Formula One Motorsport boss Ross Brawn has no doubts over the potential of the outer version of the Bahrain International Circuit that will make its debut as Round 16 of the current season.
Formula One revealed the last leg of the delayed and curtailed 2020 F1 championship last Friday. The finalized schedule comprises 17 races, four less than the pre-coronavirus crisis calendar included. Bahrain will host a double-header event with two races taking place at two consecutive weekends.
The sport was keen to exploit the different track configurations of the Bahrain International Circuit in a bid to spice racing up, posing a different challenge to teams and drivers during the second round at Manama. The first event will be titled as Bahrain Grand Prix, the usual name of the race while the second round will be staged under the banner of the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Reflecting on the decision-making process while finalizing the calendar, Brawn said: „I’m sure the usual track configuration we use in Bahrain will deliver a cracking Grand Prix but holding two races there has given us the opportunity to use a layout which is completely different to any of the tracks we have run."
The Outer Bahrain Circuit will be the second shortest track on the calendar after Monaco. Drivers will complete 87 laps to cover the 305 km minimum race distance – that will be the highest number of laps at a Grand Prix this year. The outer track takes in Turns 1, 2 and 3 of the international track, before breaking away at Turn 4 for a series of quick sweeps before re-joining the familiar track at Turn 13.
The sport is also set for sub-60s lap times with the early simulations indicating times below 55 seconds in the qualifying session. The only sub-60s pole time in F1 history came in 1974, when Niki Lauda lapped Dijon-Prenois in his Ferrari in 58.79s.
„The ‘oval’ circuit is not a classic Grand Prix configuration, but I suspect it will present quite a challenge to the teams and drivers to manage both qualifying and the race, and I am expecting a lot of action.”
„It’s going to be a busy race, with sub one-minute lap times, running to more than 80 laps. Traffic will certainly be an issue and there will be opportunities to overtake, too. It might look simple, but I expect it will be quite challenging to get the lap times out of it.”
Despite the difficulties the current unprecedented times have posed to the sport, Formula One and the FIA have made a tremendous job in order to put a heavily-revised calendar together that satisfies every party. The new schedule includes three tracks – Red Bull Ring, Silverstone and Bahrain – that host two races, new tracks with Portimao and Mugello making their debut in F1 and returning circuits with Nurburgring, Imola and Istanbul reappearing on the calendar.
„It was great to announce four more races earlier this month to bring the calendar to 17 races. This year, we’ve turned a problem into an opportunity, and we’re racing at tracks, which for various reasons, we wouldn’t normally go to such as Istanbul, Portimao, Mugello and Imola.
„These are great tracks, which deliver great excitement. And I’m proud of what we have been able to do. We have got to make sure we are super diligent and maintain our protocols. Complacency mustn’t creep in. We don’t want countries to be nervous about F1 coming, but we’re incredibly excited and very proud of what we’ve achieved so far,” Brawn concluded.