This weekend sees Formula SimRacing head to Bahrain for the 2nd round of the season. Here we take a look at the race ahead.
The Formula Simracing circus descends on the desert environs of the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain for the 9th time in FSR history and we look at where the land lies in the 2016 Championship.
Of the previous 8 visits to Bahrain, 6 of those occasions have seen the winner of the race go on to win that season's World Championship. Will this season see the 7th in 9 seasons?
The all new 2016 spec FSR car is providing thrilling and close racing. In what is predicted to be the most closely fought championship for many years the early rounds might start to show us what the drivers championship landscape will start to look like. Melbourne was a great race but left us with more questions than answers. Why is this so?
Drivers and Contenders
Who do we think will be in the mix for a podium in the desert evening? A straight read of the round one results would not be a good place to start. Here is why.
Jim Parisis won in dominant fashion at Albert Park. But he has been handed a back of grid (BOG) penalty for exceeding track limits for the qualifying lap that put him on the front row with Kweekel. He will fight from the back of the grid. He had the luxury of clear air and such pace at Melbourne that he could do a an extra stop and enjoy over 40 laps on options.
Bahrain is tough on tyres and Jim will need to have a great strategy.
Kuba Brzenzinski took second place after a race long battle left him third on track. Patel s relegation due to a time penalty moved Kuba up one place. In this type of season always being on the podium may not be actually a bad formula.
Jernej Simoncic drove a great race to move from outside the top ten into a podium place. He has the pace to win championship races and should get the monkey off his back before long.
Muhammed Patel Uber consistent and fast. He was the 2015 runner up and is a multiple race winner in FSR WC. His race long fight with Brzezinski was worth the price of admission alone. Patel prevailed on track but his 30 sec time penalty for exceeding track limits beyond the allowed 10% of laps dropped him from second to fourth.
Francesco Bigazzi The Italian driver signed for Twister and in round one mixed it for the whole race with Patel and Brzezinski. A pit lane issue cost him a better result.
Now lets look away from the results sheet for a moment.
Jeroen Kweekel The reigning FSR Pro Champion. Scored a superb pole in Melbourne, fought back after Parisis' clever attack into Turn 1-2 to regain the lead by the end of sector one. He had pace, clear air and was looking very comfortable. An electronics issue gave him a screen freeze into turn 3 and he rejoined in P16. Later in the race he collided with Daniel Kiss for DNF. We have to expect a strong performance from the Dutchman. He should be strong in Bahrain but he is now 25 points adrift of the lead. He needs to out-point the other drivers for 5 rounds or thereabouts to recover from the “null points down under”.
Michele D'Alessandro impressed a lot of people in the paddock with the relentless drive up through the pack at round one. He joined a race long three way fight between Brzezinski, Bigazzi and Patel and blew it apart. One late error out of the final turn was all that prevented him from scoring second place. The Italian has shown his step up to WC was not mistake.
Nikodem Wisniewski We have not yet seen the true potential of the GT Academy finalist. He can podium and even win races.
Now that’s EIGHT drivers already who can podium before we start to dig further into the grid.
57 laps World Championship and Ace. (43 for Pro)
The Bahrain track is deceptive. The map makes it look quite simple but some elevation changes and tricky combinations keep you forever on your toes.
Here is a lap.
Turns 1-2. Massive braking zone from top speed can be hard to judge especially with a DRS attack and maybe off the rubbered line. You have to get it right and then manage the very tight first turn. The car is on its limit as you try to apply power at the same time trying to get to the right for a good line into Turn 2. There is a bump there and a dip at the apex, not something you want to hit with much steering lock.
Up the hill to T4 is a brief respite but you will most likely be deploying some boost.
Turn 4 is tight and the slightest misjudgement means you will use all the run off area.
Turns 5-6. A blind apex to 6 means commitment and some management of the front left tyre. You will hurt the fronts here to be fast.
Turn 7 can be attacked hard but braking into turn 8 can be tricky, as can accelerating out. It's an attacking zone into a very slow corner.
The braking zone into Turns 9-10 is one of the most challenging in Formula simracing. Its turning downhill approach on partial brakes will lock the front left. Most drivers will change brake balance for this corner.
The run to T11 is a DRS zone so this ads to the pressure to be fast into and out of T10.
Turns 11-12 are full throttle but only in the right gear on the right line with nice tyres. Errors here are punished as you crest the hill on Turn 12.
The entry and exit of T13 are critical to the lap time. It's easy to run wide and easy to get throttle over-steer on exit.
There are big dips in the braking zone into the final corner (T14-15) . The exit is super critical to lap time and to any potential DRS attack but gas it too soon and it's over-steer time.
You will have to be good in close traffic.
In 2015 the pack was compressed into less than a sector even after 50% race distance. One error and you will lose many places. Passing is possible with DRS and Boost but creating a gap so as to not be attacked again will be harder.
Softs and Mediums are the selected compounds. The track shares not only its designer Herman Tilke with Yas Marina but also the specially imported Shropshire “Graywacke aggregate” gravel used for the track surface. It features high grip levels but equally high wear. It doesn't seem possible to deliver a lap time without taking a lot of life from the tyres. We don't envisage anyone doing less than 4 stops but the drivers who can better manage their tyres will be in a stronger position to gain advantage late in the stint.
Weather and Temperatures
Its a track where with its fairly slow corners and 4 straights its clear that boost 2 is a help. As the desert settles into evening we will expect temperatures between 18 and 19 degrees. Drivers can use this to push their radiator settings but if using a lot of boost they have to accommodate that extra heat and wear.
We should see a hyper close race in Bahrain with a lot of cars in a very small patch of real estate. Anything can happen and at least eight drivers can vie for a win! That's got to be a good thing right?
The racing starts on Saturday 2nd April with the AMA Championship followed by the ACE Championship and continues on Sunday 3rd April with the PRO Championship and culminating with the Thrustmaster World Championship later on Sunday. Watch the races live on YouTube and as always you can track all of the action on our raceview livetiming.