Things to know ahead of the Sakhir Grand Prix

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Sakhir, Bahrain International Circuitbh

Following the action-packed and incident-filled Bahrain Grand Prix, drivers are in action once again at Sakhir, but they are discovering the Outer Loop layout of the Bahrain International Circuit.

When the sport announced that Bahrain would stage two races at two consecutive weekends, some doubted what the second round could offer. That scepticism has gone following yesterday’s qualifying session. The FIA, Formula One and the Bahrain International Circuit have done a tremendous job to opt for the Outer Loop layout for the second event.

The go-kart circuit-like Outer Loop track has delivered on its promises, producing an intense, thrilling qualifying session in which drivers were able to complete multiple laps on the same set of tyres. If the Formula 2’s feature race is anything to go by, then today’s inaugural Sakhir Grand Prix will be a spectacular, strategy-defined race.

Shortest track – With the Monaco Grand Prix cancelled, the Outer Loop Bahrain Circuit is the shortest track on the 2020 calendar. Drivers will need to complete the 3.543km track 87 times to cover the entire race distance of 307.995km. The 87 laps is the highest lap count of the year.

Not the absolute highest amount – Although the lap count of 87 is looking unusual, that number of laps will not break the absolute record. The 1957 Monaco Grand Prix and the 1964 Austrian Grand Prix at Zeltweg airfield both featured 105 laps.

Unchanged finish and start line - There will be an offset of 246m between the finish and the start line just as it was the case last weekend. Pitlane speed limit will also remain unchanged with drivers required to adhere to a limit of 80kph in practice, qualifying and the race.

Same tyre nomination - Pirelli supplied teams with the same tyre allocation as last weekend: C2 as the P Zero White hard, C3 as the P Zero Yellow medium, and C4 as the P Zero Red soft. The Outer Circuit will be a bit less demanding on tyres than the standard circuit which could influence the strategies. The minimum starting pressure will be 23.5 psi for the front tyres and 21.5 psi for the rear tyres.

Two DRS zones – Instead of three DRS zones, the Outer Loop track will feature two DRS zones. The first has a detection point 50m before Turn 1, with activation 23m after Turn 3. The second zone features a detection point 110m before Turn 10, with activation 170m after Turn 11.

Third double-header – The Bahrain weekend features the third double-header event on the same venue after the Red Bull Ring and the Silverstone track also hosted two back-to-back races earlier in 2020. However, this is the first time that drivers compete on two different layouts.

Rapid laps - This was the shortest timed pole lap in Formula 1 since Ferrari driver Niki Lauda took pole for the 1974 French Grand Prix at Dijon. The short lap meant that finding a clear lap in the traffic was essential in qualifying, and this will be an issue in the race tomorrow as well.

The debutants – Pietro Fittipaldi is set to become the 32nd Brazilian to make an F1 start and the first since Felipe Massa at the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The last Brazilian who made his debut in F1 was Felipe Nasr who competed in 39 races in total.

The other debutant – Formula 2 racer Jack Aitken is also set to make his F1 debut at today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The British-Korean driver is stepping up from his reserve driver role to replace George Russell. Williams’ 2020 car is not fully unknown for Aitken as he sampled the machinery at the Styrian Grand Prix in July when he completed a total of 35 laps in the first practice session.

Third Briton – George Russell, who is currently subbing for Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit, is the third Briton to compete for Mercedes after Hamilton and Sir Stirling Moss.