The Bright Spark Reports from DIRIYAH

The Diriyah track was incredibly low grip when the teams headed out for the shakedown session on Thursday. Conditions didn’t improve massively on Friday with official practice beginning just after dawn.

The challenge for the Mahindra Racing engineers was to gauge how the circuit would evolve. We grilled our insider, The Bright Spark, to get the lowdown.

The Bright Spark says…

Were your predictions for the evolution of the track correct?

There were much lower grip levels than we expected. That being said, we knew they would be low to start with, but the tricky part was in understanding quite how quickly the track would rubber in and come to you.

The track was still coming to us quite significantly on Saturday. We made changes and the car was quicker instantly.

However, this does mean that data regarding the changes could get lost by the track getting faster and faster in such a short period of time. So, you have to be careful about that.

But also because of the whole setup, the energy consumption for these cars varies quite a lot. So the grip changes because of the profile of the cars coming out of the corners and the braking profiles, etc.


How do you fight back from a loss of track time such as when Pascal had an issue in first practice?

I think this does depend slightly on the nature of the track.

Diriyah is actually quite a technical track from the drivers’ point of view. So there’s rather a lot for them to learn.

Teams will often use one pre-practice for race setup and chassis and the second session for qualifying setup, so losing time early means you are then playing catch up and it does have a major impact.

You’ve got to compact what would have been two sessions worth of programmes into one shorter session, whilst also trying to factor in the driver getting to grips with the track conditions.

In cricketing parlance you are immediately ‘on the backfoot’ but you just have to get on with it and be bold.

The attack zone area at Diriyah was different this year. How did it factor into the strategies that played out?

The loss you got by taking attack mode was more significant than we had anticipated. This was mainly because you could see that when the cars went through this zone they were just throwing lots of dust up which then cost them time. In fact, we even saw some cars glancing the walls on the way out of the attack zone because of this.

We were probably slightly surprised at how some cars managed to overtake and get the places they lost back again. So I think the changes to the regulations haven’t made a huge difference to attack mode, not yet anyway. I think it will all be rather track dependent as the season goes on.


When challenging situations arise, like befell Jerome at the start of race two, what actually happens in the pit box?

Don’t panic! There’s a couple of standard issue procedures you follow if there’s a problem with the car which are essentially reset and reboot.

If that doesn’t clear things, you go to the next level and restart in a more detailed way. It’s a little bit like having an issue with the software on your laptop, sometimes you just repeat procedures to try and solve it.

Unfortunately, despite Jerome trying a few more resets, it didn’t work out on this occasion.

But it’s like everything, you learn and you analyse, so if the scenario occurs again you are stronger. That’s the key, to learn from tough times and fight back. That is what we are all about at Mahindra Racing.