An early-season calendar fixture since 2004, Bahrain International Circuit has hosted some memorable racing over the years. We’ve chosen five of the best races in the history of the Bahrain Grand Prix, including 2014’s Duel in the Desert and last year’s thriller.
2006: Alonso vs Schumacher
The season-opening race in 2006 saw an epic battle unfold between Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher. Beginning his final season for Ferrari, the German started on pole and pulled out an early lead as Alonso moved from fourth on the grid to second on the opening lap. Alonso survived an early scare when Felipe Massa spun his Ferrari at Turn 1, almost collecting the Spaniard. A good strategy call by Renault kept the reigning World Champion out longer on his second set of tyres, giving Alonso the advantage as he rejoined the track just metres ahead of Schumacher after his second pitstop. The German stayed on Alonso’s wheel right to the end, but couldn’t find a way past. Click here to watch the highlights.
2008: Pole on Pole
In only his second full season in Formula 1, young Polish driver Robert Kubica found himself with a very competitive BMW Sauber for the 2008 season. He made the most of the car’s speed at the third race in Bahrain, where he achieved his, and Sauber’s, only pole position to date (click here for the highlights). Kubica was unable to keep the two Ferraris at bay during the race, but still finished on the podium – just 5 seconds behind the winner Felipe Massa. Kubica didn’t have to wait long for his first – and only – F1 victory, which came just four races later in Canada. After 8 years out of the sport recovering from serious injuries sustained in a rally crash, Kubica returns to Bahrain this week as a full-time race driver with Williams.
2010: Alonso wins on debut for Ferrari
Bahrain again hosted the opening round of the Formula 1 season in 2010 – this time on the extended “endurance” layout of the Bahrain International Circuit. Among many notable changes for the new season, including the return of Mercedes and the debut of three new teams, the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix also marked two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso’s first race for Ferrari. The Spaniard made it a memorable one, taking victory on debut for the Scuderia after Sebastian Vettel suffered a technical problem with his Red Bull (watch the highlights here). Alonso joined an illustrious list of first-race winners for Ferrari that includes Juan Manuel Fangio, Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell and Kimi Räikkönen. Alonso won a total of eleven races for Ferrari over the next five years, but a third World Championship eluded him.
2014: Duel in the Desert
The first Bahrain Grand Prix to be held at night under newly-installed floodlights was a modern classic that saw Lewis Hamilton triumph over Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg after a race-long battle in which the lead changed numerous times. Hamilton opened a small lead on Rosberg by mid-distance, but this was erased when the Safety Car came out after a spectacular collision between Pastor Maldonado and Esteban Gutiérrez. With a worried Mercedes pleading with their drivers to bring both cars home, Rosberg made a few more short-lived passes on his teammate before conceding the win to Hamilton. Sergio Pérez came through for the final podium position after fending off a spirited charge by Red Bull’s new recruit Daniel Ricciardo. Watch the highlights here.
2018: Vettel wins a thriller
Taking pole position for his 200th Formula 1 start, Vettel got away cleanly to lead as mayhem broke out behind him – including contact between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton on the second lap. The frenetic pace of the race didn’t let up in the opening laps, with exciting racing up and down the field – including a stunning triple pass from Hamilton into Turn 1. Different strategies come into play during the second half of the race. Mercedes opted to pit both its drivers just once and run to the flag on the medium Pirelli compound, while Ferrari had its drivers on a planned two-stop strategy. It all went wrong for Ferrari during Kimi Räikkönen’s second stop – the Finn was given the green light to go despite his left-rear tyre not being properly affixed. A Ferrari mechanic suffered a broken leg and Räikkönen was out of the race, prompting Ferrari to keep Sebastian Vettel out on an increasingly worn set of tyres. The German survived a late charge from Valtteri Bottas to win, with Hamilton finishing third and Pierre Gasly achieving an excellent fourth for Toro Rosso. Watch the highlights here.
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