The Bahrain International Circuit is once again set to host the opening round of the FIA Formula 3 season this weekend.

Along with that, it has also been the setting for pre-season testing, giving the teams and their drivers a chance to get acclimatised to the Sakhir venue prior to the first event of the year.

These three days are critical for everyone in the paddock, but most especially for the rookies who will be tackling the circuit for the first time in their young careers.

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The track features a mixture of slow, medium, and high-speed corners and they are paired with four long straights, three of them being DRS zones. On top of that, it has an abrasive track surface making it incredibly hard on the tyres.

Explaining how he prepared for the Bahrain circuit before testing and round one, MP Motorsport rookie Alex Dunne said: “I think the main thing is to do a lot of prep on the sim. One of the biggest things about Bahrain is about how abrasive the track is, so the degradation of the tyre is quite aggressive.

“It's probably the highest of the year where we really need to look after the tyres, so I think that's something we really look into in the sim when we are coming here. I would say that's probably been the biggest thing for myself to get used to.”

Alex Dunne talked through his preparations ahead of tackling the Bahrain circuit
Alex Dunne talked through his preparations ahead of tackling the Bahrain circuit

Dunne admits that you can do too much work in the simulator and that means you can sometimes create bad habits before arriving at the track. However, Hitech Pulse-Eight newcomer Cian Shields says there are other things you can do in preparation.

Shields revealed that they looked at presentations and PowerPoints detailing the fastest ways to get around the circuit and tyre management. But the Scottish driver says the simulator is still the first port of call.

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“The sim definitely helps especially if you've never been to the track before,” explained Shields. “It kind of shows you the way around but there are parts of the sim that are not so much realistic.

“But there are definitely parts that do help quite a lot with arriving at a new circuit and being as prepared as possible because there's some issues that we had on the sim back in the Hitech factory and it's the same sort of problems at certain corners that we've had at testing. So that just shows that the sim is very realistic compared to the actual track itself.”

But it is not just about the track, the drivers are also adapting to their new Formula 3 machinery. ART Grand Prix Laurens van Hoepen talked through the balancing act involved with trying to get up to speed in their new cars, while also learning the track.

Van Hoepen is adapting to a new car while learning the track
Van Hoepen is adapting to a new car while learning the track

“Well, you try to of course be on the limit of the car, it's hard but you learn it step by step basically,” said Van Hoepen. “With the track, because you've done so much sim work, it’s just a few points to improve with the rest already being decent.

“Of course, you can always improve so you keep improving, and mainly you do it step-by-step at the same time.

“We have to focus on keeping the tyres as good as possible because it's a very abrasive track. It's one of the main points especially for the race. That’s where we really focus on keeping everything on point, especially the rear axle.”

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Work in the simulator is key for van Hoepen and his fellow rookies but Trident driver Santiago Ramos has revealed that he spent plenty of time in the gym looking to be as fit as possible.

“It has been a crazy amount of preparation with the team,” said Ramos. “We have done plenty of laps in the sim with my engineer, plenty of work in the gym as well, preparing ourselves physically for this track. We try to prepare ourselves the best way to manage tyres on long runs and to perform as the best we could do in short runs.”

But tyre management is not something that comes naturally to the drivers says Ramos, who also explained why the battles on race day will not only be against his rivals.

“On this track, in the race, instead of racing against the drivers, it will be against the tyres because we are going to suffer quite a bit of tyre deg,” said Ramos.

Ramos revealed he did plenty of work in the gym preparing for Bahrain
Ramos revealed he did plenty of work in the gym preparing for Bahrain

“It's quite hard, especially because the first thing that comes natural as a racing driver is to push as hard as you can.

“But sometimes you need to hold yourself back from pushing that hard because if you hold back maybe at the end of the race you are going to be able to push a bit more.”

With three days of running in the books and with round one just around the corner, what do the drivers now think of the track?

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“This is a tough track,” said Ramos. “There are high-speed corners where you need to be really careful with the tyres and try to control the little bit of oversteer. But I would say it's tough most mentally because of the tyre deg.”

“I like the track, it's not really similar to anything I've driven before,” added Dunne. “Over a race it can be quite difficult, but I enjoy the challenge and over a quali lap, it's really nice as well.

“When the grip is there and you are at full push it feels really nice, so overall I think in all aspects I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Shields continued: “I always knew it was going to be quite a challenge. It's quite a big track and there are a lot of different styles of corners in it but I'm starting to kind of get to grips with it now.”