Following business as usual for Mercedes with a 1-2 finish in Australia, it’s time for the second race of the season – the Bahrain Grand Prix.
While the results for Australia may look very similar – two Mercedes and a Ferrari driver on the podium – the story behind it is very different. Ferrari got the jump on Mercedes after an aborted start and Sebastian Vettel looked strong for the win before a red flag and a wrong strategy call put paid to that. Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari suffered an airbox fire, leading to his retirement from the race.
Circuit: Bahrain International Circuit
Number of Laps: 57
Circuit Length: 5.412km
Number of Corners: 15
Lap Record: 1:31.447 Pedro de la Rosa (2005)
Previous Bahrain winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (4 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Medium, Soft and Supersoft
The big news going into the weekend is that the most successful driver at the Bahrain Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso, will not be on the grid. The McLaren driver suffered a heavy crash at the Australian Grand Prix and is still feeling the effects. After an FIA medical check-up he has been forced to sit out the weekend due to broken ribs. This means that GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne will get his Formula One debut earlier than expected, fulfilling his reserve driver role with McLaren.
While the Australian Grand Prix takes place on a street circuit, the Sakhir circuit is purpose built and in the middle of a desert. Due to the start/stop nature of the track, there is a heavy impact on the brakes. The Power Units will also face higher stress than they experienced at the previous race.
Nico Rosberg comes into the event off the back of another victory and will be going for his eighth in a row. Ferrari are the most successful constructor at the race and will no doubt be hoping to repeat their success of the last race, before the red flag came out. Daniel Ricciardo came home fourth behind the leading trio, ahead of Felipe Massa and points for Haas on their debut. While Romain Grosjean was overjoyed, his team-mate didn’t enjoy such success. Esteban Gutierrez was involved in the racing incident which saw Alonso retire in spectacular fashion.
Rounding out the top ten in Australia were Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen. Verstappen showed his frustration at getting caught up behind his team-mate so Toro Rosso could have an interesting weekend ahead in terms of driver management. Outside the top ten were the Renault duo with Jolyon Palmer ahead of Kevin Magnussen, although the latter did have to recover from a first lap puncture. McLaren duo Jenson Button and Alonso did feel positive about their pace following practice and qualifying, but strategy left Button down in 14th.