Bahrain Grand Prix: Bahrain International Circuit

Bahrain International Circuit
Bahrain International Circuit (Derek Morrison /

The International Circuit in Bahrain may be one of the newest circuits on the Grand Prix spectrum, but it’s also one of the most impressive. The track was first opening in 2004, just 18 months after development and construction started, which in itself is pretty amazing. 

The fact that the circuit is right in the middle of the Sakhir desert means that track temperatures can soar past the 50c mark, offering a different type of challenge for F1 cars, mainly down to tyre wear, but also dehydration for drivers in the extreme heat. Another issue that the organisers had about where the rack is situated is the fact that sand would blow across the track. So, to counteract this, the developers sprayed a special adhesive onto the sand that surrounds the track which prevents it from blowing up into the air. 

The Bahrain Grand Prix in 2004 was the first to be held in the middle-east, opening the doors for the likes of Abu Dhabi and Baku. Upon their 10-year anniversary, they decided to include floodlights for the first time at the track and since then has become a night race under lights, adding to the exhilaration that this brilliant grand prix possesses. 


Swap Start/End

Circuit Info

Location Length Corners Capacity Year Opened
Sakhir, Bahrain 5.412km 15 70,000 2004

Circuit Layout

Bahrain International Circuit MapThe grand prix circuit measures 5.412km in total distance, but the party trick of International circuit is that it has the ability to offer up to 6 different track layouts, more than any other track in the current Formula 1 rota. But, it’s worth pointing out that the Grand Prix remains the same for each race, and the other layouts are used for other motorsports. The tracks include:

  • Endurance Circuit (Used for F1 in 2010)
  • A Flat Oval
  • Grand Prix Circuit (Used in 2004-2009 & then from 2012 onwards)
  • Inner Circuit
  • Outer Circuit
  • Paddock Circuit

The track was designed by that of Hermann Tikke, who is a German architect and has worked on other tracks such as the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia. The whole build process came in on budget at $150million and given the design and results that have been produced, seems pretty good value in this day and age. 

The layout of the track means that the DRS zone is located on the pit straight. This means that a lot of action takes place in turn one throughout the race and not just as the start of the race. This turn has been named after Michael Schumacher. The narrowness of the corner makes it another great spectacle as cars jostle for space. 

The straight that leads into turn 4 is one of the longest of the track and whilst the turn itself is relatively innocuous, the drivers are then needing to make a right, then heading into fast ‘S’ bend in turns 6 and 7. 

The middle section of the track is fairly compact and whilst you do get a reasonable length straight from turn 10 to 11, it’s not a DRS zone meaning that overtaking is often harder than it may seem. After turn 13 you then move into the penultimate straight, before two right handers lead you back down into the pit straight. 

Recent Winners

YearDriverCarFastest Lap
2017 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1.33.820
2016 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1.34.482
2015 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.37.857
2014 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.37.108
2013 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1.36.961

Other Races

Bahrain International Circuit Grandstand
Bahrain International Circuit Grandstand (p.lange /

Whilst the F1 is very much the highlight for the track, the International Circuit now plays host to a number of other motorsports. These include the FIA Endurance Championship, Formula 2, Chevrolet Lumina Series, Thunder Arabia and Radical. 

The 24-hour race of Bahrain is a particular favourite for motor drivers as they have to navigate between the setting and rising sun, often catching people out in the longer formats of the race. The circuit has also previously played host to the likes of the GT Championship, Speedcar Series, Australian V8 Series, GP2 Asia Series and the Korea Super Prix. 


Bahrain International Circuit
Bahrain International Circuit (p.lange /

The first plans for the circuit were laid out in 2002 and took just 2 years from start to finish. The driving force behind the track was that of the Crown Prince, Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who is also the Honorary President of the Bahrain Motor Federation. 

2004 Grand Prix

Whilst it was stated that the track would be ready for the 2004 Grand Prix, which had already been agreed and signed for by then F1 Chief Executive, Bernie Ecclestone, in fact the track wasn’t fully ready, causing many people to ask for the postponement of the Grand Prix. But, Ecclestone refused this request and whilst the track wasn’t fully complete, it was up to standard for Formula 1 racing. 

FIA Institute Centre of Excellence Award

Such were the standards set by the people behind the scenes at the International circuit, in 2007 they were the first track to be awarded the FIA Institute Centre of Excellence award. This include things such as safety, marshalling, medical facilities and technologies available to teams at the circuit. 

Track Renovations

The Track at the Bahrain International Circuit
Bahrain Track (Isabell Schulz /

The tack has remained pretty much untouched since then, but the surrounding area directly next to the track has seen significant investment. The new hotel and entertainment space has been made on over 1 million square meters of land, costing over $2billion. This makes it one of the biggest infrastructural investments in the history of Bahrain. 

Repeat winners of the race include that of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel with 3 wins a piece, alongside that of Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton, with two wins, respectively.


Whilst the racing has always been entertaining at the track, many of the bigger controversies have come off the track. In 2012, the race was almost boycotted when Human Rights activists unearthed details regarding excessive force and torture used by the authorities.

There were even reports that an anonymous source within Formula 1 had stated that the Grand Prix should be cancelled or at least postponed due to terror fears amidst the allegations.