Just one week after a dominant display by Mercedes, and Formula One moves on to Bahrain for the third race of the 2014 season.
While the sport’s decision to visit Bahrain has proved contentious in recent years, fortunately, this weekend, the focus will be entirely on the racing. The main point of discussion in the paddock will be who, if anyone, can stop the Silver Arrows?
Following two crushing performances by Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, Merc are odds-on favourites to take their third straight victory. Indeed, on the basis of Australia and Malaysia, you’d be forgiven for wondering if F1 is on for a 1988-like season.
That year, McLaren won all but one race in the dominant MP4/4. Such is the advantage the Mercedes W05 currently enjoys over the rest of the grid, and it isn’t difficult to understand why some people fear a similar year, even at this early point of the season.
More immediately, teams should have no problems dialling their cars into the track. After two pre-season tests at the venue, the only unknown will be what effect the night time conditions have on car performance.
On the tenth anniversary of the Sakhir circuit first hosting F1; the event becomes a night race for the first time. It should at least improve the spectacle, with the track not having gained many fans in the space of a decade.
The later race start, and cooler conditions, should therefore reduce reliability concerns. Despite fears that up to half the grid could retire from the first few races, reliability has so far proved better than many predicted. As teams continue to learn about these incredibly complex 2014 cars, we can expect more cars to start seeing the end of the race.
It is likely that Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton will continue their duel for the lead of championship this weekend. After a win and a second place, Rosberg holds an 18 point lead over team mate Hamilton. Just which Mercedes driver will get the better of the other this time is hard to determine however, with the pair having proved closely matched so far.
Given the trend of the last two races, Red Bull may well be the Brackley based squad’s closest rivals. Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel have been the only men able to split the Mercedes drivers in qualifying this season. However, it is clear that the defending champions still have a lot of ground to make up to be challenging the Mercedes men for the top spot of the podium.
A barometer to judge just how good the RB10 is will come from Daniel Ricciardo. The likeable Australian has so far not had luck on his side in 2014. Following a disastrous end to his Malaysian Grand Prix, he has a ten place grid penalty this weekend. It was handed out after Red Bull’s pit stop blunder in Malaysia. How much progress he can make on Sunday will certainly be something of interest.
Elsewhere, look out for Williams. The team was widely tipped as one of the dark horses coming in to this season. But, after a disappointing first two races, they have so far not shown anything like the performance many were expecting. Could this be the first race that one, or both, Williams drivers make it onto the podium?