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.
Lewis Hamilton starts today’s race from pole, with Valtteri Bottas alongside him on the front row. Trailing the 2 Silver Arrows, are the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen, and Alex Albon in 3rd & 4th respectively.
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.
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 battle?
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. Albon’s weekend has been relatively decent thus far, and he managed to secure 4th on the grid in yesterday’s qualifying session.
A good result today will only serve to boost his confidence, and improve his chances of retaining his seat for 2021.
Can Ferrari make some gains in the race?
Ferrari had yet another miserable qualifying, with both cars unable to make it out of Q2. While Ferrari was expected to struggle at Bahrain, given the characteristics of the circuit, it comes after several weekends where the Scuderia made much progress up the order.
An interesting thing to note, however, was that the previous few circuits exhibited characteristics which were somewhat similar to Bahrain, with long, power demanding straights, alongside high speed corners. Even at those circuits, Ferrari had been able to get Leclerc into Q3, to start near the front of the grid…
Unlike most of the other circuits, which are notorious for being difficult to overtake at, Bahrain is a track where overtaking is relatively easy. Could this help Ferrari make progress up the field? It’s certainly a possibility, but this could also prove to be a problem for Ferrari..