The Bahrain International Circuit broke new ground as the home of F1’s first foray into the Middle East and thanks to a combination of its position on the calendar and its tendency to produce good races, it has solidified its place on the schedule.
A track situated in the middle of a desert in Asia’s third smallest country hardly sounds like a recipe for a racing mecca, but the track has steadily grown in popularity and importance.
bumped Bahrain up the schedule to become the season-opener in 2021, boosting anticipation levels for the race, and the circuit’s involvement in the sport has now spread to hosting pre-season testing the week before the first race of the year.
Having recently signed an extension to continue hosting F1 until 2036, Bahrain is going nowhere, and that’s no bad thing when it comes to F1 keeping good racing venues.
Bahrain has played host to several ‘duels in the desert’ with the width of the track giving drivers plenty of overtaking opportunities, while an abrasive surface, the climate and it being a night race all add to the drama of racing at a circuit with a well-earned reputation.
|What||2024 Bahrain Grand Prix|
|Where||Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir|
|How to watch||Sky Sports F1|
The track is 30km south-west of the Bahrain capital Manama and was formerly the site of a camel farm.
Renowned track designer Hermann Tilke was asked in 1999 to come up with a multi-track facility by Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who had made it a national objective to build a world-class motorsport facility.
Construction began in December 2002 on the venue, which would house six separate tracks. Construction is estimated to have cost $150million and saw no expense spared as they shipped in the track surface from Shropshire in the UK.
Building work was only just completed in time for the inaugural race in 2004 with organisers initially suggesting the race would have to be cancelled. The track was eventually opened in March of that year with the first F1 grand prix staged in April.
The circuit which has traditionally been used for the Bahrain Grand Prix measures 5.412km, making it mid-range in terms of lap length in F1.
Not a great deal has changed about the layout since it was first introduced, but F1 has experimented with using some other elements of the Bahrain International Circuit.
In 2010, the grand prix track was extended to make what was called the Endurance Circuit. It measured 6.299km and was only used once in the 2010 season with drivers critical of the additional corners, suggesting they added nothing to the race.
In 2020, the Bahrain International Circuit staged back-to-back races. On the first weekend, the usual grand prix track was used, with the shorter 3.543km Outer Circuit hosting a fast and frenetic second race seven days later.
Bahrain has proved to be F1’s gateway into the Middle East, staging the first race in the region in 2004.
Since then, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have all joined Bahrain on the F1 calendar.
The Bahrain International Circuit has hosted at least one race every year since its debut, with the only exception being in 2011 when the event was cancelled due to civil unrest.
Sebastian Vettel is one win behind the seven-time world champion, with on three victories, although he hasn’t won in Bahrain since 2010.
The fastest lap outright was done by Lewis Hamilton in 2020, who completed the course in 1:27.264 during qualifying.
Several other classes of motorsport have tried out the Bahrain International Circuit with the World Touring Car Championship, World Series Formula V8 and FIA GT Championship having all previously raced at this track.
Currently, the venue is used by F1 and the World Endurance Championship, which has staged a six-hour race at the track since 2019.
One of the reasons why F1 decided to host testing in Bahrain is because of the consistently hot, dry and sunny conditions.
Bahrain gets around 70 millimetres of rain each year with April one of the drier months. During grand prix weekend, the average temperatures are in the higher 20s but dip by ten degrees for the race, which is staged at night.