2015 winner: Lewis Hamilton, 57 laps, 1:35:05.809s
2015 pole position: Lewis Hamilton, 1m32.571s
2015 fastest lap: Kimi Räikkönen, 1m36.311s, lap 42
Name: Bahrain International Circuit
First race: 2004
Circuit length: 5.412km/3.363-mile (11th longest track of the year)
Distance to Turn One: 400m/0.249 miles (longest of season: Barcelona, 730m/0.454 miles)
Longest straight: 1.09km/0.677 miles (longest of season: China, 1.17km/0.727 miles)
Top speed: 335km/h/208mph, on the approach to Turn One (fastest of season: Monza, 350km/h/217mph)
Pitlane length: 420m/0.261 miles, estimated time loss 21s (longest of season: Silverstone, 457m/0.283 miles)
Full throttle: 64 per cent (highest of season: Monza, 75 per cent)
DRS zones: Two, on the approaches to Turns One and 11
Key corner: Turn 10, a tricky off-camber, downhill left-hander. It’s important to make a clean exit because the second DRS zone follows.
Fastest corner: 185km/h (115mph), Turn 13
Slowest corner: 80km/h (50mph), Turn 10
Major changes for 2016: None
Fuel consumption: 1.8kg per lap, making it one of the most fuel-critical races of the season. It’s one of the longest races of the season and there are lots of bursts of acceleration from low speed.
ERS demands: Medium
Brake wear: High. There are eight big stops from high speed, the biggest coming at Turns One and 14
Gear changes: 52 per lap /2964 per race
Bahrain was the first Middle Eastern nation to host a grand prix. The $150 million Bahrain International Circuit took 18 months to build and, coincidentally, McLaren-Honda’s Jenson Button was the first F1 driver to visit the facility during the build process in 2003. The start time of the race was moved back to 18:00pm (local time) in 2014, thereby becoming F1’s second night race.
What makes the track unique
The combination of long straights and slow corners. Car set-up is a delicate compromise between straight-line speed and slow-corner grip, and special consideration has to be given to cooling because this is the first hot race of the year.
Low. The track isn’t used much during the year and when you combine that fact with the circuit’s desert location, grip levels can be very low early in the weekend. The asphalt is initially very dusty and slippery, but lap times improve dramatically once the cars start to circulate.
Substantial, which is why track limits are a factor here. At no point around the racetrack is a driver permitted to place all four wheels beyond the white lines lining the edge of the asphalt, or they risk punishment from the FIA.
Watch out for…
The track temperature. The race starts just after sunset, which means the asphalt cools dramatically during the course of the race.
The drivers on: the circuit
#14 Fernando Alonso
“Firstly, I’m very pleased to be heading to Bahrain after the crash in Australia. I’ve spent some time resting and I can’t wait to get back in the car. Although on paper Melbourne wasn’t a great race for us, before the crash I’d been having some good battles and the car felt pretty promising, so I hope in Bahrain we can experience more of the same.
“I really enjoy racing in Bahrain. It’s been a good circuit for me in the past – I’ve had three victories there – and there are quite a few good opportunities to overtake. There are lots of variables to think about and it’s one of the longest races, which usually produces some kind of drama. Hopefully we can enjoy some close racing and keep ourselves out of trouble.”
#22 Jenson Button
“Bahrain is a fun track to drive on and very different from Albert Park in its configuration. It’s tough on brakes and fuel, and good balance is key to putting together a lap, as you need downforce on the long, fast straights and then stability and traction through the lower-speed corners. It’s a more extreme version of Australia in many ways, with the track starting off very dirty and rubbering in over the weekend. While that makes the track faster, we also have to juggle the rapidly cooling temperatures on race day after the sun sets.
“I’m really keen to get back behind the wheel, as, although it didn’t show in our results from Australia, our package felt very good to drive and the team worked really hard to bring a step forward in driveability from testing to the first race. Bahrain is definitely a tricky track for us as it’s high-speed, but we have a solid platform and improved deployment, so there are some positives to look forward to.”
Start time: 18:00hrs local/15:00hrs BST
Race distance: 57 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 per cent distance/43 laps)
Safety Car likelihood: 20 per cent, which is low. There have been only two Safety Car deployments in the history of the race, most recently in 2014.
When to press record: The long run to Turn One usually creates excitement, but why not check out the sunset? When the pitlane opens 30 minutes before the start, the sun is still going down and it can be spectacularly beautiful in the desert.
Don’t put the kettle on… when the race reaches laps in the mid-teens and mid-30s. These were the two pitstop windows for the top four cars home in last year’s race. Sebastian Vettel was the first three-stopper to finish, in fifth place.
Weather conditions: 29 degrees and sunny
Race forecast: 26 degrees, but the temperature will drop quickly once the sun has set
Tyre choices: Supersoft/Soft/Medium, which are the same as at the season-opener in Australia
First Bahrain Grand Prix
“On the edge of action.”
Bahrain’s F1 heritage
This is the 11th Bahrain Grand Prix, which makes it a relative newcomer to the World Championship. The BIC was the second F1 track to be designed in its entirety by Hermann Tilke, the first being Sepang in Malaysia, and it moved the goalposts in terms of safety because the amount of run-off was unprecedented at the time.
Smallest winning margin
1.085s, in 2014. A late-race Safety Car period bunched up the field and the Mercedes drivers tripped over each other all the way to the flag, Lewis Hamilton coming home just ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Bahrain has a growing sporting infrastructure. The Bahraini Premier League features 10 professional football clubs; there’s also a professional basketball league, and Endurance Horse Racing is a favourite pastime of the Crown Prince. However, the popularity of motorsport is growing thanks to the presence of the Bahrain International Circuit, the Kingdom’s only permanent racetrack.
Did you know?
The first oil well in the Middle East was discovered in Bahrain, in 1931.
McLaren-Honda driver Fernando Alonso has won the Bahrain Grand Prix three times, which is more than any other driver.
Jonathan, aged nine, from Melbourne, Australia asks: “How do the cars travel from Australia to Bahrain?”
McLaren’s answer: “All of our trackside equipment, including the cars raced by Fernando and Jenson, travelled by plane from Melbourne to Bahrain. It amounts to a total of 40 tonnes of air freight.”
The drivers on: the event
#14 Fernando Alonso
“In testing and in Melbourne we’ve had good reliability, which proves how hard the team has worked to make our package stronger. There’s also been a massive effort from the teams in Woking and Sakura, who have been flat-out manufacturing parts for this race to ensure we can get back up to speed after the chassis was damaged, and I’m hugely impressed with how quickly they’ve managed to turn it around. We’re still pushing to bring upgrades to each race, so providing we can get everything to the car in time we’ll be aiming to get as much track time as possible with the new chassis from the start of free practice.
“Living in Dubai, I’m used to the climate in the Middle East, and racing in different temperatures over the weekend, as well as managing the car’s performance over a long race distance in tough conditions, brings another level to the challenge for the drivers. I’m looking forward to seeing what our package is capable of at what has previously been a pretty challenging circuit for us.”
#22 Jenson Button
“We made a couple of misjudgements on the strategy side in Melbourne, but it’s all part of the learning curve with the new tyre compound rules. Together with the engineers we’ve studied the data and hopefully we can make some good calls in Bahrain, pull together the various stages of the race and achieve a more representative result.
“The landscape of racing in the desert after sunset is always really special and brings a new dimension to the spectacle. Everything in Bahrain is always very slick and it’s an impressive place to be. My win there in 2009 is still a great memory and the wide track and run-off areas mean it’s a fun circuit on which to battle. I hope we can mix it with the midfield pack – it’s a very competitive area of the field – so we’ll be pushing hard to get the maximum from our package as soon as we can.”
Hear from the management
Eric Boullier McLaren-Honda Racing Director
“The race in Australia was certainly an eventful one for McLaren-Honda. First of all, I was very happy to see Fernando walk away after such a heart-stopping incident. In addition, I’d like to say a huge thank you to all our McLaren and Honda employees for the incredible efforts going on behind the scenes to get the spare chassis built and ready to race next weekend. It’s a truly remarkable achievement in between flyaway races, and a testament to our incredibly strong teamwork.
“We’re certainly hoping for a less dramatic race in Bahrain, and will be aiming to build on the promising initial data we’ve collected from our car, which shows a definite improvement in pace from last year’s package. There’s still much more potential to unlock and performance to find, but the encouraging leap made from testing to Melbourne has shown what’s possible, and we will keep pushing to improve our pace and develop our strengths by continuing to bring updates to the car at every race.
“The Bahrain Grand Prix has become something of a home race for us, and we’re very proud to be racing in front of our shareholders and enthusiastic fans. The spectacle of the Bahrain International Circuit is something very special. Racing under floodlights always creates a unique atmosphere and the fans get to enjoy action on track in completely different settings over the course of the weekend. For the engineers, it’s a battle to juggle many different constraints – temperatures, track surfaces, brake wear, tyres, fuel consumption – and we’ve already learned a lot about how our car performs in different conditions from Melbourne, which we’ll be putting to good use. In Bahrain we’ll be looking to discover our true pace and put our package to work in the tough desert conditions.”
Yusuke Hasegawa Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“After a chaotic Australian weekend, we head off to our first night race of the season in Bahrain.
“We have recovered the power unit from Fernando’s car used in Melbourne. After initial investigations, we are massively disappointed that the ICE and most of the surrounding parts have been heavily damaged, as the impact from the accident was just too great. We will be replacing the complete power unit in Bahrain.
“Looking forward, Bahrain’s sunny and dry weather will hopefully ensure that we have plenty of clean running. The circuit’s two long front and back straights will be strenuous on the power units, so we will make the most of the practice sessions to set up the car. It’s evident that we still need to increase our performance, but thankfully we were able to learn more about where we are and how to progress from the data collected in Melbourne.”