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How Sakhir GP will smash a 46-year-old record

The pole position time for the Sakhir Grand Prix on Bahrain's near-oval layout in December is set to smash a Formula 1 record that has stood for 46 years.

Fireworks light the sky at the end of the race as George Russell, Williams Racing FW42, crosses the line

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

F1 has estimated that qualifying times for the race on Bahrain’s outer circuit will be under 55 seconds, which will ensure that the track will provide the lowest pole time in history.

The all-time list is dominated by poles recorded at Dijon, the former home of the French GP.

The circuit was first used for the 1974 race with its original 2.0-mile layout. Ferrari’s Niki Lauda set a pole time of 58.79s, which was F1’s first and so far only pole lap of less than 60 seconds.

That race also provided F1’s lowest fastest lap time in history, with a time of 1m.00.00s credited to Tyrrell’s Jody Scheckter, and which could also be bettered in the Sakhir GP.

The original Dijon circuit was used for the non-championship Swiss GP in 1975, when Jean-Pierre Jarier logged a slightly slower pole time of 59.25s.

Thanks to its low lap times the track was deemed to be too short for F1, and an extra loop was added for the 1977 French GP, bringing the length up to 2.3-miles. It made a significant difference to lap times, with Mario Andretti taking that year’s pole in 1m12.21s.

However, in subsequent seasons car development and the rise of turbo power saw lap times tumble once more, and at the 1982 Swiss GP – which was a world championship race – Renault’s Alain Prost set a pole lap of 1m01.380s, which still stands as the second lowest time in history.

At the French GP two years later, Patrick Tambay couldn’t quite match that performance, recording a lap of 1m02.200s for Renault that stands as the third fastest in history.

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After Dijon the next track in the all-time table is Kyalami. The South African GP venue would have figured higher on the all-time list had turbos raced there at their peak in 1986-’87, so its lowest pole lap remains the one achieved by Nigel Mansell in 1985.

In recent years years the Red Bull Ring has gradually climbed the order of lowest lap times, helped by the increasing performance of the cars and a resurfacing in 2016.

Indeed, this year’s Austrian GP earned fifth place in the all-time list courtesy of a pole time of 1m02.939s set by Valtteri Bottas. The 2019 and 2018 Austrian races are also inside the top 10.

The other venue that features in the top 10 is Watkins Glen, with the 1968, ‘69 and ‘70 US GPs that were held on the 2.35-mile version all appearing. The track was extended in 1971.

Lowest Pole Position Lap Times in F1 History

1. 1974 Dijon: Niki Lauda, 0m58.79s

2. 1982 Dijon: Alain Prost, 1m01.380s

3. 1984 Dijon: Patrick Tambay, 1m02.200s

4. 1985 Kyalami: Nigel Mansell, 1m02.366s

5. 2020 Spielberg: Valtteri Bottas, 1m02.939s

6. 2019: Spielberg: Charles Leclerc, 1m03.003s

7. 1970 Watkins Glen: Jacky Ickx, 1m03.07s

8. 2018 Spielberg: Valtteri Bottas, 1m03.130s

9. 1969 Watkins Glen: Jochen Rindt, 1m03.62s

10. 1968 Watkins Glen: Mario Andretti, 1m04.20s

11. 2017 Spielberg: Valtteri Bottas, 1m04.251s

12. 1990 Paul Ricard: Nigel Mansell, 1m04.402s

13. 1984 Kyalami: Nelson Piquet, 1m04.871s

14. 1967 Watkins Glen: Graham Hill, 1m05.48s

15. 1985 Silverstone: Keke Rosberg, 1m05.591s

16. 1981 Dijon: Rene Arnoux, 1m05.95s

17. 2016 Spielberg: Lewis Hamilton, 1m06.228s [Q2]

18. 1982 Kyalami: Alain Prost, 1m06.351s

19. 1987 Paul Ricard: Nigel Mansell, 1m06.454s

20. 1986 Paul Ricard: Ayrton Senna, 1m06.526s

21. 1983 Kyalami: Patrick Tambay, 1m06.554s

22. 1986 Brands Hatch: Nelson Piquet, 1m06.961s

23. 1987 Silverstone: Nelson Piquet, 1m07.110s

24. 1988 Silverstone: Gerhard Berger, 1m07.110s

25. 1985 Brands Hatch: Ayrton Senna, 1m07.169s

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