An official deal was first signed in September 2002 between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the FIA, with the 2016 Grand Prix the 12th edition of the race on the Formula One calendar.
Built on the sight of an old camel farm in Sakhir, 30 km south-west of the island’s capital, Manama, the Hermann Tilke-designed circuit is home to 50,000 grand-stand seats and contains no less than five track layouts within one complex in a one-of-a-kind facility.
Drivers often have to contend with cross-winds and slippery surface due to sand blown on to the circuit, with the track a blend of technical corners and frequent acceleration zones along with the scorching heat of the sun means rear tyres especially can take a pummeling. Many cars have struggled in the unrelenting heat, with the 2015 race recorded as one of the hottest in history.
Here, Sport360 presents you the full list of top-three finishes and best moments of all the Formula One races at the Bahrain International Circuit so far.
2004 – APRIL 4, RACE No. 3
1st: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) – 1h28m34.875
2nd: Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) – +1.367
3rd: Jenson Button (BAR) – +26.687
POLE POSITION: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) in 1:30.139.
FASTEST LAP: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) in 1:30.252 on lap 7
The first edition of the Bahrain GP kicked off in style as Michael Schumacher, staring from pole position, led home team-mate Rubens Barrichello for a Ferrari one-two at the first ever F1 race to be held in the Middle East. Juan Pablo Montoya of Williams-BMW finished third after a close contest with team-mate Ralf Schumacher.
WATCH the first ever lap and a brand new start to the Bahrain GP:
2005 – APRIL 3, RACE No. 3
1st: Fernando Alonso (Renault)- 1h29m18.531
2nd: Jarno Trulli (Toyota) – +13.409
3rd: Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren-Mercedes) – +32.063
POLE POSITION: Fernando Alonso 3:01.902 (aggregate)
FASTEST LAP: Pedro de la Rosa 1:31.447 on lap 43
The 2005 Bahrain GP produced one of F1’s hottest ever races but Fernando Alonso kept his cool under pressure with a scorching performance. He claimed his second, and Renault’s third, consecutive Grand Prix win, leading all the way from pole position to the chequered flag. Toyota’s Jarno Trulli had a strong race to finish second and Kimi Raikkonen fought his way up from ninth on the grid to give McLaren its first podium of 2005 in third.
WATCH the 2005 Grand Prix in full:
2006 – MARCH 12, RACE No. 1
1st: Fernando Alonso (Renault) – 1h29m46.205
2nd: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) – +1.246
3rd: Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren-Mercedes) – +19.360
POLE POSITION: Michael Michael Schumacher 1:31.431
FASTEST LAP: Nico Rosberg 1:32.406 on lap 42
The 2006 season opener was held in Bahrain as reigning champion Fernando Alonso went up against 2004 champ Michael Schumacher. Alonso gained an advantage over Schumacher thanks to an effective pit stop strategy and took the chequered flag ahead of the German to begin his championship defence in style. McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen had a superb drive from the very back of the grid to come home on the podium in third.
WATCH highlights/ best moments of the 2006 Bahrain GP
2007 – APRIL 15, RACE No. 3
1st: Felipe Massa (Ferrari) – 1h33m27.515
2nd: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes) – +2.360
3rd: Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) – +10.839
POLE POSITION: Felipe Massa 1:32.652
FASTEST LAP: Felipe Massa 1:34.067 on lap 42
After suffering disappointment in Malaysia in the previous race, Felipe Massa kept his cool from pole to flag to win at Sakhir. McLaren’s rookie Lewis Hamilton pressed Massa during the early stages but lost out in the middle part of the race. Still, with his second-place finish, Hamilton made history as the first driver to be on the podium in each of his first three races. Kimi Raikkonen brought his Ferrari home in third.
WATCH the highlights/best moments of 2007 Bahrain GP:
2008 – APRIL 6, RACE No. 3
1st: Felipe Massa (Ferrari) – 1h31m06.970
2nd: Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) – +3.339
3rd: Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber) – +4.998
POLE POSITION: Robert Kubica 1:33.096
FASTEST LAP: Heikki Kovalainen 1:33.193 on lap 49
Felipe Massa triumphed at the 2008 edition of the Gulf Air Bahrain GP after using a soft-soft-medium compound tyre strategy. He led home Kimi Raikkonen for a Ferrari one-two finish, with Robert Kubica – who started on pole – finishing third,ahead of team-mate Nick Heidfeld in what was a strong and consistent performance from the team BMW Sauber.
WATCH on-board highlights of 2008 Bahrain GP:
2009 – APRIL 26, RACE No. 4
1st: Jenson Button (Brawn) – 1h31m48.182
2nd: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing) – +7.187
3rd: Jarno Trulli (Toyota) – +9.170
POLE POSITION: Jarno Trulli 1:33.431
FASTEST LAP: Jarno Trulli 1:34.556 on lap 10
Brawn GP driver Jenson Button secured a thumping win, finishing ahead of Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing. Both drivers used a super soft to medium tyre strategy as the track temperature was over 50 degree celsius, but it was Button who emerged victorious in searing hot conditions. Pole-sitter Jarno Trulli in his Panasonic Toyota Racing car finished third.
WATCH highlights/best moments of 2009 Bahrain GP:
2010 – March 14, RACE No. 1
1st: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) – 1h39m20.396
2nd: Felipe Massa (Ferrari) – +16.099
3rd: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes) – +23.182
POLE POSITION: Sebastian Vettel 1:54.101
FASTEST LAP: Fernando Alonso 1:58.287 on lap 45
The 2010 edition of the Bahrain Grand Prix was run on a new layout at the Bahrain International Circuit. In this configuration, the drivers left the old circuit shortly after turn four and followed a loop of nearly 900 metres, before re-joining the circuit before the old turn five. This increased the overall lap distance from 5.412 km to 6.299 km.
Fernando Alonso led Felipe Massa to a stunning Ferrari one-two after the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel hit trouble at the season-opener. Alonso trailed the German from the start but swept by as the Red Bull suffered a spark plug failure. Massa followed the Spaniard past on the next lap and Lewis Hamilton benefited from Vettel’s problem to take third.
WATCH highlights/best moments of 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix:
2012 – APRIL 22, RACE No. 4
1st: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault) – 1h35m10.990
2nd: Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus-Renault) – +3.333
3rd: Romain Grosjean (Lotus-Renault) – +10.194
POLE POSITION: Sebastian Vettel 1:32.422
FASTEST LAP: Sebastian Vettel 1:36.379 on lap 41
In 2012, the Bahrain Grand Prix returned after the 2011 race was cancelled due to civil unrest in the country. Reigning champion Sebastian Vettel was back to winning ways at Sakhir after having missed out in the previous three races. He stormed his Red Bull to pole after a close battle with Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen and then finished ahead of the Finn in the race, Romain Grosjean coming third to give Lotus a two-three finish.
WATCH highlights/best moments of 2012 Bahrain GP:
2013 – APRIL 21, RACE No. 4
1st: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault) – 1h34m00.498
2nd: Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus-Renault) – +9.111
3rd: Romain Grosjean (Lotus-Renault) – +19.507
POLE POSITION: Nico Rosberg 1:32.330
FASTEST LAP: Sebastian Vettel 1:36.961 on lap 55
Sebastian Vettel continued his early-season domination as he claimed his second win in four races in 2013 and his second consecutive win at the Bahrain International circuit. There were some close on-field battles and plenty of over-taking manoeuvres but Vettel was in a league of his own. The winner’s podium was a carbon copy of the previous year’s as Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean finished second and third respectively again.
WATCH highlights/best moments of 2013 Bahrain GP:
2014 – APRIL 6, RACE No. 3
1st: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes GP) – 1h38m42.743
2nd: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP) – +1.085
3rd: Sergio Perez (Force India) – +24.067
POLE POSITION: Nico Rosberg 1:33.185
FASTEST LAP: Nico Rosberg 1:37.020 on lap 49
The 2014 Bahrain GP saw temperatures drop as the event became a night race and the crowd witnessed a famous desert duel under the floodlights between Mercedes team-mates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. It was a thrillingly close battle after a late safety car period wiped out the 10-second cushion Hamilton had over Rosberg. On the faster soft tyre, Rosberg had the advantage, but Hamilton held him off to the end with solid defence. A close battle for third place was won by Force India’s Sergio Perez, from Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
WATCH highlights/best moments of 2014:
2015 – APRIL 19, RACE No. 4
1st: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes GP) – 1h35m05.809
2nd: Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) – +3.380
3rd: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP) – +6.033
POLE POSITION: Lewis Hamilton 1:32.571
FASTEST LAP: Kimi Raikkonen 1:36.311 on lap 36
Lewis Hamilton was in sublime form as he cruised to a controlled victory. Rosberg battled the Ferraris throughout and lost second to Raikkonen after suffering a braking problem with two laps to go. Vettel ruined his podium chances by skidding off track in his car while racing Rosberg.
WATCH highlights/best moments of 2015:
The 31-year-old Briton, under pressure after failing to top the times in three practice sessions, found the pace he needed in another desultory exhibition of the new qualifying format ahead of Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
“It’s obviously not been a smooth weekend in terms of pace for me — and Nico (Rosberg) has been right on it — but I was able to put a lap together, my best of the weekend, and it mattered for me at just the right time,” said the three-time champion.
Hamilton’s lap in one minute and 29.493 seconds was the fastest lap recorded at the Sakhir track and it rescued him after an error had marred his first fast lap in Q3.
Rosberg, who won the season-opener in Australia and looked set for pole position himself, wound up second fastest behind Hamilton in the second Mercedes.
He will start ahead of the third-placed Ferrari of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth in the second Ferrari ahead of Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull, Valtteri Bottas and his Williams team-mate Felipe Massa.
Nico Hulkenberg was eighth for Force India ahead of Romain Grosjean of the new American Haas team with Dutch teenager Max Verstappen 10th for Toro Rosso.
Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One’s chief executive, has hit back at the sport’s drivers by describing them as “windbags”.
The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA), led by Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel, took the extraordinary step of writing an open letter in which they blasted the “obsolete” and “ill-structured” governance of the sport.
But speaking on the eve of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Ecclestone played down their concerns and claimed they were put up to it by their teams.
Asked if the drivers were “windbags” – a term used to describe a person who speaks at length, but says little of any value – Ecclestone replied: “Some of them.”
Pressed on which drivers he was referring to, the 85-year-old, said: “The ones that are.”
Vettel, the four-time world champion, has been among those to spearhead the revolt, and referring to the sport’s decision to stick with the new qualifying format, which flopped so spectacularly on its debut in Melbourne, he said: “It’s something that we can’t be proud of. Put it this way – if you sell vanilla ice cream, but everybody who comes to your shop is asking for chocolate ice cream and the next day you open – you expect to sell chocolate ice cream but instead you just sell vanilla ice cream again.”
Responding to the German’s comments, Ecclestone aimed a not-so thinly-veiled dig at Ferrari’s failure to win the championship in nearly a decade.
Ecclestone added: “He should speak to his boss and tell him the same thing. They’ve been running an ice cream shop for a few years now. I am surprised that Sebastian put his name to it.”
He continued: “They [the drivers] can say what they like can’t they? They can’t do anything. They can give an opinion. Everyone has got an opinion.”