PRIXVIEW – Bahrain Grand Prix

Features Prixview

Formula One remains in Bahrain for the opening race of the season as the Sakhir circuit celebrates its twentieth Grand Prix. The country was the first race to be held in the region with this weekend marking its twentieth running of a race at this circuit, since 2014 the race has been held at night

The Bahrain International Circuit has a mixture of long straights and a tight infield section which creates opportunities for overtaking. But high speed that matters on the three straights and that means that good downforce and speed are very important, as well as breaking at the end of the straights.

The circuit has a mixture of long straights and a tight infield section which creates opportunities for overtaking. But its high speed that matters on the three straights and that means that good downforce and speed are very important, as well as breaking at the end of the straights.

The infield middle section is the more technical and twisty sector, which will be an interesting section to watch over the coming weeks as it will give us an idea of how closely cars will be able to follow each other. The circuit normally favours cars which are good at high speed and high downforce, Mercedes being strong through most of the hybrid era. This traditional ‘Grand Prix circuit’ has been used for all but two races here, the 2010 race on the Endurance Layout and the 2020 Sakhir race took place on the outer circuit.

A marked change started for some reason in 2014 when the V6 hybrid were introduced, despite Mercedes domination the circuit did see closer and more dramatic racing. However, the layout of the circuit tends to favour the fastest teams as its straights require downforce and straight line speed.

The race takes place in the evening meaning that the track will cool down throughout the day, meaning setup during FP1 and FP3 the teams need to be careful not to react to the changes to the car in the warmer conditions. Also off the back of testing, they need to be extra cautious with not going too far towards warm conditions as that could screw the set-up for qualifying and the race.

The first race in Sakhir was in 2004, marking the first race in the Middle East with the race being won by Michael Schumacher followed by teammate Rubens Barrichello. They took victory from the front row. Ferrari has won the most races in Sakhir with Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc taking victory in the last twenty years.

Mercedes, if you include Brawn GP, the Brackley team has one more victory, their dominance in the hybrid era has seen them take eight wins in Sakhir. That is unsurprising given the circuit’s layout and corners, downforce is very important and the hard braking zones at the end of the straights before the twisty infield section

Alonso has also taken victory for Renault (now Alpine) in both his championship-winning seasons, he would also win om his debut for Ferrari. That followed Vettel having conceded the lead of the race when a spark plug failure, conceding the lead to the two Ferrari’s and Lewis Hamilton. Vettel would hang onto fourth fending of Schumacher.

The Red Bull driver would win the next two races in Bahrain as well as two for Ferrari in 2017 and 2018. The 2011 race was cancelled and the events of the Arab Spring continue to cause controversy around this race, the government of Bahrain, on the other hand, denied allegations of sports washing.

The beginning of the hybrid era not only saw Mercedes’s domination of this race begin, but also the  theme for the next three seasons as Mercedes Sir Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s battle throughout the races for victory. that saw a race where both Mercedes pushed each other hard with Hamilton coming out as the winner. Rosberg would have to wait until 2016 to get the victory.

Vettel took the first of two consecutive wins in 2017, he passed Valtteri Bottas after Max Verstappen retired with brake failure and Hamilton took a five second penalty after holding up Daniel Ricciardo during the pit stop. Vettel eventually passed Bottas, who release Hamilton with ten laps to go.

The German’s win from pole the following season made him then the most successful driver in Bahrain.  Mercedes bounced back the following year at the expense of Vettel’s new teammate Charles Leclerc, the Monacan had lead most of the race until the final ten laps when an engine issue and slowed significantly, lapping several seconds slower than his immediate rivals, and getting unlapped by cars he previously lapped.

It was later revealed that one of his engine cylinders had stopped working, that allowed both Mercedes to pass Leclerc in the closing stages. He then hung on to third ahead of Verstappen, scoring his first podium in F1.

Bahrain held two races in 2020 due to the pandemic, having been postponed from its March date to November and December. Hamilton won the race titled ‘Bahrain Grand Prix,’ but the race was defined by one of the worst crashes in modern F1 history.  Romain Grosjean crashed on the opening lap, with the Haas splitting in two and catching fire. Grosjean escaped with second-degree burns on his hands.

Hamilton however went onto win the race ahead of Verstappen, before testing positive for Covid and being replaced by George Russell for the next race. For Russell the following weekend perhaps one of the defining races of his career, he had challenged Bottas all weekend and missed out on pole by a quarter of a second.

He won the start passing Bottas and then took control of the race until the second VSC when his replacement at Williams Jack Aitken spun and crashed at the final corner. Mercedes reacted bringing Russell in from the lead, but wrongly fitted Bottas’s tyres to his car meaning he had to stop again. That dropped Bottas to fourth and Russell fifth.

Sergio Perez inherited the lead, but of the top four Russell had the newest tyres with ten laps to go, Bottas was unable pass the Mexican however the Englishman found a way past the Mexican who took victory. Perez took ‘team Silverstone’s’ first win since Interlagos in 2003 and the first Mexican to win since Spa in 1970.

Three months later it was Verstappen who took the pole for the 2021 race from Hamilton, setting the season up to be a clash between them. At the start, Verstappen was able to hold off Hamilton in the opening phase of the race before holding off the Mercedes, the battle would continue all race long.

In the closing stages Verstappen was told to give the position back, as he ran wide giving Hamilton the lead and victory.

Race & Circuit Guide

Round 01 of 23
Race Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2023
Venue Bahrain International Circuit,  Sakhir, Bahrain
Configuration 2005 Grand Prix
Circuit Length 5.412 km (3.363 mi)
Laps 56
Race Distance 308.238 km (191.530 mi)
Lap Record Race 01:31.447 (Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren, 2005)
Most wins drivers Sir Lewis Hamilton (5)
Most wins manufacture Ferrari (7)

Fast facts

  • Less than half of the races held at Bahrain International Circuit have been won from pole. Just seven of the eighteen races at the track have been won from the very front of the grid. The furthest back win here was for Sergio Perez in the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. He started fifth
  • Bahrain is one of only a handful of current F1 circuits where McLaren have not yet recorded a victory.
  • After the 2007 Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton were all equal on points at the top of the championship. The last time that three drivers had been tied at the top of the Drivers’ Championship was in 1950
  • Sebastian Vettel recorded the only Did Not Start (DNS) of his F1 career here in 2016 when his Ferrari engine failed on the formation lap. He also missed last years test and opening race after testing positive for coronavirus.
  • Britain and Germany are tied as the nations with the most victories in Bahrain, with their drivers having each won at the track six times.

Event timetable


Local (AST +3 Hrs)



P1 14:30-15:30 11:30-12:30
P2 18:00-19:00 15:00-16:00


P3 14:30-15:30 11:30-12:30
Qualifying 18:00-19:00 15:00-16:00


Race 18:00 15:00

What happened in 2022?

Charles Leclerc beat Max Verstappen to pole by just over a tenth of a second, after the Red Bull set provisional pole on his first run to beat the benchmark set by Carlos Sainz. Ferrari had the advantage in the first sector with Leclerc extracting the most out of the car on his final run.

Mercedes did not look to have the pace to challenge for pole, the scepticism from their rivals, and the claims they made in the build-up to this weekend about them not being in the hunt are true. Lewis Hamilton only fifth fastest three-tenths behind Perez out-qualifying his former teammate Valtteri Bottas by over three-tenths.

Leclerc went on to take victory despite losing out to Verstappen at the start. With six laps remaining Verstappen reported a is steering getting heavier in corners and on straights, with Red Bull moving to tell him it was would be an issue to the end of the race that he would have to adapt too.

But all that was in vein as the issue proved terminal with the world champion retiring with two laps to go Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez was the third Red Bull-powered car to retire, he suffered a fuel pump issue before spinning out ahead of Hamilton.

Mercedes had struggled all weekend the issues at Red Bull promoted Hamilton to third and George Russell to fourth. but they still lacked pace and would have not been on the podium if it wasn’t for those retirements.

Kevin Magnussen was fifth on his return to Haas the Danish driver putting in a solid result for the team less than two weeks after his return was announced. Magnussen replaced Nikita Mazepin who was sacked following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Race Result – 1) C. Leclerc, Ferrari, 01:37:33.584 | 2) C. Sainz, Ferrari, +00:05.593 | 3) L. Hamilton, Mercedes, +00:09.675

What to watch for?

This weekend you have to believe that Red Bull and Ferrari are likely to be the leaders, unless Mercedes are masking their performance. Looking at testing Red Bull looked to have a really good evolution from last year, but Ferrari is looking quick again but you have the caveat that testing isn’t always a good indicator yes shorter tests mean the reliability of the cars has got better. However you never know how they will perform in qualifying and the race.

We don’t know fuel loads, engine modes or box of tricks during testing but we need to conclude there are a few reliability issues from testing but we know the teams have had six race weekends in terms of track time. That isn’t much time given what the teams had a decade to fifteen years ago, this race is only race one which means its about learning.

But the biggest takeaway from testing is that these cars are looking reliable, which has become a very important given we have a cost cap, limits on certain parts and a twenty-three race calendar. But it won’t mean that problems won’t pop up as we saw with Red Bull last season.

Also the drivers maybe a little bit rusty when it comes to racing, it’s common to see contact in the opening races because we are going to four street circuits after this. We may need to wait until Imola or Barcelona to understand the form and this season is a long one so they mustn’t get carried away

The circuit we know is one with lot long straights and flowing sections which favoured last years Ferrari, Charles Leclerc won here last year and statically this has been one of Ferraris’s best circuits. But Red Bull has looked the more complete package as watching it on track there to me has looked to be strong and have the driveability. We obviously don’t know the variables from last week and that means there is a  bit of logical guesswork we need to make.

As for Mercedes the car looks a lot stronger than it did at this point last year, but the question remains is that the genuine pace of the car or them sandbagging. They haven’t sounded too downbeat and while we expect they are closer Mercedes could still be in third in terms of performance, but they may not be there on single lap pace but better in race pace.

Aston Martin are being thought of as the most improved team from last year, they appear to have jumped back into the midfield leaders while their nearest rivals McLaren had another difficult, but not as difficult as last year, they need to start making progress now or like last year they will be on the backfoot all season.

2021 vs 2022 Race Data

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

P3 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest

Race Time

Fastest Lap


01:34.193 01:31.936 01:32.544 01:31.471 01:30.757 01:30.558 01:37:33.584 01:34.570


+02.799 +01.089 +01.967 +00.972 +00.672 +01.561 +05:30.313


01:31.394 01:30.847 01:30.577 01:30.499 01:30.085 01:28.997 01:32:03.897 01:32.090

2022 Lap time comparison

Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Race. Time
Fastest Time
01:34.629 +00.436 01:32.529 +00.584 01:32.935 +00.391 01:32.269 +00.768 01:31.048 +00.291 01:31.238 +00.680 01:37:43.259 +00:09.675 +00:04.077 01:36.228
Red Bull
01:34.742 +00.549 01:31.936 +00.000 01:32.544 +00.000 01:31.785 +00.314 01:30.757 +00.000 01:30.681 +00.123 01:36:05.525 + 3 Lap +00:00.00 01:35.440
01:34.557 +00.364 01:32.023 +00.087 01:32.640 +00.096 01:31.471 +00.000 01:30.787 +00.030 01:30.558 +00.000 01:37:33.584 +00:00.000 +00:00.00 01:34.570
01:36.304 +02.111 01:33.280 +01.334 01:33.955 +01.411 01:32.239 +07.68 01:32.008 +01.251 N/A +00.000 01:38:28.559 +00:54.975 +00:01.043 01:36.998
Aston Martin
01:34.814 +00.621 01:33.958 +02.022 01:33.920 +01.376 01:32.777 +01.306 N/A +00.000 N/A +00.000 01:38:19.457 +00:45.873 +00:13.299 01:37.146
Alpha Tauri
01:34.193 +00.000 01:33.621 +01.685 01:34.176 +01.632 01:32.096 +00.625 01:31.635 +00.878 01:32.338 +01.780 01:37:53.970 +00:20.386 +00:00.963 01:37.104
01:35.000 +00.958 01:32.877 +00.941 01:34.628 +02.084 01:32.041 +00.570 01:31.717 +00.864 01:32.195 +01.637 01:37:49.703 +00:16.119 +00:01.365 01:36.599
01:36.536 +02.343 01:33.085 +01.149 01:33.437 +00.893 01:31.955 +00.484 01:31.998 +01.241 01:31.808 +01.250 01:37:53.007 +00:19.423 +00:03.304 01:36.733
Alfa Romeo
01:35.053 +00.860 01:32.951 +01.015 01:33.733 +01.189 01:31.919 +00.448 01:31.635 +00.960 01:31.560 +01.002 01:37:48.338 +00:14.754 +00:03.543 01:36.623
01:35.644 +01.4511 01:34.486 +02.550 01:34.868 +02.324 01:32.726 +01.255 01:32.664 +01.907 N/A +00.000 01:38:27.516 +00:53.932 +00:08.056 01:37.355


White Hard (C1)

Yellow Medium (C2)

Red Soft (C3)

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