Formula One returns for the second round of the season in the Sakhir desert in Bahrain, and there are plenty of unanswered questions after the Australian Grand Prix. From rookies, Finns and an American team looking to prove themselves, to the battle at the front between Mercedes and Ferrari – Nicky Haldenby has your reasons to watch all the F1 action this weekend!
A More Representative Race
The past has shown that Albert Park doesn’t always tend to be indicative of the rest of the season, in terms of teams’ pace, and the quality of the show. With just a handful of overtakes in the Australian Grand Prix, hopefully we’ll see more manoeuvres in the Sakhir desert.
This race is also more likely to show the true pace of all the cars, especially in the tight midfield battle. Fernando Alonso managed to finish the race between the two Red Bull drivers – whether or not that was true of McLaren’s pace or the Spaniard was flattered by the timing of the Safety Car remains to be seen.
Force India had a quiet weekend in Melbourne, failing to score any points for the first time since the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix. With updates expected, including a new front wing, can their pace improve this weekend?
Ferrari vs Mercedes
No battle is set to be under as much scrutiny as the one between Mercedes and Ferrari this weekend. After Ferrari managed to steal an unexpected victory Down Under when Mercedes, and Lewis Hamilton, looked dominant all weekend, questions still remain about Ferrari’s ability to challenge Mercedes for the title honours this season.
On paper, with its long straights, this is a track which should suit the Silver Arrows. The history books prove that too: Mercedes have taken every pole here since 2013. Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari took the win here last season, though, and will be looking to do the same this weekend.
Raikkonen on the podium… again?
Speaking in 2008, Kimi Raikkonen said: “Sakhir is one of those circuits where I really want to win. Finally.”
One decade and five Bahrain Grand Prix podiums later, the Ferrari driver remains win-less at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Raikkonen has the most podiums of any driver at the track, having sprayed rosewater on the rostrum eight times. After a strong start to the season, in which he would most likely have beaten his team-mate if not for a poorly timed Virtual Safety Car outing, the Iceman took the 92nd podium finish of his career in Australia. Can he take a long-awaited win under the floodlights in Bahrain?
Can Bottas and Haas bounce back?
Valtteri Bottas had a testing time in Australia after crashing in the final part of qualifying and ruining his chances of a decent result in the Grand Prix. The Finn climbed from fifteenth on the grid to eighth in the finishing order, but he’ll be aiming much higher than that this weekend.
Last season, the Mercedes driver took his first pole in Formula One at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Will Valtteri be able to repeat the feat and put up a fight to Hamilton’s blistering pace?
Haas doesn’t have so much to prove this weekend but does have a desire to fulfil their potential from Australia. After lining up on the grid in a best-ever fifth and sixth, Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean ran as high as fourth and fifth during the Grand Prix before their pitstops were marred by issues on the left rear tyres on both cars resulting in a double DNF for the team.
The team lost 22 valuable points as a result – which would have put them second in the championship – and will want to claw as many of those back as they can this weekend. After being accused by some of copying Ferrari’s 2017 car, the American team will be on a mission to put the record straight in Bahrain.
Keep an eye on Leclerc
Charles Leclerc returns to the scene of his first Formula Two victory this weekend. At Albert Park, the Monegasque driver qualified within a tenth of his vastly more experienced team-mate Marcus Ericsson, despite never having turned a wheel of the track before Friday Practice. As he now competes at a track which he has driven before in different machinery, will Leclerc be able to out-qualify his team-mate for the first time? And will he even be able to improve on his 13th place finish at Albert Park?
Cars under lights
Whether the on-track action is good or not, the cars are bound to look spectacular as we head under floodlights for the first time this season. The lights, the sparks, and the post-race fireworks make Bahrain one of the most photogenic races of the season. Let’s hope for fireworks on track, too!
The Bahrain Grand Prix begins at 4:10pm (UK Time) on Sunday. In the UK, coverage is live on both Channel 4 and Sky Sports F1.