Formula 1 stays in Bahrain for the second leg of its triple-header finale of the reshuffled 2020 calendar with the first-ever Sakhir Grand Prix.
In a dramatic and fast-changing few days since the Bahrain Grand Prix, F1 prepares to return to action at the Bahrain International Circuit. Despite remaining in the same venue, both the circuit layout and the grid has a slightly different look to it.
Lewis Hamilton will miss the first F1 race of his career after being ruled out having tested positive for COVID-19, with George Russell called up to the Mercedes squad for the Sakhir GP and Williams naming reserve driver Jack Aitken as his replacement.
Meanwhile at Haas, Romain Grosjean will miss at least the Sakhir GP as he recovers from burns suffered in his horrendous opening-lap crash in the Bahrain GP with the team’s reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi stepping in for this weekend.
Haas has also confirmed its 2021 F1 driver line-up this week, with Mick Schumacher joining Nikita Mazepin as the replacements for outing duo Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.
With no Hamilton on the Sakhir GP grid, F1 will have its first different winner since the Russian GP back in September, which was won by his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, in a race set to generate the latest set of quirky F1 statistics from the unpredictable 2020 campaign.
Why is F1 racing in Bahrain again?
Due to the redrafted 2020 F1 calendar following the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent cancellation of 13 races, series bosses have scrambled to produce a campaign of a minimum of eight races to meet FIA world championship criteria along with reaching a minimum of 15 races to fulfil the TV broadcasting deal.
As well as hosting double-headers at the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone, F1 has also visited venues not on the original 2020 calendar, with Istanbul Park having been the fifth of the new destinations last month, following on from Mugello, the Nurburgring, Portimao and Imola.
Bahrain’s second race becomes the final new addition to the 2020 F1 calendar, with the season wrapping up next weekend with the Abu Dhabi GP.
What is the Sakhir GP?
The previous ‘new’ races on the redrawn 2020 F1 calendar were either part of double-headers at the same circuit (Styrian GP at the Red Bull Ring and 70th Anniversary GP at Silverstone) or races taking a new name as the national race title was already used or unavailable.
With different races not allowed the same name in the same F1 world championship season, the Nurburging’s F1 race, Mugello’s F1 race, Imola’s F1 race and the Red Bull Ring’s second F1 race were named after the region the circuits are each situated in. The second Silverstone race was named as a way to celebrate the 70th year of the F1 grand prix world championship.
The final unique race name for the unconventional 2020 calendar is the second Bahrain race, which is called the Sakhir GP, which is also named after the region the track is based.
What is the Bahrain outer loop circuit?
The Sakhir GP will also be unique as it is being run on a different track layout to last weekend’s Bahrain GP, using the Bahrain International Circuit’s outer loop.
Taking advantage of the shaken-up 2020 calendar, F1 has seized the opportunity to try out new formats and ideas – including the two-day race weekend schedule at Imola – with the latest trial being Bahrain’s “almost oval track”, as called by F1 managing director for motorsports Ross Brawn.
The track configuration follows the current grand prix layout up to Turn 4, after which it turns left before a series of fast corners.
The cars will then rejoin the existing circuit at the top of the hill leading onto the back straight before completing the lap as normal with the double-apex right-hander.
At just 2.277 miles, the outer loop is more than a mile shorter than the current grand prix circuit, but holds an FIA Grade 1 licence required to stage an F1 event.
F1 anticipates cars will complete a lap in less than 55 seconds in qualifying and at around 60 seconds in the race, making it one of the shortest laps in the series’ history.
Will fans be allowed at the Sakhir GP?
Earlier this month, race organisers confirmed its two races would be run “predominately” without spectators, with the circuit only open to frontline health workers.
The Bahrain International Circuit hosts the Bahrain GP (29 November) and Sakhir GP (6 December) and neither races will be open to fans that don’t fall under the special category as part of the nation’s COVID-19 containment measures.
2020 Formula 1 Sakhir GP session timings
F1 is sticking to its traditional format of two free practice sessions lasting 90 minutes each on Friday, followed by an additional practice session running for one hour on Saturday morning.
The Q1, Q2 and Q3 knockout-style qualifying format is also being retained on Saturday afternoon to decide the grid for the 87-lap Sakhir GP on Sunday.
All track sessions are also taking place later in the day compared to the Bahrain GP schedule.
Friday 4th December 2020
Free Practice 1: 1:30pm-3:00pm GMT (4:30pm-6:00pm local)
Free Practice 2: 5:30pm-7:00pm GMT (8:30pm-10:30pm local)
Saturday 5th December 2020
Free Practice 3: 2:00pm-3:00pm GMT (5:00pm-6:00pm local)
Qualifying: 5:00pm-6:00pm GMT (8:00pm-9:00pm local)
Sunday 6th December 2020
Race: 5:10pm GMT (8:10pm local)
How can I watch the Sakhir GP?
Channel: Sky Sports F1 HD
Channel numbers – Sky: 406
Channel numbers – Virgin Media: 506 (Sky Sports F1 HD)
Sky Sports has live and exclusive broadcasting rights in the United Kingdom with the build-up to the F1 race starting from 3:30pm ahead of lights out at 5:10pm.
When can I watch the highlights?
Channel: Channel 4
Start time: Saturday qualifying 9:30pm, Sunday race 10:00pm
Channel 4 has the rights to show Sakhir GP highlights of qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday.
Weather forecast for the Sakhir GP
The Bahrain International Circuit is set for dry conditions for the race weekend, with a chance of cloud cover for all three days of track action, but a minimal chance of rain. Across the weekend highs of 26 degrees Celsius are forecast – around the same conditions as the Bahrain GP.
Pirelli tyre allocation for the Sakhir GP
Pirelli has opted for its middle range of compounds for the Sakhir GP, with the hard tyre C2, medium tyre C3 and soft tyre C4 – the same range as last weekend’s Bahrain GP.
For all of the races in the reshuffled 2020 F1 season each driver will be given the same allocation of tyres per race. Each driver will get eight sets of softs, three sets of mediums and two sets of hards. Pirelli will also supply a range of wet and intermediate tyres for each driver.
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