Bahrain Grand Prix 2015 Preview: Start Time, TV Times, Weather, Schedule, Odds
Formula One leaves China and heads straight to the Middle East this weekend for the 2015 Bahrain Grand Prix, part two of the first back-to-back race pairing of the season.
The venue will be the Bahrain International Circuit. In 2014, the track hosted its first day-night race, and this year's grand prix will be the same—it starts at sunset and finishes under floodlights.
The two Mercedes drivers head into the weekend as favourites, with Lewis Hamilton seeking his second Bahrain win and Nico Rosberg his first. Fernando Alonso has more wins here than any other driver, but with Honda not yet fully up to speed, his McLaren team's goals will be more modest on Sunday.
The biggest challenge to the Silver Arrows is likely to come from two-time winner Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari. The high temperatures and rough track surface should play into the German's hands—can he and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen produce a Malaysia-style shock?
We can't wait to find out, and with GP2 making its 2015 debut in Bahrain, there's even more than usual to look forward to.
Read on for a full preview of the race, including TV times, current standings, a track map and circuit guide, weather forecast, tyre and DRS information, odds and session times.
Current Formula 1 Championship Standings
Lewis Hamilton's win in China extended his lead in the drivers' standings to 13 points. Sebastian Vettel hangs on in second, with Nico Rosberg third.
The current top 10 are:
In the constructors' championship, Mercedes have a 40-point lead over second-placed Ferrari, having needed only three races to score a century. Williams have clear air in third, while a good battle looks to be brewing between Toro Rosso, Lotus and Sauber.
Data sourced from the official F1 website.
Bahrain International Circuit
The Bahrain International Circuit opened for business in 2004. Designed by Hermann Tilke, it features the usual variety of corners and a couple of long straights.
It also has masses of benign run-off—proudly stated on the circuit website as totalling 140,000 square metres. For perspective, that's a little over 20 association football pitches or 27 American football fields.
Overtaking opportunities are plentiful, but as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg's duel last year proved, the attacking driver still has to work hard for the place. Losing out in one corner can often result in the opportunity to attack at the next.
An onboard lap is available on the official F1 website.
Turns 1, 2 and 3
A lap begins on the long pit straight. The run down to the first corner is of average length and ends as the cars brake for the tight hairpin right of Turn 1.
This is the circuit's prime overtaking spot, and we can expect to see plenty of moves completed here.
At the exit, the drivers cut back across the track for the best line through the left-hander Turn 2 before steaming through the Turn 3 right-hand kink and out onto a medium-length straight.
At the end of the straight comes Turn 4, a medium-speed right-hander which is likely to see at least some action during the race.
The layout of the first three corners can prove tricky if a pass has just taken place; the overtaken driver will often get a better exit out of Turn 3, opening up the possibility of a move into Turn 4.
The corner itself has an early apex, opening out at the exit as the track swoops downhill. The drivers take plenty of kerb on the outside as they get the throttle down as early as possible and head into the circuit's best high-speed section.
Turns 5, 6, 7 and 8
The downward slope continues into Turn 5, a flat-out left-hander which leads immediately into the slower right of Turn 6.
The drivers tap the brakes at the entry and carefully feather the throttle through the corner, ensuring they don't run too wide as the exit of Turn 6 becomes the entry to Turn 7—a relatively straightforward left.
A very short straight follows before the tight hairpin right of Turn 8. It's not really supposed to be an overtaking opportunity, and it's unlikely we'll see moves here, but it's been tried in the past.
Turns 9 and 10
A short straight is next, the track starting to dip downhill as the drivers approach the entry to the double left-hander made up of Turns 9 and 10.
This is perhaps the toughest corner on the track to take perfectly. The drivers keep their foot on the throttle as they turn into the first part of the corner, stamping on the brakes just before the apex.
They then balance the car carefully, braking and turning as little as possible as they drift to the outside of the circuit before turning in to the tighter second part of the corner.
Providing the turn was negotiated successfully, it's back on the throttle and out onto the back straight.
Turns 11, 12 and 13
Though not an especially long straight, the cars reach speeds exceeding 300 kilometres per hour before hitting the brakes for the medium-speed left-hander of Turn 11.
This is an unusually quick corner for the end of a Tilke-designed straight, and errors here—especially at the start of the weekend—are not uncommon.
The drivers gradually get the power down through the long, open exit as the track heads uphill and through the flat-out right-hander of Turn 12.
Turn 13 comes next, a slow-medium speed right-hander with a late apex, which leads onto the second back straight.
Turns 14 and 15
The track heads downhill, and after again exceeding 300 kilometres an hour, the drivers hit the brakes for another slow-medium right-hander, Turn 14.
This is among the most important corners on the circuit as it leads out onto the pit straight and the end of the lap. Turn 15 is more an extension of the exit than a corner in its own right, but it has a number and is therefore the "final corner" of a lap around the BIC.
The pit lane entry is on the right just after the final corner, with the exit coming just before Turn 1.
Image: Creative Commons.
Tyres and DRS Zones
The Bahrain International Circuit has a highly abrasive surface, noted by Pirelli as the roughest of any circuit on the 2015 calendar. This can make thermal degradation more of a problem—and that is what allowed Ferrari to beat Mercedes in Sepang.
However, the race starts only a few minutes before sunset; track temperatures fall away as the race progresses. A cooler track means less thermal degradation, so it will be interesting to watch second practice—held at the same time of day as the race—to get an idea of what the conditions will be like.
With a number of big traction zones, Bahrain is a rear-limited circuit—strategy will be determined by wear to the rear tyres. The fronts take less punishment, so maybe drivers will be more willing to follow each other closely than they were in front-limited China.
Pirelli are supplying the yellow-marked soft and white-marked medium compound tyres for the race. The tyre manufacturer expects a 1.5-1.7 second lap time difference between the two—saving a relatively fresh set of softs for the race should be advantageous.
Two stops should be the strategy of choice.
There will be two DRS zones for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The first will have its detection point just before Turn 9 and will run the length of the back straight between Turns 10 and 11.
The second will have a detection point just before Turn 14. The activation point will be very close to the pit lane entrance on the main straight, and the zone will end with braking for Turn 1.
Expect the second zone to see most of the action.
Bahrain has a hot desert climate. Average temperatures never fall below 20 degrees Celsius and precipitation is rare.
A typical April sees daytime peaks in the high 20s Celsius and almost no rainfall. The coming weekend is set for temperatures around the average, with zero rain; those lucky enough to be in attendance may not even see a cloud.
The only sting in the weather's tail could be the wind. Accuweather forecasts a moderate northerly wind, gusting up to 41 kilometres an hour, for both Saturday and Sunday—meaning a headwind into Turn 1 and a tailwind under braking at Turn 11.
Small differences in wind speed and direction can make a huge difference to the way an F1 car behaves, so this could prove to be a factor, especially in qualifying.
Lewis Hamilton is the strong favourite to win in Bahrain, with Nico Rosberg occupying the second-favourite slot. The Ferraris are not strongly tipped for glory, but they are considered way ahead of the two Williams.
The top 10 favourites are:
Bahrain has expansive run-off areas and rain will not be a feature, so it's 1-2 for no safety car appearance. It's 6-4 for Bahrain to continue 2015's 100-percent record of safety cars.
Lewis Hamilton has added two hat-tricks of pole, race win and fastest lap to his tally so far this season. It's 2-1 he does it again in Bahrain.
And the tight battle expected for the lower reaches of the points is reflected in the odds for a Top 10 finish. Pastor Maldonado, Daniil Kvyat, Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz Jr., Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson are all listed at or extremely close to evens.
All odds sourced from Oddschecker.com and correct at the time of publication.
TV Times and Session Times
As always, the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend will consist of three free practice sessions, qualifying and the race.
The session times are as follows:
|Practice 1||Friday||2 p.m.|
|Practice 2||Friday||6 p.m.|
|Practice 3||Saturday||3 p.m.|
All times given are Bahrain local time (AST, UTC +3). Formula1.com has a useful tool on its homepage to convert them to your own time zone.
In the United Kingdom, live coverage of all sessions will be provided by Sky Sports F1 and the BBC (across BBCs One and Two and the Red Button (RB)) The programming times are as follows (all times BST):
|Session||Day||Session Start||Sky On||BBC On (chan)|
|Practice 1||Friday||12 p.m.||11:45 a.m.||11:55 a.m. (RB)|
|Practice 2||Friday||4 p.m.||3:45 p.m.||4 p.m. (Two)|
|Practice 3||Saturday||1 p.m.||12:45 p.m.||12:55 p.m. (Two)|
|Qualifying||Saturday||4 p.m.||3 p.m.||3:30 p.m. (One)|
|Race||Sunday||4 p.m.||2:30 p.m.||3 p.m. (One)|
In the United States, live coverage is provided by the NBC network across CNBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra (SLE). The times are as follows (all times EDT):
|Session||Day||Session Start||NBC Start|
|Practice 1||Friday||7 a.m.||7 a.m. (SLE)|
|Practice 2||Friday||11 a.m.||11 a.m. (NBCSN)|
|Practice 3||Saturday||8 a.m.||8 a.m. (SLE)|
|Qualifying||Saturday||11 a.m.||11 a.m. (CNBC)|
|Race||Sunday||11 a.m.||10:30 am (CNBC)|
Enjoy the weekend!