Bahrain Grand Prix

Bahrain Grand Prix 2014: 10 Facts About the Track at Sakhir

Neil JamesFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2014

Bahrain Grand Prix 2014: 10 Facts About the Track at Sakhir

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    Andrew Hone/Getty Images

    The Bahrain Grand Prix is round three of the 2014 Formula One season, and the venue will be the Bahrain International Circuit in the Sakhir region of the tiny Gulf state.

    The race has been held nine times, with the first race taking place in 2004.

    Here are 10 (hopefully) fascinating facts about the circuit, including how it was built and how the organisers keep the surrounding desert from encroaching upon the track.

Sticky Sands

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    And I thought my snow F1 car was good...
    And I thought my snow F1 car was good...Kamran Jebreili

    The Sakhir circuit is located in the middle of a desert, and the surrounding sand was a bit of a headache for the organisers.

    Even light winds could blow it onto the circuit, and sand isn't known for its suitability as an open-wheel racing surface.

    They solved the problem by spraying adhesive onto the surrounding area, binding the sand grains together. The much heavier clumps can't be blown around easily, so the track surface remains (mostly) sand free.

Cost and Construction

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    Little expense was spared.
    Little expense was spared.Hasan Jamali

    The circuit was built between 2003 and 2004. The cost, $150 million, was met by the Bahraini government. It was designed by Hermann Tilke.

    Over 3,000 men (and women) worked on the construction at peak times, for a total of 8,265,000 hours.

    There are 82,000 tyres in the 4,100 metre-long barriers, 12,000 metres of guard rails and 5,000 metres of safety fencing.

    It wasn't quite ready for its first race (the 2004 Bahrain Grand Prix), but it was good enough to race on. The finishing touches were added afterwards.

     

    Figures from BahrainGP.com.

Geography of the Sakhir Circuit

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    Andrew Hone/Getty Images

    The circuit lies close to the western edge of Bahrain Island, and is surrounded by desert. In an average year, it sees just 70 millimetres of rain, accumulated over 10 different days.

    The local topography is mostly flat, but the circuit has some elevation change. The difference between its highest and lowest points is 18 metres, with a maximum uphill slope of 3.60 percent and a maximum downhill slope of 5.60 percent.

    Because the low-lying land surrounding the venue provides little shelter, wind is often a factor. It tends to blow either up or down the main pit straight, causing occasional difficulties in the braking zone for Turn 1.

The Venue for F1's Third Night Race

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    Andrew Hone/Getty Images

    New for 2014 is a floodlight system which will allow the race to be held at night. It will begin in the evening and end in full darkness.

    This move is for two main reasonspartly to add to the appeal and "different" factor of the event, and partly to move the start to an optimum time for F1's large European audience.

    It will be the third venue to host an F1 night race, after Singapore and Abu Dhabi.

Corners and Straights

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    Will Pittenger / Wikimedia Commons

    The Bahrain International Circuit has 15 corners, of which three should be flat-out in 2014. Three are hairpins, which is a lot even for Hermann Tilke.

    There are four straights of a reasonable length, and three provide some degree of overtaking opportunity. The longest is the pit straight, which comes in at just over one kilometre in length.

    Most of the track's noteworthy corners are in sector two. Turns 5, 6 and 7 form an interesting high-speed section, and Turn 11 has been the scene of several passing moves over the years.

Lots and Lots of Run-off

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    Pedro de la Rosa made good use of the run-off areas in 2005's race.
    Pedro de la Rosa made good use of the run-off areas in 2005's race.Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Over the course of the weekend, you may encounter the phrase "run-off area the size of Belgium" when referring to some corners at Sakhir.

    It'll be an obvious exaggeration, but this circuit has a lot of wide open spaces for the cars to visit if they make a mistake. There is a total of 140,000 square metres of run-off, most of which is benign, featureless tarmac.

    For a bit of perspective, 140,000 square metres is around the area covered by 20 international-level football pitches, 344 tennis courts, New York's Liberty Island or two of Moscow's Red Square.

A Circuit of Many Layouts

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    The Endurance Circuit. Also visible is the drag strip and oval.
    The Endurance Circuit. Also visible is the drag strip and oval.Will Pittenger / Wikimedia Commons

    The most well-known layout is the main Grand Prix Circuit, which is the one we'll be watching racing on this weekend.

    But the track was designed with a plethora of alternative routes to allow for multiple layouts.

    These include a narrow, flat oval which includes part of the pit straight, and a drag strip which runs just behind the F1 paddock.

    There is also a high-speed outer circuit which avoids the twisty infield, and a tighter circuit comprised of said infield, which avoids most of the high-speed sections of track.

    Fans may also remember the corner-heavy version of the full circuit, which was used for the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix. It adds eight totally pointless corners between Turns 4 and 5, and wasn't especially popular.

    Happily, this "Endurance Circuit" is unlikely to ever be used for F1 again.

Home to F1's Most Controversial Race

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    Hasan Jamali

    The circuit was due to host a race in 2011, but following the Bahraini Uprising it was cancelled.

    An October date was proposed, but later abandoned as it would have meant shifting the Indian Grand Prix to mid-December.

    Though it has gone ahead every year since, the race has attracted protests from various civil rights and Bahraini opposition groups, but no significant disruption to the event has occurred.

A Single Named Corner

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    HUSSEIN MALLA

    The Bahrain International Circuit has only one named corner, the hairpin Turn 1. It was named "Schumacher" earlier this year in tribute to the seven-time world champion.

    The German took pole, won the race and set the fastest lap at the first-ever Bahrain Grand Prix in 2004.

    It's the second corner on a modern F1 track named after Schumacher. There is also one at the Nurburgring (Schumacher S).

The Surface Was Made in the United Kingdom

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    The track surface is made of greywacke aggregate, which was shipped to the Gulf kingdom from Shropshire in the United Kingdom.

    Greywacke is a form of sandstone commonly found at various locations around the world, in particular the UK and New Zealand. "Wacke" refers to the rock type, "grey" to the dark colour.

    When mixed to F1 specification, it offers up exceptional levels of grip.

    The surface is also used at the Yas Marina Circuit, which hosts the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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