Facing a "decent amount of challenges" in Bahrain, Renault head to the kingdom chasing their first points of 2017.
How are you approaching race three of 2017?
I’m heading to Bahrain with fewer winter clothes in my suitcase after the cold and wet we had in Shanghai; it should be a big contrast and I have my sunscreen at the ready! In terms of the venue, the Bahrain International Circuit is a great facility and it’s quite a technical track with the added challenges of a variable wind direction and the scope for sand on track too. I really like Bahrain and the atmosphere there.
What’s the key to getting a good performance on the Bahrain International Circuit?
It’s a technical track and you have to be smooth and gentle yet, obviously, as fast as possible. Sand is a crucial element if it’s windy and gusty it gets blown on to the track so from one session to another can vary a lot. You’re always adapting to the grip levels as well as the wind direction, which can also present a challenge to getting the perfect lap. We know it’s going to be pretty hot, but that’s not so much of a factor now as we race far later than we used to here and it does cool reasonably quickly once the sun is down.
What’s notable on a lap?
There are a decent amount of challenges. There’s a long straight with hard braking into turn one where you need to lose about 240kph and it’s easy to go too deep into the corner. It’s pretty traction limited on exit so you’re fighting the rear end. It will be interesting to see how much difference there is with the new wider tyres and the greater downforce. T4 is another heavy braking point into what is quite a long corner and a little off camber. T5-6 is a very fast combination and pretty good fun if you nail it right. T8 is a tight and slow hairpin and another place where it’s easy to out-brake yourself with front-locking, especially if you get off-line. T9-10 is a long left-hander where you’re braking deep into it, trail-braking is always difficult because of the propensity for front-locking once more as well as the variability of wind direction trying to trick you too; headwind is your friend for braking late, tailwind is your enemy. The final sector is very fast and flowing which sets you up for the long, fast pit straight.
Predictions for the race?
Let’s see what happens.
What can we expect from you in Bahrain?
I quite like the track and I have won there in the past so that definitely spurs me on after a couple of Grands Prix which have fallen short of expectations. I’ll jump in the car on Friday and be working with my crew to get the maximum possible from each session then we absolutely are targeting points from the race as we’ve seen the potential of the car; all I need is a clean weekend.
What are the challenges of Bahrain International Circuit?
There is a lot of track evolution as it is very sandy at the start of the weekend, and then the track gets more and more rubber down, so conditions change a lot. The weather is almost always sunny, but it can be quite windy, which can blow sand onto the track. The fact it’s a night race is pretty interesting. In terms of set-up, practice 1 and 3 are hard as they are a lot hotter than the race but there is a lot we can do in procedural terms, such as aero tests, and understanding this generation of car at this track. There are a lot of straights so plenty of overtaking opportunities and it should make for a good race.
Do you expect a different weekend from Shanghai?
In many ways yes, especially with the weather! I’ll be very surprised if we have to fit the Wet or Intermediate tyres this weekend. With dry conditions there’s less chance of difficult circumstances like we saw in Shanghai so everything should be in our favour for a more straightforward race weekend and that’s what we need to get some points down.