The organisers of the Bahrain Grand Prix have announced that the layout of the circuit will revert back to its original format for 2011, following the conversion to 'an extended endurance track' this year, a move that they claim was made to help celebrate F1's 60th anniversary – but one that led to most observers caustically describing the season curtain-raiser as 'Bore-rain' due to its nigh-on complete lack of excitement or overtaking.
The Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir has welcomed the top flight every year since 2004, but the track was altered for 2010 by lengthening it from 5.412km to 6.299km with the addition of nine new, narrow slow-speed corners – a section that found favour with neither drivers nor fans, with a sleep-inducingly dull race back in March that led to many slating the current aerodynamic regulations and forecasting a soporific season ahead, what has palpably transpired not to be the case.
Following a number of meetings, it has now been resolved that the revised layout is to be ditched, though whether the argument that it was only ever a temporary measure designed to present drivers with an additional challenge as F1 marked its special landmark is genuine – or merely a convenient smokescreen to try to carpet over an error of judgement in changing it in the first place – remains up for debate.
'Following the huge success of the 2010 F1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix as the inaugural round for the F1 World Championship's 60th anniversary season, Bahrain International Circuit has announced that it will be returning to its original track layout in preparation for next season,' read a statement on the track's official website.
'The use of the extended endurance track was part of the celebrations which marked the diamond jubilee of the oldest and most prestigious racing series. It provided a unique opportunity to see the participating teams and drivers of the 24-strong grid navigate several new challenges and turns.
'The 2011 F1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix will therefore feature the original track layout, which has been used since Bahrain International Circuit's inaugural race in 2004 when the circuit was awarded the prestigious Best-Organised Grand Prix Trophy.'
Whilst the circuit itself and its facilities may be state-of-the-art and as good as they come in modern-day F1, to the millions of fans at home in front of their TV screens, those kinds of attributes mean precious little, with the sole interest being in the quality of the action that they witness on the box – and therefore, goes conventional wisdom, to preserve its place on the sport's annual calendar in the wake of all the criticism it received earlier this year, Bahrain had to take action.
“Since its inception in 2004, Bahrain International Circuit has continually set new standards in the world of international motorsport,” underlined the venue's acting CEO, Sheikh Salman Bin Isa Al Khalifa, according to the official F1 website. “Known globally as the 'Friendly Race', it has been a favourite on the F1 World Championship calendar for the past seven seasons.
“As the inaugural round of the F1 World Championship's 60th anniversary season, it was important for us to celebrate this momentous occasion by doing something very unique and different. One of the major tasks we undertook to mark this milestone was implementing changes to our FIA-approved track layout, giving the participating teams of the 2010 F1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix a completely new challenge.
“It was an enormous task given the timeframe we had [in which] to implement it, but one that demonstrated Bahrain's characteristics as a race-promoter prepared to continually make changes designed to heighten the awareness and increase the levels of presentation associated with the sport of F1. Both the grand prix and the 60th anniversary celebrations, with 18 of the surviving 20 F1 World Champions along with the cars that took them to their titles, will be remembered for a long time as a result.”