The second round of the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season will take place at the hot and dusty Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) at Sakhir, Bahrain. The fifteenth running of the Bahrain Grand Prix at the Hermann Tilke-designed circuit takes place this weekend.
In 2014, this race joined the Singapore Grand Prix and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the races run under artificial lights on the Formula 1 calendar. Since it has become a night race, the cooler temperatures at night at this desert venue has been easier on the cars and drivers.
What happened at the Australian Grand Prix?
The season-opener at the Albert Park street circuit saw Valtteri Bottas take a commanding win ahead of his team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Bottas made a lightning start as he overtook Hamilton into Turn 1 and never looked back.
The Finn, who ended last season on a low, displayed a new attitude at the very first race. Hamilton was in a tough battle for second-place, first with Sebastian Vettel and then with Max Verstappen. It was later revealed that Hamilton’s W10 suffered floor damage during the race that hampered his performance.
Verstappen finished in third-place to bring home Honda’s first podium since their return to Formula 1 in 2015. It was a disappointing race for Ferrari who went into the race with the favourites tag after a strong performance in winter testing. Vettel and Charles Leclerc finished in fourth and fifth positions only.
Kevin Magnussen finished a comfortable sixth to claim the tag of the “best of the rest”. Nico Hulkenberg led a train of cars across the finish line to take seventh position. Kimi Raikkonen, Lance Stroll and Daniil Kvyat completed the top 10 point-scoring positions.
Lando Norris finished in twelfth position for McLaren to lead the rookie brigade in their first race. Daniel Ricciardo, the home town favourite, had a disappointing first race for new team Renault. The Australian’s race was wrecked when he broke his front wing as he ran on the grass at Turn 1 at the start.
Carlos Sainz Jr had an equally disappointing first race for his new team McLaren when his Renault engine went up in smoke on lap 9. Romain Grosjean also was a non-finisher as pit stop gremlins hit the Haas F1 team at Melbourne again.
In conclusion, Mercedes finally showed their hand as they finished 1-2 in the qualification and the race. Bottas grabbed the point for the fastest lap to bring home the maximum possible points for the team (44 points). Red Bull-Honda made a promising start to their new partnership with a podium finish.
Ferrari attributed their disappointing performance to balance issues specific to the Albert Park track. It will be interesting to see if the Maranello-based team bounces back at the Bahrain International Circuit, a historically strong track for the team.
Haas F1 confirmed that they will be in contention to lead the midfield teams as they led the Renault, Alfa Romeo, Racing Point and Toro Rosso drivers in the pecking order. McLaren and Williams brought up the rear and are yet to open their account in the new season.
What happened in the 2018 Bahrain Grand Prix?
Sebastian Vettel scored his second consecutive win of the season at the Bahrain Grand Prix last year. Ferrari locked the front row in qualification for good measure as the team made a flying start to the season.
Bottas finished ahead of his team-mate Hamilton. It was a disaster for the then Red Bull drivers, Verstappen and Ricciardo, as both of their races ended prematurely.
Pierre Gasly in his young career astonished the paddock with a strong fourth position in his Toro Rosso-Honda car. Magnussen brought home the points for the Haas F1 team as he completed the top 5 places.
Räikkönen’s race ended as the Finn had a disastrous second pit stop which resulted in an unsafe release and an injured Ferrari mechanic. The Mercedes drivers were put on a contra-strategy by the team on the medium compound tyres in the second stint.
Vettel was forced to extend his second stint on the soft tyres to retain track position. Bottas almost caught Vettel in the dramatic closing laps. But Vettel won his second race in a row and the German left Bahrain with a clear 17-point lead over Hamilton.
The 5.412 kilometer track at Sakhir has a mixture of 15 slow and medium speed corners and long straights. The track has five different configurations and the longer 6.299 km “Endurance Circuit” was used for one race in 2010 only. The race returned to the shorter “Grand Prix Circuit” configuration in 2012.
The night race sees the race take place in cooler conditions. But the heavy braking zones of the circuit cause the brakes and engines to heat up. Combined with the dusty conditions in the desert and actual dust particles on the race track, cooling of the brakes and air filters to keep the dust out of the engines becomes critical. The circuit demands a medium downforce setup. The cars are on full throttle 65% of the time and the fuel consumption is high.
Sectors, Corners, and DRS Zones
Sector 1 (Turn 1 to Turn 4) offers very good overtaking opportunities at Turn 1 itself. Turns 2 and 3 are fast corners leading to the long straight to Turn 4. The entire sector encourages wheel-to-wheel racing.
Sector 2 (Turn 5 to Turn 12) features a series of left-right-left turns from Turns 5-6-7 to form an S-section, leading to Turn 8 which is a right hairpin. Turns 9 and 10 are blind left hand turns, leading to the long straight between Turns 10 and 11.
Sector 3 (Turn 13 to Turn 15) flows into the long back straight, leading to the right-hander at Turn 14 and onto the last corner at Turn 15.
There are two DRS zones this year also. The first DRS detection point is after Turn 9 and the activation point is after Turn 10. The second DRS detection point is before Turn 14, with activation occurring after Turn 15 on the long start-finish straight. The race has never been won from beyond the second row of the grid.
The white-striped hard tyres (C1), the yellow-striped medium tyres (C2) and the red-striped soft tyres (C3) nominated for this race comprises of the three hardest compound tyres in Pirelli’s range of tyres for 2019.
The track has a very abrasive surface and is rear-limited. A one pit stop strategy was the winning strategy last year. A tactical battle unfolds at this track as a mix of one or two pit stop strategies is possible.
The drivers have chosen eight or more sets of the soft compound tyres (C3) in the thirteen sets allocated to them. The two Ferrari and Mercedes drivers and Verstappen have chosen nine sets of the soft compound tyres, three sets of the medium compound tyres and one set of the hard compound tyres.
The variable track temperatures as nigh falls will impact on the performance of the tyres at this circuit.
What should we look out for this year?
The Bahrain International Circuit offers many overtaking opportunities and we have seen a lot of exciting wheel-to-wheel racing in recent years. The new regulations for this season were designed to improve overtaking and racing. These changes will be fully tested on this track.
The extra point awarded for the fastest lap if the driver finishes in the top 10 positions added some spice to the racing in the closing laps in Australia. In a close fight for the championship, this point can make a difference and teams will start paying more attention to this in the coming races.
Ferrari is confident they have made corrections for this race. All eyes will be on the Italian team to see if the SF90 regains the speed and balance the car displayed in winter testing. This is a strong track for the team as they have won six of the fourteen races since 2004. Vettel has won the last two races and four races overall at this Grand Prix.
Mercedes dominated all the sessions in Australia. Bottas has thrown the gauntlet down with a new attitude and a strong performance at the first race. It will be interesting to see Hamilton’s response to this challenge.
Red Bull-Honda made a great start to the season. At this circuit which places more demands on the engine with the long straights, the Honda engines will be fully tested.
Haas F1 headed the midfield teams in the first race. The Renault team will bring updates to the car to challenge the American team in this race. Ricciardo, Sainz and Gasly did not have a good first race with their new teams and will be looking to make amends.
The Bahrain Grand Prix will offer the best clues to the likely pecking order in the new season.
What’s the schedule?
Friday 29 March
11:00 GMT / 14:00 Local Time – Free Practice One
15:00 GMT / 18:00 Local Time – Free Practice Two
Saturday 30 March
12:00 GMT / 15:00 Local Time – Free Practice Three
15:00 GMT / 18:00 Local Time – Qualifying
Sunday 31 March
15:10 GMT / 18:10 Local Time – Race
How can I keep up with the action?
Follow all the action at the Checkered Flag with our extensive coverage, quotes and analysis of every session of the Bahrain Grand Prix.