For each Formula One race this season, Matt Majendie will talk with an F1 driver for an inside view on the track. This weekend, Torro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi takes us around the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain for the 2010 season opener. I might be a Swiss driver but the Bahrain Grand Prix is my home race on the calendar. [Buemi recently lived in Bahrain for two years.] While I don't live there anymore, I know it very well and a lot of my family live out there.
I didn't get to spend a lot of time in Bahrain when I lived there - your home when you're in F1 is sadly not a place you get to spend a lot of time, with all the races we have to do. I've driven an F1 car around Sakhir for just one race weekend, 12 months ago, but the layout we had last year is different as the track owners have changed it to make it longer - by nearly a kilometre - and more attractive.
The change is at turn five. It already existed last season although wasn't used but now they've added that section in now. I can't talk about that new section specifically as none of us have driven it, but I like the way it looks before heading there and hopefully it means more overtaking. Bahrain as a whole is a very smooth circuit. It's all asphalt so it's smooth even when you come off the track with the long runoff areas. In some ways, it means if you make a mistake it's much more forgiving than other races and you won't smash up the car straight away, but it's still not advised when you're going at high speeds.
It's a circuit that has some good opportunities to overtake and there are a lot of high-speed corners, so it's important to have really good grip. There is a really long main straight at Sakhir where you reach speeds of up to 330kph before being met by a tight corner to the right at the end. The g-force here is strong as you go suddenly from sixth gear very abruptly down to first. As you come out of that corner, you get flat-out quite quickly through a left-hand bend and another long straight. That takes us to turn four and the new part of the circuit.
I don't know a lot about it but it supposedly takes us more into the desert - so I don't know if sand will be a problem which it often is at the Sakhir circuit - and a right-hander followed by five looping bends in quick succession, a left-hand kink and another hairpin before returning to the original track lay-out. In all, the changes I think add eight new corners to the circuit. Once back on the original track, there comes a brief straight before a zig-zag of corners going right and then left.
By the time you come out, you can move up to maybe fourth or fifth gear, but not quite top speed before the latest hairpin of the lap brings you right back down to a low speed. From the hairpin there lies another straight followed by another left-hand corner, which paves the way for another long straight on which you go up to 310 before a left-hand corner. You can take much of your momentum into the corner, although you at least half your speed and come out in fifth before one of the hardest corners - a right-hander - of your entire lap. That low-speed corner takes you on to a straight before you brake down for one final corner before the home straight on which you hit your top speed of the whole lap.
As a driver, one of the things you need to be most aware of at Sakhir is your braking. You have to be precise otherwise you can either lose the rear very easily and/or lose valuable time on a given lap. Some drivers complain that you can't quite get the same rhythm as you might at other circuits with the long straights and often just as long corners, but I don't find that a problem. It's quite slippery but that's not a problem once you get used to it.
Perhaps the biggest issue is the heat. Spectators there will know how hot it gets at Bahrain but, once in the car, it's like an oven. It's tough, very, very tough. firstname.lastname@example.org