F1 Fanatic guest writer Journeyer looks back on the brief history of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Like the previous round in China, Bahrain joined the Formula 1 calendar in 2004. Thanks to the efforts of Crown Prince Sheikh al Khalifa, Bernie Ecclestone, and even Sir Jackie Stewart, the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir hosted the first ever Middle Eastern round of the Formula 1 World Championship.
In the last in this series of Grand Prix histories, we take a look back at five years of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
2004 The initial race was dominated by Ferrari. Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello dashed off at the start, never to be seen again until the checkered flag. That left the rest to squabble over third. Juan Pablo Montoya looked to have it, until his gearbox decided to stay in fourth gear. Enter Jenson Button, who took his second podium in a row.
Takuma Sato also had an eventful race, surviving a botched overtake by Ralf Schumacher, an off onto the outside kerbs and a peeling Gurney flap to finish sixth.
2005 A season after dominating the field, Ferrari were now struggling. They decided to gamble by bringing in their new F2005 earlier than planned. They hoped that it would give them more pace. It certainly worked for Schumacher, who qualified it second on the grid.
But bringing the car early cost them reliability. Barrichello suffered from a car glitch in qualifying, sending him to the back of the grid and costing him at least a points finish. Schumacher, on the other hand, had a hydraulics problem and was forced to retire just as he was challenging Fernando Alonso for the lead.
That allowed Alonso to cruise to a second straight win, from Jarno Trulli’s second straight podium finish and Kimi Raikkonen in third.
2006 This was the first and so only time Bahrain hosted the season-opener. It saw the return of V8 power, as well as the debut of knockout qualifying. It also saw Michael Schumacher’s return to form, grabbing pole and nearly winning, but having to concede the race to Alonso in the end.
One rookie who made his debut here was Nico Rosberg. And it was quite a debut, scoring two points and setting the fastest lap of the race.
2007 Alonso was curiously off the pace this year. Having won the previous two years, he couldn’t keep up with his teammate Lewis Hamilton, who was challenging eventual race winner Felipe Massa.
Alonso got jumped by Raikkonen at the pitstops. To make things worse, Nick Heidfeld passed him round the outside in the BMW. Alonso ended up a distant fifth.
2008 Once again, a McLaren was not in contention, but this time it was Hamilton who was suffering. Part of that would be down to hitting the rear of Alonso’s Renault twice in two laps.
It was a better weekend for Robert Kubica, who finally allowed the journalists to use the “Pole on pole” headline. He eventually finished 3rd behind a Ferrari one-two, which was once again led by Massa.
The win began to remove doubts people had about Felipe, who had zero points from the first two races. Little did we know then that he would almost win the championship.
Bahrain will probably be the first “normal” race we’ll have this season. Will Massa complete a hat-trick to match the one he achieved in Istanbul? Or will Brawn and Red Bull continue their F1 revolution? We should be in for a treat of a race.