Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas kicked off his 2019 campaign in style, dominating the Australian Grand Prix to claim his first win since 2017. Can he double up in Bahrain?
What time does it start? How can I watch it?
This weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix is set to get underway at 18:10 p.m. local time, 16:10 p.m. (BST) and 11.10 a.m. (ET). For U.S. viewers, all of this weekend’s sessions are live on ESPN:
Friday — Practice
Practice 1 – Friday, March 29, 6:55 AM – ESPNU
Practice 2 – Friday, March 29, 10:55 AM – ESPNU
Saturday — Qualifying
Practice 3 – Saturday, March 30, 7:55 AM – ESPN2
Qualifying – Saturday, March 30, 10:55 AM – ESPN2
Sunday — Race
On The Grid – Sunday, March 31, 10:30 AM – ESPN2
Race – Sunday, March 31, 11:05 AM – ESPN2
U.K. viewers can watch every session live on Sky Sports F1. Check local listings for all other territories.
The burning question… Is Ferrari stronger than its Melbourne outing suggested?
From class of the field in winter testing to utterly humbled in Australia, it’s been a rollercoaster month for everyone at Ferrari. For some unknown reason, all of the Scuderia’s pre-season promise and pace vanished in Melbourne, with the lead Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel finishing in fourth place, almost a minute behind race winner Valtteri Bottas.
Race pace wasn’t the only issue, either. In qualifying, Vettel was 0.704s adrift of pole sitter Lewis Hamilton’s time while teammate Charles Leclerc was a further 0.252s behind. The good news for Ferrari is that this performance seems like a real anomaly. Based on all of the data, and the unique nature of the Albert Park circuit, it doesn’t appear as though they will struggle like this at every race. The turnaround has to start this weekend in Bahrain as Ferrari can’t afford to give Mercedes a headstart in the world championship.
Just about every fan of Formula One would certainly hope they can find some rapid gains and challenge Mercedes in 2019.
Which car will suit the track?
Last year, Mercedes arrived in Australia and blitzed the field. They comfortably had the quickest car, but an untimely Safety Car during the race handed victory to Ferrari. When the teams got to Bahrain, we saw the first real glimpse of Ferrari’s potential with a front row lockout. Vettel then went on to win his second race in succession.
The track surface in Bahrain is much more abrasive than Albert Park. There are also less medium-speed corners — something Ferrari struggled with in Melbourne — instead, there’s mostly straights and low-speed corners. This type of circuit should really suit Ferrari’s package.
Looking down the grid, Toro Rosso is one that stands out. Like Ferrari, they enjoyed a strong weekend in Bahrain last year with Pierre Gasly finishing a career-best P4. If they show the same sort of pace as they did in Australia, another haul of points could be on the cards.
The stat files
8 – The amount of podiums Kimi Riakkonen has had in Bahrain, but, amazingly, he has never won the race.
Felipe Massa – The only non-world champion to win the Bahrain Grand Prix (2007, 2008).
1,279km – Nobody has led more than Vettel in Bahrain. He’s almost double Hamilton, the next best, on 655km.
April – The Bahrain Grand Prix has been held in April every year except 2006 and 2010.
1 – Just a single point separates Mercedes (230) and Ferrari (229) at the top of the all-time Bahrain Grand Prix points scored list.
Available compounds: Hard C1 (white), Medium C2 (yellow), Soft C3 (red)
Mario Isolo, Head of car racing – “We have seen some exciting tactical battles previously in Bahrain, notably last year, and hopefully there is even more potential for that this year. The C1 and C2 compounds that are the hard and medium choices this weekend are actually a little softer than the hard and medium tyres last year, which should make them even more well suited to the track. Although the key to Bahrain is managing the rear tyres, not many teams have chosen an extra set of the hard compound. As always, the challenge consists of dealing with the traction demands on a variable track with falling temperatures, as well as the roughest asphalt of the year.”
Minimum starting pressures: Front 21.5 psi, rear 19 psi
Unsurprisingly, it is set to be warm in Bahrain this weekend. There is an expected top of 27C on Friday and Saturday while temperatures could rise to as high as 33C on Sunday. The race does take place under lights, so it will be cooler by the time the race gets underway.
Just like in previous years, there is almost a zero percent chance of rain this weekend.
We shouldn’t get sucked into the form line of Australia, but it’s hard not to. Mercedes appeared comfortably quicker than Ferrari and one man will be hoping to square the ledger with his teammate.
Winner: Lewis Hamilton