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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. For the Formula 2 Feature Race, Callum Ilott starts from pole, while his championship rival and points leader, Mick Schumacher starts from 10th on the grid.

The Circuit – Bahrain International Circuit

Serkan Demirbaş / CC BY-SA 3.0

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:

Grand Prix Circuit (5.411km)
Endurance Circuit (6.299km)
Paddock Circuit (3.705km)
Outer Circuit (3.644km)
Inner Circuit (2.550km)
Flat Oval (2.5 km)

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. The Formula 2 Lap Record is held by Charles Leclerc, who set a 1:38.907 in 2017.

Formula 2 Feature Race – Things to look out for:

Drivers’ Championship:

With the Drivers’ Championship looking to be a 2 way battle for Mick Schumacher & Callum Ilott, one was expecting to see the duo in the top 6 of the starting grid. However, a disastrous qualifying for Schumacher saw the German far down the order in 10th, while chief rival Ilott scored pole, earning himself 4 points. Schumacher’s disastrous qualifying means he will be starting behind 2 outside title contenders in the form of Christian Lundgaard & Nikita Mazepin, with Louis Deletraz on his tail in 11th.

A clean start will be vital for Schumacher to leapfrog his outside title rivals, ahead of Turn 1, but a poor start could easily prove to undo his title dreams, with Deletraz on his tail. Fortunately, the German is known for his strong starts, with his Sochi Feature Race start being notable. At Sochi, Schumacher had been able to leapfrog from 7th on the grid to 2nd by turn 1. However, Schumacher will need to proceed with caution at Bahrain. Unlike Turn 1 at Sochi, which leads onto a straight, Turn 1 in Bahrain sees a heavy braking zone, and any Lap 1 mistake on the short run down to Turn 1 could prove to be his undoing in the title fight…

Further back from Schumacher is Yuki Tsunoda, who will also be a driver to watch. The Honda protege had looked set to take P2 in qualifying, until he spun and stalled the car on his hotlap. As a result, Tsunoda is set to start from the rear of the field.

With all this said, expect to see the Championship contenders go wheel to wheel against Schumacher at the start, and Tsunoda carve his way through the field to maintain his place in the standings…

Théo Pourchaire

How will Pourchaire perform on his second-tier single seater debut race? 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, but has performed well thus far, out-qualifying his teammate Artem Markelov to start in 16th. 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, but can the Frenchman beat the odds?

His predecessor at HWA, Hughes was able to produce a 12th place finish in the Russia feature race from 15th on the grid. Can Pourchaire eke out a points finish on his debut? A points finish would be HWA’s 4th point finish all season.

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