Bahrain GP Preview

Bahrain Grand Prix 2017

Get set for the 2017 Bahrain GP with our official race preview. 

Hear from McLaren-Honda drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne as they prepare for round three of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship at the Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir. 

Fernando Alonso

“I’m looking forward to going back to Bahrain, especially as I missed last year’s race – I have good memories from my three victories there, and racing in twilight is always a fun experience. The Bahrain Grand Prix is always a pretty long race, so our first priority is to ensure we have reliability against the heat and harsh conditions of the desert before we can start thinking about performance. 

“On the performance side, before retiring the car in Shanghai I was running in a very promising position, and our pace was much stronger than anticipated, so I’ll be pleased if we can have some more good surprises in Bahrain!

“It will be another challenging race for us; the long straights don’t make it easy and there’s a lot for the engineers to work on. Brake wear and fuel consumption is high, and set-up is tricky as the track temperatures change a lot during the weekend, as we race later into the evening compared to the usual schedule. 

“I’m pushing hard to get the absolute maximum out of our package every time I leave the garage, and in Bahrain I’ll approach the weekend in exactly the same way.”

Stoffel Vandoorne

“I have lots of good memories from the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend in 2016. We’re a year on now, I’m a full-time McLaren-Honda driver, and I’ve already gained a lot more experience in the past 12 months, so of course my aim is to work hard and improve every time I arrive at a grand prix. This year will be difficult for us, but we’ll be racing hard as always.

“The most important thing for me is mileage, and the weather will surely be better in Bahrain than it was in Shanghai, so I’m hoping to do as many laps as possible over the weekend. It helps that I know this track well and I won there twice in 2015 in GP2, so I’m already comfortable with the layout and therefore it’s a case of building on what I already know.

“We were always expecting a difficult weekend in China, and I don’t know if it will get a lot better in Bahrain – it’s only one week later and there’s obviously a limit to how many changes we can apply in that time, but we’ll do our best as usual. The car is definitely improving and both Fernando and I feel confident and competitive, especially in the corners, so we’ll have to wait and see what’s possible at this track.”

Circuit info 

Circuit name: Bahrain International Circuit
First race: 2004

Previous winners

 2016Nico Rosberg
 2015Lewis Hamilton 
 2014Lewis Hamilton
 2013Sebastian Vettel 
 2012Sebastian Vettel 

History lesson

The Bahrain Grand Prix was first staged in 2004, since when it’s been held every year except for 2011. There have been various iterations of the race and the circuit layout: in 2010 the longer, endurance layout was used and in 2014 the start time was delayed until 6pm. This year’s race will be the fourth to be staged under floodlights.

What makes the race special?

Bahrain was the first Middle Eastern nation to host a grand prix and the race remains the only one on the calendar which has a desert backdrop. The sandy topography presents various challenges for the teams, particularly if it’s windy. McLaren-Honda will use special filters on its cars to prevent sand getting into the internals.

Bet you never knew...

The Bahrain Grand Prix is a good barometer of championship pedigree. On 10 occasions the winning driver has gone on to win the world title and on 12 occasions the victorious team has lifted the constructors’ title.

Crazy moment

When the daytime temperatures went sky-high during the 2005 Bahrain Grand Prix. The ambient temperature peaked at 41.9C (107.4F) during the race, with the track temperature pushing the mercury up to 56C (132F).

What we love

The weather. After the relative cool of China, the heat of Bahrain presents a fresh challenge for the drivers and cars, which are still only eight weeks old. And where better to discuss the cars’ performance characteristics than in the Bahrain paddock? Its palm trees create a unique atmosphere.

McLaren memory

2006, when Kimi Raikkonen battled from 22nd on the grid to third in the race. A suspension failure at the beginning of qualifying prevented the Finn from setting a lap time and he battled through the field to finish on the podium in one of his most tenacious drives for the team. 

Sporting legacy

The Bahrain International Circuit is the only permanent racetrack in the Kingdom and it’s largely responsible for the continued growth of motorsport in the region. As well as F1 and international sportscar races, BIC hosts the karting world championships as well.

Did you know?

The first oil well in the Middle East was discovered in Bahrain, in 1931. It’s situated at Jebel Dukhan, about 30 miles from the capital city Manama.

Don’t forget

Fernando Alonso has won the Bahrain Grand Prix more than any other driver. He’s won the race three times, in 2005, ’06 and ’10.