Take a look at the Bahrain International Circuit, host of the Bahrain Grand Prix. From the high-speed straights to the tight turns, we'll explore the unique characteristics of this desert track. We'll also delve into the history of the Bahrain Grand Prix track, including past races and notable moments.

The Bahrain Grand Prix, held at the Bahrain International Circuit, will be the opening race of the 2023 Formula 1 season, taking the excitement that comes with the start of a new season and producing an often entertaining contest.

Past races have seen brilliant duels in the desert, surprising results, and one frightening moment that thankfully had a happy ending.

With the new F1 season fast approaching, we thought there was no better time to do an overview of the Bahrain Grand Prix track and the previous winners from the GP.

Bahrain Grand Prix track overview

The Bahrain International Circuit illuminated at night by its floodlights
Image: The Bahrain International Circuit illuminated at night by its floodlights

The Bahrain Grand Prix track is one of the more challenging races on the F1 calendar for multiple reasons. The desert track, located just outside of the capital city of Manama, offers a unique set of challenges for drivers and teams alike.

From the high-speed straights to the tight turns, the Sakhir circuit demands precision and skill from those who take on its twists and turns.

The first corner of the track is a tight right-hander, where the drivers have to drop their speed down the gears to first and lower their speed to around 50 mph.

This is with the added difficulty of coming at the end of the long start/ finish straight where the drivers are reaching max speeds - Sergio Perez topped the 2022 speed trap at 323.2 km/h, or 200 mph.

The grid piles down towards the 'Michael Schumacher corner' from the race start
Image: The grid piles down towards the 'Michael Schumacher corner'

Turn 1, named the ‘Michael Schumacher corner’, is a prime overtaking area, as are the other two DRS zones (Drag Reduction System), coming after turn 3 and turn 10.

The race was originally held in the afternoon, but in 2014 it was switched to a night race, making it the second night race on the Formula 1 calendar at the time after Singapore.

Racing under the lights adds another challenge for the drivers, but also an extra layer of excitement to the event and provides a glorious spectacle for the viewers.

There had been some concerns and criticisms about the circuit in the past. The first was to do with the fact that it is located in the middle of a desert, posing a unique worry that sand would blow onto the circuit and affect the race.

The Bahrain International Circuit during the day, showing the Sakhir desert sand
Image: The Bahrain International Circuit during the day, showing the Sakhir desert sand

The solution was to spray an adhesive onto the sand around the track to keep it from blowing onto it.

The second criticism was to do with the amount of runoff area the track has. People had stated that with them there was not enough punishment for drivers running wide.

While true, the track hasn’t changed to eliminate the large runoff areas. In fact, the circuit is celebrated for its safety and is regarded as one of the safest in the world.

Bahrain Grand Prix track history

The first Bahrain Grand Prix was held in 2004. Since then, it has been a part of the F1 calendar annually with the exception of 2011 (due to the 2011 Bahraini uprising).

The 2014 edition was held at night under floodlights to commemorate the track's 10-year anniversary. While it was meant to be a one-off, they ended up enjoying the spectacle so much that it was decided to continue running the race at night.

In 2010, it was decided to use one of the alternate track layouts for the race that year. The Bahrain International Circuit features six different layouts, and in 2010 they drove the ‘Endurance Circuit’ layout to celebrate F1’s ‘Diamond Jubilee’ (60th anniversary).

Despite the circuit’s safety, there was one incredibly scary scene in the 2020 season that thankfully had a happy ending.

Former F1 driver Romain Grosjean was involved in a fiery crash that left him with second-degree burns. The incident was nothing on the safety of the circuit but instead a freak accident that thankfully the driver walked away from.

When the 2020 season was affected and subsequently postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, a revised schedule was released later in the year so that the season could go ahead.

The Bahrain International Circuit ended up featuring twice on the calendar - once as the Bahrain Grand Prix, then the following weekend as the Sakhir Grand Prix.

The Sakhir Grand Prix used the ‘Outer Circuit’ layout, a much shorter layout with only 11 corners and a lap time of under one minute.

George Russell - who had stepped into the Mercedes car for the first time to take over from Lewis Hamilton who had contracted COVID shortly before the weekend - set the lap record for the layout with a 0:55.404 during the race, while Valtteri Bottas clocked a 0:53.377 to get pole position for the race.

In February 2022 it was announced that there had been a contract extension between Formula 1 and the Bahrain International Circuit to continue racing the Bahrain Grand Prix until 2036.

For the 2023 season, the pre-season test will not be held at the Circuit de Catalunya, the venue for the Spanish Grand Prix, but instead at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Bahrain Grand Prix winners

Since its first running in 2004, there have been eight different winners of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The legendary Michael Schumacher was the first winner in his seventh and final championship-winning season in 2004. Charles Leclerc is the latest winner and the most recent new winner.

There have been four drivers who have won the race multiple times, with seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton boasting a record five wins at the Bahrain Grand Prix track.

Here is the full list of winners:

  • Lewis Hamilton - 5 (2014, 2015, 2019, 2020, 2021)
  • Sebastian Vettel - 4 (2012, 2013, 2017, 2018)
  • Fernando Alonso - 3 (2005, 2006, 2010)
  • Felipe Massa - 2 (2007, 2008)
  • Michael Schumacher - 1 (2004)
  • Jenson Button - 1 (2009)
  • Nico Rosberg - 1 (2016)
  • Charles Leclerc - 1 (2022)
  • Sergio Perez - 1 (2020)*

*Sergio Perez’s victory at the Bahrain International Circuit came during the Sakhir Grand Prix, but as it was still the Bahrain Grand Prix track only using a different layout and named differently due to F1 commercial reasons, we have included his victory.

2022 Bahrain International Circuit Grand Prix

The opening round of the 2022 season provided a look into what was to come for the new season, as reigning drivers’ champion Max Verstappen and his Red Bull team came under fire from a newly invigorated Ferrari team, spearheaded by Monagasque Charles Leclerc.

Leclerc had managed to put himself on the pole, securing the first front-row grid spot of the season. Verstappen lined up alongside him, and what ensued was a masterclass in how to race hard with the new cars that had a big emphasis on closer racing due to the changes in the technical regulations that reintroduced ground effect aerodynamics.

Leclerc and Verstappen battled for the lead, switching positions at various points. Ultimately, though, Leclerc won out after an unfortunate power unit issue caused Verstappen to retire his car just three laps from the end.

What’s more, his teammate, Sergio Perez, also suffered an issue on the final lap of the race, this time a fuel system issue that caused his power unit to switch off.

The double retirement for the Red Bull team gave Ferrari a valuable 1-2 finish, with Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz coming home in second place.

Mercedes had come into the season with high hopes after dominating the previous turbo-hybrid era of F1 from 2014 to 2021. However, those hopes were quickly dashed as they proved to have some very big issues with their car that caused them to be rather far off of Ferrari and Red Bull.

After suffering a difficult end to the 2021 season, Lewis Hamilton was hoping for another chance at a record-breaking eighth world title in 2022. Instead, he struggled at times with the difficult Mercedes W13 car. He did, however, manage to finish on the podium in the Bahrain race as a result of the two Red Bull cars’ retirement.

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix prediction

2023 should be a very interesting and highly competitive season. The second year of the new era and regulations will bring improved challenges for everyone.

Most teams will have looked at the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari as the blueprint for how to design the car and will aim to get the replicated parts from those winning cars and apply them to their own.

This leads to a difficult-to-call season, especially when talking about the first race of the season as we currently have no idea how things are looking at the time of writing.

The safe prediction is to say the reigning two-time champion Max Verstappen will pick up his first victory in Sakhir, having missed out last year.

Max Verstappen holding his Bahrain Grand Prix second place trophy
Image: Max Verstappen holding his Bahrain Grand Prix second-place trophy

However, his teammate, Sergio Perez, could look to be in it for himself this year and try to challenge the champion from race one. Should Red Bull have the most dominant car again, Perez is not a bad shout for the win.

The slightly more optimistic pick based on how the remainder of their season went is Ferrari. Leclerc obviously picked up the victory last season - whether he would have won if Verstappen hadn’t retired is irrelevant - and he could very well do it again if Ferrari have the car once again.

And then the outside pick is really anyone else on the grid, but more so Mercedes. Last year was a disappointment for them. They will have been working hard over the offseason to conceive the W14 as a proper challenger so they can possibly produce Hamilton’s eighth world title - a cause that could start at the Bahrain Grand Prix track.

Premium Bahrain Grand Prix tickets & hospitality

If you’re interested in witnessing the opening round of the 2023 F1 season in person, why not look to make your experience as luxurious as possible with a premium Bahrain Grand Prix ticket or hospitality package?

Seat Unique is a proud partner and official reseller of the Bahrain International Circuit Grand Prix, we are pleased to be able to open fan access to premium tickets and hospitality to the race in the Sakhir desert.

There are multiple packages to choose from, each bringing a varying experience. The Grandstand tickets will provide you with a guaranteed grandstand seat for all three days of the weekend, with the Main Grandstand giving you a view of the action overlooking the start/ finish straight and the pit lane.

The University Grandstand package is located at the first DRS section of the track, so you can witness the drivers racing around the tricky turn 1, through the fast turns 2 and 3 then up the straight to turn 4.

But the ultimate Bahrain International Circuit Grand Prix hospitality package is the Dome Lounge package.

With the Dome Lounge package, you get a full race weekend pass (Friday-Sunday), with access to the Dome Lounge and the dedicated stand situated next to the Main Grandstand and opposite the podium, so you can witness all the celebrations after the chequered flag.

Within the lounge, you will be treated to complimentary food all day, showcasing a mix of international cuisine, a range of bars including a cocktail bar with leading mixologists, and entertainment throughout that includes DJs, roaming entertainers, and much more to keep fans entertained between racing sessions.

And finish the weekend off with entry to the exclusive Fashion TV after-party - a high-class party straight after the race.

Tickets are available to purchase now, but with the season opener fast approaching, you’ll want to get yours while you still can!

Buy Bahrain International Circuit Grand Prix Premium Tickets & Hospitality

Seat Unique is also proud to be partnered with the Baku City Grand Prix, with premium tickets and hospitality for the race in Azerbaijan available to purchase now.