Bahrain 2019 - GP preview - Renault F1
Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal
We head to Bahrain with motivation. In seasons gone by, we would have been satisfied with a seventh-place finish at the first race of the season, but this year we were a little disappointed.
We feel our car is capable of fighting at the top end of the midfield, however, that wasn’t always displayed when it really counted in qualifying and during the race.
We are determined to show more in Bahrain. We have to underline the step we’ve made on the engine side, and the second Grand Prix of 2019 is an opportunity to showcase that. We will bring some aero updates, as we will do at every race. We also need to target consistency over the course of the entire weekend, delivering a balanced and reliable car in all sessions to allow the drivers to extract respective maximum performance. Equally, we need to target operational excellence in all areas.
Having both cars inside the points is the target and we want to show the qualities of our team. We have to be hard on ourselves if we’re to keep on our path.
The team heads to Bahrain with added incentive after Melbourne. Chassis Technical Director Nick Chester reflects on round one and explains the key challenges of Bahrain.
What are the main characteristics of the Bahrain International Circuit?
It’s an event with sessions running into the evening so there can be varying temperatures between practice, qualifying and race. It can therefore be quite a big challenge in terms of striking a setup on the car and understanding the different characteristics. The track is usually dusty early in the weekend because of the sand and also the wind can be strong. Apart from that, it’s a conventional circuit compared to Melbourne and should be more representative for pace. FP1 and FP3 are during the day, so FP2, at night, is where you tend to conduct all the learning for the weekend.
What did the team learn from the season-opening Grand Prix?
Australia was a mixed weekend. We didn’t qualify where the cars deserved to be in terms of pace and that was down to execution in some areas and a reliability problem which is now understood. It shows the midfield is so close and that any small mistake or dip in performance means you’ll lose places on the grid. Unfortunately, we experienced that quite directly.
The reality is, the lower down the grid you qualify, the more likely the risks of damaging the car are. Elsewhere throughout the weekend, we tested some new parts, played around with different setups and learnt a decent amount. It’s quite clear, though, we have some work to do to move away from the midfield, which is where we want to be.
What is the team’s approach heading to the second race?
We have some bodywork updates linked to cooling to deal with the heat as well as some mechanical and aero updates: it’s about pushing on and developing the cars quickly in order to add performance.
Nico Hülkenberg enjoyed a superb Sunday outing in Melbourne to begin his 2019 season with points in the bag. Under the lights of Bahrain is the next stop for the German, at the circuit where he made his Formula 1 debut back in 2010.
What’s the post-Melbourne feeling?
On a whole we’re happy to take home a handful of points from the first race. It was an up and down kind of weekend. We missed out on some running on Friday and when we hit the track, our short run and long run pace looked quite decent. Without the problem in Q2, we probably would have made Q3. The race was positive after having a good getaway off the line. I raced hard from there, and it was largely a smooth run until the final few laps where it was about getting my head down, elbows out and defending the position. There’s a lot more work we can do to improve. We know that, and we have to keep the developments coming if we’re to edge away from the midfield group. We can be content with our performance in Melbourne, but I’m keen for more in Bahrain.
How do you prepare for the Bahrain Grand Prix?
It was nice to take some rest between leaving Australia and heading to Bahrain. It’s usually a bit lighter in Bahrain in terms of my schedule for the week. Bahrain is very hot, even though we qualify and race at night when it’s significantly cooler. The sun starts low for the race and then we drive into the darkness. FP1 and FP3 are slightly trickier and not run under representative conditions. Track temperature swings around over the weekend, so it’s important to keep on top of set-up changes. FP2 is the important session as it’s run at a similar time to qualifying and the race. It can also be windy in places there, so that’s something to keep an eye on through the weekend.
What’s a lap like there?
I have good memories in Bahrain, as it’s where I made my Formula 1 debut in 2010. The lap is quite busy. It begins with a long straight heading into the hard-braking zone at Turn 1, which is the best overtaking spot on the lap. You can get a good tow down the straight especially with DRS. It can be easy to overshoot Turn 1, though. Turns 2 and 3 send you up the hill to Turn 4 which is another decent overtaking spot. The second sector begins after that and the run through Turns 5, 6 and 7 are good fun at high-speed. Turn 10 throws you out onto a straight, before beginning the final sector where the wind can be strong. It’s important for a good exit out of the final corner to have a fast run onto the main straight.
The season-opener on home soil proved unlucky for Daniel Ricciardo. But the Australian is keen to dust that to one side as he aims for a better outing in the Bahrain desert.
How do you plan to bounce back after Melbourne?
I’m keen to put Australia to one side. It was a pretty frustrating weekend overall, even more so as the pace was clearly there for a good result. In qualifying, I personally felt I left something out there, which meant our starting spot wasn’t ideal. There’s not too much to say about the race. I quite like the circuit in Bahrain and I hope for an improved weekend. I’ve had a bit of rest and recovery between these two race weekends, so I head there feeling recharged.
What are the main considerations for Bahrain?
Bahrain is actually quite a tricky event. Two of the three practice sessions are during the day when it’s really hot and both qualifying and the race are in the evening when the circuit is a lot cooler. Adapting to different set-ups is quite key in Bahrain. It can vary a lot between the sessions, so that’s something to keep in mind during the preparation. Any hot race is physical for a driver and Bahrain can be a challenge in that area too.
Where are the key areas on a lap?
It’s a circuit I’ve always enjoyed racing at. There are some decent overtaking spots on a lap, and it will be interesting to see if there’s any difference in cars following each other there especially down the main straight. Turn 1 is a good place to send one, usually there are two, three, maybe four cars battling down there on race day. Turn 4 as well can be a nice place to pass if you can find some speed through Turns 2 and 3. Hopefully we can be in amongst it this weekend, but first we need to ensure we’re quick in qualifying and be at the top end of the midfield.
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