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NEED TO KNOW: The most important facts, stats and trivia ahead of the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix

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After a couple of months off the time has arrived for a new F1 season as teams and drivers get set to go racing around the Bahrain International Circuit. Need to Know is your all-in-one guide for the week ahead with statistics, driving pointers, strategy tips and plenty more. Plus, you can keep track of how fans have voted using our popular F1 Play predictor game.

After three days of pre-season testing, the 2024 campaign will officially get under way with two free practice sessions on Thursday, February 29, followed by final practice and qualifying on Friday, March 1 and the race on Saturday, March 2.

IT’S RACE WEEK: 5 storylines we’re excited about ahead of the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix

Vital statistics

  • First Grand Prix – 2004
  • Track Length – 5.412km
  • Lap record – 1m 31.447s, Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren MP4-20, 2005
  • Most pole positions – Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel (3)
  • Most wins – Lewis Hamilton (5)
  • Trivia – Turn 1, ‘Michael Schumacher’, is the only corner on the circuit with a name
  • Pole run to Turn 1 braking point – 353 metres
  • Overtakes completed in 2023 – 80
  • Safety Car probability – 63%*
  • Virtual Safety Car probability – 50%*
  • Pit stop time loss – 23.2 seconds (including 2.5s stationary)

*From the last eight events in Bahrain

FAN VIEW: Three days of pre-season testing in Bahrain last week clearly showed little evidence for gamers to desert three-time reigning world drivers’ champion Max Verstappen. Almost 90% of F1 Play voters so far expect the flying Dutchman to be fastest over a single lap. Next best is Charles Leclerc on 6%.

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The driver’s verdict:

Jolyon Palmer, former Renault F1 driver: The most challenging part of the Bahrain track is probably braking into Turn 10 because you’re approaching it with a fair amount of speed from the Turn 8 hairpin and through the Turn 9 kink, and you unload the front-left tyre as you’re turning left. It’s easy to lock up, we’ve seen that so many times.

Turn 11 is also crucial because it’s fast; it can be quite wind-affected there as well, the gust can pick up, and you’re going through a long radius, so getting the balance right I think is particularly tricky.

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If you’re pushing with understeer you can’t get on the throttle; if you’re fighting oversteer, it’s difficult because you’re attacking with a lot of speed and then you’re overheating the rear tyres through the high-speed afterwards as well.

Overtaking opportunities are clear here: into Turn 1 and Turn 4, where the two DRS zones end. But there is another challenge in the transition from day to night. The track comes alive at night, the car works so much better – and one qualifying lap under the lights feels amazing.

ONBOARD: Max Verstappen’s 2023 Pirelli Pole Position Award lap at the Bahrain Grand Prix

Last 5 Bahrain GP pole-sitters

2023 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 2022 – Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 2021 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 2020 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 2019 – Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

READ MORE: 4 Winners and 4 Losers from pre-season testing – Who was left craving more time in Bahrain?

Last 5 Bahrain GP winners

2023 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 2022 – Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 2021 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 2020 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 2019 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes

FAN VIEW: There is even more confidence behind Verstappen and the Red Bull RB20 when it comes to topping the podium in Sakhir. He is almost up to 95% in the share of F1 Play votes cast so far, with Leclerc again a distant second best at around 5%. There are tiny nibbles of support for Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris.

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Verstappen won last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix from pole position

Strategy and set-up keys

Bernie Collins, former Aston Martin F1 strategist: Bahrain typically combines very hot conditions with a very rough track surface. That means high tyre degradation and is why hard compounds are supplied by Pirelli – the C1, C2 and C3 being selected for 2024.

The other big effect with tyres around the Sakhir venue is that the morning and afternoon sessions often lead to very different situations in terms of management. Your hotter sessions – FP1 and FP3 – are going to need slower cool-down laps and slower out-laps compared to the twilight FP2 and qualifying.

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On push laps, drivers can often find themselves having a really good Sector 1, because they push really hard to begin with, but it then leads to a really bad Sector 3, so they need to try to balance the lap based on the tyres, and not immediately take everything out of them.

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Another factor in Bahrain is that there is often a change of wind through the day. We saw that happen at the pre-season test, with headwinds turning into tailwinds. Turn 12 is a good example of where drivers can get caught out; it’s uphill and then, as they come around it, there’ll be a gust of wind and the car becomes a handful.

There are other little things, such as different steering wheel dash settings or different brightness for the gear shift lights, and drivers will sometimes have a day time and a night time visor.

READ MORE: 5 key questions that need answering after 2024 pre-season testing in Bahrain

FAN VIEW: With Verstappen locking up one spot, F1 Play voters expect Ferrari and McLaren to be the closest podium challengers on Saturday – courtesy of Leclerc and Norris – followed by Hamilton and Sergio Perez. When it comes to the outsiders, it’s Oscar Piastri and George Russell.

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The Bahrain International Circuit poses plenty of challenges for drivers and teams

Current form

Much has been written about the manner in which Verstappen and Red Bull wrapped up back-to-back world titles in 2023, with the Dutchman winning a whopping 19 out of 22 races and the team triumphing in all bar one.

But anyone who thought the RB19 would be lightly evolved to form the RB20 were in for a shock pre-season when an overhauled creation from Adrian Newey, Pierre Wache and the rest of the Milton Keynes design team broke cover.

READ MORE: 20 years of the Bahrain Grand Prix: David Tremayne looks back at F1’s first visit to the Middle East

And, following three days of testing in Bahrain, the general feeling is that Red Bull remain the team to beat, with McLaren pair Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri believing they are a “chunk behind” the reigning world champions and Ferrari, who also impressed.

Indeed, our data shows that in qualifying trim, Red Bull are around two-tenths clear of Ferrari, with McLaren a couple of tenths further back, Mercedes sitting fourth and surprise package RB a nose ahead of Aston Martin.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 21: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been digitally retouched) As Formula 1

It’s almost time to see what the 10 teams and 20 drivers have in their lockers

The situation looks slightly different in terms of race pace, for while Red Bull are still on top according to our numbers, Mercedes are this time second-best, just in front of Ferrari, with McLaren, Aston Martin and RB next up.

But given the variety of run plans in play, including different fuel loads, different tyre stint lengths and times posted at different times of the day, it is impossible to know exactly what the pecking order looks like.

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That means there is still plenty of excitement and intrigue heading into this week’s action at the Bahrain International Circuit, where the race for 2024 glory officially begins...

FAN VIEW: Fernando Alonso was the revelation of the early stages of the 2023 season after his move to Aston Martin, and F1 Play gamers expect him to be among the points again in Bahrain in 2024. Daniel Ricciardo is also backed to go well, while Alonso’s team-mate, Lance Stroll, is another popular choice.

Ultimate Guide: Everything you need to know about the 2024 F1 season

Iconic moment

This year not only marks 20 years of the Bahrain Grand Prix as a whole but also 10 years since an epic battle between then Mercedes team mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg that has gone down in history as the ‘Duel in the Desert’.

Just three Grands Prix into the new turbo-hybrid era, Hamilton and Rosberg’s wheel-to-wheel exchange on opposing strategies thrilled fans at the track and on sofas around the world, while also setting the scene for a fierce rivalry in the races and years to come.

EXCLUSIVE: More access than ever, ‘brutal’ edits and sub-plots aplenty – How Season 6 of Drive To Survive came to life

So, with a new season just around the corner, sit back, relax and roll back the years in the video player below…

Bahrain 2014: Onboard as Hamilton and Rosberg's battle lights up Sakhir

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