Fernando Alonso started the winning streak in 2005 with Renault F1 Team and stood on the top step of the podium once more the following year. In 2012, Renault power claimed a 1-2-3-4 result and locked out the podium in 2013. At a circuit taken at 60% wide open throttle and a climate that makes engines work hard, the French manufacturer is justifiably proud of its pedigree in Manama.
Director of Operations, Rémi Taffin, remembers : ‘The first year we went to Bahrain, we really weren’t sure what to expect as we had never raced in a desert climate before. We’d been to hot places and dry ones, but never both at the same time. Also when you looked at the track map, with the long straights and tight hairpins we knew it would be punishing. We learnt a lot very quickly, but the preparation for the race was massive, with lots of work in the dyno beforehand, and an incredibly busy programme on the Friday. The first year we finished fourth, but when we returned in 2005 we’d done our homework and knew we had a good car. Fernando [Alonso] won quite easily that year. In 2006 we had a tougher time – Giancarlo’s car had a problem, so it shows how close to the limit we were, and how crucial getting everything right was.
‘It took us until 2012 to win again, unfortunately. Going into the race that year, the championship was wide open and we knew that wins were really up for grabs, but everything had to be perfect. We had strong teams that had produced very good cars, but three different teams had won the first three races. We managed to join everything up with both Red Bull and Lotus for this race, but it was very nerve-wracking seeing four of your cars fighting on track…it could be an all or nothing scenario, particularly when Kimi [Raikkonen, racing for Lotus] was challenging for Seb’s lead ! Watching in the engineering office you could barely watch at times as Kimi was really going for it, and both could have gone out. In the end the racing was very clean, but everyone’s pulses were very high… The icing on the cake was getting third and fourth, but we didn’t take anything for granted until the flag, particularly as everyone was so competitive. The McLarens were close and tyre degradation was a real issue at the end of the race.
‘In 2013, the last year of the V8s, we knew everything we possibly could about the engines and how to optimize, but we wanted to finish the era as successfully as we could. We started the year well and then it got even better in Bahrain with a 1-2-3 result. It set the precedent for the rest of the year to a certain extent.’