What can we expect from the Bahrain GP?

Credit: Formula 1

The battle is on! After Sebastian Vettel won Australia’s season opener, Lewis Hamilton struck back with a win in the Chinese Grand Prix last time out. Now the action moves to Bahrain, and both Ferrari and Mercedes will be looking to regain the advantage. So what can we expect from the Bahrain GP?

Duel in the desert

With one win apiece so far, both Ferrari and Mercedes will want to gain the upper hand this weekend. Vettel and Hamilton both won on very different tracks in very different conditions. Both cars seem evenly matched in terms of pure pace in both qualifying and the race, so we should see a brilliant battle unfold in Bahrain.

Who will the conditions favour?

It’s difficult to predict who the Sakhir track will favour. Vettel won in the hot sunny conditions in Melbourne on a low-downforce track, whereas Hamilton’s victory came in the cold, damp conditions on the high-downforce Shanghai circuit. Bahrain’s temperatures would seem to favour Ferrari, except that the race will be a twilight event and temperatures will drop during the action. Bahrain is similar to Shanghai with a mix of fast corners and long straights, although it doesn’t require quite as much downforce as China. This would seem to be the best opportunity so far to witness a wheel-to-wheel battle between Vettel and Hamilton.

Regression for Red Bull

After a stunning drive from 16th to 3rd for Max Verstappen in China’s changeable conditions, Red Bull will feel stronger. However, they are still a little way off in terms of pure pace in the dry conditions, so will struggle to enjoy similar success in Bahrain. With a good strategy they could challenge for third again with Verstappen and team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, duelling with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for the final podium place. But if Red Bull are strong in slightly cooler conditions, they could be more competitive in the twilight of Bahrain.

More change in the midfield

After seemingly opening as the fourth-best team in Melbourne, Williams struggled in China. But was that down to the higher downforce levels or the low temperatures? Right now, Toro Rosso and Force India hold the edge in the midfield mix, as both cars look competitive across all conditions. Haas should be right in the mix as well if they can keep both cars running. Renault aren’t far away, and have been unlucky not to score points in the first two rounds. Overtaking is possible at the Sakhir circuit, so expect a close-fought contest.

Wehrlein plays catch up

Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein should be fit to race this weekend, unless his Race of Champions back injury is worse than originally thought. After being handled by reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi in the first two rounds, we should now see how close Sauber is with Wehrlein at the wheel. Wehrlein is likely to be faster than team-mate Marcus Ericsson, so seeing where Sauber slots in in the pecking order will be interesting.