Bahrain International Circuit: The Ultimate Track Guide

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.

TRACK LENGTH 3.363 miles
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 One’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.

The Bahrain International Circuit holds a contract to host the Bahrain Grand Prix until 2018.

🇧🇭 2018 RACE RECAP

Sebastian Vettel won from pole position under the floodlights after a tight battle with Valtteri Bottas in the closing stages.

A crash for Max Verstappen in Q1 put him way down the grid, while Lewis Hamilton started down the order due to a gearbox penalty. After the first lap, with Verstappen gaining places and Hamilton losing them, the pair ended up next to each other on track and a wheel-to-wheel battle on the second lap led to Verstappen picking up a puncture. Red Bull’s nightmare continued as Daniel Ricciardo’s car came to a halt on the same lap. Verstappen retired from the race on the third lap, while Hamilton’s fightback continued with a triple overtake into the first turn. A botched pit stop at Ferrari lead to Kimi Raikkonen being released early and running over a mechanic, prematurely ending the Finnish driver’s race. At the front, Valtteri Bottas had pitted for Medium tyres, while Sebastian Vettel’s choice had been more aggressive with the Ferrari running on the Soft tyres. Bottas’ tyres lasted better, leaving Bottas right behind Vettel in the final laps. Despite a valiant effort from the Mercedes driver, Vettel could maintain his lead, to take his second consecutive win of the season. Pierre Gasly had a notable performance at Toro Rosso. Having qualified sixth, he went on to finish fourth in the Grand Prix – Honda’s best result since their return to F1.



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.
  • The Grand Prix has been held in April every time it has been held, except in 2006 and 2010 when the circuit held the opening round of the season in March.


Bahrain can serve up a duel in the desert – like in 2014. But even if the racing can, at times, be processional, the event gives us our first chance of the season to see the new cars glittering under lights.


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