F1 2018: Bahrain Grand Prix preview
After an eventful season opener in Australia two weeks ago, RealSport’s Ben Pascuzzi looks ahead to the much-anticipated follow up race in Bahrain.
(Photo credit: Dave Jefferys)
The F1 2018 season kicked off two weeks ago in Australia and didn’t disappoint. Lewis Hamilton was poised to start the season with a race win. However, with both Haas cars eliminated within laps of each other, the safety car was rolled out. This handed Vettel a free pit stop and the lead of the race, ultimately gifting him the victory.
So, how will Mercedes fight back this week? And what about Haas? Were their Melbourne issues a one-off, or a glimpse of things to come? With these questions and more to be answered, the Bahrain Grand Prix promises to be a fascinating race.
How will Mercedes respond to Vettel’s shock win?
Hamilton seemed to have the win in the bag from the moment he qualified in pole position. He led the race from the start and did absolutely everything right before a technical error ripped his race plan to pieces. Mercedes have since blamed a bug in their system for Hamilton’s failure to stay ahead of Vettel under the safety car. How they respond this week could influence how this year’s drivers and constructors championships pan out.
Valterri Bottas’ crash in qualifying did not aid Hamilton’s chances in Melbourne, and his presence will be needed to give Mercedes the best chance of winning this weekend. Expect a far more aggressive approach from both Mercedes drivers as they try to get their season back on track
Both Haas drivers should have started the season in the points. Encouragingly, they were right in the thick of the action before wheel issues resulting from pit stops ended their respective races.
Their pre-season form had us believing they would be the ‘best of the rest’ for 2018, and the early signs proved that to be the case. However, the fact both drivers didn’t finish the race speaks volumes about how far Haas still has to go to be a force in F1.
There were plenty of positives to take out of Melbourne, but it’s how they respond in Bahrain that matters. Both driver’s will need to finish well inside the top ten to make amends for their disappointing finish in Melbourne.
Daniel Ricciardo got close to claiming a first podium finish at his home Grand Prix, but couldn’t reel in Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in the closing stages. Meanwhile, an early spin left Max Verstappen rueing his chances after finishing sixth behind Fernando Alonso. Overall, an okay weekend from Red Bull, but you feel there’s a lot more in the tank.
Their race pace was up there with the frontrunners, with Ricciardo claiming the fastest lap of the race. However, overtaking has become so hard with all the increased downforce that neither driver could do much behind their opponents.
Red Bull will hope for a better performance in qualifying and a better start to the race to ensure they continue to compete. A podium will be the target under the Bahrain lights this weekend.
Who wins the race?
Hamilton has to be favourite for the Bahrain Grand Prix. He was poised to win in Australia and was the quickest driver all weekend. That defeat will bug him and he will be keen to get back on top.
Bottas should be more involved this time. After a crash in Q3 all but ended his race hopes in Melbourne, he will be out make amends in Bahrain.
Ferrari should be in the thick of the action again, and will look to claw closer to Mercedes. Their race pace is great, but they need to improve in qualifying. In Australia, Hamilton jumped them by almost a second. Their superior race strategy could also give Mercedes a worry.
Likewise, Red Bull’s race pace is good, but their qualifying output is still far behind Mercedes. Expect an improved showing from Verstappen and more of the same from Ricciardo, who showed in Melbourne he has the pace to compete.
Hamilton and Mercedes will be expected to walk away with both the driver’s and constructor’s win. But as we know, the expected doesn’t always happen – especially in a night race.
Who will win in Bahrain? Join the debate in the comments below.