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Sakhir Grand Prix - Same venue, different track

Maranello 02 December 2020

Just one week on from the Bahrain Grand Prix and the Formula 1 world championship stays in the same Middle East country and Sakhir facility. It’s not a first, as it has already happened twice in this unusual season for races to take place on consecutive weekends at the same venue, in Austria for the first two rounds and then at Silverstone for rounds four and five. Now, having pioneered Formula 1 night racing in 2004, Bahrain is pioneering using two different layouts of the same circuit in the space of 8 days.

Super high speed layout. The first Sakhir Grand Prix will take place on the Outer Track of the Bahrain International Circuit. The layout starts on the track used last Sunday and then, after turn 4 the cars switch to a very fast section with five slight turns that rejoin the original on the straight after turn 13, with the final sector being the same as usual here. This will be the third track Formula 1 has raced on at Sakhir, having also tried the Endurance layout in 2010 and it will also be the shortest on the calendar at 3.543 kilometres, as Monaco (3.337 kilometres) has no race this year, with lap times expected to be under a minute. The only time that has happened before in Formula 1 was at the French GP at Dijon in 1974. Last weekend there were three DRS zones, this week just two, on the main straight and between turns 3 and 4. The race will be run over 87 laps and average speeds are expected to be very high.

Programme. The other difference between the Sakhir Grand Prix and last week’s race is that the timetable is different, postponed towards the evening. On Friday, free practice will be at 16.30 local (14.30 CET) and 20.30 (18.30 CET). On Saturday, the last practice prior to qualifying will start at sunset at 17 (15 CET) with the grid decider taking place at 20 (18 CET). The race gets underway on Sunday 6 December at 20.10 (18.10 CET).

Sebastian Vettel #5

“The second race in Bahrain will be held on the Outer Track - a very different layout from last weekend’s race. Cutting out the infield section, from turn 4 to turn 13 and replacing it with two sweeping high-speed corners and a slower part means it will have a very different feel.

We will need to run with lower downforce to match the high-speed nature of the circuit, but with the same tyre selection as last weekend it will be a challenge to find the right set-up.

Of course, many of the corners will be familiar to us but with such a short lap, traffic will be an issue and the sessions will feel hectic. Qualifying is likely to be much closer and who knows, maybe a new track will bring some surprises on Sunday.”

Charles Leclerc #16

“In this unusual season, it’s not the first time that we find ourselves racing for two consecutive weekends at the same place. But this is the first time we will be at the same circuit but using a different layout. A few years back, they ran on the longer version here, but this time we will be on a short and very fast layout with just eleven corners.

I think that on a track like this the difference between the cars, especially those in the midfield, will be minimal and every thousandth could make a difference. The race is over 87 laps, a much higher number than we are used to and I’m interested to see how certain phases turn out in terms of traffic, especially in qualifying and in the race.”

Q&A with Matteo Togninalli Head of Track Engineering

“Pretty much a new challenge but with a few known parameters,” is how Matteo Togninalli, Head of Track Engineering for the Scuderia, sums up the Sakhir Grand Prix. “It’s true we’re racing at the same venue and on the same track surface, but it has different characteristics, as it misses out the slow section and the high-speed corners. The tyres will therefore have more time to recover in between corners. This affects the set-up and level of aero downforce, as well as tyre behaviour, given that they have to deal with 20 to 30% lower energy levels, particularly at the rear. So, some problems such as the overheating we saw last weekend should be less of an issue. In terms of efficiency, it is definitely higher than last weekend’s layout so I expect the cars to carry less downforce.”

Will the new elements and the overall track characteristics be an opportunity or a handicap for the Scuderia?

“I’d say an opportunity because it’s a fact that last Saturday and Sunday we suffered a lot with managing the energy exerted on the tyres, so we could be in a better situation in this respect. On the other hand, it’s clear that the SF1000 does not shine on high efficiency tracks and engine performance is more important here and these two factors will be key. The most important thing is to get the most out of our package, which we were not able to do last weekend.”

How much can we learn from the previous race, particularly in terms of tyre management?

“There are some areas we want to investigate to find ways of improving performance, in terms of the approach to the lap and in set-up, but we are still tackling a different event. For example, we will run qualifying differently, because it won’t be an easy task finding the right moment to go out, because of traffic and also, relating to what I said earlier, it will not be easy to get the tyre temperatures into the right window. There’s a lot to do, but we engineers like that. Other parameters that will need watching are fuel consumption and brake performance. The former will be pretty similar to last week, because on a high efficiency track you tend to run less aero downforce, but for the brakes, it could even more critical, especially in the race, when the heaviest braking points, like the first and last corner, will be tackled around thirty times more often than last Sunday.”


GP contested 1006

Seasons in F1 71

Debut Monaco 1950 (Alberto Ascari 2nd; Raymond Sommer 4th; Luigi Villoresi DNF)

Wins 238 (23.66%)

Pole positions 228 (22.66%)

Fastest laps 254 (25.25%)

Podiums 773 (76.84%)


GP entered 16

Debut 2004 (Michael Schumacher 1st; Rubens Barrichello 2nd)

Wins 6 (37,5%)

Pole positions 5 (31,75%)

Fastest laps 5 (31,75%)

Total podiums 14 (87,5%)

Sakhir GP Facts & Figures

2. The number of times a race has started at 20.10 local time. The Sakhir Grand Prix will be the second after the 2018 and 2019 Singapore GP, in the list of latest race starts.

7. The Sakhir Outer Track is the seventh shortest track in the history of Formula 1. Monaco is the shortest, measuring 3.145 kilometres from 1955 to 1972. Next is Zeltweg at 3.200 km set inside the Hinterstoisser Airdrome. It hosted just one race, the 1964 Austrian Grand Prix won by Lorenzo Bandini in a Ferrari 156 F1. In 1974, the Dijon-Prenois track in France measured just 3.289 km, while in 1981 the Spanish GP was run on the 3.312 km Jarama track, when Gilles Villeneuve won keeping a long line of cars behind him in single file in the Ferrari 126 CK. In 1972, the world championship returned to Buenos Aires, Argentina to tackle 95 laps of the 3.345 km Oscar Galvez circuit. The Long Beach track in the USA is also shorter than the Sakhir Outer Track at 3.428 km.

47. The number of years that have passed since a World Championship race has been longer than 87 laps – the 1973 Argentinian GP. The Indianapolis 500 claims the record for the most most number of laps in a round of the Formula 1 World Championship ten times from 1951 to 1960, with 200 laps.

58”79. Niki Lauda’s lap time in the Ferrari 312 B3 in qualifying foir the 1974 French Grand Prix at the Dijon-Prenois track, the quickest lap in terms of time in an official F1 session. In 1960, the American Jim Hurtubise in an Offenhauser-powered Christensen covered the four laps required to secure a place on the grid in 4’01”52, with an average lap time of 60”38. Strangely, because of the complex qualifying rules, it was only good enough for 23rd on the grid. The third fastest ever F1 lap (the second fastest pole position) was set in the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix by Valtteri Bottas in a Mercedes in 62”939.

118. Formula 1 races held in Asia to date. Japan has hosted the most on 37 (35 Japanese GPs and 2 Pacific in 1994 and ’95, then Malaysia on 19, Bahrain and China on 16, Singapore on 12, Abu Dhabi with 11, South Korea with four and India with three. As for the continents, Europe is the clear leader on 648, then comes the Americas on 207, then after Asia there's Oceania on 35 and Africa on 24.

This week in our history

2/12. In 1930 David Piper was born in the London suburb of Edgware. The Englishman raced in two Formula 1 Grands Prix in a Lotus and was one of the Maranello marque’s most loyal customers in sports car racing. His Ferraris were usually painted green and won many races in the Sixties, including 5 wins in the Kyalami 9 Hours, two in a 250 GTO, in 1962 and 1963, one in a 250 LM (1964) and two in a 365 P2 (1965 and 1966), two class wins in the Sebring 12 Hours, in 1964 in a 250 GTO and in 1965 in the 250 LM, one in the Paris 1000 Km in 1966 in a 250 LM with Mike Parkes, one at Silverstone and one at Brands Hatch, both in 1967.

3/12. In 1932, Prince Gaetano Starrabba di Giardinelli was born in Palermo. The Sicilian nobleman took part in one Formula 1 GP at Monza in 1961 and was a regular Ferrari customer racing as a private entrant with various cars from the Maranello marque. He took three class wins, in 1958 in a race in Modena and then in that year’s Targa Florio along with Franco Cortese in a 500 Testa Rossa. The third win came seven years later, in the 1965 Targa Florio when Starrabba di Giardinelli was paired up with Clemente Ravetto.

4/12. In 2016, the Finali Mondiali Ferrari took place at the iconic Daytona International Speedway. A feature of the event, apart from the spectacular race finals for the Ferrari Challenge, was the biggest ever parade of road-going Ferraris ever seen in the USA, along with the F1 Clienti cars and a hair raising display from Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen on track as well as on the iconic American venues steeply banked oval.

5/12. In 2006, a few days before his last race for Scuderia Ferrari, Michael Schumacher was made an honorary citizen of the town of Maranello to recognise, as the citation said, “his splendid racing history with Ferrari and for being a travelling companion for the city on an important stretch of road in its history.” The Enzo Ferrari auditorium was not big enough to contain the crowds that turned out for Michael, so a giant screen was erected outside the theatre.

6/12. In 2014, the Ferrari Finali Mondiali ended with a day of exciting race and a display of the very best of the Ferrari world. It took place in Abu Dhabi, its first time outside Europe. Sunday got underway with the finals of the Ferrari Challenge races and then came a parade of Prancing Horse cars from every era, ending with Kimi Räikkönen and test driver Marc Gené putting on a show in F60s, with simulated starts, wheel to wheel racing and pit stops, before doing crowd-pleasing smoke generating doughnuts.