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Fires, flights and fights - most memorable Bahrain Grand Prix moments

The Bahrain Grand Prix kicks off the 2023 F1 season this weekend - so here are five memorable moments from Sakhir.

Formula 1 heads to the Persian Gulf and Sakhir this weekend for the 19th Bahrain Grand Prix since the race joined the calendar in 2004. Originally a standard day race, in 2014 to celebrate the 10th race (2011 was cancelled due to protests), it switched to a night race, with the event enjoying a renaissance under the lights in becoming one of the best races. 2023 will be the fifth time that the Bahrain GP has opened the F1 season, following on from '06,'10 and every year since '21. Over the years, the Bahrain Grand Prix has thrown up some memorable moments - including the lesser known story of how a global manufacturer fluffed their biggest chance of securing a Grand Prix win. But, let's start with one of the most remarkable escapes ever seen in motorsport back in 2020.

Romain Grosjean 2020

A generation, nearly two passed without the sight of a Formula 1 car exploding into flames in an accident. Sure, there had been engine and oil fires down the years, but the last such instance of a fireball engulfing a car was Gerhard Berger in the 1989 San Marino Grand Prix after crashing his Ferrari at Tamburello. Anyhow, Romain Grosjean's survival of his fiery first lap shunt in the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix and his leaping away from the burning wreck of the Haas - which has now gone on display - are images indelibly stamped on the F1 psyche. But the biggest lesson from Grosjean's accident was the closing of the debate around the halo for good. Very simply put, had the halo not been in place and bore the brunt of the impact with the barrier, the Frenchman would have been decapitated.

Charles Leclerc's engine

For Lewis Hamilton Australia 2007 or Sebastian Vettel Italy 2008, we must read Bahrain 2019 for Charles Leclerc. This was the race they burst onto the scene and made the world take note that this guy is something special. Leclerc grabbed a maiden career pole, and overtook teammate Vettel to put some early manners on the German in just his second race with the Scuderia. The Monegasque would do everything right, and was cruising home with a handful of laps to run when he reported "something strange with the engine." A short circuit within the engine control system had occurred, robbing him of power as Hamilton began to reel the ailing Cavalino Rampante in. Both Mercedes passed Leclerc, who only held onto a podium after the Safety Car was deployed on the final lap for the two Renault's expiring within seconds of each other. Leclerc might not have won, but he announced his arrival in style - not that anyone ever doubted it would come.

Hamilton and Rosberg 'save' F1

It's fair to say that the 2014 season was not going well after the switch to turbo hybrids from the loud and throaty V8 engines. They had been criticised for a lack of noise, with Ferrari chief Luca di Montezemolo even describing drivers as "taxi drivers." Needless to say, a thrilling race between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg went a long way to steadying the F1 ship. The Mercedes teammates were in a class of two, and battled throughout the race, memorably dicing up from Turn 1 to Turn 6 on multiple occasions. Hamilton eventually won out but the first cracks in their infamous relationship began to show when Rosberg used banned engine modes in the race, with Hamilton kindly repaying the favour in Spain.

Esteban Gutierrez goes flying

Thankfully, the sight of a Formula 1 car flying upside is rare. But in that 2014 classic between Hamilton and Rosberg, Esteban Gutierrez flipped after being rammed at the first corner. Exiting the pits, Pastor Maldonado's Lotus locked up, and made contact with the rear-right of the Sauber. Over went the bemused Mexican - who can only ask: 'Woah, what was that?' On commentary, and as quick as ever, Martin Brundle replied: 'That was a Maldonado.' It was arguably the most memorable moment from Gutierrez's season, as he finished pointless.

Toyota's lost win

For a manufacturer the size of Toyota to walk away from F1 with a handful of podiums and three pole positions is a disappointing return. Between 2002 and 2009, Toyota was always 'on the verge' of turning things around, but in 2009, they actually had. With the likes of Ferrari and McLaren fumbling the new rules, Red Bull, Toyota and Brawn were the early pace-setters, with a pair of third and fourth finishes in the opening three races for the Japanese concern. In Bahrain, Jarno Trulli qualified on pole position with Timo Glock second in a lock-out. It was Toyota's race to lose. And they did. A bungled strategy left Jenson Button to romp to another win with Sebastian Vettel second. Trulli did recover to third but a third and seventh from a one-two start is poor. Who knows that had Toyota converted Bahrain 2009 into a win if they would have stuck about for 2010 amid the financial crisis. And that 2010 machine was rumoured to be a handy bit of kit as well...

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