F1 confirms alternative track layout for second Bahrain race

Formula One has confirmed the second of this season's two races in Bahrain will be held on an alternative layout and as a night race.

The sport announced this week that Bahrain would host two events this year, one on November 29 and one on December 6, ahead of the season finale in Abu Dhabi. The first race, named the Bahrain Grand Prix, will take place on the usual layout and start during twilight hours, but the second, named the Sakhir Grand Prix, will take place on Bahrain's "outer track" and will start after sunset.

The outer track is a 3.543 km circuit that includes the usual pit straight and opening four corners, but then cuts across the top of the regular circuit, leaving it at the exit of Turn 4 and rejoining at Turn 13. Labelled an "oval" during speculation about its use earlier this year, it is 1.9km shorter than the usual layout, meaning the race will run to 88 laps with qualifying lap times expected to be below 55 seconds.

F1 considered a number of Bahrain's alternative circuit layouts for the second race, one of which was used in 2010, but determined the outer track would result in the best racing.

"We are excited to announce the outer circuit as the format for the Sakhir Grand Prix and want to thank our partners at the Bahrain International Circuit for their continued support," F1's motorsport director Ross Brawn said. "We assessed a number of options for the alternative circuit layout and concluded the outer circuit will provide the best alternative and will provide a new challenge for all the teams and entertain all our fans with high speeds and fast lap times."

Originally, the Bahrain Grand Prix was scheduled to run in March, but the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on international travel meant it was postponed. The two rescheduled races on the island kingdom are among F1's 17 confirmed races this season.

The outer track at the Bahrain International Circuit has the necessary FIA Grade 1 licence to host a grand prix, but the FIA will work with the Bahrain Motor Federation over the coming weeks to make sure all elements of the track are tested to meet F1 standards.

Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, CEO of the Bahrain International Circuit, added: "We thank Formula One for all their work in analysing options for our second race and it's a great testament to our venue that we will be able to hold what is likely to be very contrasting races on consecutive weekends. Our outer track has never been used for international competitive racing, so will be a new and exciting challenge for all participants."