While the big news is that Lewis Hamilton misses the race, the Formula One grid will face another new challenge when they tackle the outer loop of the Bahrain International Circuit in the penultimate race of the 2020 season at this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix (Race: 5.10pm Sunday).
The outer circuit is a completely different configuration to the one used at last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix. It is likely to produce the first sub one-minute lap time in F1 since the mid-seventies. It will be quick and engine performance will be key.
Drivers’ champion Lewis Hamilton claimed his 11th win of the season at the standard layout last weekend, although the main story was Romain Grosjean’s horror crash from which he thankfully walked away relatively unharmed. It was a fifth consecutive win for Hamilton in a dominant season for him and the Mercedes in which they’ve easily won both championships.
There is, though, guaranteed to be another drive atop the podium this weekend. Hamilton has tested positive for COVID-19 and the concomitant isolation period means that he will miss his first race since his Formula One debut in 2007.
George Russell steps up from the Williams team to take Hamilton’s place, with debutant Jack Aitken coming in to cover his absence there. Grosjean’s replacement is another debutant, and one with a famous name: Pietro Fittipaldi, the grandson of dual F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi.
The reality is that it is unfair to expect Russell immediately to be on the pace in the Mercedes, and while he may be closer to the front by the end of the weekend, his inexperience in the car is likely to give his teammate Valtteri Bottas an early advantage and the ideal opportunity to secure his third win of the season.
Bottas has finished second to Hamilton on five occasions this season, and with his team leader on the sidelines, he is the best bet to secure victory.
The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon filled the remaining two podium places at the Bahrain Grand Prix, ahead of the two McLarens of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz. Pierre Gasly took sixth for AlphaTauri, with Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault, Bottas, the second Renault of Esteban Ocon and Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari rounding out the top 10.
That result saw McLaren move up into third in the constructors’ championship, 17 points clear of Racing Point in fourth and a further 10pts ahead of Renault. With two races remaining, they are well placed, but it still wouldn’t be at all surprising if Racing Point were able to leapfrog them, especially if Lance Stroll, involved in an accident at the restart last weekend, can improve on his record of just two points in his last six races.
Indeed, Racing Point would still be ahead of McLaren in the standings had Sergio Perez’s power unit not given up on him with just four laps to go. He qualified fifth and was running third, on course for the team’s third podium finish of the year, when the failure occurred.
Perez and Racing Point have a good chance of making that right by finishing in the top three. The circuit layout should suit their package, including the grunt of their Mercedes engine, and if Perez can repeat his top-five qualifying berth of last weekend, he would represent a solid bet for a place on the podium.
McLaren will be keen to avoid too much damage to their lead if the Racing Points do prove to be faster over the course of the weekend. They are likely to be faster than the Renaults, and with Ferrari unlikely to be a threat due to their underpowered engine, can be fancied to get at least one of their cars into the top six. Both cars qualified and finished there at Monza earlier this year, another circuit where straight-line speed is vital.
Norris drove well to lead the team home in fourth on the standard configuration last weekend and he can be fancied to repeat the trick with another top-six finish on Sunday.
Our Preview’s Sakhir Grand Prix Betting Tips Verdict
- Bet on Valtteri Bottas to win the race @ best odds of 15/8 with William Hill.
- Back Sergio Perez to finish in the top three (podium finish) @ 5/2 with Betfair or Paddy Power.
- Go with Lando Norris to finish in the top six @ 5/4 with Paddy Power or Betfair.
- Check out the Sakhir Grand Prix outright winner & qualifier betting from top British-licensed bookies.