F1 2018 rolls on, with the sport moving from the sunny shores of Australia – and the picturesque street circuit at Albert Park, to the dry heat of the desert, the island nation of Bahrain located in the Persian Gulf, and the first to host Formula 1 in the Middle East.
Bahrain made its debut on the F1 calendar in 2004 – five years before Abu Dhabi, with the track reported to have cost $150 million US dollars to build - the event becoming a night race from 2014.
The Bahrain International Circuit is 30 minutes’ from the capital Manama, the 5.4 kilometre desert track a technical challenge with 15 turns and a top speed of 335 kilometres an hour. Pedro de la Rosa’s lap record from 2005 with McLaren still stands. There are two DRS activation zones, along the main and back straights, and two detection points.
The track is known globally as an F1 venue – given it’s not only hosted 13 Grands Prix to-date, but various tests as well, its consistent weather, and technical layout providing consistent data.
…but F1 powerbrokers have ruled it out as the preferred pre-season test host – on account of the huge travel costs for the teams - and its distance from Europe, making it difficult to fly out last-minute updates easily.
It also hosts local motorsport events all year round, including drifting and drag racing, as a hub for the growing legion of local fans and competitors built up as a result of F1’s influence.
In terms of F1 success in Bahrain, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel have three wins each. The now-retired Felipe Massa, and Lewis Hamilton are on two. The race was not run in 2011 due to civil unrest.
The other winners are all F1 World Champions, Nico Rosberg dominating in 2016 after his teammate and polesitter, Hamilton dropped back to ninth after contact with Valtteri Bottas at Turn 1.
Jenson Button won for Brawn GP in 2009, as part of a strong run through the first half of the season – taking six victories from the first seven races.
… while Michael Schumacher won the inaugural event for Ferrari, as part of an even more impressive string in 2004, with 12 of the first 13 victories.
This year’s race will be an important one for Bottas, given last season his maiden pole position in Bahrain was squandered, with a generator failure on the grid forcing his tyre pressures up for the start.
…and the need to recover, mentally, from his qualifying crash in Australia.
SOUNDBITE (English) VALTTERI BOTTAS,
F1 DRIVER, MERCEDES:
“I can’t have bad races for myself, I want to be consistent and good in every place.”
…while his 4-time F1 World Champion teammate Hamilton will want to get back to winning ways, the W09 the class of the field.
Over at Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel will want to ensure his victory in Australia was not a flash in the pan – while at Red Bull Racing, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will be hoping to further close the gap to the front.
It’s all on the line, as F1 heads into the desert at night.