Top 5 moments in Bahrain Grand Prix history

The 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix is set to be an explosive race, with Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton starting on the front row. The Dutchman and the Brit are arguably the fastest drivers on the grid and could potentially be championship rivals for the 2021 Formula 1 season.

Throughout its 17 years in the sport, Bahrain has produced memorable moments that are etched in Formula 1 folklore. Here are the top five moments in the history of the Bahrain Grand Prix :

#1: ‘Duel in the Desert’ – 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix

The 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix was the 900th Formula 1 race. The race has been given the moniker of ‘Duel in the Desert’ following an epic wheel-to-wheel battle between then Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

The race began with Rosberg on pole. However, Hamilton got a better start and led the early laps of the race.

On lap 40, Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado collided with the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez and flipped the Mexican’s car upside down, bringing out the safety car. With the grid now bunched up, this put Rosberg right behind Hamilton but on fresher tires.

What followed was mouth-watering wheel-to-wheel action between the pair. Eventually, Hamilton was able to keep Rosberg at bay and went onto win his 24th race in Formula 1.

#2: Sebastian Vettel’s staunch defense – 2018 Bahrain Grand Prix

2018 finally looked like the year where Ferrari could compete with Mercedes. The Scuderia had a faster engine and more efficient aerodynamic parts than the defending champions.

Sebastian Vettel came into the Bahrain Grand Prix after winning the opening round in Australia and then snatched pole position with teammate Kimi Raikkonen in P2.

On lap 18, Vettel came in for his scheduled pit stop but surprisingly, Ferrari sent him out of the yellow walled Soft compound tire. In comparison, Vettel’s direct race rival, Valtteri Bottas, was on a one-stop strategy with the Hard compound tires.

The Finn hounded Vettel for 36 laps with longer-lasting tires but was unable to pass the German.

In an act of utter mastery, the German nursed his tires and took the checkered flag by 0.699 seconds under massive pressure from Valtteri Bottas. In doing so, Sebastian Vettel emulated Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton in winning on his 200th Grand Prix start.

#3: Alonso’s maiden Ferrari win – 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix

Fernando Alonso moved from Renault to Ferrari in 2010, replacing Kimi Raikkonen at the Italia. The Bahrain Grand Prix played host as the season-opener for 2010 on its lengthier endurance racing layout.

Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull secured pole position. The two Ferraris of Massa and Alonso followed him in P2 and P3, respectively.

Despite dominating the race, Vettel’s RB6 accrued spark plug issues, which made the car slower. Fernando Alonso caught up and passed the Red Bull. The Spaniard went on to win the Bahrain Grand Prix, making him the sixth driver in Ferrari’s history to win on their team debut. The race was made even more memorable for Ferrari as Felipe Massa came home in second place, securing a 1-2 finish for the Scuderia.

#4: The Pole on pole – 2008 Bahrain Grand Prix

Ferrari and McLaren were embroiled in a tense rivalry in the 2008 season, following the Spygate scandal in 2007. Both teams were the fastest cars on the grid, but BMW-Sauber looked like their closest challenger.

The Swiss-based team had an exciting driver line-up in Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld. But it was the Pole who secured a shocking pole position at the Bahrain Grand Prix, beating Ferrari’s Felipe Massa by just 0.027 seconds. This would be both Kubica’s and Sauber’s only pole position. Robert, however, wasn’t able to capitalize on his fantastic qualifying performance as he finished the Bahrain Grand Prix in P3, behind the Ferraris of Massa and Raikkonen.

#5: Grosjean’s miraculous escape – 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

The 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix will forever be remembered for one sole reason: Romain Grosjean‘s miraculous escape from the burning wreck of his Haas.

On the very first lap of the race, Romain Grosjean’s Haas was clipped by Daniil Kvyat which sent the Frenchman off the track and straight into the crash barriers at almost 200 kmph. The car split in half because of the speed of the impact. This caused the fuel tank to burst and send the car up in flames.

Red flags were brought out as emergency services tried to extinguish the flames coming from the Frenchman’s car. Grosjean was inside the burning wreckage for almost 30 seconds before getting out of the car on his own. It was later reported that Grosjean had only suffered second-degree burns to his hands. The Frenchman’s crash is one of the worst in Formula 1’s recent history, and his lack of severe injuries can only be described as miraculous.

The 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix also finally ended the debate on the Formula 1 halo which is placed on cars. The halo was given credit for saving Grosjean’s life.

Published 28 Mar 2021, 16:54 IST

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