Formula 1 will finally return for the start of the 2021 season in Bahrain. It is time to take a look at what to watch for at the upcoming Bahrain Grand Prix in our preview.
It is 2010. An exciting year in Formula 1 history, which marked Sebastian Vettel’s first F1 world champion of four. But also a year, which saw the 5,4 kilometres long Bahrain International Circuit open the season of Grand Prix’ on March 14th. 11 years later, the track will again function as a season-opener for the 2021 Formula 1 season. Including a tight field and a possible switch of the lead upfront, the track inhabits stories from the past but good opportunities for even better racing.
Since its inauguration in 2004, the circuit in Sakhir hosted several series on different layouts, including WEC, Dragster, and the top three Formula classes. This year’s Grand Prix will include 57 laps around the circuit, which is approximately 20 kilometers away from Bahrain’s capital. Not only high-speed straights are featured but the high speed in general and hopefully a good race at Sakhir.
Track Name: Bahrain International Circuit
Location: Sakhir, Bahrain
Track length: 5,6 kilometers
Race distance: 308.5 kilometers
Lap record (race): 1:30.252 (Michael Schumacher, 2004)
Three drivers celebrate their first Grand Prix in new colors, one driver comes back from retirement, three new rookies join the grid. The field ahead of the first GP of 2021 promises exciting racing. So support fresh liveries and two rebranded teams, with a season-opener in Bahrain for the first time since 2010. Although the technical regulations have not suffered too many changes compared to the previous season, the teams changed a lot of parts and brought innovations and aerodynamical devices onto their new automobiles.
So they will get their first real test when the engines roar for round 1 of 23 of the 2021 Formula 1 season. Although the teams tested around the same track for three days two weeks ago, it now is time to go into qualifying and race mode. Around a track that is not too old in Formula 1 but yet very known in the fans’ minds.
After a long high-speed straight the cars arrive at the first corner section of the track, which is a quick right-left-right section, after which Romain Grosjean suffered his horrific fireball accident on lap 1 of last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix. After the first corner-section, the drivers arrived at the second long straight of the lap, before going into a high-speed section of long-line corners from corner 4 onwards up to corner 8.
From there on the track leads to the trickiest part of the circuit, including the tricky combination of corner 9 and 10, which requires a lot of feeling on throttle and steering but also needs a good exit for as much power as possible leading to the next fast straight with DRS usage. After comes a very quick and long left-right combination, before another big breaking point and the right-hander of corner 13 and the last long straight.
The final corner is divided into two small right-handers, which are tricky to take and not only saw world champion Lewis Hamilton spinning in pre-season testing but Alexander Albon crashing heavily last year. The start-finish straight then opens an opportunity to overtake into the first corner – DRS activated.
The history of the track in Formula 1 is not long compared to other circuits on the F1 calendar. Since 2004 the pinnacle of motorsport hosts races in Bahrain, in which the sports has seen two different layouts of the circuit and multiple rememberable moments and crashes. One of them includes Esteban Gutierrez being flipped upside-down by Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado into the first corner during the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix. Another driver who has good memories of the circuit is the AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly, who scored an impressive fourth place in 2018.
The battle of the Silver Arrows seven years ago, in which Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton battled wheel-to-wheel until the very end, was also unforgettable. But the circuit also experienced some of the biggest crashes in the newer era of Formula 1 when the Haas driver Romain Grosjean collided with the Russian Daniil Kvyat on the opening lap of last year’s race, cruising towards the barrier at over 220kph and shunting through it with an impact of over 50G. His car found itself in an inferno of flames just seconds after, with a nearly unharmed Grosjean climbing out of his car after 27 seconds in the fire.
Who will win the season-opener of 2021 is difficult to say, considering Red Bulls strong performance but Mercedes’ struggles during pre-season testing. Neither Red Bull nor the Silver Arrows want to accept the role of the favourite. But a close and tight battle is foreseeable, with multiple teams such as Aston Martin, Alpine or McLaren eyeing on the spot of the Best of the Rest. How fast the teams are will be revealed in qualifying, where also the slowest teams will be clear. Also the new rookies eye on an interesting debut in the king class, with all three achieving great results in Formula 2 last year – especially Yuki Tsunoda being fast around Sakhir during pre-season testing.
A tight race is definitely on the plate for this year, with a promising close battle upfront, new faces, driver-swaps, new regulations and new teams. The start of the weekend will be marked with Free Practice 1 at 12:30 CET, followed by FP2 at 16:00 CET. Free Practice 3 follows on Saturday at 13:00 CET, with the first qualifying of 2021 taking place 3 hours later. On Sunday it is then time for the first Grand Prix of the year, with the lights going out in Bahrain at 17:00 CET to kick-off a new Formula 1 season. The Formula 1 season of 2021.