Robert's guide to Bahrain's Outer loop
The “Outer loop” track configuration of the Bahrain International Circuit will be a unique challenge for drivers and teams alike – not least because that part of track is a complete novelty for nearly everyone. One driver who has some experience of the ribbon of tarmac that will complete the circuit is Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN driver, Robert Kubica, who drove in 2010 on the “endurance” layout of BIC – and has recently been on that with his bike!
“I haven’t driven the Bahrain outer circuit in the simulator in Hinwil, but actually I drove on most of the track in 2010, the only year we used the longest version of the Bahrain circuit. The short track just misses out the infield loop. And I did cycle around it when I arrived last week!
“I think this configuration will offer something completely different. From a driving point of view, it will probably not be the most challenging track, as there will be only four proper corners. It has only one rear left corner, which is a quite low-speed corner, and the rest are all right-handers.
“However, braking into the last corner, for example, will be much more challenging, as you will approach it with a much higher speed. You will probably have to reduce the downforce, because you will spend a lot of time on full throttle in this configuration.
“The race on Sunday will be very special because it will be very difficult to open up big gaps, as the tow will play a very important role, especially with the DRS zones. Once you cannot open the gap, you’re very vulnerable to the car behind you, who can overtake you very easily.
“I assume that even within one lap, there might be more overtaking and re-overtaking of the same car, if you are not able to open a gap that is bigger than one second. This should make it quite interesting, it will be something new and which we have never experienced as F1. Although I will not be driving, I’m looking forward to watching it.
“In qualifying, I expect it will be kind of Monza-style, everyone hunting for a tow, and a tow will be crucial. Teams will try and use their own drivers to get some help. We have seen it in the past, but it’s not easy to get it right! Looking at what has happened in Monza, I don’t know how people will handle it, but it will be challenging from both the teams’ and the drivers’ point of view.
“Depending on the tyre degradation, overtaking should be quite easy. I think looking for a gap will not be the determining factor in terms of when you are pitting or not. Of course, you want to come out in clean air, but the disadvantage of not doing so is not as big.
“If there is a high degradation and you are with fresh tyres, normally you can get very easily behind the car in front of you. Then you have DRS for a smooth overtake.
“The normal configuration Bahrain circuit offers you two realistic overtaking opportunities, the first of which is into turn one. However, the short track will offer you one extra overtaking point, which will be the last corner and straight away turn one, the corner after.
“There might be a reshuffling, and it might be that there is no point in overtaking someone into the last corner, because then he will get the tow, and you have to protect yourself into turn one. It might be even better to wait and try to overtake someone in the first corner, which then gives you a better opportunity to defend.
“With the normal Bahrain configuration, the other overtaking opportunity is turn four: however with the short loop, the braking point will be much later, and the corner is much faster. So there will be less of opportunity there.”