F1: Bahrain Grand Prix Preview

lewis hamiltonMercedes will be confident of continuing their dominant start to the Formula One season at this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix (Race: Sunday, 16:00 BST, live on Sky Sports F1).

Lewis Hamilton (pictured) was the winner in Malaysia last weekend, leading home teammate Nico Rosberg for Mercedes’ first one-two finish since the 1950s. Sebastian Vettel was third for Red Bull, ahead of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari and the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg.

McLaren were unable to replicate their double podium finish from Australia, finishing sixth and ninth after struggling for pace throughout the weekend. Williams recovered from a poor qualifying session to record a double points finish, while Toro Rosso’s Daniel Kyvat continued his bright start to his Formula One career with a second consecutive points finish.

Kimi Raikkonen ran well in practice and qualified sixth, but was unable to work his way back through the field after early contact with McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, eventually finishing 12th. The Finn is yet to get to grips with his Ferrari, but is hopeful that the new parts the team are bringing to this weekend’s race will allow him to be more competitive.

The Circuit

The Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir will host its 10th F1 Grand Prix this weekend. It is a medium downforce circuit, with four straights of varying length connected by a couple of tighter infield sections.

Weather forecasts suggest it will be a dry and sunny weekend. This year’s race has been moved from its usual afternoon slot to an early evening start, with the final stages of the race to be run under floodlights. The cooler conditions will reduce tyre wear in comparison to previous years, with Pirelli opting for their soft and medium compounds.


Mercedes have taken pole position in both of the races so far this season. Red Bull provided a credible challenge on both occasions but their Renault engine’s relative lack of power, and the fact that rain is highly unlikely to interrupt the session, means that Mercedes should be considered clear favourites this weekend.

Hamilton and Rosberg have both performed well in previous qualifying sessions in Bahrain, out-qualifying their respective teammates in each of the four races between 2008 and 2012 (no race was held in 2011). It was, however, Rosberg who had the upper hand last year in their first season as teammates, qualifying in pole position with Hamilton fourth.

Hamilton was in superb form in Malaysia last weekend but Rosberg will be keen to show he can match his better-paid teammate and is more than capable of taking pole position on Saturday.

The Race

Hamilton’s second place finish in Bahrain in his debut season of 2007 remains his best finish at the circuit and although he out-performed Rosberg in last year’s race and is favourite in the F1 Bahrain Grand Prix betting, we still think Rosberg should be considered the most likely of the two Mercedes drivers to prosper on Sunday.

Rosberg has consistently finished in good positions relative to the speed of his car at this circuit. He achieved four consecutive top 10 finishes for Williams and two fifth place finishes for Mercedes prior to coming home ninth last year. The winner of the Australian Grand Prix can be fancied to record his second win of the year on Sunday.

Williams were mighty quick in Bahrain during the second pre-season test, with Felipe Massa topping the timesheets and Valtteri Bottas coming in fourth fastest. They also excelled on longer runs, leading many to suggest they would enter the season with the second fastest car on the grid.

Unfortunately, Williams have not yet had an opportunity to take full advantage of that pace, with wet qualifying sessions in Australia and Malaysia highlighting the car’s lack of downforce and leading to relatively poor grid slots from which they have been unable to score significant points.

The high likelihood of a dry qualifying session this weekend should allow Massa and Bottas the opportunity to qualify well inside the top 10.

Massa is a two-time winner at the Bahrain International Circuit and will be keen to secure a strong finish to repair his relationship with the team after ignoring an order to let Bottas overtake him in Malaysia. He has a quick car underneath him and is capable of taking it to a top six finish on Sunday.

Sergio Perez has been overshadowed by the superb performances of his teammate Hulkenberg so far this season, but seems well placed for a strong race this weekend.

Force India ran very well in the second of the two pre-season tests at the Bahrain International Circuit, with Perez setting the sixth quickest time and completing the second-most laps of any driver. He has also run well in previous races at the circuit, qualifying eighth and finishing 11th in 2012 and charging through from 12th to finish sixth last year.

We still expect Hulkenberg to be the best-performing of the two Force India drivers, but Perez should be fancied to secure a points finish.

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