|Bahrain International Circuit|
|Number of times held||17|
|Circuit length||5.412km (3.363mi)|
|Race length||308.238km (191.530mi)|
|Last race (2021)|
The Bahrain Grand Prix (Arabic: ? ), currently officially known as the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix for sponsorship reasons, is a Formula One motor racing event in Bahrain. The first race took place at the Bahrain International Circuit on 4 April 2004. It made history as the first Formula One Grand Prix to be held in the Middle East, and was given the award for the "Best Organised Grand Prix" by the FIA. The race has usually been the third race of the Formula One calendar. However, in the 2006 season, Bahrain swapped places with the traditional opener, the Australian Grand Prix, which was pushed back to avoid a clash with the Commonwealth Games. In 2010, Bahrain staged the opening race of the 2010 season and the cars drove the full 6.299 km (3.914 mi) "Endurance Circuit" to celebrate F1's 'diamond jubilee'. In 2021, the Bahrain Grand Prix was the season opener again due to the 2021 Australian Grand Prix having to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2011 Grand Prix, due to be held on 13 March, was cancelled on 21 February due to the 2011 Bahraini protests after drivers including Damon Hill and Mark Webber had protested. Human rights activists called for a cancellation of the 2012 race due to reports of human rights abuses committed by the Bahraini authorities. Team personnel also voiced concerns about safety, but the race, nonetheless, was held as planned on 22 April 2012.
In 2014, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the first staging of the Bahrain Grand Prix, the race was held as a night event under floodlights. In so doing it became the second Formula One night race after the Singapore Grand Prix in 2008. Bahrain's inaugural night event was won by Lewis Hamilton. Subsequent races have also been night races.
The building of the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir was started in 2002 with high domestic interest about the project as it gave a future to the next generation of Bahraini racers. Bahrain had fought off fierce competition from elsewhere in the region to stage a F1 race, with Egypt, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates all hoping for the prestige of hosting a Formula One Grand Prix. By the completion of the project, the circuit became the centre of motor sport in the Persian Gulf, as it held many other races such as drag races, GT races, Formula 3 races and the Australian V8 Supercar series.
The first race was in 2004. The race was won by German driver Michael Schumacher for Ferrari. Fernando Alonso won the second Bahrain Grand Prix for Renault in 2005, and then became the first repeat winner of the Middle Eastern race in 2006 (again for Renault), after a thrilling race-long battle with Michael Schumacher. In 2007 and 2008, Brazilian Felipe Massa won the race for Ferrari. 2009 saw Jenson Button win for Brawn GP. After his 2010 triumph, Alonso became the first three-time winner.
The 2010 race saw a new circuit configuration being used for the Grand Prix. It used the "Endurance Circuit" layout, extending the lap length to 6.299 km (3.914 mi). The new track turns left shortly after Turn 4, the right-hander at the top of the hill following the first sequence of turns. There is then a sequence of five turns before the cars head back to the original circuit. Then comes a left-right kink before a tight hairpin returns the cars onto the main track. The track would have reverted to its original layout for the 2011 race, and did so for the 2012 race.
On 21 February 2011, it was announced that the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix scheduled for 13 March was cancelled due to the 2011 Bahraini protests. On 3 June, FIA decided to reschedule the race for 30 October. World champion racer Damon Hill called on Formula One not to reschedule saying that if the race went ahead "we will forever have the blight of association with repressive methods to achieve order". And Bernie Ecclestone told the BBC in an interview: "Hopefully there'll be peace and quiet and we can return in the future, but of course it's not on. The schedule cannot be rescheduled without the agreement of the participants - they're the facts." A week after its decision to reschedule the race, Formula One announced the cancellation of the race for 2011.
Human rights activists called for a cancellation of the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix, which took place on 22 April, because of reports of ongoing use of excessive force by authorities and torture in detention. That includes the killing of activist Salah Abbas Habib during a demonstration on the eve of the Grand Prix, as well as the earlier fatal shooting of photojournalist Ahmed Ismael Hassan al-Samadi, who was covering a protest against the Bahrain Grand Prix.
On 9 April 2012, The Guardian reported that according to an unnamed leading member of one of the teams who said his views were representative, "the Formula One teams want the sport's governing body to cancel - or at least postpone - the Bahrain Grand Prix ..., because of increasing safety concerns amid ongoing protests in the kingdom ... I feel very uncomfortable about going to Bahrain. If I'm brutally frank, the only way they can pull this race off without incident is to have a complete military lockdown there. And I think that would be unacceptable, both for F1 and for Bahrain. But I don't see any other way they can do it".
In that context, Anonymous launched on 21 April 2012 the operation opBahrain, threatening the Formula 1 representatives of a cyberattack in case they go on with Bahrain Grand Prix. Hours later, Anonymous hackers took down the f1-racers.net website after launching a distributed denial-of-service attack on it.
The 2012 Grand Prix reverted to using the 15-corner Grand Prix Circuit configuration last used in 2009, instead of the Endurance Circuit configuration used in 2010.
Since the global media attention over the large scale demonstrations in 2011 and 2012, there have been continual reports from human rights groups about abuses and jailings in Bahrain relating to F1 protests. Among them are photographer Ahmed Humaidan, who was one of about 30 people jailed for roles in the 2012 protest, and activist Najah Ahmed Yousif, who is in prison, and has been physically and sexually abused, for criticising the Bahrain F1 on social media. Rights organisations continue to criticise the Formula One Group and Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) for refusing to follow their own Statement of Commitment to Respect for Human Rights, saying that by not leveraging their position of power to take action against such political crackdown, the F1 organisers are complicit to the dissidents' suffering. In 2018, F1 "admitted concern" for Yousif, after continued public and media pressure, however there has been no known follow up since.
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, event organisers announced that no spectators would be permitted to attend the race that had been due to take place on 22 March. However, a fortnight before the race had been due to take place, the race was indefinitely postponed. The race was rescheduled to 29 November and it will be one of two events held around the Bahrain International Circuit across two weekends, with the second race taking place on the outer layout and being named the Sakhir Grand Prix.
According to the rescheduled F1 calendar, Bahrain was announced as hosting two races back to back November 2020. However, the event received backlash not only from human rights organizations, but also from F1's newly crowned, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton issued a warning to F1 and called on the sport to face its responsibilities and confront / deal with the human rights issues in the countries it visits. A consortium of human rights organizations led by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird) wrote to Formula One CEO, Chase Carey that the race in Bahrain became a focal point of protests in the country and human rights abuses carried out by Bahraini security against demonstrators. The government of Bahrain, on the other hand, denied allegations of sportswashing.
Due to the 2021 Australian Grand Prix being postponed, this meant that the Bahrain Grand Prix was the season opener. This was the first time that Bahrain served as the season opener since 2010, and the first time ever that the season opener was a night race instead of the traditional daytime race. It led the first Hamilton and Verstappen duel of the season. Bahrain also held Pre Season Testing, for the first time since 2014. Last year in 2020, Pre Season Testing was held at Red Bull Ring, Austria.
A characteristic of the course is the large run-off areas, which have been criticised for not punishing drivers who stray off the track. However, they tend to prevent sand getting onto the track and the circuit is regarded as one of the safest in the world.
Drivers in bold are competing in the Formula One championship in the current season.
|5||Lewis Hamilton||2014, 2015, 2019, 2020, 2021|
|4||Sebastian Vettel||2012, 2013, 2017, 2018|
|3||Fernando Alonso||2005, 2006, 2010|
|2||Felipe Massa||2007, 2008|
Teams in bold are competing in the Formula One championship in the current season.
|6||Ferrari||2004, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2017, 2018|
|Mercedes||2014, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020, 2021|
|Red Bull||2012, 2013|
Manufacturers in bold are competing in the Formula One championship in the current season.
|7||Mercedes||2009, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020, 2021|
|6||Ferrari||2004, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2017, 2018|
|4||Renault||2005, 2006, 2012, 2013|
|2004||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari||Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit||Report|
|2010||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||Sakhir Endurance Circuit||Report|
|2011||Cancelled||Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit||Report|
|2012||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||Report|
|2013||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||Report|
Formula BMW Asia supported the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2004, with Hong Kong driver Marchy Lee winning both rounds. But the series had logistical problems after the race, when the cars were delayed on their way to Malaysia, missing the next event and had to reschedule the rest of the season. Formula BMW Asia has not supported the Bahrain Grand Prix since, but the first ever Formula BMW World Final was held in Bahrain. The Porsche Supercup has supported the 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 races. The GP2 Series supported the race in 2007 and a celebrity race was held in 2006 with the likes of Simon Webbe competing.
Gulf Cooperation Council citizens and residents, and nationals of 66 countries are eligible for visa on arrival in Bahrain throughout the year. 113 nationalities, including those eligible for visa on arrival, can apply for visas through an online application process. For the Grand Prix, Bahraini authorities issue a special F1 visa which allows for multiple entries in a defined two-week period around the event. The visa is available to Grand Prix ticketholders and is free of charge.
A collection of human rights groups, led by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), claimed that the Bahrain Grand Prix has become a focal point of popular protests and serious human rights abuses committed by Bahraini security forces against protesters. The NGOs accused F1 of performing invaluable PR for Bahrain's government and that it risked further normalizing of the human rights violations in the country. In letters to Lewis Hamilton, three Bahraini political prisoners praised his commitment towards human rights issues, and requested him as an F1 world champion to bring their plight in notice of a wider audience. The Grand Prix has been cited as an example of Sportswashing.