Bahrain Grand Prix 2016: 5 Things to Know About Sakhir Track
The Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir will host its 12th Formula One race on April 3 when the lights go out for the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix.
The tiny Gulf state became a part of the F1 calender back in 2004. Michael Schumacher was the first man to ever stand on the top step of the podium in Bahrain, and since then, all the greats of the modern era have tasted the victory waard.
That is, the local rosewater drink supplied to the top three; Bahrain does not permit the drinking of alcohol in public, so the traditional champagne is given a weekend off.
Not everyone loves the Hermann Tilke-designed circuit, but it has produced at least some good racing—2014's Bahrain Grand Prix being the standout example.
Here are five sets of facts about the circuit for the coming weekend's race.
All the Numbers
The Bahrain International Circuit was designed by Hermann Tilke, the FIA's favoured circuit architect; this was his second from-scratch track design to be used for F1. The first was Malaysia's Sepang Circuit, which first saw action in 1999.
The 5.421-kilometre layout features 15 corners—nine rights and six lefts—and four straights of a reasonable length. The longest of these is the pit straight, coming in at 1,090 metres. The main DRS zone is placed here during the race weekend.
Per the circuit website, a total of 400 palm trees line the circuit, planted behind 4,100 metres worth of tyre walls. These are constructed out of a whopping 82,000 individual tyres, but they rarely get much use thanks to the extensive, very forgiving run-off zones.
The total area of these comes to 140,000 square metres—enough to hold 344 tennis courts or 11 Trafalgar Squares.
And if all that space isn't enough to keep the drivers out of trouble, there'll be 600 dedicated marshals around the track to ensure accidents cause minimal disruption during Sunday's 57-lap race.
Only 1 Corner Has a Name
While "classic" circuits like Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium and Silverstone in England are full of named turns, Bahrain's track is like many Tilke creations in countries with little motorsport heritage—its corners are simply numbered.
However, ahead of the 2014 race, the hairpin at the start of the lap, formerly known only as Turn 1, became the second corner at an F1 venue to be named in honour of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.
The first was the slow chicane near the end of the lap at the modern Nurburgring in Germany.
In a statement reproduced by Autoblog, circuit chairman Zayed Al Zayani said:
With the support of his family, it is a great privilege to be able to honour arguably the greatest racing driver in the history of F1 and someone who the people of Bahrain hold close to their hearts. From his first appearance at the BIC in 2004, he immediately became an inspiration for all those who love motorsport in the Kingdom and it is therefore natural for us to recognise him in this way.
The statement also revealed the great German offered "his own input into the design" of parts of the track, including the first corner.
However, the name hasn't yet become an everyday part of anyone's racing vocabulary; fans, commentators and drivers are more likely to say "Turn 1" or "the hairpin," and that's unlikely to change any time soon.
The Circuit Has an Unusually High Winner-to-Champion Ratio
The Bahrain International Circuit hosted its first F1 race back in 2004. The year was dominated by the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher, so no one was surprised when the German took pole, set the fastest lap and won the race ahead of team-mate Rubens Barrichello.
Fernando Alonso, champion of 2005 and 2006, won the next two races before Felipe Massa's wins in 2007 and 2008. Jenson Button took the chequered flag in 2009 and Alonso was back on the top step in 2010.
Of the 11 Bahrain grands prix to date, eight have been won by the eventual world champion—72.7 per cent. The strike rate for constructors' champions has been even higher—10 of the 11 races, or 90.9 per cent, have been won by the team that went on to take the title.
Both percentages are unusually high—few circuits on the calendar even come close.
It's Surrounded by Sticky Sand
The Bahrain International Circuit is surrounded by miles and miles of sandy desert, and this threw up a somewhat unique challenge for the race organisers.
Sand is, of course, light and easily blown about by the occasionally strong winds that affect the Persian Gulf. Left to their own devices, many millions of grains would find their way onto the circuit.
This happened in an extreme way in 2009, when a sandstorm caused pre-season testing to be put on hold, as reported by Autosport.
Dune buggies wouldn't mind, but open-wheel F1 cars are a little more picky when it comes to what they're driving on, and the slick Pirelli tyres would struggle to bite into a dusty, dirty surface.
To counter this problem, the race organisers spray the surrounding desert with adhesive to stick the grains together. Some sand invariably ends up on and around the track, and the glue won't halt a full-blown sandstorm, but the amount is greatly reduced.
The Track Is Lit Up by 4,500 Floodlights
The Bahrain International Circuit held its first night race in 2014, becoming only the third circuit in the world—after Singapore's Marina Bay and Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina—to host a floodlit grand prix.
The switch from day to night has turned the Bahrain Grand Prix into one of the most visually impressive of the year; though the idea of a night race is no longer as fresh, exciting and new as it once was, the cars still look that little bit more special when bathed in artificial light.
It makes the whole venue look better, too.
James Allen reported the lighting system cost around €13 million (£10.27 million, or $14.51 million), and Sky Sports' James Galloway listed more impressive facts. There are 4,500 individual light fittings mounted on 495 poles, linked together by an incredible 500 kilometres of cable.
Most of the cars will look better under the floodlights, but the Red Bull should look especially striking.