Bahrain International Circuit
The Bahrain International Circuit, also called Sakhir, named after the location of the circuit in the oil state of Bahrain, was built especially for Formula 1 and opened its doors in 2004. The Bahrain Grand Prix of that year was the first GP ever held in the Middle East.
The first F1 circuit in the Middle East
Plans for a Grand Prix circuit in the Gulf State were fuelled at the beginning of the 21st century by a highly motivated Bernie Ecclestone. He wanted to take Formula 1 to the Middle East and Asia. These were not only emerging markets, but here he found people who were willing to pay the ever-increasing cost of organizing an F1 race.
One of those people was Sheik Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince of Bahrain and boss of the local ANWB. Under his leadership, the construction of the circuit became a matter of national importance. However, the huge complex was not finished in time for the first race in 2004. Ecclestone, however, insisted that the Formula 1 would pass and so it happened.
Hermann Tilke leaves his mark on Formula 1
The German track designer had made a name for himself with the creation of Sepang in 1999 and from 2004 Tilke would play an increasingly important role in Formula 1. Between 2004 and 2014, he delivered ten brand new Grand Prix circuits and the Bahrain International Circuit was the first in the series.
The Bahrain circuit is not considered his best work, but it has stood the test of time. The three long straights make it easy to overtake, with the action taking place mainly in Turn 1 and Turn 4. The undulating second sector also gives the track some character with some fast corners combinations.
The Bahrain Grand Prix over the years
The first GP in 2004 was won by, how could it be otherwise, Michael Schumacher. In his last championship year, Ferrari was probably more dominant than ever, and this was well reflected in Bahrain. Ferrari has always done well here.
After Schumacher, Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel also won this race for the Maranello team. Vettel is therefore record holder with four victories, two with Red Bull Racing and two with Ferrari. Alonso and Lewis Hamilton both have three victories.
The Bahrain Grand Prix could not take place once. That was in 2011 when the Arab Spring caused unrest in many Middle Eastern countries. Protests were beaten down by the Sheikh with a hard hand and Ecclestone had to reluctantly cancel the race. In 2012, however, the F1 Circus was back in business as usual, and the sport was severely criticised.
New' layout in 2020
Two races on the Bahrain International Circuit are planned for the 2020 F1 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first will be held on the traditional Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit, the second race (Sakhir Grand Prix) will try a new layout.
It is not the first time that F1 will try a new layout in Bahrain. It is not the first time that F1 has tried a new layout in Bahrain, because in 2010 they already used the Endurance Circuit, where between corner 4 and corner 5 a very technical and twisty part was tied to the Grand Prix circuit.
This was not a success at the time, so they will try the opposite in 2020. The entire curvy part of the circuit will be skipped by connecting turn 4 almost directly to turn 13. This is called the 'Outer Circuit' and closer to an 'oval' the F1 will probably never come.