Remember how I said that F1 would use the Grand Prix circuit in both races a Bahrain? Well, forget that, because F1 has now confirmed that the high-speed outer track will be used for the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. As usual, the Bahrain International Circuit will be where F1 races, but the layout will be different. The 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix will see lap times of under 60 seconds. This is because the outer track is only 3.543 km long. Also, all the corners excluding Turn 1 are high-speed corners, so the drivers can get around the track very quickly. The normal Grand Prix circuit is 5.412 km long, which is 1.869 km longer than the outer circuit. The GP circuit has 15 corners rather than 11. It also has multiple slow-speed corners like the hairpins of Turns 1 & 8 and the tight left-hander of Turn 10.
|15||Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2020||27 – 29 November||Bahrain International Circuit – Grand Prix Circuit|
|16||Formula 1 Rolex Sakhir Grand Prix 2020||4 – 6 December||Bahrain International Circuit – Outer Circuit|
The first 3 corners of the GP circuit and the outer circuit are the same. Turn 4 is also the same, except that the exit is much shorter. This leads the drivers straight into Turn 5 at the outer circuit. Turn 5 leads straight into the high-speed sweeping right-hander of Turn 6 before the chicane of Turn 7&8. After that, the drivers end up back in the GP circuit. Turn 13 of the GP circuit is now Turn 9 for the outer circuit, except that it is far faster and far less tight for the latter layout. The final 2 corners and the main straight remain common for both circuits.
Formula conducted a detailed analysis to decide which of the track layouts of the Bahrain International Circuit will be used for the Sakhir Grand Prix. There are 5 different layouts, and 4 of them have an FIA Grade 1 license. This means that the FIA has said that 4 of the layouts are suitable for F1. Apart from the GP Circuit, F1 can use the Endurance Circuit, the Outer Circuit and the Paddock Circuit. As I mentioned above, F1 conducted an analysis of these circuit layouts. Therefore, they concluded that the outer circuit is the layout that F1 will use for the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, which will take place on the 6th of December.
“We are excited to announce the outer circuit as the format for the Sakhir Grand Prix and want to thank our partners at the Bahrain International Circuit for their continued support,” said Ross Brawn, the Formula 1 Managing Director of Motorsport.
“We assessed a number of options for the alternative circuit layout and concluded the outer circuit will provide the best alternative and will provide a new challenge for all the teams and entertain all our fans with high speeds and fast lap times.”
Another important thing to note is the race timings for the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. The Bahrain Grand Prix starts at 6:10 PM Local Time, which is more like in the evening. While F1 hasn’t confirmed the exact time for the Sakhir GP we do know that it will be a full night race, and will start later in the evening. The later timings will apply to both qualifying and the race.
The outer layout of the Bahrain International Circuit has never been used for an international race. The Bahrain International Circuit, The Bahrain Motor Federation and the FIA will work together over the next few weeks. They will ensure that every single element of the outer circuit are prepared for an F1 race. The outer circuit will be prepared and tested as per the current F1 standards.
Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, the CEO of the Bahrain International Circuit, spoke about this.
“We thank Formula 1 for all their work in analysing options for our second race and it’s a great testament to our venue that we will be able to hold what is likely to be very contrasting races on consecutive weekends. Our outer track has never been used for international competitive racing, so will be a new and exciting challenge for all participants.”
Did you know that this is not the first time that a different layout has been used in Bahrain? In 2010, the Bahrain Grand Prix was the opening round of the 2010 F1 Season. In honour of F1’s Diamond Jubilee, which was F1’s 60th Anniversary, the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix saw the drivers race at the Endurance Circuit. The Endurance Circuit is the longest version of the track and is 6.299 km long. Since the layout was unpopular and many preferred the Grand Prix circuit, F1 never used the Endurance Circuit again.
How Will The Race Work With Such Short Lap Times?
The outer circuit at Bahrain is the 2nd shortest circuit on the calendar behind the 3.337 km Circuit de Monaco. The FIA made a rule that circuits have to be at least 3.5 km long to be suitable for F1. While they made an exception for Monaco, the outer circuit at Bahrain barely fits that rule, with just 0.043 km being the margin. There is also a minimum race distance of 305 kilometres. Despite the outer circuit being so short, the minimum race distance must be fulfilled, so that’s why the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix will be 87 laps long. This means the race distance will be 308.241 kilometres, which is very much legal. 87 laps is an insane amount of laps and are the most number of laps on the F1 calendar. By this, I mean both the revised and normal F1 calendar.
As I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post, estimations say the lap times around the outer circuit are to be below 60 seconds. F1 ran simulations of this outer circuit, and that led to some predictions. The predictions are that qualifying lap times will be under 55 seconds. And lap times in the race will be under 60 seconds. There is only 1 time in F1 history when the pole position lap time was under 60 seconds. And that is when Niki Lauda took pole position at the 1974 French Grand Prix.
The 1974 French Grand Prix took place at the Circuit de Dijon-Prenois. As you can see in the image on the left, the first layout of the circuit saw very few corners. On top of that, they were high-speed corners, meaning lap times were very low. The circuit was so short and fast that Niki Lauda grabbed pole position after putting in a lap time of just 58.790s, the shortest pole lap in F1 history. And now we know that the outer circuit at Bahrain is going to break that record with qualifying lap times being less than 55 seconds! As you can see in the image on the left, Dijon-Prenois was reprofiled and renovated since traffic was a major issue in 1974. Since this outer track is temporary, and it’s not as short, there shouldn’t be any problems. In fact, it’s even more exciting!
If you want to find out about why this is the case, continue reading.
Fun Fact! 1974 was a long long time ago, but there are still short laps in recent times. Valterri Bottas grabbed pole position at the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix in June, setting a lap of 1m 02.939s. That is the closest that F1 has got to the one-minute mark in recent years.
The fact that a new circuit layout will be used in the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix is already amazing. However, with a new circuit comes new challenges and more excitement in different forms. Qualifying will be incredibly close; when circuits are shorter and at higher speeds, the margins between drivers will be finer. As mentioned above, the 1974 French Grand Prix saw issues with traffic and lapped cars coming in the way. Since the outer circuit at Bahrain is a longer track than the 1974 layout of Dijon-Prenois, this kind of problem won’t be there. Also, there are more corners and more straights in Bahrain. Actually, it will become another form of excitement.
The pit strategy will be incredibly important because teams will want to make sure that they don’t send their drivers out of the pitlane into traffic. Lapped drivers may play a role in the race as well. All of this means the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix is a race to look forward to since it’s going to be incredibly exciting. I can’t wait for the 6th of December but let me know in the comments below, how excited you are to see the Sakhir GP play out?! Give me a number from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest level of excitement, and 1 the lowest.
What The Teams Said About F1 using Bahrain’s Outer Track for the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix
Now we know what is going to happen at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. We know very well how the outer layout is going to make the race incredibly exciting so let’s see what some of the teams had to say about it. The Team Principals of Alfa Romeo, AlphaTauri, Red Bull and Haas spoke about how they are looking to this news. First, we are going to look at what Christian Horner, Team Principal of Red Bull Racing, said.
“The fact that we’re using an ‘oval’ is going to be really interesting”, said Horner. “It’s a bit different for Formula 1. Honda and (F1 Technical Director Toyoharu Tanabe) have a great deal more experience of oval racing having just won the Indianapolis 500 last weekend, so we’ll be looking to benefit and draw on all their experience and knowledge. I don’t think it’s going to be an Indianapolis-type circuit, but I think the challenge of an oval-type layout in part of the circuit is going to be different. It’s going to be a short lap and should be exciting, so we’re looking forward to it.
“We’re going to some interesting new circuits,” Horner added, as he also spoke about the other new circuits on the 2020 F1 calendar. Tracks like Istanbul Park, Imola, Nurburgring and Mugello are, “circuits that we haven’t been to for many years.
“The last time I was in Mugello, I was racing there in 1997. I just hope we do it a little better than I did then! But to go back to Imola, Nurburgring, Istanbul, again another great circuit – there are some good challenges coming up.”
In the same press conference as Christian Horner, Guenther Steiner spoke about the news too. Steiner, the Team Principal of Haas F1 Team, said he also accepted the challenge of an alternate track layout.
“I haven’t looked in any detail at the new circuit layout in Bahrain,” said Steiner, “but I think it’s a very nice thing if you’re staying two times in the same place to have a different circuit layout if it is doable – and in Bahrain it’s doable. So I think that will be good, also for the spectators on TV to see how it works. Going to racetracks you haven’t been to for a long time is actually very nice. It’s something new, something to think about, something different so for the spectators, for us. I just think that is a very good achievement from (Formula 1).”
I mentioned earlier about how short the Bahrain outer circuit is. As Monaco marks the shortest circuit on the calendar, the outer circuit is only 0.2 km longer. I also mentioned that qualifying will see incredibly quick laps, and traffic will be an issue too. Well, not one, but two Team Principals agree, saying that Q1 for the Sakhir GP will have the most chaos with 20 cars trying to get into Q2. However, that chaos will also be incredibly entertaining. Frederic Vassuer, the Team Principal of Alfa Romeo Racing, and Franz Tost, the Team Principal of AlphaTauri, both spoke about this.
“We didn’t do any simulation yet,” said Vasseur, “but for sure with 55 seconds per lap, it will be a big mess on the traffic on the quali lap, and Q1 will be a nightmare! But I think it’s exciting to have different layouts of the track when we have a global event like this, it makes sense to do something a bit different.”
“It will maybe be a little bit chaotic but entertaining, we will see,” agreed Tost. “And in the race, then we will see how it is with overtaking because all the cars are very close together and then we will see how good the top cars are – and how many times they will (lap) everyone!”
We have now spoken about every piece of information that we know so far related to the outer layout being used for the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. We have seen how the track works, how fast the drivers will get around the track and how that affects the race. 4 teams spoke about how they are ready to tackle the challenge of this new layout, and we know what they think about. And we have now arrived at the end of the post. I thoroughly enjoyed writing about this news, and I just can wait for the Sakhir Grand Prix to come around. Let me know in the comments below, how excited you are to see the Sakhir GP? Give me a number from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest level of excitement, and 1 the lowest. Stay safe, and stay on the lookout for new posts.