It has been official for a few days now: after Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, the 2021 edition of the Formula 1 World Championship will make a stopover in Saudi Arabia. This third motor racing event in the Middle East is no coincidence, as the region has already hosted numerous races, some of which have become part of the history of the sport. A short view into the past.
Bahrain Grand Prix 2004 – The first Arabian Gulf GP
The first-ever Middle East Grand Prix took place in Bahrain, on the Sakhir track, the site where F1 cars still race today. Many concerns are raised by the teams in the run-up to the race, particularly due to the extremely high temperatures that tend to impact the cars’ tire performance.
In a season outrageously dominated by Ferrari and its star driver Michael Schumacher, the Scuderia will seek the pole position as well as a first and a second place, respectively décroched by the German driver and his Brazilian teammate Rubens Barrichello. Jenson Button, who later became Formula 1 World Champion in 2009, completes the podium of this successful first edition.
Bahrain Grand Prix 2006 – Duel between Schumacher and Alonso
During the 2006 season, two drivers fought hard to become world champion: Michael Schumacher, then six-time world champion and the best driver on the grid, and Fernando Alonso, a young driver with Renault who managed the feat of winning the championship in 2005 in a year when the Ferraris lacked competitiveness.
During the qualifying rounds, Michael Schumacher won the pole position and equaled the record of a legend in the discipline: Ayrton Senna. However, he did not manage to win the race and finished second, behind the Spanish driver, after a legendary battle. This fight between the two rivals will last until the last race of the season, during which Alonso is crowned world champion for the second consecutive time.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2010 – One title for four contenders
In 2010, Abu Dhabi hosts for the second time in its history a Formula 1 Grand Prix on its Yas Marina track. While the 2009 edition did not make a big impression (as the manufacturer and driver championship were already awarded before the start of the race), the 2010 edition will shine with its uncertainty and will remain forever in the annals of motorsport.
Because this Grand Prix is also the last round of the season. In contrast to 2009, nothing has been decided yet, as four drivers can still claim the world crown. They are Sebastien Vettel, Mark Webber (teammates at Red Bull), Lewis Hamilton (driver at McLaren-Mercedes) and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari).
At the end of a breathtaking race that saw many twists and turns, it was finally the young German driver Sebastian Vettel who won and, at the same time, won his first world championship title in the discipline. The first of a long lineage as he will also win the next three editions.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2016 – Final battle between Hamilton and Rosberg
Since 2014, the Mercedes team has outrageously dominated the discipline and the two drivers who make up the ranks of the German firm are often considered as the main favorites for the world title. If Lewis Hamilton, who became a Mercedes driver in 2013, won the 2014 and 2015 editions of the Formula 1 World Championship, the 2016 season is contested between him and his teammate: Nico Rosberg.
The battle is so indecisive that its final epilogue will be played during the final round of the championship, at Yas Marina on the Emirati circuit. At the start of the race, the British driver is about ten points behind his teammate, so he does not have his fate in his hands. And despite a race without any slightest error made by the future six-time world champion, during which he finished at the top of the podium, his German teammate managed to secure second place and, in the same way, secure his first world title. At the end of this race, Nico Rosberg will retire with a world championship at his disposal.
Bahrain Grand Prix 2019 – Revelation of Charles Leclerc
While all observers expect clear domination of Mercedes in 2019, the Ferraris seem to have gradually regained their performance lead over the German single-seater. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari’s number one driver and four-time world champion, is expected to make life difficult for Lewis Hamilton, his main rival at Mercedes, as was the case in 2018.
However, in Bahrain, it is indeed the pilot labeled as second in the hierarchy of the Scuderia which takes down the pole position. It is about the young Monegasque pilot Charles Leclerc, freshly arrived at Ferrari to replace Kimi Raïkonnen to support Sebastian Vettel to acquire a title that escapes to him since 2014.
Exactly 1 year ago, I scored my 1st ever Pole Position on a Formula 1 Race Week-End. I miss the feeling of driving an F1 car and I really hope the situation will improve very soon. Stay safe and hope to share other moments like this one very soon ❤️ pic.twitter.com/woVWZ7pwde
— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) March 30, 2020
Leclerc remained in the lead for most of the race ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s and Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes until a technical problem destroyed his hopes for victory. He still finished third, however, taking the first podium of his career. This race will serve as a real spotlight on his driving skills and his enormous potential.