The Sahara Force India team return to the scene of their best result of the 2014 Formula 1 season this weekend, although a return to the podium in Bahrain seems a long way away compared to a year ago when Sergio Perez stood alongside the Mercedes drivers. He and Nico Hulkenberg understand just how much work the team need to do this year to get back to the highs of last year.
Hulkenberg made his Formula 1 debut at this circuit in 2010 for Williams, albeit on the longer layout that was never used again, and insists the Sakhir track is hard to master, especially with the wind blowing sand from the desert onto the track.
“Bahrain is always an enjoyable weekend: I really like the paddock and the atmosphere around the venue is great,” said Hulkenberg.
“It is also the place where I drove my first Formula One race, back in 2010, so I have some very good memories about this race – not least last year’s race, which was very enjoyable to drive.
“The track is quite tricky to master, especially as the sand blowing on the track can make it really dusty, so grip doesn’t always improve throughout the weekend.
“There are a few very nice corners, especially the double left-hander before the back straight: it’s difficult to get it right and it is very easy to lock the inside front wheel.
“It’s a very technical track with a few good overtaking opportunities, and at the same time it’s a challenge from a mechanical point-of-view as well, taking a lot from your rear tyres and from your brakes.”
Hulkenberg was forced to retire early in China last weekend and wants to put that disappointment behind him this weekend in Bahrain, and hopes to take advantage of any opportunity to be in with a chance to score points.
“After a disappointing weekend in China, we want to be in a condition to make the most of any opportunities we may get in the race,” reflected Hulkenberg. “We know where we stand in terms of performance and we know the work we have to do to get closer to the teams in front of us.”
Team-mate Perez finished on the podium a year ago in Bahrain, taking a well-earned third place for only Force India’s second ever top three finish, and has happy memories looking back.
“Returning to Bahrain brings back a lot of good memories,” insisted Perez. “Last year’s race had all you can ask from it: a lot of action, a great performance and of course finishing on the podium.
“It’s a good track for me; I won there in GP2 and generally always had good races so I feel positive about going there.”
The Mexican expects rear tyre degradation to play a major part in the race this weekend, and hopes the extra-competitiveness the team showed in China last week will continue in Bahrain.
“The track itself is a stop-and-go circuit with long straights, sharp braking zones followed by rapid acceleration: rear tyre degradation is quite high and I expect it to be one of the themes of this race,” said Perez.
“Grip is always a challenge with all the dust blowing on the track, and the surface evolves a lot during the weekend and the race itself.
“The last race in China was interesting for us, as we were able to be much more involved in battles against the other teams. As we keep learning about our car and its set-up, we are closing the gap to our rivals, which is really encouraging.
“There is still a long way to go but everyone is working hard for it and hopefully we will soon be able to mount a more consistent challenge for regular points.”