Home  //  Circuit Guides Formula 1 Bahrain (Sakhir)
Written by @Damien_Marquez   
Thursday, 06 March 2014 07:24

The Bahrain International Circuit is one of two tracks hosting an F1 round in the Middle East. Unlike it's Abu Dhabi neighbour, the on-track action in Bahrain will appeal to the purists thanks to a layout that is more favourable to proper wheel-to wheel racing.

Aside from the recent political unrest, the event has suffered from a poor image due to low attendance in the grandstands. What is less known is that the grand prix takes place on a working day in Bahrain and a move to a 6pm race start should allow more workers to get to the circuit after a day at the office. Additionally, the cars look magnificent under the floodlights, the facilities are top notch and it is one of the few grands prix where you do not need to pack your rain gear for the weekend.


Tower and Turn 1 Grandstand - Image: Ferrari S.p.A

The grand prix is country's the sporting highlight of the year and the 2014 edition takes place from Friday 4th to Sunday 6th April. Support races will feature the first round of the GP2 calendar and include the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East. Off-track activities include performing artists, dancers, musicians, a children/family area and an F1 Game Zone. Avicii and The Scorpions are scheduled to perform on the Saturday night.

 

CONTENTS

1 // Location and accommodation
2 // Money matters
3 // Ticket prices
4 // Which grandstand to choose
5 // Tips and recommendations
6 // GrandPrixAdvisor fixes
7 // Useful links to prepare your trip to Bahrain

 

1 // LOCATION AND ACCOMMODATION

At the time of writing, the travel advice from the Australian authorities is to reconsider your need to travel to Bahrain. The British and Canadian Foreign Offices strongly recommend visitors to exercise a high degree of caution, to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings anywhere on the Island. Remain clear of large public gatherings as demonstrations can become violent. There is also the ongoing threat of terrorism.

We would recommend you to find accommodation in Manama, either in the Diplomatic Area where some of the F1 personnel stay for the weekend, or Juffair where many expats live. Avoid Shia-majority areas, including the Sanabis area, Hamad town, Saar, Budaiya and the Sitra area. As a precaution, follow the advice of your hotel concierge before heading out.

It takes approximately 35 minutes by car to drive the 30km that separate Manama from Sakhir where the circuit is located. Whilst there is no public transport, some hotels will have a shuttle going to the track, so this is worth checking with them before booking. Other options includes taxis and hire cars with chauffeur.


Pit straight and Main Grandstand (right) - Image: Ferrari S.p.A

 

2 // MONEY MATTERS

As for most grands prix, the biggest share of your budget will be allocated to the airfare. Tickets for the grand prix only go on sale in early January despite the early slot in the season. Buy your flights as soon as the World Motor Sport Council ratifies the F1 calendar in December. Allow for a refundable flight in case the political situation deteriorate, but not enough to be covered by your travel insurance.

Return airfares to Bahrain start from:
• $1,100 (1 stop) or $900 (2 stops) from Kuala Lumpur
• $300 from Dubai
• £600 (direct) or £400 (1 stop) from London
• €700 (direct) or €600 (1 stop) from Frankfurt
• $1,100 from New York
• A$2,100 (1 stop) or A$2,000 (2 stops) from Sydney

Three-night accommodation from: BD150 / $400 / £270 / €320 for a four star double/twin room with a review score of 7/10 or more on Booking.com.

Visa: Aside from Thai nationals, all foreigners need a visa to enter the kingdom. A two-week F1 Visa is free of charge and is issued on arrival at the border. Unlike the standard Visit Visa which costs BD5 / $14 / £9 / €11, the F1 Visa cannot be extended.

Taxi
• From the airport to Central Manama: BD6 / $16 / £11 / €13
• From Central Manama to the airport: BD4 / $11 / £8 / €9
• From Central Manama to the circuit: BD10 / $27 / £18 / €21
The above prices are for a one-way journey, unless of course, your hotel offers a complementary shuttle service.

Food and drinks: BD60 / $160 / £110 / €130 per person for three days, although local meals start from BD2 / $6 / £4 / €5.

Internet access: BD3 / $8 / £6 / €7 for a SIM card and about 1GB of mobile data. Depending on which country you come from, roaming can be quite expensive. Bahraini prepaid mobile data plans are competitively priced. Only Batelco and Zain offer 4G services at the moment.

TOTAL BUDGET from (excluding flights and tickets): BD300 / $800 / £600 / €700 for a solo traveller or BD450 / $1,200 / £900 / €1,000 for a couple. You could always do it with cheaper accommodation, just beware the reputation of some midrange hotels.


Alonso at Turn 9 (centre) and University 1 Grandstand (right) - Image: Ferrari S.p.A

 

3 // TICKET PRICES

A 15-20% discount applies for three-day grandstand ticket purchases until the 5th February. A three-day grandstand ticket also include a pit walk on Thursday 3rd April. One free car park pass can be issued for a minimum of thee spectators. Gulf Air Club tickets can only be bought in addition to a grandstand ticket. Please note there is no general admission.

Other discounts on full price tickets are available for children aged 3-12 (50%), school students aged 13-17 (25%), senior citizens aged 60 and over (25%), people with special needs (25%) and Gulf Air frequent flyers (15% for a maximum of 2 tickets).

Prices from the organisers are in bold. Exchange rates are sourced from xe.com and based on the highest rate since the last Bahrain Grand Prix. Grandstand and add-on ticket prices have been rounded up to the nearest $10 / £10 / €10 whereas hospitality tickets have been rounded up to the nearest BD100 / $100 / £100 / €100.


Click to enlarge.

 

4 // WHICH GRANDSTAND TO CHOOSE

For a map of the grandstands, either go to this section of Formula1.com and/or Google Maps.

Unsurprisingly for the location, all grandstands are covered. Whilst this may be of little use after sunset, you will appreciate the protection from the sun and the heat during Practice 1, Practice 3 and the support races. There is a TV screen installed opposite all of the grandstands, which have reserved seating only.

The Main Grandstand boasts views of the team garages and gives the opportunity to see the cars at the start/finish line. It is also a comfortable place to watch the action unfold on one of the three TV screens located on the roof of the pit building. That said, it offers a limited experience as far as track viewing is concerned and there are no seats that allow watching the cars above the catch fence.

The Turn 1 Grandstand is placed alongside the Main Grandstand at the braking zone of the main straight. Spectators sitting on the top rows and close to the Main Grandstand can watch the start and finish of the race. Everybody else will see Turn 1 drama and overtaking action as well as cars exiting the pit lane. The view is somewhat similar to that of the much cheaper University 1 and 2 grandstands but Turn 1 seats are mostly facing the rear of the cars going through Turns 1, 2 and 3. The safety fence between cars and spectators also prevents from taking neat pictures despite overlooking a slow section of the track.

University 1 and University 2 are probably the best value grandstands in Sakhir. From there, cars can be followed from the Turn 1 braking zone through to Turn 3. From the top rows, you can watch the action at Turn 9 and Turn 10. University 2 spectators can also see the beginning of the back straight. Of these two grandstands, only University 2 offers some views of the cars above the debris fence. The TV screen is perfectly located between the two grandstands.

University 3 is for the single day spectators. It offers similar views to University 2 except that it is further away from the TV screen located between University 1 and University 2.

The Batelco grandstand is located in the Oasis complex, behind the Formula 1 paddock. From there, you can follow the cars from Turn 7 to Turn 10 as well as the back straight. The section between Turn 8 and Turn 9 is seen unobstructed from the catch. As such, it is probably the best place to take pictures from.

Victory 1 offers a good view of the cars coming from the back straight and into Turns 11 and 12 without the catch fence being in the way. Cars can be seen again on the last straight between Turns 13 and 14. The grandstand has its dedicated TV screen.

The Victory 2 grandstand is placed at penultimate corner to watch the cars going through the last two turns leading to the main straight. It is also possible to follow the cars through the fast flowing Turns 11 and 12 from a distance. Just like Victory 1, it has its own TV screen opposite. Cars can only be viewed above the safety fence for a very short period of time, just before and after Turn 15.


View from Batelco Grandstand - Image: MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team

 

5 // TIPS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Expect temperatures to be in the region of 27-30°C and a humidity of up to 90%. For comfort, wear light cotton clothing (bearing in mind the local sensibility) and avoid applying too much moisturiser or sunscreen, as both will make you sweat more. Check the labels before you buy some team gear to wear at the track. A lot of items are made of nylon or polyester.

Maybe also treat yourself to a ticket for the Gulf Air Club. Located behind the Main Grandstand, this tent is the only place for non-hospitality guests that has air-conditioning and the only place where you can buy alcohol (beer and wine) at the circuit. It offers a relaxing environment with comfortable couches and TV screens to follow the on-track activities whilst cooling down a bit. Please note this add-on pass can only be bought in conjunction with a grandstand ticket.

The event commentary is provided in both Arabic and and English over a single channel. It is broadcast in the grandstands through the PA system and is also available on 107.0 FM. It is a good idea to bring an FM radio and a set of canalphones to block off the excessive noise from the cars, even if they are not as loud as in the past.

 

6 // GRANDPRIXADVISOR FIXES

The website of the Bahrain GP used to offer an interactive map with panoramic views of what you could expect to see from each grandstand. Restoring this function as well as the ability to choose your own seat should lift some extra ticket sales.

Tickets should go on sale sooner than January for an April slot on the F1 calendar. Competing grands prix such as Australia or Malaysia start selling their tickets eleven and eight months in advance respectively. Making it easier for spectators coming from further afield to save for their trip and book hotels well in advance should attract a greater number of visitors to Bahrain.

Commentary provided in dual Arabic and English through the PA system is definitely the way to go. Not everyone wants to listen to the commentary via earphones when it is possible to follow the running order and other race information via mobile internet. However, offering a dedicated frequency for English speakers and another one for Arabic speakers would add greater comfort for those spectators who just want to be immersed in the on-track action.


Batelco Grandstand - Image: Ferrari S.p.A

 

7 // USEFUL LINKS TO PREPARE YOUR TRIP TO BAHRAIN

smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/Bahrain - Bahrain travel advice from the Australian government
gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/bahrain - Bahrain travel advice from the British government
travel.gc.ca/destinations/bahrain - Bahrain travel advice from the Canadian government

bahraingp.com - BHD ticket sales and event information
bookF1.com - our GBP/USD/EUR/AUD/CAD ticket sales partner
GPTicketshop.com - our USD ticket sales partner

Booking.com - our reliable hotel reservation partner
evisa.gov.bh/VisaBhrF1En.html - F1 Visa information and application portal
portal.batelco.com - telecommunication services
bh.zain.com - telecommunication services
timeoutbahrain.com - restaurant, nightlife, arts and culture guide
lonelyplanet.com/bahrain - travel guide
formula1.com - general information and schedule

 

Finally, we would like to acknowledge the contribution of an anonymous spectator who submitted a review of her 2012 experience. We would also like to thank the Media & Public Relations department of the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) for responding to our information queries.

Have you been to the Bahrain Grand Prix? You can help us to improve this guide by leaving your impression of this event in the 'Write a Review' section of this website.

If you would like to add further information or correct any of the above article, please leave your comments below.

Bahrain Grand Prix spectator guide
 

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