After a dominant performance in China, reigning Formula One drivers’ champion Lewis Hamilton is odds-on favourite for victory at this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix (Race: Sunday, 16:00 BST, live on BBC One / Sky Sports F1).
Hamilton recovered from Sebastian Vettel’s surprise win for Ferrari in Malaysia to record a comfortable victory in Shanghai and extend his early-season championship lead. He qualified on pole position and also set the fastest lap of the race in an impressive display.
Nico Rosberg came in second in a Mercedes one-two and afterwards declared himself less than happy with the manner in which he felt Hamilton had intentionally slowed the pace to back him into Vettel, who secured a third-consecutive podium finish by coming home third. His Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen recovered from sixth on the grid to finish fourth.
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Williams again scored solidly, with Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas coming in fifth and sixth. Romain Grosjean secured Lotus’ first points of the season in seventh, with Felipe Nasr (Sauber), Daniel Ricciardo (pictured, Red Bull) and Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) rounding out the top 10. Max Verstappen was unlucky to suffer a late engine failure after another strong drive.
McLaren got both of their cars to the finish for the first time in 2015, albeit in 12th and 14th, while Marussia, too, had reason to celebrate after both of their cars started and finished the race for the first time this season.
The Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir has played host to the Bahrain Grand Prix since the inaugural event in 2004. It is a medium downforce circuit, with four straights of varying length connected by a couple of tighter infield sections. Like last year, the Grand Prix will start in an evening time-slot, with the final stages of the race to be run under floodlights.
Pirelli will bring their medium and soft compound tyres to this weekend’s event, mirroring their choices in China. Current weather forecasts suggest that is will be a hot and sunny weekend, with relatively high winds expected on both Saturday and Sunday.
Hamilton has taken pole position in all three races so far this season and is the bookies’ favourite to do so again on Saturday. However, he has admitted in the build-up to this weekend’s Grand Prix that Bahrain is not traditionally a track he runs particularly well on over one lap. He can also expect to face a strong challenge from the aggrieved Rosberg.
The German driver has an excellent record in Bahrain. He has beaten Hamilton to pole position in each of the last two years and has also out-qualified his teammate of the time in each of his last seven visits to the circuit. He needs a good performance to get his season going and can be fancied to pip Hamilton to first on the grid this weekend.
Hamilton has repeatedly shown that he has the upper hand on Rosberg in race conditions. Even if his teammate is able to secure pole position this weekend, Hamilton remains the clear favourite to take the race win on Sunday. The shortness of the odds available on him doing so do, not, however, make backing him a particularly attractive proposition.
Ferrari are not in a position to go toe-to-toe with Mercedes at every circuit, but they are within range to pounce on any errors in strategy from the front-runners. They are also close enough to lead, albeit briefly, on occasions when both Mercedes drivers make their pitstops and Vettel and/or Raikkonen are able to eke out a few more laps from their tyres.
Raikkonen showed at Lotus – in another car designed by current Ferrari technical director James Allison – that he is master of tyre management. He was able to run a longer second stint than Vettel in China and led the race for one lap when all three cars ahead of him pitted.
The Finnish driver finished second in Bahrain for Lotus in both 2012 and 2013 and can be expected to run a strong race on Sunday. If he can squeeze a little more longevity out of his tyres than his competitors, he will have a good chance of leading for at least one lap.
Nasr has finished in the points for Sauber in two of his first three Grands Prix and could well add to his tally this weekend. In both Australia and in China last time out he finished in the top 10 despite having never previously raced at the circuits. In Bahrain, he will be able to call upon the knowledge of six previous GP2 races and a practice run with Williams last year.
Sauber have achieved double points finishes in two of the three races to date, with Nasr leading the way on both occasions. The power and reliability of their Ferrari engine will provide them with a key advantage over the Renault-powered teams they are likely to be competing with on Sunday. Nasr can therefore again be expected to finish in the points.
F1 Bahrain Grand Prix Review Betting Tips
- Back Nico Rosberg to qualify on pole position @ best odds of 9/4 with Stan James.
- Bet on Kimi Raikkonen to be the leader at the end of any lap @ 11/10 with Bet365.
- Back Felipe Nasr to finish in the points @ best odds of evens with BetVictor.