Soft tyre it's a move that on the face of it seems prudent due to the increased temperatures also yielding more thermal degradation. This however was the first time this season we haven't had a step between the compound choices resulting in a smaller tyre deficit delta. This narrows the strategy opportunity resulting in around 0.4 - 0.5 secs difference per lap from compound to compound rather than the 0.8 - 1.0 differential we have had in previous races. Drivers who perhaps felt they could gain an advantage from qualifying in Q3 on the Prime tyre and run longer into the race found that in the early stages of the race the tyre differential in terms of time wasn't as significant as they'd hoped whilst the Option tyre also held on equally well.

The reason for this is the operating temperatures of the Pirelli line-up.

Super Soft (85-110)
Soft (105-125)
Medium (90-115)
Hard (110-135C)

With the Medium tyre working in a much lower temperature window, at a high temperature circuit like Sakhir the tyre will thermally degrade much quicker, especially as the target window of operation for the car in race trim will edge toward the Hard compound.

The Bahrain Grand Prix ran back-to-back with the Chinese Grand Prix and therefore the teams were unlikely to all have significant upgrade packages available. F1 however is a development race where as much as 2 seconds of lap time can be found over the course of a season and so the teams will always strive to bring as much as possible to each race.

Red Bull re-introduced a blown front axle in Bahrain, (only fitted to Vettel's car) I say re-introduced as the team ran a version in the 2012 season. Having completed several races with their blown axle in 2012 the team was asked to remove the device in Montreal as its design allowed the airflow to escape through the rotating section of the axle which is illegal (Moveable Aerodynamic Device). When Williams introduced its blown axle design in pre-season testing it wasn't a huge leap to suspect Red Bull was a team that could glean an advantage in this area considering its previous use of such a design and so I'm not shocked to see them try it. The blown axle setup wasn't raced in Bahrain but I suspect the team may evaluate it again in the future.

One thing the team did race was a change to the design of its Rear Wing Endplate Louvres, previously arched away from the wing profiles (left) the new louvres (right) represent an ethos employed by many other teams up and down the grid.

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