F1 heads back to original Bahrain track

2012 Bahrain Grand Prix preview

Posted on

| Written by

The deeply divisive question of whether F1 should be racing in Bahrain has been addressed here earlier today.

That debate notwithstanding, what does F1’s return to the desert track this weekend have in store for the teams?

The last time a race was held here in 2010 the organisers, in something of an over-reaction to the presence of an extra four cars on the grid, elected to used the convoluted ‘endurance’ version of the track.

The result was a tedious race, enlivened only by a late problem for Sebastian Vettel which handed victory for Fernando Alonso.

Before last year’s race was cancelled the organisers had already decided to switch back to the track configuration last used from 2005 to 2009 (there were minor tweaks to the layout following the inaugural race in 2004), and that’s what awaits the teams this year.

The high temperatures – mid-30C air, mid-40C track – make cooling a priority. With four long straights and several slow corners, Bahrain places an emphasis on traction, straight-line speed and braking.

Bahrain circuit information

Lap length5.412km (3.363 miles)
Distance57 laps (308.2km/191.5 miles)
Lap record*1’31.447 (Pedro de la Rosa, 2005)
Fastest lap1’29.527 (Mark Webber, 2005)
TyresMedium and Soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Bahrain track data in full

Expect to see teams keeping a close eye on the latter on Friday, as well as sussing out top gear ratios and rear wing settings as DRS is being used for the first time here. In the race, drivers will be able to use DRS on the start/finish straight.

The little-used facility lacks grip, especially early in the weekend. The shifting desert winds blow dust and sand across the track which has to be kept out of the engines. It settles on the track and can create problems with tyre graining.

“As the track surface is rubbered-in grip levels improve dramatically,” said Heikki Kovalainen, “so you’ll see lap times dropping fast over the weekend, and that means you have to be on it for qualifying, to make sure you can get the most of out the session.

Teams will use the same tyre compounds as in China – medium and soft – albeit on a much hotter track. This will be the first time they have have raced on Pirelli tyres in Bahrain, although the rubber has been tested here before in the winter of 2010/2011.

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel’s post-race warning over the team’s lack of straight-line speed will be ringing in their ears as they arrive at a track which will expose that weakness.

The first question of the weekend is whether Vettel will continue use the old exhaust configuration on the Red Bull again as he did in China. The new one offers better performance but Vettel doesn’t get on with as well as team mate Mark Webber.

Remarkably, Webber is 3-0 up on his team mate in qualifying heading into this round.


Despite Mercedes’ success in China, McLaren still look like the form team at the moment.

However their margin is slender. They need to iron operational errors such as the the pit stop problems which delayed Hamilton in Malaysia and Button in China, to lock out the opposition.


Ferrari are marking time until after this race, when a major upgrade package is due to arrive for their car.

The team’s pre-release statement spelled out their fears: “The Sakhir track characteristics seems purpose made to highlight areas, traction and top speed, in which this car is far from brilliant.”


Coming off the back of their victory in China, can they do it again in Bahrain? With 70% of the lap spent at full throttle, this looks like another venue where their Double DRS will prove valuable.

Nico Rosberg found the car’s race performance much improved on Sunday, in cooler temperatures and without much pressure from behind. If they can show similar performance in much hotter conditions in Bahrain they will be looking in very good shape indeed.


Lotus continue to show a lot of potential but haven’t quite managed to deliver on it yet: Kimi Raikkonen started fourth in China but slipped to 14th as he struggled with tyre wear.

“A podium should be possible and I think it has been at all the races we’ve been at so far,” said Raikkonen. “We don’t know exactly how good the car will be until we get there, but we don’t expect any problems.”

Force India

The gaps in the midfield are very narrow indeed. Force India may find Bahrain suits their car better with higher temperatures alleviating their tyre warm-up problems and the long straights playing to the strength of their Mercedes engines.

Paul di Resta said: “We will have the same car in Bahrain because it’s just a few days away, but it’s a very different track and we expect different weather conditions so we will try to make the most out of that.”


After the high of Malaysia, China was something of a let-down for Sauber. Unusually for a team which has tended to have better results on Sunday rather than Saturday, they qualified well but slipped back during the race.

Neither of their drivers have competed in an F1 race on this configuration at Bahrain before, but Kamui Kobayashi has tested extensively on it and Sergio Perez won a GP2 race there in 2009.

Toro Rosso

Following a strong start in Australia the STR7s have slipped to the tail end of the midfield and Jean-Eric Vergne has been eliminated in Q1 in the last two races.

He won’t want to make a habit of that, but it hasn’t stopped him finishing in front of Daniel Ricciardo in the last two races.

The team ran the cars in differing configurations during the last race, which they hope will point to a way forward on set-up in Bahrain.


Racking up more points is the order of the day for Williams after their double-score in Bahrain. The teams will re-use their engines from China in this race.


Kovalainen has been ahead of his new team mate in qualifying so far, but has been frustrated by problems during the races. The team need to stay sharp to capitalise on any retirements to claim tenth in the constructors’ championship from Marussia.


Narain Karthikeyan’s completed just two racing laps on his single previous visit to Bahrain. He’s concerned about how well the car’s cooling systems will cope:

“I don’t know the circuit in Bahrain so I’m going to have to be extra focused and make the most of my time in the car. We have an idea of what we think the set-up should be, so we’ll see if this works.

“We’re going to try a few things in Bahrain and, hopefully, this will help us to improve and progress further. What I do know about this track is that the weather is going to be very hot and we’ve struggled a bit in hot conditions this season so far because of the cooling system in the car, so we’re going to have to work very hard on this.”


Marussia have started the season rather better then expected. According to team principal John Booth, they’re continuing to make progress: “Going into last weekend’s race in China we’d eaten into the gap to our immediate competitors by 0.8s since Malaysia.

“Combined with the 0.6s decrease we’d seen between the first two races, that means we’ve found almost 1.5s of lap time in the first three races which, considering the challenges we faced with our late start, is very pleasing to all of us. It is still very early in the season of course, but it is nice to see that we are heading in a good development direction.”

2012 driver form

Q avgR avgR bestR worstClassifiedForm guide
Sebastian Vettel7.3362113/3Form guide
Mark Webber54443/3Form guide
Jenson Button35.671143/3Form guide
Lewis Hamilton33333/3Form guide
Fernando Alonso9.675193/3Form guide
Felipe Massa13.331413152/3Form guide
Michael Schumacher31010101/3Form guide
Nico Rosberg58.671133/3Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen10.338.675143/3Form guide
Romain Grosjean6.336661/3Form guide
Paul di Resta14.679.677123/3Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg13.67129152/3Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi1186102/3Form guide
Sergio Perez1372113/3Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo1412.679173/3Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne15.6711.678163/3Form guide
Pastor Maldonado10.6713.338193/3Form guide
Bruno Senna13.679.676163/3Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen20.3320.518232/3Form guide
Vitaly Petrov19.331716182/3Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa22.52121212/2Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan23.52222222/2Form guide
Timo Glock20.3316.6714193/3Form guide
Charles Pic21.3318.3315203/3Form guide

F1 Fanatic Predictions Championship

Enter your predictions for the Bahrain Grand Prix here. After making your predictions you can edit them at any time before the start of qualifying:

Image © Red Bull/Getty images

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

71 comments on “F1 heads back to original Bahrain track”

  1. All I can say is thank goodness it’s not the extendo-boring-ring version.

    1. Yep. They’ve just gone back to the standard, boring version.

  2. Lewis Hamilton 3 3 3 3 3/3

    1. Lewis Hamilton 3 3 3
      3 x 3 x 3 = 27
      Is that even possible?

    2. do we think he’s trying to make a point about what car number he thinks he should have?

      1. or the number of WCCs he hopes to win in his lifetime?

        or the number of crashes he’ll have with Massa this season?

        or his favoured number of pitstops in a race?

        This is a fun game. I’ll be back later with more “or” scenarios haha

        1. here’s another one:

          or the number he’ll break up and get back together with nicole

        2. Or his current age?

  3. Bahrain is a new venue for Narain Karthikeyan, who is concerned about how well the car’s cooling systems will cope:

    Didn’t Karthikeyan race there in 2005 with Jordan?

    1. That’s what I thought! What planet has he been on for the last 7 years?

      1. It’s the article writer that is stating he hasn’t raced there, not Narain himself.

        1. Sounds to me like he’s saying it as well:

          I don’t know the circuit in Bahrain so I’m going to have to be extra focused and make the most of my time in the car.

          It seems like he has indeed raced there in 2005, but only for 3 laps:

          On lap three, Narain Karthikeyan’s car suffered an electrical failure that looked similar to Christian Klien’s.

          1. Good point, but 7 years away is a long time for a racing driver. He will have lost memory of definitive track details. There’s a lot more to the track than just knowing which way to turn when you get to the corner. I’m sure he’s just saying what he did with the intention of getting across the fact that he has a very vague memory of Bahrain.

          2. @losd Didn’t last very long in 2005 race but had a pretty good practice and qualifying indeed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSDhUTazwqQ

            And probably the guy from HRT PR office who wrote it on NK’s behalf didn’t really understand what he said.

  4. At least with the old configuration, there will be more oppotunities for overtaking as there will be more laps. The section used 2010 was an absolutely pointless, it was slow and there were no overtaking oppotunities there.

    I think Mercedes will win; Rosberg in particular. Red Bull may find themselves further back with the time they’ll lose on the four big straights, I don’t see Vettel or Webber on the podium this weekend. Sauber may be stronger if their straight line speed is as good here as it was in China.

  5. ”Racking up more points is the order of the day for Williams after their double-score in *Bahrain*.”
    *You mean China*

  6. Keith, know of any racing sims which have this configuration to check out? Does F1 2011 have this track in the 2012 layout or no?

    And thanks – I really love these previous posts :)

    1. F1 2009 has it! *ducks*


      1. haha thanks @losd

        I have this on my iphone!

    2. @d3v0 I dont think I’ve ever driven on it other than in F1 2010, here’s the rFactor track http://www.rfactorcentral.com/detail.cfm?ID=Bahrain%20International

      1. ShaneB457 (@shaneb12345678910)
        18th April 2012, 19:42

        Formula one championship edition..its the 2006 game..it has the original layout :)

    3. F1 Challenge mods have them… and you can play on it with cars from any year!

    4. Toca Race Driver 3 (released in 2006) has a couple of different configuations. The wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TOCA_Race_Driver_3) states they are
      Bahrain Internal Circuit
      Bahrain External Circuit
      Bahrain Grand Prix Circuit
      There are tons of vehicles, but in terms of F1 you can race as
      Williams FW11 (1986 – Mansell and Piquet)
      Williams FW18 (1996 – Hill and Villeneuve)
      Williams FW27 (2005 – Webber and Heidfeld)

  7. William Brierty
    18th April 2012, 18:15

    I think Bahrain will be Lewis’ first 2012 win. He thrives when the track temperature is hot (see UAE 2011, Bahrain 2009, Hungary 2009, UAE 2010), as does Fernando, but I think Button and Vettel will struggle. I also think the Mercedes might struggle too bearing in mind their tyre issues and that hot track temperature, which I think may catch Raikkonen out too. I am expecting a good showing from Sauber, but I think the requirement for downforce at Bahrain will play to the 2012 downforce kings – McLaren. You know I think we will not hear a peep of disturbance despite the situation in Bahrain, because the security operation will probably be the biggest in Bahrain’s history. I think it’s just an issue that will be silenced by what I expect to be a truly great race – despite the boring history of the Bahran Grand Prix.

  8. You can really see the amount of camber on the front of the HRT there. Looks like the wheel is on wonky

  9. I think the qualifying average is being worked out the wrong way. It should be where you actually qualified, not where you started. For instance you have LH at an average of 3, which is 1+1+7 = 9 divided by 3 = 3. When it should be 1+1+2 divided by 3 = 1.3. After all that is a better guide of form. The penalty gives a false indication and shouldn’t be taken in to account of how a driver has performed in qualifying.

    1. @goodyaer92
      But then we also need to remove penalties in the race when calculating that average, and what if a driver has a major engine blow out on the way to the finish line in a race. Should we also assume that he actually made it when we calculate the average finishing positions?
      Whether an issue with a component is encountered between sessions resulting in a penalty, or in the middle of a race or qualifying resulting in a a lower finishing position shouldn’t make a difference should it?
      I see that it is easier to know that Hamilton would have qualified 2nd thus making it slightly different, but where do you draw the line? The driver has the same amount of control over the incident, whether it happens before the race or in the middle of the race.
      And imagine the day that a race on Monza or Spa where engine power is especially important, driver Y receives a grid penalty for an engine change (to a brand new unit) before qualifying, giving him a 10 grid penalty (or is it five for engines as well?, anyway the technicalities aren’t that important, this is purely theoretical).
      Driver X has an engine in the car that has already done 4 grand prix’s.
      Then driver Y goes on and qualifies 1st, with driver X just 5 thousands of a second behind.
      The sector times indicate that driver Y was just slightly faster on the parts of the track where power is demanded.
      What are we going to do in this case?
      It looks like driver Y got pole because his engine was brand new, thus having slightly more power.
      The only way he would have that power would be with the brand new engine, and the new engine will result in a penalty.
      Should we use starting positions as that would be more fair to driver X, or should we use the fastest times from qualifying even though they are a little off but will still be a better indication of driver Y’s performance?
      I understand that there are a few flaws in my scenario, as most teams bring brand new engines to Monza, and usually Spa anyway, but it could have been Abu Dhabi or whatever as well.
      My point is, using non official results can easily result in unnecessary misunderstandings and arguments.
      Statistics are what it is, and will only tell you half the story anyway.

      1. Then it shouldn’t be called a form guide really should it? I think qualifying penalties for gearbox and engine should be excluded as it gives a false guide to form. Jenson Button has exactly the same average as Lewis in Qualifying when Lewis has beaten him in every session so far. LH 1st, 1st, 2nd. JB 2nd, 2nd, 6th. Lewis has never Qualified below 2nd, yet he has an average of 3rd. I understand it would be complicated for the race results, because as you say engine failiures and such make it impossible. It isn’t complicated for qualifying, I would like to know what is the actual average form for each driver and this doesn’t tell me that. It’s as simple as just not taking grid penalties in to account. I guess the easiest thing to do, would be to not call it a form guide. Because it just isn’t lol.

      2. @mads All of your arguments are redundant as a grid penalty is officially counted as a race penalty. Therefore, technically, Lewis qualified 2nd and the form guide should reflect this, not because it’s a better guide, but because that’s what’s factually correct. As Jake Humphrey said on the BBC pre-quali coverage, if Lewis had got pole, it would count as a pole because a grid penalty is a race penalty.

        1. Exactly if he had taken pole the official FIA reading for next years race would have last years pole sitter as Hamilton.

  10. What are the odds now for Spain to be Buemi’s first win?

    1. Ha ha, do you think they will fire Webber for being too quick?

      1. No, Red Bull is going to fire their slower driver.

        1. Which, at the moment, is a 2 time world champion. Doubt that very much!

  11. German site “auto motor sport” apparently have it confirmed by Helmut Marko, that Vettel will have to run the new version of the exhaust, as the team wants to concentrate on developing that solution.

  12. why not put DRS on the final straight? for the whole length of it. even if it lets you catch up, you;d be able to do a natural pass down the main straight. and even if you did overtake on the final straight you’d have to defend down the main straight.

    1. Good point. DRS works well when it gets you closer and gives you an opportunity. It’s not as good when we have easy passes.

      1. Exactly what I was thinking!

  13. Good, that part of track was tedious not only in reality but also in F1 2010 game…

    1. @overwatch
      Funny, I actually really liked it in F1 2010. It was crap to watch, but a really nice and challenging part of the circuit in the sim.

      1. I don’t know, I always felt it broke the flow of circuit…But it was one of my better track still.

        But I have similar feelings for Valencia, especially last sector, that is a blast. Shame AI was so slow there…

      2. Yeah I always quite liked driving there too. The only problem was how easy it was to win in a Lotus or something.

  14. Sebastian Vettel’s post-race warning over the team’s lack of straight-line speed will be ringing in their ears

    Has anyone actually confirmed that Red Bull were slow on the straights, or was Vettel simply frustrated that he couldn’t overtake Raikkonen?

    I vaguely remember from the speed trap information in the qualifying analysis article that Red Bull were somewhat down the order, but still just as fast as McLaren.

    1. http://www.fia.com/EN-GB/MEDIACENTRE/F1_MEDIA/Documents/chn-race-trap.pdf

      They were slower, but not by much if the speed trap is to be believed.
      These are the best speeds recorded though, so it’s hard to infer what the average difference in top speed was, especially using different tyre sets or fuel loads.

    2. @adrianmorse
      I had thought about this too, Lewis’s quote in the press conference:

      For you Lewis, a lot of battles throughout the race but a very exciting one at the end with Sebastian Vettel. Tell us about it?
      LH: It wasn’t just with him. It was with everyone really. They [Red Bull] were massively quick on the straight, even when we had the DRS engaged. You had to use all your KERS to get right up behind and obviously you get to the DRS zone and try to use the DRS to catapult past. Finally, I got close enough to do so. I guess he was out a bit longer on his tyres. Nonetheless, he put up a good fight. So did all of them really. I think we lost a little bit of time behind, I think, maybe Pérez. But nevertheless it was still exciting racing.

      and Sebastian’s quote:

      We were generally too slow on the straights, and we’re losing time there; it made it difficult to pass other people.

      from the post race quotes seem to contradict each other.

      What I remember from the race backs up Lewis, I seem to recall JB and Lewis both taking some time to get past Seb and only really achieving it because they had newer tyres and had a better exit and could commit more to the hairpin at the end. They didn’t waltz past as others had done.

      Of course maybe Seb was only able to defend due to KERS and early in the battle having DRS activated from following Kimi.

      1. Part of the problem was the huge train of cars. Even if you had the DRS activated, chances were that the car in front also had the wing open.

        I think they got the DRS zone spot on in China. If you need a good run out of the preceding corner, a lot of KERS and the DRS just to get close in the braking zone then it’s still up to the driver to get the move done under brakes and gives the leading driver a chance to defend. It probably helped bring more cars together as well which made the racing more interesting.

    3. @adrianmorse It’s pretty much a given that they’re slow on all straights. That’s the philosophy they have employed for at least the past 2 seasons. They usually make up for a lack of top speed by destroying everyone else in the corners. However, the EBD doesn’t suit Vettel at the moment so he’s losing out in both areas, hence the frustration.

  15. (there were minor tweaks to the layout following the inaugural race in 2004)

    Never realised there were changes – What were they?


    1. I think they slightly changed Turn 4.

  16. The layout is far from brilliant but its characteristics and possible air\track conditions may result on the best race yet, high levels of tyre wear and slow traction areas promote more overtakes than the sort on China, even the start first few corners promote loads of overtake and massive shunts, so looking forward.

    About the other side, Bahrain is just another anarchy a country that is facing something that almost all countrys have faced and its essencial for Bahrains future, they will learn and the country will became another representative democracy rather than complete anarchy.

  17. Re: Red Bull … It seems that RB have confirmed that they will stick with the “Webber spec” exhaust for Bahrain. I’m not much of a Helmut Marko fan, but I got a kick out of his statement. “We will go with the Mark Webber car. Mark is less sensitive to the car’s behavior. He just needs four wheels, but it’s different for Vettel.”

    1. That can’t be Marco

  18. Hamilton’s average qualifying position makes no sense (3) and is misleading. He’s got 2 poles and a 2nd place but because of a grid penalty for a technicality that occurred BEFORE the race weekend his average isn’t reflecting this. If your car breaks down in a race then fair enough – who knows where you may have ended up – but this isn’t the case for a grid penalty BEFORE the race weekend begins. I understand “officially” he qualified 7th in China last week but this isn’t an official F1 results page. To be a meaningful form guide it needs to take out the grid penalty. When I see the stats i expect to see Hamilton having a nearly perfect qualifying record for the first 3 races, not an average of 3rd place – it’s miselading and not a true form guide.

    1. You are assuming that the gearbox fault had nothing to do with Hamilton’s driving. Granted unlikely but rougher driving can cause more problems, the same drivers have more faults than others. It is YOU that is making assumptions and messing with actual, real, results. Ultimately Hamilton/macca CHOSE to change his gearbox, because pole didn’t mean as much as a race result, get over it.

      1. So a F1 driver cracked the housing in a computer operated gearbox?
        By doing what?
        Driving the f1 car in the Monster truck finals?

        Don’t make me laugh.

        1. It was a cracked housing was it? The computer chooses where the car drives does it? OK I stand corrected.

          1. Don’t be ridiculous, drivers have no effect on the longevity on gear boxes now a days. Its all computer controlled gear shifts. They don’t exactly have gear sticks.

            It is a component failure that could happen to anyone – just bad luck.

            “The computer chooses where the car drives does it?” Likewise driving over curbs will damage other parts of the car before the gearbox.

            “the same drivers have more faults than others”

            How many gearbox failures has Hamilton had recently? This is the first i can remember in a long time.

            Just accept your wrong and move on – rather than resorting to juvenile sarcasm.

    2. I don’t mind Keith’s system. There are too many “what if’s?” otherwise. If he knew he was dropping down the grid he might only do one run and save a set of tires for the race. This could cause him to qualify lower than he would have so it’s still not an accurate measure of ‘form’. It’s like back when the drivers in Q3 had to qualify with the fuel load they wanted to start the race with. If a driver knew he was getting a penalty he might put less fuel in to counter the penalty and qualify in a position that doesn’t accurately represent his ‘form’.

  19. I hate the 2010 Bahrain track so much! Every time I start a new championship on my F1 2010 I need to play on that track, Aarrgh. Can’t wait for F1 2012, and what it thinks about the rules, teams and TYRES!! Lets all be glad that this track will be gone from the calendar soon!

  20. Either way, this track is awful.
    But i think the race will be good (as the first three)

  21. De la Rosa has the lap record. Bet that seems like a lifetime ago for him. Does for me.

    1. Guessing this will be the first race HRT will attend where one of their drivers holds the [race] lap record!

  22. Bahrain is a new venue for Narain Karthikeyan

    It isn’t, is it? he did race there in 2005 with Jordan.

  23. Win for Kimi

  24. @keithcollantine – We’ve heard a lot about the Pirelli tyres and how the teams have never raced at Bahrain without them, but what about the DRS zone? Has that been decided? The FIA usually announces it by now.

    1. It’s on the start/finish straight, it was in the preview yesterday:

      F1 heads back to original Bahrain track

      When I get a map I’ll put it up.

  25. not the nicest of new but did anyone see this.. used to be factory boss for Jordan
    tragic :/

  26. John Booth makes a good point about Marussia. Their development has been impressive. It’s just a shame that they couldn’t get into pre-season testing.

    I didn’t pay much attention to them in China but I did note that Pic managed to bring down the gap in qualifying from Glock quite considerably between Australia and Malaysia. I’ll keep an eye on him this weekend.

  27. I actually don’t think this version of the track is that bad, it will be interesting to see how the track goes with all the changes since it was last used in 2009.

Comments are closed.