Bahrain International Circuit: The Ultimate Track Guide

F1 stepped into the Middle East for the first time in 2004, with the Bahrain International Circuit hosting its first race in the Sakhir desert. Since then, the track has become host to one of the sport’s annual night races.


FIRST F1 RACE 2004
TRACK LENGTH 3.363 miles
NUMBER OF LAPS 57
NUMBER OF TURNS 15
MOST POLES Sebastian Vettel (3)
MOST WINS Sebastian Vettel (4)

Situated 30km south-west of the Bahrain capital Manama, the Bahrain International Circuit is built on the site of a former camel farm. Crown Prince of Bahrain, Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, was enthusiastic for the track to be built and for the pinnacle of motorsport to visit the country – so much so that it became a national objective for the country.

Bahrain signed a deal to hold a Grand Prix back in September 2002 and construction began in November 2002, with over 12,000 tonnes of granite being used in the making of the track. Hermann Tilke designed the track, which has six different layouts within the outer perimeter of the track. The track’s surface was shipped from Shropshire in the United Kingdom, and the circuit cost $150 million to build. The width of tarmac changes around the track, allowing multiple racing lines in some parts of the circuit. The circuit was finished just in time – but there were many time concerns throughout its construction and, though the track was finished, many of the surrounding facilities were not.

The first race here, in 2004, was Formula One’s first venture into the Middle East. A few changes have been made to the track over the years. In 2010, the track was extended in a layout named ‘the Endurance Circuit’ in honour of Formula 1’s diamond jubilee. This version of the track was only used once and garnered a negative reaction from fans and drivers.

In order to give the event a new lease of life, the Bahrain Grand Prix became a night race from 2014 onwards. 495 light poles were put up around the track, with 5,000 lights illuminating the circuit.

Formula 1’s presence in Bahrain has regularly been criticised, with criticism coming to a head in 2011 when the event was postponed and then eventually cancelled due to civil unrest in the country. 


🇧🇭 2019 RACE RECAP

Charles Leclerc took the first pole position of his career and looked set to win the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, until a mechanical failure handed the victory to Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages.

After struggling to find the speed in Australia, Ferrari were firmly back on the pace in Bahrain, and Charles Leclerc demonstrated the Scuderia’s pace by taking his maiden pole position. But it was his team-mate Sebastian Vettel who led into Turn 1, while Valtteri Bottas passed Lewis Hamilton for third place. The Finn soon made his way past Leclerc, dropping the Ferrari driver down to third. In the midfield, Lance Stroll made contact with a Haas, resulting in sparks flying on the opening lap. Back at the front, Leclerc re-passed Bottas on the second lap, and Hamilton followed him through. Carlos Sainz suffered front wing damage after colliding with Max Verstappen in a scrap for fifth place, while Antonio Giovinazzi sent Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso into a spin. On the sixth lap, Leclerc found a way past his team-mate at Turn 1 and re-took the lead. After the first round of pit stops, Hamilton closed in on Vettel and passed him. Immediately after the move was made, Vettel spun in his Ferrari and on the following straight lost his front wing. Nine laps from the end, Leclerc began to encounter engine issues and it wasn’t long before Hamilton and Bottas both sailed past. The Renaults had diced for sixth position, but it was ultimately futile – both Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg retired within a few corners of each other. The ensuing Safety Car meant that Leclerc was able to hold on to the first podium finish of his career, while Mercedes scored a 1-2 finish.


🇧🇭 FAST FACTS

  • The sand around the track is sprayed with a special adhesive so that it doesn’t affect the drivers during a Grand Prix. The track still needs regularly sweeping over the course of a Grand Prix weekend
  • Neel Jani was the first person to drive a Formula One car in Bahrain. He took to the streets of Manama in February 2004 as part of the promotional campaign for the maiden race. 
  • The race was cancelled in 2011 due to the political situation in Bahrain. Plans were made to reschedule the race from March to October that year, but the event never materialised.
  • There is no champagne on the podium here, instead non-alcoholic rosewater is sprayed by the podium placed finishers.
  • Just one corner at this track is named. The first turn was named Schumacher in the seven-time World Champion’s honour in 2014.
  • Although the drivers and fans don’t particularly like the long run-off areas, they do make Bahrain one of the safest race tracks on the F1 calendar. The long run-offs also help to prevent sand from getting on to the circuit.
  • There is capacity for 50,000 fans in the grandstands, with 100,000 visitors expected over Grand Prix weekends.

🇧🇭 BAHRAIN GP WINNERS AND POLESITTERS

YearPolesitterTeam On PoleWinnerWinning Team
2004Michael SchumacherFerrariMichael SchumacherFerrari
2005Fernando AlonsoRenaultFernando AlonsoRenault
2006Michael SchumacherFerrariFernando AlonsoRenault
2007Felipe MassaFerrariFelipe MassaFerrari
2008Robert KubicaBMW SauberFelipe MassaFerrari
2009Jarno TrulliToyotaJenson ButtonBrawn GP
2010Sebastian VettelRed BullFernando AlonsoFerrari
2012Sebastian VettelRed BullSebastian VettelRed Bull
2013Nico RosbergMercedesSebastian VettelRed Bull
2014Nico RosbergMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2015Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2016Lewis HamiltonMercedesNico RosbergMercedes
2017Valtteri BottasMercedesSebastian VettelFerrari
2018Sebastian VettelFerrariSebastian VettelFerrari
2019Charles LeclercFerrariLewis HamiltonMercedes
2020