With the Australian Grand Prix a distant memory, Rob Watts focuses on what the key elements are as Formula One returns to the sands of Bahrain.
Nico Rosberg got the new season off to a flying start in Melbourne, beating team-mate Lewis Hamilton to the flag in arguably Formula One’s best season-opening race for several years.
Now as the teams arrive in the Middle East for round two of the championship, here are five things we’re excited to see in Bahrain…
Finally, We Get to See What Stoffel Vandoorne Can Do
With Fernando Alonso ruled out of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Belgian wonderboy Stoffel Vandoorne will finally make his Formula One debut. Vandoorne enters Formula One with one of the best junior category records in recent times and won last year’s GP2 title with a record points haul. Expectations will be high, but Vandoorne knows the Sakhir circuit well having won the GP2 race here two years on the trot. A huge talent, and definitely one to watch this weekend.
We Should See Another Close Fight at the Front
Melbourne showed us that Ferrari have the pace to put pressure on Mercedes this year. With warm temperatures and an abrasive surface, tyre strategy will be crucial here. Ferrari, have opted for three sets of the medium tyre, whereas Mercedes have chosen to bring only one, preferring to run the soft tyre instead. On paper, Ferrari’s strategy seems to make more sense, so Sunday’s race has the potential to be a belter!
Will Max & Carlos Lose Their Cool in The Bahrain Heat?
Forget Hamilton and Rosberg, the Red Bull youngsters could provide the best teammate scrap on the grid this year, and Melbourne showed just how hot things can get when these two are under pressure. Ninth and tenth was not a true reflection of their outright pace, but they’ll have a chance to put that right in Bahrain. Both will relish the overtaking opportunities that the Sakhir circuit provides, and don’t be surprised to hear more radio rants if these two wind up close to each other on track.
A Fired Up Kimi Raikkonen Returning to The Podium?
After an engine fire brought his race to a premature end in Melbourne, Kimi will want a drama-free weekend to get his season off to a positive start. Raikkonen likes the Sakhir circuit and tends to go well here too, appearing on the podium seven times in the past, including second place last year. If Ferrari keep their cool, the Iceman looks a good bet to continue his impressive run of Bahrain podium finishes.
An Epic Scrap for ‘Best of The Rest’
From what we’ve seen, Toro Rosso may have the third quickest car on the grid right now, but they’ll need to take Williams, Force India and big brother Red Bull seriously this weekend. Ricciardo proved the Red Bull has pace in Australia, but Bahrain is a very different circuit, and with its long straights, the car should suit the Mercedes-powered teams better, so Williams and Force India may just be ahead this weekend. The midfield is close, so expect a few drivers to get punchy this weekend.