Things to know ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Bahrain, Bahrain International Circuitbh

The curtailed 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship enters its final leg this weekend with the Bahrain Grand Prix kicking off the closing triple-header today before the season comes to an end in Abu Dhabi in three weeks’ time.

A fixture on the calendar - Today’s Bahrain Grand Prix will be the 16th Formula One race in Manama. The event was first held in 2004 and has only missed the calendar in 2011 when local protests made it impossible for the organisers to stage the event.

Three layouts – 14 of the 15 Bahrain Grands Prix were held on the 5.412km Grand Prix layout with the 2010 race representing the only exception. That year, the field raced on the 6.299km Endurance layout, but drivers preferred the GP circuit, so the race then reverted to that layout for the following years. Next week will see drivers try out the 11-turn 3.543km Outer Circuit layout at the Sakhir Grand Prix.

Traction – Traction out of the slower corners is usually the key consideration on the 5.412km track. Drivers will need to complete a total of 57 laps today to cover the entire race distance of 308.38km. There is an offset of 246m between the start and the finish line. Drivers will be required to adhere to a speed limit of 80kph in the pit lane in the race.

The old record – The official lap record which is the all-time fastest race lap still belongs to Pedro de la Rosa. The Spaniard clocked in a time of 1m31.447 with his McLaren in 2005 when he substituted the injured Juan Pablo Montoya.

Vettel, the king of Bahrain – Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel is the most successful driver in the history of the Bahrain Grand Prix. The German has the most poles in Bahrain with three first starting positions. With his yesterday’s pole position, Lewis Hamilton has equalled the German in this regard. The quadruple world champion is the most successful with four victories, having won the event in Manama with Red Bull in 2012 and 2013 and with Ferrari in 2017 and 2018. Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton have been victorious on three occasions while Felipe Massa scored victories with Ferrari in 2007 and 2008.

The Italians – Ferrari are the most successful constructor in Bahrain, having won the race in Sakhir on six occasions. Mercedes holds the second place on this list with four wins, followed by Renault and Red Bull with two victories apiece. Brawn GP is the only other team to have been victorious in Bahrain.

First occasions – Robert Kubica, Valtteri Bottas and Charles Leclerc all took their first Formula One pole position at the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Monegasque achieved this feat last year where he also set the fastest lap of the race which was also his maiden fastest lap in a Formula One race. The then 21-year-old was on course to take his first F1 victory in a dominant fashion, but an engine problem handed the victory to Lewis Hamilton. For Romain Grosjean, the Sakhir race is a special one as the Frenchman scored his maiden F1 podium in Sakhir, finishing third in 2012 with Lotus.

The first row – Starting from the first row has proved important, but not vital in the 15 races in Bahrain. The race has been won from pole position on six occasions, with four further victories from P2. Three other races have been won from P3 and the remaining two from P4.

The middle range - Pirelli brought the C2, C3 and C4 tyres to Sakhir this weekend, which are one compound softer than 2019. The surface of the Bahrain International Circuit is a high-grip, highly abrasive asphalt, on which traction out of slow corners and protecting the rear tyres are usually the key considerations.

Two-stopper – A two-stop strategy looks set to be the quickest way to tackle the 57-lap Bahrain Grand Prix. The fastest two-stopper involves one stint on the P Zero Yellow medium for 21 laps, (set to be the opening stint for those in the top 10 of the grid) plus two stints on the P Zero Red soft tyre of 18 laps each. The second-quickest two-stopper instead uses the medium for two 21-lap stints and the soft for 15 laps.

Three DRS zones – Today’s Sakhir race will feature three DRS zones. The first has a detection point 50m before Turn 1, with activation point 23m after Turn 3. The second zone has a detection point 10m before Turn 9 and activation 50m after Turn 10, and the third zone has a detection point 110m before Turn 4, with activation 170m after Turn 15.

Changes to the track – Ahead of this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix, the Bahrain International Circuit has gone through a few changes. The tyre barrier at the back of the Turn 1 run-off in the straight-ahead position has been extended and increased in depth. Moreover, the tyre barrier at the back of the Turn 10 run-off in the straight-ahead position has been upgraded.

New helmet – Charles Leclerc will complete today’s Bahrain Grand Prix with a new helmet design. The Ferrari driver changed his traditional design to a locally-inspired version for the first Bahrain race. The new gold-on-black design is set to reflect the floodlights. The Islamic design resembles the door of a mosque in Bahrain’s capital Manama.

Own design – McLaren’s Lando Norris will also race with a new helmet design today. The young Briton has recently launched his own lifestyle, content and apparel brand Team Quadrant and designed his own helmet design for the Bahrain Grand Prix. The new design features yellow and chrome patterns on a black background.