With the pandemic turning the Formula One World Championship schedule upside down the FIA and willing track promotors scrambled to come up with venues in which to hold races. With traditional races such as the Monaco Grand Prix canceled, new and or legacy tracks are being added. A few venuses have even held two races on back to back weekends. Austria’s Red Bull Ring and England’s Silverstone have both held consecutive races with the second Silverstone race having the unwieldy title of the Formula 1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
Bahrain will also hold two races but in an interesting twist, they’ll use two different track layouts. While the first weekend the race will be run on the International Circuit, a 5.412 km (3.363 mi) road course, it’s the second weekend that has everyone talking.
Proposed by Ross Brawn, F1's Technical Director amongst others, the Sakhir Grand Prix as it will be called would race on the Outer Circuit. The outer track takes in Turns 1, 2 and 3 of the international track, before breaking away at Turn 4 for a series of quick sweeps before re-joining the familiar track at Turn 13. Its length of 3.543km would be just long enough to meet F1’s minimum requirements for a purpose-built circuit. While not quite an oval it’s made up of mainly right turns with estimated lap times of under 1 minute that should result in a race total of approximately 87 laps and plenty of action, maybe too much. Any accident may force a full-track caution so sensible driving is the watchword. The unpredictability of the race and the added notoriety of using such an unusual layout should draw new fans and provide the perfect occasion for a betting odds boost.
The allure of oval racing is something that’s been known to fans in the US for quite some time but has received a mixed reaction from fans in Europe. Recently Esteban Ocan, the young French driver from Renault stated in an interview after some initial tests on his home simulator and published by Autosport.com.
"It's very quick, it's only a 55-second lap, which is something new," Ocon said.
"For me, the racing is going to be awesome. It's probably going to be the biggest fight we've seen for years in Formula 1 with all those straight lines.
"The Bahrain track that we did, it's all the straight line from it. You have two other corners, but most of the cars are going to be slipstreaming, strategy, and racing until the flag.
"That's how it's going to be. I think that's going to be really cool."
The idea for the layout could still be scuppered due to safety concerns from some of the other drivers but for now, F1’s new “oval” is a go.