Should Formula 1 use Bahrain’s Outer circuit again?

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Formula 1 raced on one of the shortest circuits to hold a round of the world championship when it visited Bahrain for the penultimate race of the season.

Having already raced on the familiar grand prix layout the previous weekend, F1 took advantage of the opportunity to race on the shorter Outer circuit for its second race, the Sakhir Grand Prix.

It produced one of the more exciting races of the year, though that was arguably not entirely due to the change in layout. Nonetheless should F1 use the curiously short circuit, with just four braking points on a flying lap, for future races?


It’s no coincidence that one of the livelier races of 2020 happened on the novel, short layout. The low and close lap times ensured the field did not spread out. It also meant teams had little time to react strategically and had to make decisions under greater pressure – resulting in the error which compromised Mercedes’ race.

The regular grand prix layout is nothing special, but the Outer track brings something special and welcome variety to the calendar.


The intrigue around the Sakhir race had more to do with George Russell’s appearances as a substitute for Lewis Hamilton, and the surprise of him first being in contention to victory and then losing it to a first-time winner, Sergio Perez.

The basic circuit offers too little challenge for Formula 1 drivers and teams. It was fine for a one-off, but the race needs to be held on a longer layout.

I say

Some drivers were noticeably sniffy in their attitude towards Bahrain’s ‘Indy’ layout. I understand why – they got into this game to drive the world’s best cars on the world’s most challenging tracks, and one which only requires them to brake four times – even less than Monza – is not really that.

However F1 isn’t just a driving and engineering challenge, it’s also one of racecraft and strategy. Bahrain’s Outer circuit tests those in different ways, and it would be fascinating to see drivers and teams take it on again.

Whichever Bahrain layout the drivers use, this track is no Spa or Suzuka. So they might as well opt for the Outer circuit, which at least offers an intriguing departure from the norm.

You say

Should F1 race on Bahrain’s Outer circuit again? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Do you agree F1 should use Bahrain's Outer circuit for future races?

  • No opinion (0%)
  • Strongly disagree (8%)
  • Slightly disagree (12%)
  • Neither agree nor disagree (7%)
  • Slightly agree (31%)
  • Strongly agree (41%)

Total Voters: 274

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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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71 comments on “Should Formula 1 use Bahrain’s Outer circuit again?”

  1. I’d much rather they raced there than places like Abu Dhabi, Sochi, Shanghai, Paul Ricard etc. Saves on freight costs too which is In line with their commitments to cut costs.

    1. That was in line with my immediate reaction: yes – but replacing Abu Dhabi, not the regular circuit.

      The regular circuit generally gves a decent race, while with short track race would likely have been rather less exciting had Merc not bungled the pitstop and VER gone out on hte first lap.

  2. Yes. It reminded me of those 50s tracks and was totally different from the “tilkedromes.” It should be a championship with old and modern layouts.

    1. I don’t know who designed the outer circuit but it looks like something that could be sketched by a 3 year old.. and surprisingly it produced more interesting racing than circuit Tilke has designed.

      1. it’s another tilke desing, but wasn’t suposed to be used in race

  3. Yes. If we are really to have 20-25 races a year, some of them need to be on tracks that have a bit of variety about them. Most circuits, especially modern ones, are far too similar to one another (and too long).

    1. @red-andy Next year’s scheduled 23 is the maximum permitted per season, but yes, I agree that variety in track types is good.

    2. Its because for some stupid reason f1 uses the same circuit designer for every new track

      1. It’s because the Tilke company is basically a one stop shop. Instead of using different contractors for different aspects of the build his company can handle them all. Saves time and money.

  4. Strongly agree. If Liberty want to increase the size of the calendar, a great way to do it to save travel costs is to hold two races in a row at Bahrain, firstly on the original layout and secondly on the outer layout.

    1. +1

      The double header was a great way to do it and probably less stressful for the teams, etc as they didn’t have to move around. Everything that happened with Russell just added to the intrigue of the weekend

    2. I’ll agree with this. I voted “slightly agree”, as I would like to see them race the outer loop again BUT, I do actually like the regular circuit (not the endurance layout tho!), and don’t really want to lose that versus some other tracks, so the idea of another cost saving double header is quite appealing.
      However I can’t see a Bahrain double header again for anything other than desperate measures. Ultimately F1 is about money, so why would we get a double header at the lowest attended circuit on the calendar?

    3. Agreed.
      Bahrain’s original layout is great in itself and has provided good battles (especially in the DRS era).

      The oval is a great no cost addition to the calendar. Makes sense to have a double header here every 2-3 years.

    4. @ultimateuzair When you say double header do you mean two weekends or both races in one weekend? If it is the former then it would probably need to form a triple header like this year to get the cost saving but the latter would be interesting.

      I can only see a double header working if both races were done in a rejigged weekend.

      Fitness wise I cant see why the drivers couldn’t manage, especially when they do two race distances in a day in testing.

  5. Definitely no. Firstly,the main Bahrain layout is really decent and provides solid racing year in, year out.

    As for the outer layout, before the Mercedes disasterous double stack, it provided a race without the amount of overtakes/drama expected.

    I don’t think that F1 needs to follow the Formula E way (short under minute tracks) ,when your backup races are excellent (Mugello-Imola-Portimao-Nurburgring-Turkey)

    1. @miltosgreekfan this is exactly what I think although I voted slightly disagree.

      I would rather that F1 added some races at the places you mention that hold an extra one on the Outer Circuit.

      1. @phil-f1-21 Current calendar is having a lot of issues track wise,so i can understand the reasons why the Outer version of Bahrain got that positive reaction.
        For me,the weekend at Mugello showed a lot about some of the issues with the current calendar. Drivers loved the cambered old school circuit but obviously the event won’t ever return for business reasons..

  6. This shouldn’t be a black and white question. How about every few years to mix things up?

  7. Definately! If i was responsible for the Bahrain GP i would mix both layouts and the start time. For example:
    2021 – Normal circuit – Day race (start time around 2-3pm like before 2014 )
    2022 – Oval circuit – Dusk race (start time around 4-5pm like the after 2014 usual race)
    2023 – Normal circuit – Night race (start time around 6-7pm like the Sakhir GP was this year)
    2024 – Oval circuit – Dusk race (start time around 4-5pm)
    And repeat the same after that. Throw teams every year curveballs.

    1. +1
      If anything, 2020 has shown that a little variety can be positive for the show. It was exciting to see all these new tracks, because they were, well, new. I’m sure if we race at Mugello or Portimao every year they will become boring. Alternate each year as you mention is the way to go. I’d like to see more rotations between the other circuits as well, even though we know it’s never gonna happen.

    2. @black Unnecessarily complicated, so not worth it. No point going back to daytime racing for the sake of it, and another more trivial note is that the sunset times in March and April are later than around the end-of-November/beginning-of-December, so 4-5 p wouldn’t work for the dusk.

      1. @jerejj Why is it unnecessarily complicated? Bahrain is the only track on the calendar at the moment that has an option to race at both layouts (or more) and an option to race in the day or in the night, at no additional cost or additional ‘burden’ whatsoever. It’s not like they have to build the oval section and the floodlights every year… Why not take advantage of it, if not both options, then at least one of them?

        Different layouts, different race times (so different tyre degredation) and different tyre compounds every year mean the teams will face a new challenge no matter if the cars have changed or not. Even by Bahrain’s high standards (the normal circuit is one of the best new circuits on the calendar), it’s not unlikely to produce a boring race (this year’s Bahrain GP was ranked as the 12th best out of the 17 races). So why not try it?

        If it was possible, i would try this system to other circuits as well, especially the boring ones.

        the sunset times in March and April are later, so 4-5 p wouldn’t work for the dusk

        Ok so then we can do it whenever the sunset is in March-April… or May, or whenever …

        1. @black Bahrain isn’t the only one. Paul Ricard, for example, also allows for more than a single configuration to be used. Circuit de Catalunya and Yas Marina Circuit as well, to name a few. The downside of using the 3.5 km option often is that the whole grandstand in the middle gets left out, so unfavorable on normal years with proper attendance on trackside.
          Racing in the afternoon would be unideal for local attendance as Sunday is a regular working day in the Gulf region, so evening is better in this regard. This was one of the reasons the Bahrain GP became a floodlit event in the first place to make attending easier for locals. Nevertheless, I respect other people’s suggestions, but I’m happy with how things are in general, so I don’t see a need to alter for the sake of it.

  8. Yes they should keep it. They should drop the boring dead Abu Dhabi if they don’t improve it. Also Sochi and Imola are boring.
    Normal Bahrain track may not be special but for years now it is producing exciting races plus it is a night race.

  9. I’m a +1 for alternating between the two. The full circuit generally gives a decent race by modern Tilkedrome venue standards, so not sure we want to lose that, but the outer circuit definitely brings something that no other venue on the calendar can replicate.

    Year on year off seems like the best compromise to me, at least until we have a bigger number of datapoints to determine if the outer circuit genuinely gives us something exciting or if we just lucked in this year.

  10. Loved the race, it was fantastic, but Bahrain have a race and I’d rather they don’t have two races there, and the original track usually springs ok races.

    If you could pick the track up and land it in Abu Dhabi, then yes of course, but we can’t so especially in light of too many races on the calendar I would say no. What it should do however is act as a template for future track design and selection – short tracks are fun.

    1. I think this is a valid point. Perhaps it could be used as a template for a future design. There is some evidence to show that shorter circuits produce good races e.g. Interlagos which is the shortest I think.

      1. Other than Monaco of course.

  11. Have to admit the race was less exciting than I thought it would be, although this was masked by the interest around Russell. I’d happily have the outer circuit again, but maybe as a 2-day weekend instead..?

  12. Quite liked it. Reminds me of the Reims circuit de Gueux, where I live.

    Drivers don’t complain on Yas Marina but they do when there’s novelty and variety.

  13. Its a yes please…it gave us the best race and viewers and most drivers liked it….as for the race the week was(as usual) dire….

  14. Yes, and also not use Sochi ever again.

  15. F1 should avoid the entire middle east.

    Not a single good track to be found since the majority of races are a complete snoozefest.

    1. @SadF1fan Not in Bahrain.

  16. It’s a change-up. I thought it was ok. I mostly liked the elevation changes. If they run it again, then the teams will be better prepared. Which should make for better racing and some interesting strategy’s.

  17. Yes, and the British Grand Prix should be held on Oulton’s Fosters circuit too :)

  18. Go for it. Perhaps alternate year on year between the standard and outer track. It reminded me of some of the simple 50s and 60s circuits.

  19. Absolutely yes! This track is very different to the norm.
    F1 should test cars & drivers on all different types of tracks!
    However such circuits should not become standard because it would be pointless then. Like Indycar usually has 1 double header, F1 should have only 1 race on short superfast tracks like this

  20. The fact that such a banal layout is so heavily voted for tells you all you need to know about how F1 is computer modelled into oblivion. That they couldn’t for this track layout gave us some intrigue. I voted for it but I don’t doubt once 500 data ‘engineers’ get hold of it they will neuter this layout also.

    1. If anything, this season has shown the value of having a good driver despite all that modelling.
      Plus there was intrigue in the race Tony.

    2. Ahhh so we should appreciate mediocrity? These “data engineers” you are so against ensure teams get the maximum possible from a race weekend. What this vote DOES tell us is alot of people here want dumbed down simplicity. F1 is and has never been, simple.
      3 elements made Sakhir a decent race: 1 Lewis was absent 2 a safety car mixed things up 3 We had a new GP winner. What part did the track layout have to do with any of this?

  21. I loved both layouts. Maybe they could rotate?

    F1 needs to visit more circuits and work out ways to do so. It could be financially beneficial too. Instead of a contract to host a race per year maybe a contract to hold one every other year could be available as an option to promoters and some tracks rotate within the calendar. That way we get more opportunities like this.

    It also increases the pressure on promoters of dull races to do something about their layouts! Especially if it affects viewing figures for their specific races. Even if it doesn’t, it adds some more variety to the season for us fans.w

  22. Unless Russell gets cursed again.

  23. The usual Bahrein circuit seems better to me. The only reason the short track race was great was that Merc messed up.
    It is however a nice circuit to have as a reserve. I fully expect races like
    Australia and China to be cancelled next year. A second Bahrein race on the short track would be much better than a double race on the same circuit,

    1. @mosquito Yes, the Australian GP taking place as the season-opener as scheduled is down to two things, and those are travel restrictions+spectators in attendance. At this point, I’m relatively hopeful it can go ahead as planned, and even more so the Chinese GP as the Shanghai track is permanent, so holding without fans is an option if necessary.

  24. Yes, call it the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
    I wonder if they could have two races truly back-to-back – Friday and Sunday, or Sunday and Tuesday – instead of hanging around for a week.

    1. Yes, call it the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

      This would actually be a pretty good idea.

  25. I’m fairly neutral on this one. I think the exciting race we got was due to factors that were mostly nothing to do with the circuit – Russell replacing Hamilton, Perez incident putting him last on the first lap, perfectly timed safety car to bring everyone back into contention, and Mercedes bungling pit stops for both drivers. Without those things I don’t think it was producing any better racing than the standard circuit, which has also produced good races during the hybrid era.

    Having said that I’m not against them experimenting again as variety is usually a good thing, so going back there one year to see how a more normal race pans out there would be fine and can reassess from there whether it should be used more regularly. Rotating layouts one year about would be fine if both circuits are seen to produce a similar level of spectacle and challenge.

  26. I voted for slightly disagree, but only if we were to get another season like this year at some point in the future. As @KeithCollatine points out, good for a one-off use, but not for regular usage. The GP configuration is definitely the better one overall as it has more overtaking opportunities and the lap, in general, is more diverse.

  27. I don’t think this article gives good reasons for this outer circuit.

    It’s no coincidence that one of the livelier races of 2020 happened on the novel, short layout. The low and close lap times ensured the field did not spread out.

    The main advantage of the shorter layout is that it’s mostly straights, so overtaking relatively easy. Most drivers, however, were in the DRS train, and thus unable to pass. Also, low lap-times alone do not keep the cars close together. The lack of high-speed corners does.

    It also meant teams had little time to react strategically and had to make decisions under greater pressure – resulting in the error which compromised Mercedes’ race.

    A bad example. Mercedes (as usual) had plenty of time to react, yet they completely goofed up that double stop.

    The regular grand prix layout is nothing special.

    Disagree. The only thing I don’t like is its location. The track is quite decent, with quite a few good overtaking spots and some nice corners. Tire wear is high, so differences in tire degradation between cars can become a factor, as well as differences in strategy.

    The basic circuit offers too little challenge for Formula 1 drivers and teams. It was fine for a one-off, but the race needs to be held on a longer layout.

    True, although it was was still far better than that horrible endurance layout.

    1. @f1infigures So you don’t like the location of Bahrain in general?
      I agree with you on the endurance layout, though.

      1. @jerejj Yes, I don’t really like deserts. The track is fine, though (except for that endurance layout indeed).

    2. @f1infigures I agree with you. I don’t think the “for” argument makes much sense.

  28. Voted neutral.

    I really like adding more variety to season. More variation will make building the perfect car harder. Different cars and drivers will shine on different circuits. Unfortunately Merc is so far ahead it won’t matter most of the time, but the midfield has gotten shuffled between tracks.

    However, I worry that races with high average speeds are inherently more dangerous. I don’t want to see F1 running on ovals. Nor other changes that make racing more dangerous.

    I think other things could be varied. However, most of the changes I hear suggested are awful, like changing qualifying layout.

    My fantasy F1 events:
    – a few one design races, worth a few WDC points. Maybe one in spring and one in fall.
    – I really want an F1 endurance event. I know the cars can’t do 2x the distance. How about a team relay?

  29. As there will most probably still be limitations for on track attendance it is no issue to bypass the grandstand on the backstraight once more. So go for the outer circuit.

  30. I wouldn’t mind at all if they repeated the Outer Circuit race. But at the same time, the main track isn’t bad either, so it’s not like it needs replacing. If they got rid of Yas Marina and had 2 races here instead, I’m sure no-one would shed a tear, but we all know that wouldn’t happen due to the money involved.

    I think in terms of having a single (near) oval track on the calendar is not a bad idea, whether that is at Bahrain or somewhere else. It gives the car designers something else to consider when building their cars for the season.

  31. Yes! I think they should alternate from now on: use the normal circuit in odd-numbered years, and use the outer circuit in even-numbered years.

  32. I propose Bahrain to become a every other year event. With so many new tracks coming into the potential fold. Why not every other year for some events that swap races with a new event. I’d rather see racing at Vietnam instead of Bahrain every year. The maylasian Grand Prix was a fantastic modern site that gave a GrandPrix car a chance to growl and scream. That race a good new race that went away. How about Korea and its event that would grow a new city around it? How about LongBeach once a good race too?With all the investment in GP racing where there are twice as many events ready to hold an event as is possible, how then can they survive? It’s a good problem to have and the lure of cash Formula One needs to get it right. Look there are 30 race tracks world wide, maybe double that, and then create a new series includes enough events that each season has a revolving selection of tracks that also include the new events too. Rotate them all and based on all of the factors that a race is judged by after three events, each race is rated and will only continue the next year if criteria justifies it be graded plus or minus.
    Judgement is passed on multiple events at each track. So over the next ten seasons F1 will know what works and what will not.
    Then the dumb races will just go away and perhaps events we are yet to see will become the mainstay of Formula One.
    American Football functions on a set number of regular events amongst inter divisional teams. Then EVERY season 30% of the games are played against other different teams and that schedule changes every year.
    Back to Grand Prix racing. So why not 18 established annual races and then 6 that rotate amongst all the new wanna bee F1 proposed layouts. If your part of the six and your events shines then it’s become a possible sub for a regular event but more that likely a permanent part of the new six.
    So you create a series within the existing series. The competition to gain one of those six events should improve all that F1 is and could become.
    Series with a series to promote and create new racing locations. The best will rise and the others will struggle and improve or disappear. Let Bahrain pick the track they want to represent Formula One. As for the rest of the race track. Improve your event in your country and possibly become a viable event in the future. Be bold F1 your future looks bright.

    1. @Stevenholmes Vietnam instead of Bahrain, LOL? Not a single millimeter has been run there yet, so how can you be sure you’d enjoy the former more considering how great racing the latter generally gives?

  33. I don’t think it added anything. The race was pretty stale, DRS trains negated the potential benefits of the layout. The swap and the drama made the whole race.

  34. A short lap with a low number of braking zones seems to have produced a more frenetic race with teams having less time to make good decisions and the leaders hitting lapped traffic more often. Overtaking was also a more urgent affair.

    I say it should get another go just to see what happens. It’s not as if Bahrain is typically a thrilling race anyway so it’s woth a try.

  35. They can try one time again with the outer track but im totally against of this type of tracks in f1. We speak for f1 here and f1 dna needs turns.
    Basically i don’t like this track at all. Im an old fart track guy.

  36. If F1 races at Bahrain again and since they have now two swell race tracks in one. Let them race the regular layout one year and then the “oval” the next year. It’s what the average race fan wants. Each creates its own magic.
    Stop calling it an Oval too. It’s just a weird shaped track in the desert. Is that better?

    1. @STEVENHOLMES Wouldn’t necessarily be ideal for attendance on normal seasons. Furthermore, the paddock circuit configuration is something that could also be tried out once.

  37. If it was stock car racing, then probably it may be considered. In the present day F1, it is not feasible. Once the teams find the proper setup, it would probably be a boring race.

  38. + side:
    Geometrically interesting circuit, just different enough that it might have some effect on how teams decide on enduring factors like gear ratios so that backmarkers like Hass or Williams could target that particular podium with an otherwise uncompetitive car.
    – side:
    It might have only been actually interesting because Russell was playing with Hamilton’s car.
    Drunk solution:
    Each year, end of season double header (Bahrain fat-track + Dubai) for Constructor Championship points only. Kicker: artificially replicate what we saw this year with teams required to substitute at least one driver.

    1. Underrated comment.

  39. I say add it. Can’t be any worse than Sochi , Spain, or Abu Dabhi

  40. I voted ‘strongly agree’ but I meant it as an addition to the calendar next to the regular Bahrain-circuit. Now I see that people vote ‘disagree’ because they read it as a replacement of the regular circuit of the calender. Unfortunately the question is not clear on this.

Comments are closed.