Learn more about the history of the Bahrain Grand Prix, which became the first Formula 1 race held in the Middle East in 2004.
Bahrain International Circuit (also known as “Sakhir”) was designed by Hermann Tilke and built in just 16 months at an estimated cost of $150m USD. The tarmac of the track is made from imported graywacke aggregate from Shropshire, England. The first race in 2004 was won in dominant fashion by Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari F2004.
The circuit has a variety of layouts for different events. Formula 1 has raced on three variations of the circuit, with all but one Bahrain Grand Prix taking place on the Grand Prix Circuit layout of the track. For 2010, organisers decided to use the ‘endurance’ layout of the circuit to celebrate Formula 1’s diamond anniversary. The lengthened track was met with negative reaction from the drivers and was never used again in F1. In 2020, the Sakhir Grand Prix was held on the shorter, and faster, Outer Circuit.
The Bahrain Grand Prix was first held under floodlights in 2014 partly to provide a better spectacle and more comfortable conditions for spectators, but also to give the race a better time slot with important TV audiences in Europe.
The track has a seating capacity for 45,000 spectators, including 10,500 in the main pit straight grandstand. The circuit also features a distinctive 8-storey VIP tower. According to the circuit’s website, there are over 4700 staff working at the circuit on Grand Prix weekend, including 1800 police & security staff, 600 track marshals and 25 doctors.
In 2020, Bahrain International Circuit hosted two rounds of the championship in order to boost the number of races in a season which had been heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The Bahrain Grand Prix, in which Romain Grosjean made headline news with a miraculous escape from an horrific crash, was held at the end of November. One week later, the Sakhir Grand Prix took place, with Sergio Perez recording his maiden win. The second race was also notable for the absence of Lewis Hamilton, who had tested positive for coronavirus. George Russell impressed as he took Hamilton’s seat, and was in contention for the win until a late race puncture. Both the Bahrain and Sakhir Grands Prix were held behind closed doors, though local health workers were invited to spectate in the grandstands in recognition of their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton share the record for most poles and wins at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Both have taken pole three times at the event and have four wins apiece.
- Ferrari is the most successful team in Bahrain with six victories; Michael Schumacher won in 2004, Felipe Massa in 2007 and 2008, Fernando Alonso in 2010 and Sebastian Vettel in 2017 and 2018.
- Bahrain is one of only a handful of current F1 circuits where McLaren have not yet recorded a victory (McLaren are also yet to win in Baku and Sochi).
- Kimi Raikkonen has finished on the podium eight times in Bahrain but has never won the race.
- After the 2007 Bahrain Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton were all equal on points at the top of the championship. The last time that three drivers had been tied at the top of the Drivers’ Championship was in 1950, after the Indianapolis 500.
- Local protests inspired by the Arab Spring resulted in the race being postponed in 2011. The race had been rescheduled for later in the year, but was eventually cancelled.
- A German driver has been on pole at seven of the sixteen Bahrain Grands Prix held since 2004.
- Less than half of the races held at the Bahrain International Circuit have been won from pole. Just seven of the seventeen races at the track have been won from the front. The furthest back win here was for Sergio Perez in the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. He started fifth.
- With his victory in the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, Sergio Perez became the first driver to win an F1 race having been last at the end of the opening lap.
- Sebastian Vettel recorded the only DNS of his F1 career so far here in 2016 when his Ferrari engine failed on the formation lap.
Bahrain’s Memorable Moments
- 2006: Raikkonen’s recovery drive: Kimi Raikkonen was eliminated in Q1 in Bahrain in 2006 after a suspension failure. Starting at the very back of the field in 22nd, McLaren placed the Finn on a one-stop strategy. With a mix of strategy and his fine overtaking skills, Raikkonen finished in third place behind Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso, who had an epic battle for the lead throughout the Grand Prix. It was Alonso who came out on top, barging past Schumacher after his second pit-stop. Notably, the race was also the first appearance for future World Champion Nico Rosberg. He set the fastest lap of the race, becoming the youngest driver to do so at the time.
- 2008: Kubica and Sauber’s only pole: 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 only pole position so far in Formula 1. Kubica lapped just 0.027s faster than Felipe Massa, which remained the smallest margin pole was taken by in Bahrain until 2017. Kubica was unable to convert pole into victory, finishing the race in third as Massa took the win.
- 2010: Alonso’s first Ferrari win: The 2010 F1 season began in Bahrain amidst plenty of intrigue with new teams, new driver line-ups and the return of Michael Schumacher after a three-year absence. While Sebastian Vettel set the pace in qualifying, spark plug issues on his Red Bull slowed him down and Fernando Alonso was able to capitalize, taking victory on his first appearance with Ferrari. It marked only the sixth time a driver had won on their Ferrari debut. It was an afternoon to remember for the whole team too, as Felipe Massa finished as runner-up on his first appearance since his accident at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.
- 2014: Duel in the desert: The 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix is seen as the starting point of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s bitter rivalry as Mercedes team-mates. The race, which was the 900th F1 Grand Prix, saw Rosberg start from pole. Hamilton got the better start however, and led the opening stages. The pair scrapped for position before the first pit-stops with Hamilton ultimately remaining ahead and thus being given the privilege of the first stop. The Safety Car was called out later, after Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber rolled as the result of a collision with Pastor Maldonado. The Safety Car period prompted a thrilling conclusion to the race as Rosberg, still behind Hamilton, was now on the faster tyre compound. There was little the German could do though, and after more wheel-to-wheel battles Hamilton won the race, equaling Juan Manuel Fangio’s tally of Grand Prix victories.
Bahrain Grand Prix Facts
|Circuit Name||Bahrain International Circuit (Sakhir)|
|Track Length||5.412km (15 turns)|
|Race Distance||57 laps (308.238km)|
|Lap Record||1:30.252, Michael Schumacher (Ferrari 2004)|
|2020 Result||1st Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 2:59:47.515|
|2nd Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +1.254s|
|3rd Alexander Albon (Red Bull) +8.005s|