Racing under the lights
2016 will be the third Formula One night race in Bahrain. This year’s Bahrain Grand Prix on 1, 2 and 3 April is the second race of the Formula One season, following the 20 March race in Australia won by Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.
In both 2014 and 2015 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton won the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonzo has a strong record for Bahrain, with wins in 2005, 2006 and 2010. Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel have both won twice here, with Vettel coming first in 2013.
Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher are Bahrain’s other one-time winners.
Of the 11 Bahrain grand prix events to date (the 2011 event was cancelled due to political unrest), eight have been won by the eventual world champion; representing 72.7%. Ten of the eleven races – 90.9% – have been won by the team that went on to take the title.
The 5.421-kilometre layout features 15 corners — nine right turns and six left.
The track features four long straights. The longest of these is the pit straight, which is 1,090 metres.
The main race requires 57 laps of the track, giving a race distance of 308.238 KM.
See this Guide to the Bahrain Formula One video.
2014 night race debut
Bahrain marked its 10th anniversary as a Grand Prix venue with a new approach in 2014 by holding a night race for the first time. As well as providing a spectacular and captivating environment for spectators, this helps make the racing more conveniently-timed for viewers around the world.
The floodlit night race was considered to be a major success, with 31,000 fans alone attending the Sunday racing, while millions watched around the world.
Adjusting to the night race system required substantial investments: The night race lighting system cost around $14.51 million. This represents 4,500 light fittings, mounted on 495 poles, linked together by a massive 500 kilometres of cable.
Infrastructure & personnel
Bahrain’s infrastructure underwent a major revamp ahead of the 2015 Grand Prix, including large areas of extra parking spaces, highway maintenance and new counters at the BIC site to expedite entry procedures. 14,000 personnel are involved in the massive Formula One operation. This includes catering staff, security, medics and maintenance.
Bahrain’s first Grand Prix in 2004 made history as the first Formula One Grand Prix to be held in the Middle East. Bahrain fought off fierce competition from elsewhere in the region to stage the race, such as the UAE and Egypt.
The first 2004 Grand Prix was dominated by Michael Schumacher and Ferrari. The seven-time world champion won from pole and set fastest lap.
Safety & technical excellence
The Sakhir circuit was the first Grand Prix circuit to be awarded the prestigious FIA Institute Centre of Excellence award, for “excellent safety, race marshal and medical facilities”, as well as for “high standards of technology”.
Safety is prioritized with generously-sized run-off areas alongside the track, measuring 140,000 square metres — enough to hold 344 tennis courts.
Around 400 palm trees are planted along the circuit, behind 4,100 metres of tyre walls, made up of an incredible 82,000 tyres.
If that isn’t enough, there are also 12,000 metres of guard rails and 5,000 metres of safety fencing!
Six hundred dedicated marshals around the track are also there for quick responses to accidents and any incidents, to ensure minimum disruption to the race.
Benefits to Bahrain’s economy
It has been estimated that the Formula One directly and indirectly brings in around half a billion dollars of revenue to the Bahrain economy; providing hundreds of jobs and providing a welcome economic boost.
The leisure and tourism sectors are major beneficiaries; with hotel occupancy soaring and visitors to the Grand Prix enjoying the many other amenities and entertainments that Bahrain has to offer.
The lap record of 1 minute 30.252 seconds went to Michael Schumacher in 2004. The hairpin Turn One at the Sakhir Circuit was last year named “Schumacher”, in tribute to this champion of Formula 1.
After a subsequent change in the route, Pedro de la Rosa holds the current lap record, with 1:31.447 in 2005 (McLaren)
Facts about the track
The circuit lies close to the western edge of Bahrain Island, and is surrounded by desert. The local topography is mostly flat, but the circuit itself does have significant variations in elevation. The difference between its highest and lowest points is 18 metres.
The Bahrain International Circuit at Sakhir is 5.412 km long. The cars racing in the 2016 Grand Prix will have to complete 57 laps. This contrasts with Bahrain’s 6.3 km Endurance Circuit which was used in 2010 to mark the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Formula One.
The circuit was designed by Hermann Tilke, a German architect who also designed Malaysia’s Sepang Circuit. The circuit cost approximately $150 million to construct. It has six separate tracks, including a test oval and a drag strip.
The long straights of Bahrain’s track give it a reputation as a power-dominated circuit. The circuit has 15 corners, including three hairpin bends.
The lack of rain (averaging just 70 mm of rain per year) or storms means that drivers don’t usually have to worry about unpleasant surprises from the weather. However, strong winds can be a factor.
Construction of the Sakhir circuit was initiated by the Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa. The Crown Prince is the Honorary President of the Bahrain Motor Federation.
The track is made up of crushed Greywacke aggregate rock from a quarry in Shropshire in the UK.
In the desert climate, sand blowing onto the track can be an issue. Among the measures to deal with the sand is the practice of spraying glue on to the sand around the track, which clumps the sand together and makes it less prone to blowing onto the track.