Start Shots: Bahrain Grand Prix

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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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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...

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17 comments on “Start Shots: Bahrain Grand Prix”

  1. up to 2009 and including, the Bahrain GP was one of the best racing tracks on the calendar and one of the best races, but the 2010 race helped cast a shadow for 4 years that this track was no good, another tilkedrom they say. I love it, the sand is dull but it’s a different scenario than usual, there are no real long corners and that’s probably the key for good wheel to wheel racing.

    1. Both 2013 and 2014, especially 2014, proved that it is an exciting track again.

      1. The 2012 race was pretty good as well with Räikkönen chasing Vettel.

    2. It has one of the best first corner sequence.

      Two long straights help getting cars closer together by the time they reach Turn 1 and then the near-flat out T2 and the flat-out T3 help the following car to suck up to the car ahead once again before a final undercut can be made in T4.

      T4 is exciting because it falls away for a long long time from mid-corner onwards, before the cars hitting a slight positive camber near the exit and that last two-three car width of tarmac before the kerb makes making the the exit much easier.

      Whoever gets the inside line out of T4 wins the lap.

      It’s awesome, I think it’s the best Tilke track. Shanghai and Istanbul have 1 good corner (T1 & T8 respectively) and that’s it, and the rest from Abu Dhabi onwards are too generic. Sepang comes close, come to think of it. (COTA was designed by someone else, primarily.)

      1. Very well said, +1

  2. I know they never won a race and were extremely underwhelming in terms of results, but looking back through the years, Toyota were a solid team, it’s a shame they’re no longer in the sport.

    1. Toyota putting too much money for a car that never win a race and they never have a top driver. Its actually the worst F1 team in that era, but we spared of the lack of money excuse.

  3. Ah yes, Kubica’s first pole in 2008 at Bahrain. Such a shame that he had that accident as he was an astounding driver.

  4. I remember when everyone loved calling it Bore-rain or some variant, the last few races there kind of threw out that argument.

  5. Does anybody know why has Ferrari that black front cone in 2005?

    1. Simon (@weeniebeenie)
      14th April 2015, 16:15

      The Pope died the day before.

      1. Thanks.

  6. “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.”

    Reminds me of the many short memories today when people seem outraged at the “historic” and “unprecedented” Mercedes dominance. And Mercedes has only had a single dominant season. 30 second victories were par for the course back in the day, and Ferrari were usually cruising in formation for half the race (usually at the point after Barrichello made his normal weak attempt to undercut Schumacher).

    1. If today Hamilton beats Rosberg fair and square to the flag, 11 years ago both Ferraris would go slowly, posing for pictures and looking at their crew on the pit wall while getting the flag. Barrichello a proud number 2.

      2004 was the worst season i ever saw.

  7. For me, Tilke’s finest work. If recent years are anything to go by, this should be a good one.

  8. Prediction for the race this week: Nico Rosberg will crash into Lewis in a desperate attempt to overtake him.
    The fall out will be serious….

  9. Sakir is a fast track and so should favour the Mercs’ raw speed. But it will be warmer and perhaps rear tyre wear an important factor, thus giving Ferrari something to play with. I only hope that they don’t try another stupid stunt like they did with Vettel in China by trying to ‘leapfrog’ Rosberg.

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