Not a race known for many - if any - memorable races in its 10 years on the calendar, the Bahrain Grand Prix proved in 2014 that even the least inspired circuits can serve up an inspiring race at times.

Playing host to one of the sport's greatest races as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg duelled side-by-side for the lead, it's a battle many want to see a repeat of in 2015. However, it isn't the first time that a circuit with a reputation for processions has served up a vintage race, as's look back at six of the best unexpected classics highlights.

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg put on a show befitting of Bahrain's anniversary event with a thrilling fight under the stars


Until last year, a decade's worth of Formula One racing at the Bahrain International Circuit had produced little of note in the way of on-track action - but the 2014 Bahrain GP saw a sensational wheel-to-wheel battle between Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg almost single-handedly make up for the previous ten years of snooze-inducing drudgery.

Hermann Tilke's second F1 circuit hosted its inaugural race in 2004, but despite being afforded the honour of opening the championship in 2006 and 2010 the race had resolutely failed to make any impression - with the Bahrain GP becoming better known for its 2011 cancellation and human rights protests than the quality of its racing.

For 2014 the organisers decided to change things, holding the race under floodlights for the first time. The results were startling, as if the reduced visibility tricked the drivers into believing they were racing on a different track, with close racing and intense battling throughout the field.

The story of the race however was the fight for the lead between the Mercedes pair of Hamilton and Rosberg. Starting from pole, Rosberg was beaten to the first corner by Hamilton and spent the remainder of the race trying desperately, and ultimately in vain, to regain the lead.

After losing out in a wall of death around the outside of Hamilton at turn four on lap one, Rosberg bided his time before trying to pass again on lap 18. After outbraking Hamilton into turn one, Rosberg ran wide and the Briton was able to rudely chop back across the sister Mercedes' nose to re-take the lead.

One lap later Rosberg tried again, this time holding the apex to the first corner as both Mercedes locked their tyres. Hamilton though fought back into turn four, cutting back underneath Rosberg and outmuscling the German as the Silver Arrows ran side-by-side through the sweeping bends of turns five and six.

Battle resumed after a late race safety car caused by Esteban Gutierrez' Pastor Maldonado-inspired aerial acrobatics, with Rosberg throwing everything at Hamilton on lap 52 as the Mercedes again ran through turns four, five and six separated by inches. Hamilton held on and retained his lead to the flag, taking a breathless victory that lit the touchpaper for an incendiary season-long battle between the two Mercedes team-mates.

Slow, twisty and hard to overtake on... All it took as a little bit of rain to spice up the show


The Hungaroring, just outside Budapest, has been an ever-present staple on the F1 calendar since it hosted the first Hungarian Grand Prix in 1986. Despite proving an immensely popular destination for teams and fans alike, the Hungaroring has unfortunately also earned a reputation as a byword for tedious, processional races.

There have been notable exceptions, with Nigel Mansell's win from 12th on the grid in 1989 and Michael Schumacher's incredible tactical victory in 1998 standing out, but these results were achieved in spite of the circuit rather than because of it. The most enthralling Hungarian GP came in 2006, when conditions contrived to deliver a maiden victory for Jenson Button at the 113th time of asking.

A series of penalties doled out in practice mixed up the grid, putting championship contenders Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso out of position in 11th and 15th place respectively. Between them was Jenson Button, penalised 10 places for an engine change and starting a demoralised 14th.

Come raceday the heavens opened, and the race started under wet conditions for the first time in the history of the Hungarian GP. Polesitter Kimi Raikkonen led early on, but the main action was behind him as Schumacher, Alonso and Button carved through the field from their lowly gird slots.

After sensationally passing Schumacher around the outside of turn five, Alonso led the chase to Raikkonen - while Schumacher subsequently fell back into the clutches of Button and pitted after damaging his front wing in a collision with Giancarlo Fisichella, removing the German from contention.

A safety car on lap 25 after race leader Raikkonen suffered an airborne collision with Tonio Liuzzi closed the field up, with Button declining to pit and vaulting up to second behind new race leader Alonso. After a brief battle for the lead, Button pitted for fuel - opening the door for Alonso to cruise to victory.

Sensationally though Alonso's Renault team bungled his final pit stop on lap 51, and a loose wheel nut sent Alonso careering into the barriers at turn two. Button inherited a huge lead from the recovering Schumacher on worn intermediates. As Button cruised to the flag Schumacher mounted a staunchly entertaining defence of his position from the chasing pack, ultimately damaging his suspension and retiring after a collision with Nick Heidfeld.

Button held on for an emotional and popular victory, proving his enduring skill in variable conditions in a race that helped to dilute the Hungaroring's reputation for unbridled tedium.

Africa's last grand prix to date saw Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher duke it out for victory


The original Kyalami was one of Formula One's classic circuits, a 'tarmac and tyres' cathedral of speed that separated the men from the boys during Grand Prix racing's machismo heyday.

F1 abandoned South Africa in 1985 after belatedly reacting to international concerns around apartheid, but the race was resurrected in 1992 after political revolution in South Africa. The circuit though had been neutered in the intervening years, reincarnated as a pale imitation of its former glory; a twisting, narrow ribbon snaking apologetically over the original course.

The updated circuit only hosted two races, resuming its traditional place on the calendar as the opening round of the 1992 and 1993 seasons. The 1992 South African GP saw Nigel Mansell take a crushing victory that was as dominant as it was dull. The portents for the 1993 race were ominous, but in the event Alain Prost took a thrilling victory on his maiden outing for Williams.

Prost's return from his 1992 sabbatical saw hostilities with Ayrton Senna resumed, but the season would also see Michael Schumacher coming of age as a top class Grand Prix driver - and never was their cross-generational rivalry better demonstrated than at Kyalami.

Senna's McLaren and Schumacher's Benetton got the jump on Prost at the start, triggering a classic three-way tussle for the lead. Prost edged past Schumacher on lap 13 and the trio thrillingly circulated nose-to-tail for 10 further laps as Prost twitched around in Senna's slipstream - with the gap between the top three never more than 1s.

Prost's Williams FW15C was ultimately too strong, allowing him to pass and pull away to an easy victory, although a late race thunderstorm added further drama, with only 5 cars still circulating by race's end.

With the cost of hosting the Grand Prix proving prohibitive to the circuit's owners, the race failed to return for 1994 - with Prost's victory marking Formula One's most recent appearance on African soil to date.

Fernando Alonso sets himself up for his title-winning season by defeating Michael Schumacher on Ferrari's home soil


The Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, more commonly known as Imola, was a permanent fixture on the F1 calendar from 1980 (when it held the Italian Grand Prix as Monza was being refurbished) to 2006, after when it disappeared from the calendar to make way for the returning Belgian Grand Prix.

Imola was never the most captivating circuit, but the modifications made after the tragic events of the 1994 San Marino GP sucked the speed and soul out of the track, creating a series of interlinked chicanes and 'point and squirt' short straights between second and third gear corners which rendered overtaking nigh-on impossible.

Imola's final two races however packed enough excitement to gloss over the lack of memories created by the previous decade's worth of Grands Prix. The first of these, in 2005, saw Fernando Alonso's Renault lay down a true 'changing of the guard' marker by holding off the charging Ferrari of reigning five-time world champion Michael Schumacher.

Alonso had won the preceding two races, building up an early season advantage over the floundering Schumacher - whose Ferrari team had suffered an uncharacteristically slow start to the season with the unwieldy F2005. The pattern was repeated in qualifying, where Alonso took second behind pole-sitter Kimi Raikkonen while Schumacher languished in 13th.

After Raikkonen's early retirement, Alonso held a comfortable lead - but the story of the race quickly became Schumacher's charge through the field. With the Ferrari finally demonstrating genuine pace, Schumacher ran an alternative strategy, fuelling long and staying out late and using a light car and clear track to make up positions when his rivals pitted.

Running third after leapfrogging Jarno Trulli during the second stops, Schumacher eviscerated the gap to second-placed Jenson Button's BAR at a rate of two seconds per lap, and pounced to snatch second when Button made a small error at Acqua Minerali on lap 45.

Schumacher emerged from his final pit stop on lap 49 just 1.5 seconds behind Alonso, setting up a grandstand final 12 laps as the Ferrari hounded the Renault to the flag. Despite his obvious superior pace, Schumacher had no way through however - a combination of superb defensive driving from Alonso and Imola's inherent lack of overtaking opportunities thwarting the German.

Alonso held on to take a famous victory, and in a curious twist of fate the tables were turned a year later as Schumacher held off the fast-charging Spaniard to bring the curtain down on the San Marino GP with a neat piece of mirror-image bookending.

Despite the United States' indifference with F1 over the years, the 1990 event in Phoenix served up a thriller... albeit without much of an audience


The last of Formula One's concrete jungle tour of uninspiring urban landscapes across America saw the circus set up camp in Phoenix for three seasons from 1989-91. Bizarrely, considering local ostrich races were rumoured to attract more fans than the Grand Prix, Phoenix was chosen to ring in the new season with a whimper in both 1990 and 1991.

However, despite the unpromising portents, the 1990 United States Grand Prix was an absolute classic, thanks to the career-making performance of a hard-charging French-Sicilian by the name of Jean Alesi.

Alesi, marking his first full season with the under-funded and declining Tyrell team, qualified fourth during a wet qualifying session which saw Pierluigi Martini's Minardi and Andrea de Cesaris in the Dallara haul even more uncompetitive machinery into stunning grid positions of second and third respectively.

Whilst Martini and de Cesaris quickly fell away in the race however, Alesi scorched off the line into the lead, impetuously heading the hitherto dominant McLarens for almost half the race. Alesi finally surrendered after an enthralling dogfight with Ayrton Senna, although the Brazilian needed two passes to finally get the job done on lap 34 after Alesi made a cheekily bold re-pass on the championship favourite.

The Tyrrell kept the McLaren honest to the flag, with Alesi trailing Senna home by 9 seconds for a sensational maiden podium. Alesi would repeat the trick at Monaco, the nimble Tyrrell again taking second behind Senna, and a star was born - although sadly Alesi's career would never scale the heights of the seemingly limitless potential on display that day in Phoenix.

Much anticipated, easily forgotten, Valencia's street circuit did at least get a fitting swansong


The Valencia Street Circuit hosted the European Grand Prix for five years from 2008-2012, but only once produced anything resembling a quality race - with Fernando Alonso's popular home victory in 2012 signing off the circuit in some style.

Envisaged as a Monaco of the Spanish Mediterranean, with the track snaking through yacht-lined harbours in Valencia's port, the Valencia street circuit ultimately resembled nothing more than concrete lined boulevards that offered occasional glimpses of the ocean and little in the way of iconography or racing action. The race had hitherto been memorable for Mark Webber's spectacular airborne collision with Heikki Kovalainen in 2010 and the fact that the 2011 race was so desperately dull that it delivered both the fewest retirements (0) and the most finishers (24) in history.

The 2012 European GP finally demonstrated, too little too late, Valencia's prowess as a racetrack. A fluctuating start to the 2012 campaign had seen seven different winners from the opening seven races, and Alonso became the first double victor with a sensational charge to win from 11th on the grid in Valencia.

Alonso's trademark fast start was the catalyst for his climb through the field, moving up from 11th to eighth on the opening lap, before passing Nico Hulkenberg, Pastor Maldonado and Kamui Kobayashi ahead of the first pit stops.

Emerging from the pits into a traffic jam, Alonso rapidly dispatched the late stoppers (including a thrilling pass on Mark Webber), putting the Ferrari in fourth place and prime position to capitalise on any misfortune for the leaders.

Then, a series of events at the midway point turned the race emphatically in Alonso's favour. First, a safety car for debris on the track eliminated the huge lead that Sebastian Vettel had built up from Romain Grosjean, Lewis Hamilton and Alonso. As the quartet dived into the pits, a front jack problem for Hamilton promoted Alonso to third. At the restart, Alonso outdragged Grosjean, expertly dispatching the Lotus around the outside of Turn 1. Then, incredibly, Vettel's alternator failed on the very same lap, promoting Alonso to first place.

The threat to Alonso diminished when Grosjean also retired with an alternator problem, and the Spaniard cruised to take a highly emotional home win - reclaiming the championship lead in the process. Behind the leaders the action had remained frenetic throughout, with the last few laps seeing Michael Schumacher and Mark Webber scythe through the field after late pit stops for soft tyres, and a controversial collision between Maldonado and Hamilton which promoted Schumacher to third place - and an immensely popular final podium finish of his career.