After the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Formula One visits the Bahrain International Circuit for Round Two of the 2019 Formula One World Championship this weekend.
Following Mercedes’ domination during the season-opener, Red Bull and Ferrari are keen to bounce back and pose a bigger challenge to the German-Anglo outfit. The Melbourne street circuit presented a unique challenge with its close confines while the circuit in Manama will put a different set of challenges on the shoulders of the 22 race drivers.
Not only the high temperatures and dust make the weekend tough on the race cars, but the timing of the Grand Prix is unique, as well. The race begins just after sunset, and is held under floodlights, making it hard for the engineers to find the right setup which works throughout the whole race. The track is known for its start-stop nature, the combination of long straights and hard braking zones form the majority of the circuit.
The 2004 Bahrain Grand Prix marked the first ever round of the FIA Formula One World Championship to be held in the Middle East. The track is located in Sakhir which lies 30kms south-west of the island’s capital Manama.
The track was designed by German architect Herman Tilke. The construction works began in November 2002. As it is located in the desert, huge preparation work was needed. 12000 tonnes of stone was used in the build. One-third of it is Welsh granite which forms the track surface because of its outstanding adhesive qualities.
The first race was held in 2004, Michael Schumacher claiming the win and doing so he became the first ever winner in the Grand Prix history of Bahrain.
The 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix scheduled for 13 March was canceled due to the 2011 Bahraini protests. FIA wanted to reschedule the event for October, but, in the end, it was decided that the Moving Circus will only revisit the country when peace returns in Bahrain.
Human rights activists called for a cancellation of 2012 race due to reports of alleged human rights abuses committed by the Bahraini authorities.
Team personnel also voiced concerns about safety, but the race, nonetheless, was held as planned on 22 April 2012. In 2014, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the first staging of the Bahrain Grand Prix, the race was held as a night event under floodlights. The Bahrain round became the second in the history of Formula One to host a night race after the 2008 Singapore GP. Due to its success, subsequent races have also been night races.
Most successful teams and drivers
Sebastian Vettel is the most successful driver in the history of the Bahrain Grand Prix. The German has clinched the victory on four occasions, scoring two of these wins for Red Bull and the other two for Ferrari. Fernando Alonso has three wins to his name in Manama.
Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton both were victorious two times in the island country. The three other drivers who have won the race are Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg. The seven-time world champion won the first edition of the Bahrain Grand Prix back in 2004.
Among the teams, Ferrari is the clear dominant force with its six victories. The Scuderia won the first ever Bahrain race in 2004, was then again victories in 2007 and 2008 with Felipe Massa. In 2010, Fernando Alonso won his first ever race for Ferrari in Manama, while it was Sebastian Vettel who proved himself the fastest on the Bahrain International Circuit in the last two years.
Mercedes is the second most successful team in Bahrain with three victories, Renault and Red Bull have both won two times. The Brawn team won the 2009 race with Jenson Button.
Home to every Bahrain Grand Prix, the 5.412 km Sakhir circuit is known for the abrasive nature of its track surface. It is also particularly dirty, when track action starts on Friday, as it is exposed to sand blowing in from the desert. To go well at this track, you need excellent traction, because the layout features a succession of long straights and relatively slow corners and therefore, good top speed on the straights is the aim. The track is also hard on brakes, which usually start getting critical in the second part of the race. The race begins under a hot sun and ends under spotlights.
The first corner is the best overtaking spot on the track, as drivers brake from 300 to 60 km/h. After the tricky Turn 2 where rear stability is key, drivers head on to another longer full-throttle section. Turn 4 is a slow, 90-degree bend again. The second sector begins with Turn 5.
Following some elevation changes, drivers arrive to another longer straight before going into the only sequence of faster bends of the track. Exiting Turn 12, cars have to show good traction to carry a good speed onto the last straight of the circuit. The last two bends pose a different challenge as cars tend to suffer from understeering at the exit before they reach the straight-finish line.