By Alex Kapadia
Pirelli will be running its tyres at the controversial Bahrain Grand Prix for the first time in competition this weekend.
It has experience of the Sakhir track through two tyre tests that were carried out there in December 2010 and January 2011, as it geared up to its Formula One return.
On the first occasion, the test was interrupted by a sandstorm that blew sand onto the track and stopped the test car running: a situation that highlights one of the most prominent characteristics of the Middle Eastern circuit, which is located in the middle of the desert.
Sand frequently gets onto the track and reduces grip, but it is very hard to predict when and where. Pirelli will bring the P Zero White medium tyres and P Zero Yellow soft tyres to Bahrain: the same combination used in Australia and China.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport director, said: “There are a number of technical challenges that we are anticipating for Bahrain, with the hot conditions in excess of 30 degrees centigrade putting the compounds into a different working range.
“We’ve gathered some data from the track as the result of our tests there in the past, but the tyres and cars have changed so much since then that it is almost like starting again with a blank sheet of paper.
“However, we’re expecting a notable degree of degradation that should certainly test the teams in terms of strategy.
“With the circuit not having been frequently used, we are anticipating quite a high degree of track evolution over the course of the weekend.
“The risk of sand on the track can be an issue, as it takes time to clear and can cause graining. So tyre management will again be crucial in Bahrain, with rear traction in particular the key to a strong qualifying and race pace.”