The Bahrain Grand Prix is poised to become the second night race in Formula One next season after the construction of floodlights and their testing at the final round of the World Endurance Championship in the kingdom this weekend.
Bahrain’s suitability to host a grand prix has come into question over the past few years due to civil unrest in the wake of the Arab Spring. The protests proved to be so volatile that the race was cancelled in 2011, but since it has managed to go ahead without too many problems. Nevertheless, with attendance figures dwindling, the organizers have opted to make the grand prix a night race in 2014 to mark the tenth anniversary of the first event in Bahrain.
“This is by far the biggest development project we have ever undertaken at the BIC [Bahrain International Circuit] since the circuit was first built,” chief executive Salman bin Isa al-Khalifa explained. “I believe that there can be no better way for us to mark our tenth anniversary in F1 by demonstrating our long term commitment to the sport through this significant investment.”
With this move, the Bahrain Grand Prix becomes the second night race on the calendar, following in the footsteps of the Singapore Grand Prix. However, the location for the latter makes the night race such a draw, and with the circuit in Bahrain failing to impress many drivers or fans, this may be a last roll of the dice for the organizers to see if F1 can make a splash in the Gulf kingdom.
The lighting will first be used during this weekend’s World Endurance Championship finale at Sakhir which is set to end at 9pm local time. Although this could revitalise Formula One in Bahrain, the organizers have an incredibly tough act to follow from Singapore’s unmitigated success since joining the calendar in 2008.