The Turkish Grand Prix, held a fortnight ago, saw Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes emerge victorious, with Sergio Perez in 2nd for Racing Point & 3rd for Sebastian Vettel & Ferrari. The race also saw Lewis Hamilton achieve his 7th World Drivers’ Championship title, equaling Michael Schumacher’s record for the most WDC titles.
This weekend, Formula 2 returns, after a break of nearly 2 months. The Bahrain GP weekend marks the final 2 weekends where Formula 2 will run a Feature & Sprint race. The Championship had announced that it would switch to running a 3 race weekend from 2021, as part of cost-cutting measures, which would see 8 race weekends instead of 12 race weekends.
Last time out in Russia, Mick Schumacher scored victory on Saturday’s Feature Race, , while Sunday saw Guan Yu Zhou won the shortened Sprint Race. The Sprint Race victory was the Chinese driver’s first Formula 2 race win.
This weekend, we find ourselves at the Bahrain International Circuit, located in Sakhir, Bahrain. Ahead of any on-track action in Formula 1 & 2, we have compiled a list of things to look out for, as the weekend unfolds ahead, and on-track action begins!
The Circuit – Bahrain International Circuit
This weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix will be held on the Grand Prix Circuit of the Bahrain International Circuit. The track, also set to host next week’s Sakhir Grand Prix, on the Outer Circuit, is a permanent race track in the Sakhir desert, located in outskirts of the Bahraini capital, Manama. Construction on the track began in 2002, with the track being fully complete in 2004.
The track features 6 configurations, alongside a Drag Strip (Dark Grey) . The layouts are as follows:
Track maps by Serkan Demirbaş / CC BY-SA 3.0
Aside from the Test Oval & Drag Strip, all configurations meet the FIA Grade 1 standard. The Test Oval & Drag Strip are unrated. As of time of writing, Formula One has used mostly used the Grand Prix Circuit for the Bahrain Grand Prix, bar the 2010 edition, which used the longer Endurance Circuit.
The 5.412km long Grand Prix Circuit features a mix of long straights, alongside a diverse variety of corners, ranging from high-speed to slow corners, and the resultant heavy braking zones. The circuit features 3 DRS zones, located on the pit straight, the straight between Turns 3 & 4, alongside the straight between turns 10 & 11. The 3 DRS detection points are placed 50 metres before Turn 1, 10 metres before Turn 9 and 110 metres before Turn 14.
This means that the circuit remains relatively unchanged, with the sole change being the DRS detection point ahead of Turn 14 being moved back by 2 metres.
Pedro de la Rosa holds the official lap record, a 1:31.447 set in the 2005 Bahrain Grand Prix in the McLaren MP4-20. Charles Leclerc holds the absolute lap record with a 1:27.866 set in Qualifying for the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, in the Ferrari SF90.
Will Ferrari continue it’s upward form?
Ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, the situation at Ferrari was bleak. A torrid run of races from Spa to Mugello had seen Ferrari struggle for competitiveness. The 3 power-demanding circuits saw the SF1000 struggle massively, as the underpowered car suffered from woeful aero efficiency, forcing setup compromises. The compromises came at the expense of tyre wear, greatly affecting the team’s strategy.
The span of 3 races saw the team fall from 5th in the standings to 6th through the 3 races, with a meagre payout of 5 points across the 3 weekends. Ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, 13 points were all that seperated Ferrari from the 7th placed AlphaTauri.
The situation got to the point where ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, Ferrari were not upbeat about their chances, even with an upgrade package deployed. In the words of Team Principal Mattia Binotto: “There will be small upgrades, but this will not change the big picture,” Binotto said.
He later added: “”I think we are at the moment out of pace in the race, and we are somehow wearing too much the tyres. The upgrades will not be the ones that address it.”
With the long straights at Sochi, and high speed turns, things were not looking rosy for the Scuderia. A dismal qualifying which saw Ferrari barely scrape into Q2, before being eliminated did nothing to help the situation. On race day, however, everything changed. Leclerc started from 10th, but managed to claw his way up to 6th, splitting the Renaults, who had surpassed the Italians in the Constructors just 2 races prior.
The Eifel Grand Prix saw yet another upgrade package introduced. In qualifying, Leclerc pulled out a near-perfect lap to earn 4th on the grid, before finishing 7th. Vettel qualified 11th, before finishing in 11th, an improvement over 13th in Russia.
The Portuguese Grand Prix saw Ferrari introduce it’s final upgrade package for 2020. Owing to the characteristics of the Portimao Circuit, with it’s long straights and many high speed segments, expectations were low for Ferrari again. Despite this, Charles Leclerc was able to qualify 4th on the grid once more. On race day, both cars also managed to finish in the points, with Leclerc in 5th, and Vettel in 10th.
The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, held at Imola, was the sole race where Ferrari’s form dipped. This was expected, given the nature of the Imola Circuit, where overtaking is difficult. Leclerc qualified 7th, while Vettel qualified 14th. At the finish, Leclerc reached 7th, while Vettel reached 12th.
The Turkish Grand Prix, however, saw Ferrari reach it’s peak 2020 form. Both cars were on the pace from the outset, with top 6 finishes in the Free Practice sessions. Given the nature of Istanbul Park, with long straights and high speed corners, this was not to be expected. Both cars saw a slump in qualifying, with Vettel in 12th and Leclerc in 14th. However, on race day, things changed dramatically. Amid the chaos, Ferrari was running 2-4 with Leclerc & Vettel. However, a late mistake by Leclerc saw the 2-4 become a 3-4, with Vettel finishing 3rd.
Bahrain is a circuit with somewhat similar characteristics to Istanbul Park. With the
The Battle for 3rd in the Constructors
Ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix, a close fight for 3rd in the Constructors Championship is emerging. Currently, 4 teams are vying for 3rd in the Constructors Championship. Racing Point, McLaren, Renault & Ferrari. Racing Point, which currently sits 3rd, with 154 points (following a deduction of 15 points), is trailed closely by McLaren with 149 points. Further behind the 2 are Renault with 136 points, and Ferrari with 130 points.
A total of 24 points separate the 4 teams, meaning that if one team is to score a good result at Bahrain with both cars in the top 6, the trailing teams (McLaren, Renault & Ferrari) could realistically leapfrog up the standings.
Alex Albon: Sink or Swim in the desert?
Ahead of the Turkish Grand Prix, Alex Albon had been on a streak of poor performances following his Tuscany Grand Prix podium. During the Eifel Grand Prix, Albon started the race in 5th, before the race began to unfound around him. A lockup on Lap 1 left him with a flat-spotted tyre, compromising his race strategy, and leaving him plummeting down the order. Later on, a clumsy overtake on Daniil Kvyat saw him rip the Russian’s front wing, resulting in a 5 second time penalty for the Anglo-Thai Driver. Albon would wind up retiring from a punctured radiator.
Portugal was no different. Starting from 6th, he plummeted down the order to 12th. Neither was the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Starting from 6th, outqualfied by the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly, he spun on his own accord while in 5th, finishing far down the order in 15th.
Turkey was perhaps a turning point for Albon. From the outset, Albon was on the pace, finishing in the top 6 for each FP session, including 2nd in FP1, and 3rd in FP3. He then qualified in 4th, before going onto finish 7th in the tricky conditions, just behind teammate Verstappen.
By all accounts, Turkey was perhaps the best race weekend Albon had in a long time. Could this be the turning point Albon needs to finish the season on a high? We certainly hope so.
Ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend, the announcement broke that 2020 FIA Formula 3 Championship runner-up Théo Pourchaire would make his Formula 2 debut. The Frenchman would make his debut with HWA Racelab, replacing Jake Hughes, who had filled the seat at HWA previously held by Giuliano Alesi.
F2 Drivers’ Championship Battle – Mick Schumacher vs Callum Ilott
Ahead of the final 2 Formula 2 rounds of the season, 9 drivers remain in title contention. However, ahead of the Bahrain Weekend, only 2 drivers seem set to have chances at title glory.
Mick Schumacher & Callum Ilott.
Entering the Bahrain weekend, Schumacher finds himself as the points leader, with a 22 point gap separating Ilott and himself. To earn himself the title this weekend, Schumacher would need to have a 49 point lead over Ilott by the end of the sprint race. This means he would need to score 27 points more than Ilott by the end of this weekend. In addition, he will also need to outscore both Yuki Tsunoda and Christian Lundgaard by 5 & 3 points respectively.
Schumacher has never managed to outscore Ilott by 27 points in a weekend, with the closest being 26 points at Belgium. Despite this, Schumacher does stand a reasonable chance at doing so, given the patchy form of Ilott’s team Uni-Virtuosi lately….
How will Pourchaire perform on his second-tier single seater debut? The 17 year old Frenchman has climbed the single seater ladder swiftly, having just began racing cars in 2018. 2018 saw Pourchaire taking the French F4 Junior title, before switching to the German ADAC Formula 4 Championship, and taking the title in 2019. Instead of making the step up to Formula 3 Regional machinery, Pourchaire opted to make the leap to the FIA Formula 3 Championship, losing the title to fellow Formula 3 rookie Oscar Piastri.
The Frenchman will certainly have a steep learning curve ahead of himself, due to a lack of action in the car relative to the competition in the field, and the large differences between F2 & F3 machinery. Juri Vips was also in a similar position when he stepped in for Sean Gelael at DAMS. The Estonian had never driven an F2 car before his debut weekend, and was able to get up to speed with the car. He finished 11th three times before he earned his first points at the Mugello Feature Race, following it up with a podium in the Mugello Sprint Race.
It should be noted though, that HWA’s status as a backmarker team, with just 13 points from 3 points finishes could prove to be an obstacle to any miracles for Pourchaire over the next 2 weekends. However, his HWA predecessor, Hughes, was also able to produce a 12th place finish during the Feature Race in Russia…