2016 Bahrain Grand Prix track preview

2016 Bahrain Grand Prix

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The Bahrain International Circuit is holding its 12th round of the world championship this year. A typical modern circuit with wide run-off areas and frequent braking zones, it has nonetheless produced some memorable races in recent years.

Track data: Bahrain International Circuit

Lap length 5.412km (3.363 miles)
Grand prix distance 308.238km (191.53 miles)
Lap record (race) 1’31.447 (Pedro de la Rosa, 2005)
Fastest lap (any session) 1’29.527 (Mark Webber, 2005, fourth practice)
Tyre compounds See drivers’ choices
2015 Rate the Race 7.37 out of 10
2015 Driver of the Weekend Kimi Raikkonen

Bahrain International Circuit track data in full

The purpose-built venue was designed by Hermann Tilke and is characterised by long straights and slow corners. This puts a premium on top speed and traction.

When the lights go out the drivers face a 400-metre sprint to a slow right-hander which funnels into a pair of switchback corners. “Turn one is very tight at the start” says Carlos Sainz Jnr, “meaning that a lot of cars need to fit in a small space”.

“I remember having a tough moment through turns one and two at the start last year, with a lot of cars bunching up.”

The run through the first sequence of corners and up to turn four presents one of the best overtaking opportunities on the track, even without a DRS zone. The cars then fall into line for turns five, six and seven.

This is one of the few parts of the circuit which involves high-speed direction change, and the exposed nature of the venue can catch drivers out. “The wind can have a big influence at those corners,” notes Romain Grosjean.

Turns eight and ten are both hairpins – the latter made trickier by the downhill approach and slight kink of turn nine. This leads the drivers onto the long back straight and second DRS zone, though the high-speed entry to turn 11 means they need a good run on a rival to make a pass stick.

Locked tyres are a common sight at turn ten
“I also remember turn 12 being a challenge because it’s always on the limit,” says Sainz. “You can go flat there one lap if the wind is okay, but then you try to do the same the following lap and it’s impossible because of the wind It’s tricky, but it gives the driver a lot of pleasure when you manage to do it well.”

After these two quick corners drivers suddenly find themselves bearing down on the slower turn 13 and having to pick out their braking point. The final corners are all about maximising traction at the exit to keep the speed up – particularly for those drivers who are at a power disadvantage.

“At the last corner you have to make sure you get a good exit,” Sainz explains. “Last year we struggled a bit with top speed, so it was all about getting a lot of traction out of there – I remember this straight being a bit too long for us. Maybe no longer that much this year!”

Bahrain International Circuit aerial map

2016 Bahrain Grand Prix

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    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...

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    53 comments on “2016 Bahrain Grand Prix track preview”

    1. Turn 10 is really challenging even in games but a good(traditional) overtaking spot.

    2. Top photo reminded me of some photo montages from Andreas Gursky (he of ‘most expensive photography ever sold’ fame):

      1. ColdFly F1 (@)
        30th March 2016, 16:57

        just for fun have a look at what <a href="https://benjaminsapiens.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/andreas-gursky-the-rhein-ii1326279397.jpg&quot;)the most expensive photograph is.

        (thanks for reminding me @unicron2002)

        1. Thanks, both of you!

        2. Having a river so close to the main straight may be scenic, but it shows what a controversial circuit designer Gursky is. And many have criticised his use of astroturf runoffs.

      2. Remember the 2010 layout? (which you can see in the picture) So awful, hated driving that thing in F1 2010 video game. The classic layout is much better.

    3. When I see that top photo of Bahrain I fully understand why young people are no longer attracted to F1.

      1. yep, agree. The circuit layout is great, but the location is so drab (and controversial). Its just a billionaires playground, the rich elite that Bernie loves to pander to. So far removed from 95% of the actual fanbase, and, oh what a surprise, only has a capacity of 50,000, but averaging around 30,000 on race day for each of the 12 years….. its pathetic! (actually lower than Turkey’s attendance which got binned because of that) Compare it to an atmosphere at a packed Imola/Monza/Silverstone/Montreal/Interlagos and it highlights whats wrong with the sport at the top, the circuit fee’s and the selection process!

        1. I cannot go to 21 races a year 1 is enough and on TV the atmosphere is the same everywhere. This track looks good but on TV I see cars going quick round corners no matter where they race. This track has better races than SPA and it is just a different type of track. As for where it is and the politics I doubt many people know this apart from what they have been fed by certain media outlets and even allowing for this when I watch cars on track I do not give a monkeys about starving African kids or crazies blowing themselves up, if I did I would watch BBC news all Sunday afternoon. Hell to the moral high ground hippy rubbish just watch the race which tends to be good, don’t like it don’t watch…stick it to THE MAN I am sure Bernie will be really sad you did not watch.

          1. Better races than SPA.. *Chuckles*

            1. According to Rate the Race scores on this website since Bahrain was reinstated to the calendar in 2012 it has beat SPA 3 – 1, including 3 wins in a row, an average score of 7.798 v 6.827 for Spa. The general trend on here seems to not like this race but when they vote on the races they find it better than SPA so they actually prefer it in recent history, looking at everyone’s own voting over the past 4 years should dispel the myth this is not a good race.

            2. I think it’s more general expectations. You expect Spa to deliver and while it usually does, it doesn’t stand out as much as it’s expected. No one really has high expectations for Bahrain, but it’s a better track then it’s given credit for so more people end up surprised at a good race, so rate higher then they normally would.

            3. Could be but then you could also say people mark down Bahrain as they think due to the perceived situation in the country they should not have a race so mark it less than they would another race. I think it has been a very good race for the last few years and at night the track looks great.

            4. petebaldwin (@)
              30th March 2016, 16:52

              Tracks like Bahrain are much more suited to the current generation of cars that cannot follow each other, drive above 80% or race each other. You need long straights with hairpins at the end for modern F1 – too many twisty sections and it kills the tyres if you are near another car.

              If someone who cares about the sport more than their bank balance ever found themselves in charge of F1 and made the obvious changes to allow cars to follow each other, I don’t think you’d find Bahrain rated higher than Spa on average.

            5. The thing that ruins the races in Spa and Montreal is the DRS because they are circuits where DRS is not really needed. Under this current generation of cars, DRS were only good to Hungary, which used to be a boring circuit in the 80 and 90s
              Bahrain is more suited to this generation of cars too, and for me is one of the most enjoyable tilkedromes along with sepang, although Bahrain has 0 atmosphere

          2. On the TV the atmosphere is not the same everywhere at all, it was great to see the full stands at Melbourne in most shots, and also hear the atmosphere. The surroundings is also one of the main reasons the Austrian GP has made a celebrated return.

            Also, rate the race doesn’t capture the overall event, just the race itself. I’d still much rather you sit me in front of a TV for 3 days to watch Spa than Bahrain… I cant believe given the choice you would do otherwise?

            1. I would not, I am pointing out over the past few years people on here rated the Bahrain race better than SPA yet many comments are negative towards Bahrain, given the chance to vote the results show otherwise. As for atmosphere on TV I do not feel it at all and if so by many accounts Mexico will be a classic race soon if we think this counts. The surrounding is important but we cannot have all the races looking like SPA or Austria, a desert setting is nice and adds variety, Bahrain also looks great as a night race, if surroundings counted Silverstone would be one of the worst races as it looks like a drab council estate.

              To argue the cars need to change to make Spa a better race we might as well say if we put mountains covered in trees next to the Bahrain track it would be better, or import all the fans from Monza and Mexico for a 250,00 strong crowd, that is not how it is and recently Bahrain has been a better race than Spa.

            2. petebaldwin (@)
              30th March 2016, 17:03

              @john-h – Honestly, I would rather watch 3 days the 2014-2016 cars going around Bahrain than around Spa. Even though it’s not the case, it looks like the Bahrain track was designed specifically for DRS! It always seems to create exciting moments at the start of the lap due to the configuration of the corners and long straights whereas DRS at Spa just ruins the race by allowing simple motorway passes.

              I think Bahrain is a strange one – people instantly jump on the fact it is in Bahrain (valid point) and the fact that it was designed by Tilke (not so valid point) and come to the conclusion that it’s bad because of this. If the exact layout existed in France and was designed by anyone other than Tilke, people would be saying it’s a great track that provides exciting racing.

        2. Yes, but the promoters pay well.

      2. Well in all fairness that’s a 12 year old picture Keith’s using, nowadays they added a little colour and the skyline is also different I think.

        1. I actually really liked the minimalist aesthetic of this track when it was new, a lean and angular layout with few distractions. The fact that the wind plays such an important part on this track is somewhat novel too. As it gets built up, it’s severity as a venue is diminished. A future classic.

          1. I wonder what Gilles Villeneuve would think? Probably not much, other than “let’s go racing!”

    4. Formula One should not go to Bahrain. Considering there human right record is unforgivable that the FIA would tarnish the name of Formula one by holding a race there.

      Its OBSCENE and DISGUSTING. Bernie Ecclestone and the others involved should hang there head in shame. Some things are more important that money and sport with the emphasis on money.


      1. Bernie doesn’t involve himself in politics as he’s said. As long as they have a big wallet Bernie will ignore all the goings on in the country.

      2. Soon they wont be able to afford these races thanks to low oil prices and their fiscal deficit is one of the worse in GCC.

        BTW if human rights is the benchmark for no races in a country, then China should be the first that FIA should boycott, but they don’t because 1 they don’t care, 2 because “money”.

      3. so i assume you are boycotting f1?

      4. Agreed. F1 and Bernie have proved over the years that they will cosy up to anyone as long as they’ve got a huge wallet.

      5. Pretty much everything that is mentioned in that article you linked happens in right across the Gulf. I don’t recall people calling for boycotts of the Qatar MotoGP race or the Abu Dhabi GP. If we are going to get on our moral high horses we have to be consistent.

        While we are on the topic of linking Human Rights Watch articles, here is the UK’s. It also doesn’t make good reading. Shall we boycott Silverstone?


        1. Ouch the UK is not exempt? Bahrain track also looks much better in aerial shots than Silverstone which although much improved is a bit of a dump.

        2. As we know, Bernie doesn’t take money from the UK government…

          1. T’was a tongue in cheek example @unicron2002

        3. ColdFly F1 (@)
          30th March 2016, 17:10

          Fully agree @geemac.
          And according to this freedom list we should only have races in either Switzerland or NZ :-J

        4. @geemac, many posters here have heaped praise upon the Turkish GP in the past and have called for the sport to return to Turkey, despite the fact that Turkey has an atrocious record with regards to human rights violations. We might complain about Bernie, but it seems that some fans themselves also seem to have rather flexible ethical standards when it comes to judging certain venues.

      6. petebaldwin (@)
        30th March 2016, 17:10

        Few points there:

        The FIA don’t decide where to race, BE does and he isn’t bothered about tarnishing the name of F1 providing it makes him slightly richer. Can the name be tarnished any more than it already is?

        You are of course right that some things are more important than money but this isn’t the case to BE and never will be. Money trumps everything in his mind – people’s lives, ethics, honesty, sport, respect… None of this matters providing he is getting richer.

        Let’s be honest here – if BE was in control of Bahrain, things would probably be even worse for it’s population!

      7. Bahrain has the same problem as F1: corruption at the top. That being said, I still watch “the show”.

    5. If I’m honest, I quite like the track layout at Sakhir. No, it isn’t a classic but it is a tricky little circuit. From turn 4 to turn 10 it really isn’t bad at all by modern standards. I like the short apexes and long corner exits, I like that a few of the corners are off camber (turn 4 and the final corner) and I like the “break while turning” challenge of turn 9 and 10, because you can easily see drivers taking different approaches to the same corner there. It’s not Sepang, but I still think Tilke should be proud of it.

      1. I have to agree. I think it produces rather good racing too – as Hamilton and Rosberg demonstrated so well in 2014.

        All the more of a shame really that Abu Dhabi is quite so poor.

    6. I love the top photo, pretty cool having an F1 track in the desert. Reminds me of old videogames like Wipeout and F-Zero

      1. It does look good but apparently races should only be held in regions with hills and trees or old air force bases anything else is a disgrace.

        1. I would watch F1 race in an abandoned quarry.

    7. Great track… Real nice corners, a DRS paradise. It is by all means artifficial but it does produce overtaking.

      Speaking of which.. Maybe we see some this weekend I hope.

    8. I am sure that if Verstappen is not to busy swearing on the radio, he will do some overtaking.

    9. Do I see a runway in the middle of the track, crossing the path of the actual track (on the top photo)… Bloody cool..

      1. FlyingLobster27
        30th March 2016, 18:17

        Nah, that’s the tarmac run-off @mulsanne! ;)
        Your answer is on the map view at the bottom of the article though: it’s a drag strip.

        1. Hey ME4ME, that was a good link. Thank you!

      2. I did however notice there is a runway right next to the track (just east of it). I’m going to look it up now but I am presuming that was put in specially for access to the track?

        1. Or maybe that’s why they decided to put the track there?

    10. OOPS made a small mistake and watched


      I guess stuff can get done with 0 DRS and grooved tires :P

      Check out how flimsy side mirrors are…

    11. A poorly designed track designed to meet corporate standards of increasing overtaking. This circuit hosts what is surely an event that is a stain on modern F1… it needed a gimmick like DRS to actually have good racing- and even then, there was never a good race there until 2014.

      1. 2013 it was ranked the best race of the year. I really like it and looking forward to it. It is no stain on F1 it looks top notch…if only Silverstone looked as good.

        1. Early Silvertone looked great, but now, not so much.

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