Bahrain

Track: Bahrain International Circuit
No. of Laps: 57 Length: 5.412 km
Distance: 308.405 km
Lap Record: 1:24.770 – J P Montoya (2005)
2011 Winner: Sebastian Vettel

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 center 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.

Characteristics

A characteristic of the course is the giant 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 make Bahrain one of the safest tracks in the world.

Although alcoholic beverages are legal in Bahrain, the drivers do not spray the traditional champagne on the podium. Instead, they spray a non-alcoholic rosewater drink known as Waard.

History

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.

2011 cancellation

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.

2012 controversy

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. 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.

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