PRIXVIEW – Bahrain & Shakir Grands Prix

Features

Formula One heads to the deserts of the Gulf for the night race in Bahrain for the penultimate two races of the season. The Shakir circuit was built for F1’s first race in the Middle East in 2004, after fighting with other countries in the region to host Formula One in the region.

The circuit was built near the countries main airport and features long straights with an infield section. The circuit was built from desert land which gave the designers a chance to build a technically demanding circuit. The first race in Bahrain was won by Michael Schumacher.

The current layout has been used for a but one of the Grand Prix’s held in the country, the sixteen corner Grand Prix Circuit dates to 2005. Featuring three straights and a tight infield section, the straights mean drivers need to be on it through the braking zones.

The circuit has a mixture of long straights and a tight infield section which creates opportunities for overtaking. But its high speed that matters on the three straights and that means that good downforce and speed are very important, as well as breaking at the end of the straights.

Designed by Hermann Tilke, the circuit cost £112 million to build and features six different layouts, two which have been used for F1. The track surface is made from graywacke aggregate, shipped to Bahrain from Bayston Hill quarry in Shropshire, England.

The track’s most challenging point is the tight, downhill, off-camber Turn 10 left-hander, while the fast run through Turn 12 is another highlight, allowing the drivers to really feel their cars coming alive. However, being a night race where practices take place in the afternoon sun teams need to be careful not to overreact if they are miles off in FP1 and FP3.

For the second weekend, the layout will change to the ‘Outer Circuit’, this feature sections of the 2010 circuit and is expected to produce one of the fastest laps in the history of the sport.

Michael Schumacher was the first winner in the gulf ahead of teammate Rubens Barrichello, as he went on to win his seventh title. Fernando Alonso became the first double winner in 2005-06, Felipe Massa became the second back-to-back winner in 2007-08.

As part of the incredible fairy tale start to the 2009 season, Brawn GP took a one-two with Jenson Button taking his third win in four races.

2010 saw Bahrain open the sixtieth F1 season, a one-off layout change to the Endurance Circuit layout, extending the lap length to 6.299 km (3.914 mi). This proved unpopular as there wasn’t much overtaking with Fernando Alonso taking victory on his debut for Ferrari after Sebastian Vettel developed a gearbox problem.

After a years hiatus due to the turmoil caused by the Arab Spring, which remains controversial as human rights groups use the race to highlight what’s going on in the kingdom. The 2012 and 2013 races where both won by Sebastian Vettel, but Lotus joined him on the podium in 2012.

Bahrain became a night race in 2014, this race can now be seen as the starting point of the rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg which would last for the following three years. The ‘dual in the desert part one’ saw a race where both Mercedes pushed each other hard with Hamilton coming out the winner.

Sebastian Vettel is the only other driver to win in the hybrid era taking back to back wins in 2017-18.

His teammate Charles Leclerc came close to taking his first win until the closing laps of the race when he developed a technical problem allowing Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to close the gap and pass the Ferrari. However, the young Monégasque hung on to score his first podium.

This year we come to Bahrain in November and December, having been postponed from March, looking at the historical weather data it looks cooler. We have both the drivers and constructors settled normally this allows the drivers to race hard, we have had some brilliant races in recent years once the championship has been decided.

Facts and figures

Round 16 & 17
Race Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2020

Formula 1 Rolex Sakhir Grand Prix 2020

Venue Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain
Grand Prix Circuit
Circuit Length 5.412 km (3.363 mi)
Laps 57
Race Distance 308.405 km (191.634 mi)
Lap Record 01:31.447 Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren, 2005 (race)

01:27.866 Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 2019 (qualifying)

Outer Circuit
Circuit Length 3.543km (2.202 mi)
Laps 87
Race Distance 307.995 km
Lap Record N/A
Most wins drivers Sebastian Vettel (4)
Most wins manufacture Ferrari (6)

Fast facts

  • Robert Kubica took the only pole position of his career at Sakhir in 2008. He also became the first Polish driver to start a Grand Prix from the front of the grid, as well as marking Sauber’s (Alfa Romeo’s in its current name) only pole position so far in F1.
  • The top three drivers on the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix podium finished in the exact same order at the following race 12 months later. Sebastian Vettel won both races, with Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean finishing in second and third respectively.
  • The most successful team in the hybrid era is Mercedes, who have won four out of the past six races. Lewis Hamilton won in 2014 and 2015, and Nico Rosberg in 2016. Will we see another Mercedes victory in 2018, or will Sebastian Vettel continue his winning start to the season in the Ferrari?
  • The second weekend marks the first use of the outer circuit for an international event and the third different layout of the circuit used by F1 in Bahrain. It’s said to see a sub-60 second lap time in F1 for the first time since the original short Dijon format was used for the 1974 French Grand Prix.
  • The Bahrain Grand Prix has never been won from lower than fourth on the grid (Alonso in 2006, Button in 2009), and four of the nine races at the track have been won from pole position.

Bahrain Event timetable

Session

Local

GMT

Friday

P1 14:00-15:30 11:00-12:30
P2 18:00-19:30 15:00-16:30

Saturday

P3 14:00-15:00 11:00-12:00
Qualifying 17:00-18:00 14:00-15:00

Sunday

Race 17:10 14:10

Sakhir Event timetable

Session

Local

GMT

Friday

P1 13:30-15:00 13:30-15030
P2 20:30-22:00 17:30-19:00

Saturday

P3 17:00-18:00 14:00-15:00
Qualifying 20:00-21:00 17:00-18:00

Sunday

Race 20:10 17:10

What happened in 2019?

Melbourne was a blip for Ferrari, or so it was looking in practice and qualifying. Charles Leclerc was on fire all weekend and went into qualifying looking to beat his teammate. He hooked the weekend up well as Mercedes struggled to find the pace to challenge Ferrari, Leclerc looked on course for a good race.

Ferrari went into Sunday’s race looking to prove they were back stronger than Mercedes. Leclerc looked on course to take his first victory in the sport, he had a clear lead over the two Mercedes. Earlier he had passed his teammate after losing the lead to Lewis Hamilton. Then the technical difficulty made his four-second gap look vulnerable, his engine failure now was effectively made him a sitting duck for Hamilton.

Meanwhile, a spin for Sebastian Vettel made Hamilton’s job easier he dropped back after shattering his front win. That allowed Verstappen to close up on Vettel. The spin was somewhat reminiscent of a series of spins Vettel had in 2018 as he was fighting wheel-to-wheel with other cars. Ultimately, the loss points from those mistakes cost him last year’s championship.

Bahrain was the race where Ferrari’s decision to promote Leclerc was rewarded, but a reminder that F1 can be so cruel and sometimes heart-breaking. Hamilton’s first victory of 2019, somewhat lucky given the lead Leclerc had early on.

Race Result – 1) L. Hamilton, Mercedes, 01:34:21.295, 2) V. Bottas, Mercedes, +2.980, 3) C. Leclerc, Ferrari, +6.131

What to watch for?

We come to Bahrain for two different race weekends, this double-header is different from the one we saw at the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone as the second race will be run on a different layout. However, they are both night races and teams need to remember that FP1 and FP3 are mid-afternoon when it is warmer than qualifying and the race.

Bahrain should host three of the next races, does this mean that with largely the same cars next years car there could be extra focus on upgrades for next years cars. This is also the downforce and performance make Mercedes the favourites. Mercedes likely closest challengers are going to be Red Bull and Racing Point, this means they will need to be careful as they haven’t won in Bahrain regularly in recent years.

But given Mercedes performance this season and the layout of both the circuits remain the team to beat, the common theme is long straights and high-speed corners on both circuits. Lewis Hamilton work towards that eight titles begins now, as we know in 2015 after taking his foot off the gas allowed Nico Rosberg to get the edge on Hamilton.

Looking at both the circuits they are ones which I think will require high speed and downforce. However, the only concern may be the lack of overtaking but if it produces more overtaking organisers haven’t ruled out using it again if it proved successful. It will be interesting to see if it gives us a better race.

Our focus now shifts to the fight between Racing Point, who is going to be the I think the team to beat, Renault and McLaren for third in the constructors. I think that Bahrain can give opportunities for teams to race hard and in the hybrid era it has been one of the most exciting races of the year.

2018 vs 2019 Race Data (Grand Prix Circuit)

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

P3 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest

Race Time

Fastest Lap

2019

01:30.354 01:29.569 01:29.569 01:28.495 01:28.046 01:27.866 01:34:21.295 01:33.411

Diff

-0.706 -0.248 -0.299 -0.456 -0.295 -0.092 -02:20.645

2018

01:31.060 01:29.817 01:29.868 01:28.951 01:28.341 01:27.958 01:32:01.940 01:33.740

Tyres

White Hard (C2)

Yellow Medium (C3)

Red Soft (C4)

2 3

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Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.