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First Bahrain F1 night race a resounding success

Apr 7, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain - Race Getty Images

For many years, Bahrain has been considered to be at the bottom of the list of “great grands prix” that currently have a place on the calendar. Following a great deal of political unrest in the kingdom in the wake of the Arab Spring, and the subsequent cancellation of the 2011 race, many expected the race to disappear from the sport altogether. Would it have been missed? Probably not. Mark Webber once said that racing at the Bahrain International Circuit was like driving around a car park. With dwindling attendances and a lack of atmosphere, it was hardly a race people relished.

So when the organizers confirmed that the 2014 race – the 10th Bahrain Grand Prix – would be a night race, many wrote it off as being another gimmick; a last roll of the dice to try and give the event some life. Singapore was at the time the only total night race in the sport, but it worked because of the location and the way that the race was promoted; the “Monaco of the east”, a glamorous event that attracted the rich and famous.

But Bahrain? That would not work as a night race, surely.

Instead, the doubters (including this writer) were proved very wrong last weekend. Not only did the on-track action give us a classic grand prix, but the off-track activity and atmosphere seemed to be a world away from what it used to be. Hundreds of floodlights were erected to illuminate the circuit, and this worked perfectly for the drivers who had no problems with visibility.

Around the circuit, the palm trees and run-off areas were draped in golden lights that came on as the sun went down, creating a quite beautiful overhead shot of the circuit.

It might seem quite odd, but the fact that we could not see the desert in the background went a long way to helping us to forget that this is essentially a grand prix in the middle of nowhere. The grandstands also appeared to be busier this year, with the main straight cheering and cooing at every bit of action before spilling out onto the circuit come the checkered flag.

Just as Qatar has proven to be a successful night race in Moto GP, Bahrain has pulled a similar trick in Formula 1. It was indeed the “celebration” that the organizers promised to mark the 10th anniversary of the first race, and it comes as little surprise that before the weekend had even finished, officials confirmed that they will be keeping the race as a night-time event from now on.

Formula 1’s foothold in Bahrain has never been stronger, and in 2015, we might actually earmark the race as being a highlight for the season ahead.

  1. testover6370 - Apr 7, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    Races look better at night and that was the case here, but this track is still very low on my list. The floodlights don’t change the fact that this is another character-less Tilkedrome where only paint distinguishes the run-off from the track. This was a fantastic race, but that was entirely due to the inter-team battles that took place up and down the grid, from battles for the lead to battles for the last points. Still, the reasonable hour of the race for US audiences was appreciated.

  2. worknman24hours - Apr 7, 2014 at 10:16 PM

    I think the night aspect of this race totally changed just how great this race was.

    First off, what a spectacularly beautiful scene to race in.

    The track was absolutely stunning on tv.

    The character of the lighting was much better which I will give great credit to the Middle Eastern nights characteristic cleaness of vision.

    The nights there must just carry a different type of feeling and that shown right through the many camera lenses.

    And second, the track itself had many runoffs that allowed drivers to run their teammates off the track over and over without penalty so calling out the track on a race day that many have called one of the best in many a day seems a little harsh.

    I have never been a great fan of the Bahrain race but this night race?

    Heck yes, bring it on next year exactly the same time.

    What a stunningly spectacular place to race.

    All I can say is -WOW.

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