The Bahrain International Circuit is the Kingdom of Bahrain’s only racetrack. It was designed and built by Tilke GmbH in 2003 and it hosted the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix in April 2004. The race has been a regular fixture on the Formula 1 calendar since then, with the exception of 2011.
The race’s atmosphere changed in 2014 when the floodlights went up and the start time moved to early evening, making the second grand prix of the 2018 calendar our first night race of the season.
The Bahrain International Circuit is surrounded by desert and frequently affected by strong winds which will hamper the balance of the car. Though an impressive track sweeper keeps the surface clear, dust in the atmosphere always concerns engineers, given its potential to increase wear on gearbox and engine internals.
The 3.363-mile/5.412km track provides a complex technical challenge for the teams. Downforce levels in Sakhir are relatively similar to those at Albert Park, but the emphasis at the Bahrain International Circuit is very much on brakes and tyres. In terms of braking, BIC features several long straights heading into slow corners and thus will provide the season’s first real challenge for braking packages, with engineers keeping a close eye on both temperatures and wear levels. For tyres, the abrasive surface provides good grip but also high wear – a factor that has frequently influenced the outcome of the grand prix. The stop-start nature of the circuit doesn’t endear it to drivers but it’s delivered good races for spectators.
Following Fernando Alonso’s track incident at the 2016 Australian GP, McLaren’s then-reserve driver for 2016, Stoffel Vandoorne made his Formula 1 debut at the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix. Stoff scored McLaren’s first world championship point of the 2016 season after a faultless drive to 10th place on his debut.
Fernando is a three-time winner in Bahrain.
How McLaren defined five days in the history of the Bahrain GP
April 3 2005
Kimi Raikkonen finishes third for McLaren, but it’s F1 returnee Pedro de la Rosa who attracts the most post-race plaudits. He’s drafted into the team at the 11th hour to replace the injured Juan Pablo Montoya and he drives a tenacious race to fifth, setting the fastest lap of the race.
March 12 2006
A mechanical problem in qualifying forces Kimi Raikkonen to start the race from last (22nd)place. Undeterred, he’s up to 13th by the end of lap one and he executes a perfect one-stop strategy to finish third. Juan Pablo Montoya ends a solid day for the team in fifth place.
April 8 2007
Another race, another podium for McLaren’s new superstar Lewis Hamilton. He starts and finishes the third race of his F1 career in second place, just behind pole sitter and race winner Felipe Massa. Fernando Alonso brings the team’s second MP4-22 home in fifth place.
April 26 2009
The MP4-24 has some early-season grip issues, but that doesn’t stop Lewis. The reigning world champion uses the team’s new KERS Hybrid system to good effect, coming home in fourth place.
March 14 2010
Third place behind the Ferraris is a promising start to the year for Lewis, but he might have finished even higher had he not been held up by Nico Rosberg for the first half of the race. Jenson Button, driving his first race for McLaren, comes home seventh.