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.
Bahrain joined the Formula One world championship line-up for the first time 14 years ago, when it made history as the first F1 Grand Prix to be held in the Middle East and was given the award for the “Best Organised Grand Prix” by the FIA. The first Grand Prix in the country was held on April 4, 2004 and was very much an all-Schumacher affair, the Scuderia Ferrari driver easily dominating the weekend. He was able to cruise to victory with team mate Rubens Barrichello in second place. Crossing the line some 25 seconds behind, BAR’s Jenson Button joined the Maranello pair on the podium. But there was an early blow for McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen when his Mercedes engine went up in flames just seven laps into the race.
Surprisingly, Michael Schumacher never won in Bahrain again after that. Fernando Alonso took victory in the next two races for Renault, and after that Felipe Massa delivered a brace of wins for Scuderia Ferrari while Jenson Button himself took the top spot in his run to the world championship title back in the 2009 Formula 1 season.
Fernando Alonso won again in 2010, which was the only year when the longer Sakhir Endurance Circuit was used for the Grand Prix. Typically the race is held on the 13-turn, 5.412km (3.363-mile) Sakhir International Circuit. The even wasn’t held at all in 2011 due to political unrest in the country, but has continued to attract criticism because of human rights complaints against the ruling government.
That hasn’t stopped the race from taking place every year since then. Sebastian Vettel has emerged as the most successful driver on the Grand Prix circuit with three wins in 2012, 2013 and 2017. Lewis Hamilton took back to back wins in 2014 and 2015, and his Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg clinched the win in 2016.
Shortly after the Formula One February 2014 testing, Grand Prix organizers for Bahrain announced a decision to name the first corner of the iconic track after former seven-time champion German driver Michael Schumacher in honour of his achievements and also in support after the driver suffered an almost fatal skiing accident late December 2013
In total, Scuderia Ferrari have won here on five occasions compared to just three wins for Mercedes. It looks like the event will be finely balanced again in 2018 and it could even get us a proper glimpse of who is really favourite to win this year’s Formula One title.