Formula 1 drivers differed in their opinions of the outer Bahrain circuit being used for the Sakhir Grand Prix, but agree the closing speeds are dangerous when a car backs off.
Practice ran relatively cleanly in terms of impeding incidents, although there was one point where Lando Norris locked up to avoid crashing into a Racing Point in the middle sector. With track limits being imposed at Turn 8 between sessions, drivers were often backing off if they ran too wide and Alex Albon (pictured above) says the closing speeds need discussing.
“Honestly today because we could, we went out after everyone else did their runs, so it was quite easy (to find a gap), but that’s not going to be the case in Q1,” Albon said. “And with these tires as well, you have to go so slowly to cool these tires down — it becomes really dangerous. The closing speeds in Sector 2 are pretty huge. We’ll have to keep on our toes and the engineers are going to be pretty busy.
“I’m sure there were a few moments today. The thing is, we obviously have respect for each other, but we also are selfish and we want to have the tires in the best window we can. So we’ll see how it goes. It’s tricky, honestly.
“Obviously there’s this track limits thing going on and because it’s so short, you’ve got to get it perfect. But it’s quite fun, quite challenging actually. I enjoy it — I just need to be quicker through there.”
While Albon is a fan of the short track layout that is seeing lap times in the 54-second range, his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen is less enthused.
“It’s not the most exciting to drive, to be honest,” Verstappen said. “Also because of the small track, the radio is constantly open. It’s like ‘be careful here, traffic there,’ it’s not really what you want. Also in the second sector, it’s quite blind through a lot of corners, it’s quite dangerous around there to slow down. We have to cool down the tires to be able to do another lap so it’s not nice or the easiest to drive, but it is what it is.”
Verstappen’s warning about cooling tires was echoed by Sebastian Vettel, who feels the track is too short and will prove problematic in Q1.
“It’s very short — it’s too short, to be honest,” Vettel said. “It’s a bit strange, just when it’s about to start it stops and you’re heading into the last corner! It’s OK; it is what it is.
“Not just the middle section, the whole track is short and there will be the same amount of cars so I guess Q1 will be very tight. The other thing that doesn’t help is we have to go really slow in the cool laps to bring the tires down (in temperature), that’s probably the worst factor.
“One thing is looking for traffic, the other thing is having such big speed deltas, so it will be a mess, I hope that nothing happens and we go through without being impeded and having trouble with traffic and so on.”
McLaren endured a tough day with reliability issues on both cars but that didn’t distract Carlos Sainz from feeling work needs to be done to help control the issues with traffic.
“I think we’re going to talk about it in the drivers briefing,” Sainz said. “We need to find a way that it doesn’t become dangerous because at the moment it’s a bit on the limit of dangerous. Let’s see, because we had a couple of ideas for the FIA to look into and hopefully we can work on it.”
Lando Norris believes the fix is more simple, and it comes from drivers being alert and strict penalties for anyone not being proactive in moving safely off the racing line.
“Everyone just needs to respect it,” Norris said. “There were some problems today where people just don’t get out of the way, so I don’t know if it’s because they don’t get told on the radio or they don’t look in the mirrors. But everyone’s a driver, everyone should just respect what you have to do.
“If you’re on a slow lap then it’s likely someone behind you is going to be on a quick lap. I think they just have to be quite strict on it here because there’s not a lot you can do.”
The McLaren youngster was also torn on his opinions of the circuit, with the middle sector new to all of the drivers compared to last weekend’s race.
“It’s quite bumpy — I guess there’s gravel on the exit of Turn 5 that caught a few people out … it’s punishing. It’s kind of good that it’s like that. You want to push but you also don’t want to make the mistake so it’s risk vs reward in some ways. It’s kind of a fun complex — it’s tricky in Formula 1 cars. You want these long, nice cool corners and this is just tight and twisty and makes it quite difficult. It’s good, it’s a challenge.”
Of course, the final word always needs to be left to Kimi Raikkonen on such matters…
“I didn’t really have any expectations,” Raikkonen said. “I don’t know, I mean, it’s only two corners, it’s quite bumpy and not much else to say, really.”