The F1 world arrived en masse on Wednesday at the Bahrain International Circuit, and the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team drivers took the opportunity to complete a lap of the new circuit as part of their pre-race preparations. Test driver Franck...
The F1 world arrived en masse on Wednesday at the Bahrain International Circuit, and the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team drivers took the opportunity to complete a lap of the new circuit as part of their pre-race preparations. Test driver Franck Montagny was among the group, and sat down afterwards to give his impressions of the facility.
"We arrived at the circuit yesterday, and it's all very impressive!" enthused Franck. "In terms of the track itself, we have done a lap on foot and you can get some idea of the track from that. But lots of work is still going on around the circuit, and the surface is being cleaned quite intensively, so you can't really tell for sure what things will look like when it is clear and the first cars leave the pits."
In terms of the new circuit's character, the Frenchman already has a good idea of what we can expect this weekend. "The most obvious thing is that there are no quick corners - the fastest, at turns nine and twelve, will probably be in fourth gear," explains Franck. "However, that won't make it any less of a challenge for the guys out there - corners you can take flat out are fun, but maybe a little easier."
"Here, there is lots of heavy braking, and you can lose plenty of time there. What's more, a number of the corners will be very delicate for the drivers: there is a big camber in Turn 7, and at Turn 9 it will be tricky to balance the car as you are turning, braking and changing down to first gear simultaneously before Turn 10."
Another major challenge of course will be learning the circuit, and the desert location could complicate things further. "There is very little visual contrast," continues Franck. "It reminds me a little bit of Le Castellet actually: there are very big run-off areas and, apart from the white line, there is not much to distinguish what makes up the circuit and what doesn't! There isn't much gradient change either, so I think the first ten laps for each driver will be interesting to see who gets on top of things quickest."
Of course, the battle between tyre manufacturers is expected to be as tough as ever, and after looking at the surface, Franck believes they might know what to expect. "Visually, it looks very similar to Paul Ricard: very smooth, quite grippy and not very abrasive. It may well be that the teams can use some softer tyres here - but that depends on conditions of course. The sand is very close to the edges of the circuit, and we still don't know what might happen with a gusting wind."
Finally, what everybody hopes for above all is a good race: is it a legitimate hope? "I think so," concludes Franck. "I think there may be as many as four overtaking opportunities, at the end of the three long straights and also into turn 11. I'm not making any predictions just yet, but I believe we can expect a close, exciting battle.!"