The up and coming first Grand prix of the year, the Bahrain Grand Prix commences this weekend and will be the first time that the new 2021 sets of tyres are used in qualifying and a race other than testing and free practice sessions.
The compounds that have been chosen for the season opener are the C2 for the white-walled hard, the C3 for the yellow walled medium and the C4 as the red-walled soft. This will be the same nomination of tyres as last years Grand Prix, even with the decrease in downforce compared to last year.
With most of the teams choosing to tests on the 3 nominated tyres which will be used for the weekend, giving Pirelli and the teams a good operating base. The new tyres for this year have been designed to improve strength and durability and they will be run at lower pressures. After testing this has been confirmed to be run with the rears being reduced by 0.5 psi and the fronts being reduced by 1.5 psi. Also this year there will only be 13 sets of tyres allowed for a race weekend. The standard allocations for this year will be two sets of hards, three sets of mediums and eight sets of the soft tyres.
The Grand Prix will get underway at 6pm local time and will be run under floodlights which will change strategy with the changing track temperatures which often fall rapidly. Also the surface is very abrasive at Bahrain with Lewis Hamilton winning last year on a two-stop strategy. This leads Pirelli to determine that the Bahrain International Circuit is a medium-severity circuit in terms of the demands being placed on the car.
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing, states that even though teams had plenty of time to test on the race tyres on the same circuit as the season-opening Grand Prix conditions are unlikely to be the same on the grand prix weekend.
“Just four months after having two races in Bahrain, and two weeks after three days of pre-season testing, we’re back there for the first race of the 2021 season. During the test we saw many teams concentrated on the compounds nominated for the grand prix, but the conditions we experienced in testing might not be entirely representative of the race.”
All of the teams ran a wide variety of programmes during testing so its hard for Pirelli to draw any conclusions from the three days of running that we have already seen. With the shortest pre-season in recent history, competition for points is wide open, especially at a track like Bahrain which is known for seeing high amounts of tyre wear.
“The teams also ran a very wide variety of different programmes during just the one condensed session, whereas in the past, with two test sessions, the second session was usually more focussed on tyres. So it’s hard to draw many firm conclusions.
“With new specifications of cars and tyres, as well as the shortest pre-season in recent memory, the competition is wide open: especially given that the track characteristics of Bahrain have often resulted in interesting strategic battles, with a number of different tactics used”.