A good start can pay off well in Bahrain as the wide entry to turn one and ample overtaking opportunities later in the lap rewards aggressive starters.
The 2004 season was not a great year for a new track to make its debut. Ferrari’s superiority was crushing, and in the desert Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello were half a minute clear when they backed off to cruise to the flag.
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Twelve months later Ferrari were up against it: Schumacher gave chase to Fernando Alonso but was out after 11 laps when the team’s new car failed. Jarno Trulli, alongside Schumacher in this picture, inherited second place.
Bahrain held the season-opener for the first time in 2006 and as the race started it looked like Ferrari had found an answer to Renault. But Felipe Massa’s desperate attempts to contain Alonso only succeeded as far as turn four, and during the pit stops Alonso jumped ahead of Schumacher to win again.
Further back at the start Nico Rosberg, making his debut for Williams, knocked Nick Heidfeld’s BMW into a spin at the first corner.
A more confident Massa took pole position for the 2007 race and led Lewis Hamilton to turn one and on to the flag.
Robert Kubica quickly lost the advantage of his first ever pole position start in 2008, allowing Massa through into a lead the Ferrari driver never looked likely to lose.
Toyota’s F1 team didn’t last beyond the end of 2009 and in Bahrain they threw away their best chance of winning a race. Jarno Trulli claimed pole position but it was the other Toyota of Timo Glock which took the lead. But both were jumped by Jenson Button’s Brawn and Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull by the end of the race.
Bahrain hosted the season-opener for the second time in 2010 but a feeble race left everyone regretting the decision to use the longer sports car layout. Pole sitter Vettel was on course for victory when a faulty spark plug caused his Red Bull to falter, allowing Alonso to lead a one-two in his first race for Ferrari.
Amid international condemnation of the Bahrain government’s violent suppression of pro-democracy protests in 2011, Formula One belatedly cancelled its race that year. A major security operation was mounted in order to allow F1’s return in 2012, and even so Force India were involved in an incident near the circuit. In the race Vettel again led the run to turn one and this time he took the chequered flag first as well.
Rosberg took a surprise pole position in 2013 and at the start Alonso inserted himself between the Mercedes and Vettel. The Red Bull driver responded quickly, passing Alonso later around the opening lap and on the third tour he took Rosberg as well, setting him up for a second consecutive Bahrain victory.
Last year’s race was Bahrain’s first as a night event. Rosberg was on pole position again but again found himself under attack from behind. This time it was from team mate Hamilton, who got ahead at the start and soaked up everything Rosberg could throw at him to win a thrilling race.
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