(Motorsport-Total.com) – It is not yet clear whether Bahrain will actually host two races in this Formula 1 season. But since this possibility has been in the room, the idea of hosting the potential second race on an alternative layout of the Bahrain International Circuit, namely the outer route of the course, has been discussed.
Because it has few curves, Formula 1 sports director Ross Brawn also referred to it as a “fast oval”. It was he who brought this alternative into play in the first place. “We were also surprised by Ross’s comments,” track chief Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Chalifa confirmed to ‘Motorsport-Total.com’.
“Some time ago it was said that they would be willing to do more than one race if there were problems finding alternatives. That is the only thing I officially got from Formula 1. It was quite early when they were tried to fix the European races, so we said we could check that out. “
Outer course “never used for a race”
The idea of using a different course configuration, however, was new. “Especially with the details that Ross went into,” says Al Chalifa, “but it’s interesting and it’s doable.” The idea had already been thoroughly analyzed by the Formula 1 organizers, helped by ex-Williams engineer Craig Wilson.
As “Head of Vehicle Performance”, he also has the task of studying racetracks and promoting opportunities for overtaking. Among other things, Wilson contributed to the designs for the Hanoi and Miami racetracks.
As for the outer course in Bahrain, Al Chalifa admits: “We have never used it for a race. What we have done in the past is to use it for corporate events – especially for Rolls-Royce events where you didn’t want hard braking zones and corners. “
“Oval” course once approved by Charlie Whiting
Nevertheless, this route variant would be officially ready to be driven in Formula 1, as plant manager Fayez Ramzy knows, who is also active in the FIA commission for race tracks. “In terms of homologation and security, I ran this track with Charlie Whiting,” says Ramzy.
Formula 1 racing chief Whiting, who died in 2019, was the one who homologated the course variant at the time. “Basically, it corresponds to the long-distance course minus one section and with an additional cross-connection. From a sporting and operational point of view, it is ready for use,” assures Ramzy.
In any case, it would be a spectacularly fast track for Formula 1 cars. At 3,664 km, it is also 1,748 km shorter than the regular Grand Prix circuit. There will certainly be a lot going on if the drivers try to find a free lap in qualifying.
Head of route explains the highlights of the alternative
“It’s a low downforce circuit,” explains Al Chalifa. “I’m not going to compare them to Monza, but it’s a route where you have to drive the cars with minimal downforce, so there will be slipstream. Hopefully we can have three DRS zones.” But he doesn’t just expect to overtake on the straight.
“We still have Turns 1 and 4, and usually the people who make mistakes in Turn 1 lose Drive on the way to Turn 4. There are a few overtaking opportunities there. Turns 4/5/6 becomes Full throttle in a Formula 1 car. Then the brakes brake sharply. “
Another long straight line leads into the last curve. “It is 200 or 200 meters longer than on the Grand Prix track. Almost as long as the pit lane,” knows the track manager. He sees no problem in adapting the entire wiring for television and time measurement in order to drive two different layouts in a short time.
Corona crisis: Many questions remain unanswered
Whether this will happen at all remains questionable, however, as Formula 1 plans for the second half of the year are not yet official. For the time being, Abu Dhabi has been moved to December 13, Bahrain is scheduled for November 29 and December 6.
“We are still waiting for certain things to be announced,” says Al Chalifa. “Our race and that in Abu Dhabi are still pending. That also applies to the question of whether there will be a full or only half full paddock. We are trying to ask the government these questions too.”
Like all host cities, Bahrain has to comply with local measures and can only hope that the global corona crisis will ease further. “There are travel restrictions, there are local restrictions. There are certain countries with a 14-day quarantine,” Al Chalifa lists the uncertainties.
Three Formula 1 events in a short time?
“As much as we want quick answers, we understand that it is a bit stupid to think that we will find them now.” However, the racetrack cannot wait too long until it is finally certain whether and when Formula 1 will be in Bahrain so that planning can begin.
Photo gallery: triumphs & tragedies in Bahrain
Not much is going on in summer now, but Al Chalifa predicts: “In September / October we will be very busy.” They also want to focus on racing series that come from Asia. The risk of scheduling collisions is growing.
“The WEC has also announced that it will be here on November 21st. That is a problem for me because I am organizing two international competitions just one week apart,” the route manager points out. In addition, Bahrain will theoretically host the next World Cup run in March 2021.
Opening to viewers: “Maybe in limited numbers”
Planning and marketing for this would normally start in November. It would also mean that the organizer hosts three Formula One events within four months. “These are the things that go through my head,” says Al Chalifa, who also wonders when viewers will be allowed again.
Both Brawn and Formula 1 boss Chase Carey suspect that later races may be open to viewers again. Even though Bahrain is planning a race behind closed doors, Al Chalifa admits: “I don’t think it will be either-or. Maybe it could be open, but limited.”
“I don’t like to think one way or the other. I try to keep our options open and generally do it the right way. It will be interesting to see the European races and how they go.”