Bahrain Grand Prix - The pearl of the Gulf

3 Apr 2018

The first back-to-back pair of races of 2018 begins in Bahrain

Two men wearing dishdasha, the traditional Arab garb, kneel in the dust and activate a detonator for an explosive charge. And so began the story of the Bahrain International Circuit. When one thinks of a desert, everyone thinks of sand, but in this small island state on the Persian Gulf, the terrain is predominantly rocky and explosives were required to prepare the ground for the race track. This Grand Prix has been on the calendar every year since 2004 with the exception of 2011 when it was cancelled because of civil unrest. Occasionally, it has been the first race of the season, while this time it kicks off the first pair of back to back races of the very long 2018 season, with Shanghai following on one weekend later. That places extra demands on the race team and its logistical support. The Scuderia’s advance party arrived in the Gulf over the Easter weekend.

The Sakhir circuit is not far from the capital, Manama, in fact the whole island is not much more than 50 kilometres in length and the route from town involves a motorway, followed by wide flag-lined streets. The track itself is also very wide – over 20 metres at some points – making for a variety of racing lines. The circuit layout includes pretty much every type of corner, but the main feature is heavy braking. In 2010, the 6.3 km long “endurance” track was used but it was not particularly popular with the drivers. Apart from the glass conical tower, what stands out are the floodlights that light up the track for qualifying and the race ever since the GP became a night race back in 2014. Manama lacks the glitz of the other Emirate capitals, but there is a contrast between the old quarter with its markets and the modern skyscrapers. As for the weather, there is no guarantee of sunny conditions all weekend, even if the temperatures are unlikely to dip below the 30 degree mark. And don’t think it never rains in the desert here, as it did just that on the Sunday of the first race…

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