Round three of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship takes the Honda Racing F1 Team to the Kingdom of Bahrain for its only visit to the Middle East of the year. The 56-lap Bahrain Grand Prix takes place at the Bahrain International Circuit,...
Round three of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship takes the Honda Racing F1 Team to the Kingdom of Bahrain for its only visit to the Middle East of the year. The 56-lap Bahrain Grand Prix takes place at the Bahrain International Circuit, which is located 20 kilometres south of the Kingdom's capital, Manama, and is one of eight tracks on this year's calendar designed by Hermann Tilke.
The Bahrain International Circuit was built in 2003 at a cost of US$150 million and has staged the Bahrain GP every year since 2004. It has five different configurations of which the Grand Prix circuit is the longest layout at 5.412km (3.363 miles).
The cars average 210kph (130mph) around the lap and reach a top speed of 314kph (195mph) along the pit straight. The large asphalt run-off areas at each corner encourage overtaking and usually result in the Bahrain Grand Prix being one of the most entertaining races of the year.
BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT - THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE
There are six long straights at the Bahrain International Circuit and to achieve the maximum possible straightline speeds, the cars run with less wing than at either Melbourne or Sepang. The resultant reduction in aerodynamic grip creates balance problems through the twistier sections of the lap, where the overriding handling characteristic is oversteer.
The layout of the 5.412 km (3.363 miles) track shares some similarities with Sepang, the location of the last race on the F1 calendar, but the asphalt in Bahrain is smoother and provides less grip. As a result, Bridgestone bring softer rubber compounds to this race.
As the circuit is located in the desert, the ambient temperature can be in the high 30s. It's a dry heat, similar to that experienced in Melbourne, and shouldn't pose any reliability problems for the teams. However, sand from the surrounding desert poses a genuine threat to reliability because tiny particles get sucked into the car's internal systems and the teams have to be extra diligent in their cleaning processes.
The key corners of the circuit are Turn 1, where the cars brake from maximum speed down to first gear, and the final corner. Both present potential overtaking possibilities.
Full throttle: 68%
Brake wear: Hard
Downforce level: Medium - 7/10
Tyre compounds: Soft / Medium
Tyre usage: Medium
Average speed: 210kph (130mph)
HONDA TEAM TALK
Ross Brawn, Team Principal
Q: Sum up your thoughts following the Malaysian Grand Prix.
"The race in Malaysia last weekend showed that the Honda team continues to make steady improvements on our pre-season form. I was particularly pleased to see both cars finish the race reliably and encouraged by the performance of the car and our drivers in achieving the maximum possible from the weekend. The race gave us a very accurate reflection of the RA108's position relative to its competitors and provided valuable data with which to continue the development of the car ahead of the European season."
Q: What do you think the Honda Racing F1 Team can achieve in Bahrain?
"The first two races have established that the RA108 is capable of competing strongly in the midfield pack and is close to breaking into the top ten runners. To score points however, we need to over-achieve on our current level of performance. Whilst we will aim for this in Bahrain, the European season when our next developments arrive, is a more realistic target. Following our encouraging start to the season, the spirit in the team is very good and we are all confident that we continue to make progress over the next few weeks."
Q: What are your hopes for the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend?
"We are pleased with our performance so far this season and it was very valuable to complete the full race distance in Malaysia last weekend. Our overall position in the midfield pack is encouraging, however we have to make a further step to be competing for points on a regular basis. With no opportunity for testing since the season began, we will be using the data gathered in Australia and Malaysia to maximise our performance at what will be another very hot race in Bahrain. I'm hopeful that we will be knocking on the door of the top ten in qualifying once again."
Q: You finished on the podium in 2004. What's the secret to a good lap here?
"I'm a big fan of Bahrain as a country and I also really enjoy the circuit as there are some great fast flowing sections where you can really push the car. Confidence under braking is the key to a quick lap. You have to believe in the car's performance and have full confidence that you can stop effectively. There are several overtaking opportunities, particularly at Turn 1 after the long straight, where you can make up crucial ground as people tend to brake surprisingly early. The most challenging sector is probably Turn 14 which has a very quick approach where you brake as you turn into the corner, so you have to be careful not to lock the inside front wheel. The sand blowing onto the tarmac can be a challenge as you never know how the grip levels will change."
Q: Were you pleased with the performance of the RA108 in Malaysia?
"The first two races of the season have been very encouraging for the team and I have been pleased with how the car has performed, particularly that I have completed both races in the very tough conditions. Malaysia was a challenge for me after losing the practice running on Saturday, compromising my race set-up, but overall the RA108 has proven to be competitive and shown good race performance."
Q: How have you prepared for the Bahrain Grand Prix?
"The first three flyaway races of the season are very demanding for the drivers from a physical perspective as the ambient temperatures are usually high in the 30s. I am well prepared, with an intensive fitness regime to ensure that I am in peak condition ready for the start of the season. The races in Australia and Malaysia have provided a good build-up to the intense dry heat that we can expect in Bahrain next week. I am not anticipating that the heat will cause any issues for me or the car."
Honda in Bahrain
Japanese manufacturers dominate the Bahrain automobile market and Honda's sales have increased rapidly in recent years, in keeping with the Kingdom's burgeoning economy. The Accord, Civic and CR-V account for 90% of its sales.
Honda also dominates the motorcycle and power product markets. 48% of all motorbikes sold in the Kingdom are made by Honda, and the company hopes to increase its market share further following the recent launch of the CBR1000RR. The two biggest-selling power products are generators and water pumps.