Both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships are now decided, but there is still plenty left to race for as the Formula One season enters its final trio of races at this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix (Race: 2.10pm Sunday; TV: Live on Sky Sports F1).
This is the first of two back-to-back events at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir before the season ends in Abu Dhabi in mid-December. Between teammate contests and battles in the constructors’ championship, there is still a good helping of competitive tension. So let’s get on with JustBookies’ F1 Bahrain Grand Prix preview, culminating with our betting tips.
The drivers’ championship was decided in Turkey two weeks ago as Lewis Hamilton claimed a record-equalling seventh title with his 10th race win of the year. A rain-effected qualifying session produced a bit of a mixed-up grid, with Hamilton himself starting sixth, but despite further rain on race day, he eventually came through to seal a dominant victory.
Mercedes had already wrapped up a seventh consecutive constructors’ championship, and they and Hamilton are again the rightful favourites with the UK-licensed online bookies for this weekend’s race. Ferrari have been very strong at Bahrain in previous years but they are some way off the pace of the Mercedes this time around and it is difficult to see anyone preventing odds-on Hamilton winning a fifth consecutive Grand Prix on Sunday.
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas had a torrid time on race day in Turkey, spinning six times en route to a 14th place finish. He will have something to prove this weekend, and while Hamilton is the clear favourite to win the race, Bottas might be able to beat him to first on the grid.
Bottas has taken four pole positions this season, including in two of the last four races, and while Hamilton outqualified him at last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix, Bottas had been the faster qualifier in each of the previous two seasons. A fifth pole position of the year could well be his on Saturday.
Sergio Perez, inexplicably seemingly without a drive for 2021, finished second for Racing Point in Turkey to move up into fourth in the drivers’ standings, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel filling the final podium place ahead of his teammate Charles Leclerc.
Carlos Sainz took fifth for McLaren, ahead of the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon, the second McLaren of Lando Norris, the Racing Point of Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault.
The battle for third and down in the constructors’ championship continues to be fought. Racing Point are third, five points clear of a McLaren team who now probably represent their only realistic challenger for that position. Renault are a further 13 points back; Ferrari six points further still.
Racing Point seem to have the quicker package right now, so McLaren may have to rely on simply getting solid cumulative points from both of their cars over the remaining three races if they are to have any chance of pushing up into third.
The result in Turkey represented a second consecutive double points finish for McLaren, and their fifth of the season. With Bahraini owners, the next two races are a certain kind of home races for the team and they seem confident of securing good results.
Both their cars qualified in the top 10 last year and they probably would have converted that into a double points finish had Sainz not been involved in early contact that compromised his race and eventually led to his retirement. Norris brought his car home in sixth. This time around, McLaren can be fancied to secure a double-points finish.
AlphaTauri were never really on the pace in Turkey, with both cars qualifying and finishing outside the top 10. It was only the second race this year in which they failed to score points but they should be more competitive in Bahrain. Alexander Albon secured them a points finish there last season and, in 2018, Pierre Gasly finished a superb fourth.
Gasly has produced a number of excellent drives since returning to the team after his brief spell at the senior Red Bull team, including his maiden victory at Monza in September and subsequent top-six finishes at the Eifel and Portuguese Grand Prix. The Frenchman has a solid chance of again getting himself into the top six on Sunday. So JustBookies’ Bahrain Grand Prix betting tips for this F1 preview are: