F1 2018: Five drivers who need a good performance in Bahrain
As Formula One crosses continents to the Middle East, RealSport’s George Howson tells us which drivers need to up their game in Sakhir this weekend.
(Photo credit: Habeed Hameed)
Despite finishing a respectable second in Australia, Hamilton could really do with a win this weekend. The World Champion put his Mercedes on pole for a record seventh time down under but couldn’t convert P1 on the grid to a third victory in Melbourne. Like 2017, it was Sebastian Vettel who snatched victory from the Silver Arrows by passing Hamilton during the pit stops.
It seems harsh to say this is a must-win for Hamilton, as there are still 19 rounds to go after this, but he can ill afford to let Vettel pull out a lead at the top of the drivers’ standings – even at this early stage.
To say Stroll’s weekend in Australia was lacklustre is an understatement. The Canadian’s poor pace can be attributed in part to Williams moving down the pecking order, but being passed and subsequently slower than a Sauber is poor. Charles Leclerc’s talents are well-documented but his Sauber-Alfa Romeo is still the worst car on the grid and to be caught out by him at the restart shows a lack of awareness and, dare I say it, carelessness from Stroll. However, the teenager will have one of his best chances to score points in Bahrain as the long straights should complement his Mercedes-powered machinery.
To learn that Verstappen had an eventful race in Australia is about as surprising as Tuesday following Monday. Whether it’s for the right or wrong reason, the Red Bull man always catches the eye. Two weeks ago, it was arguably for the wrong reason, falling behind Kevin Magnussen at the start before spinning while chasing the Haas and falling further down the order. To add insult to injury, Fernando Alonso overtook him during the pit-stops, the Dutchman eventually crossing the line in a disappointing sixth.
Bahrain may not suit the Red Bull’s downforce-orientated characteristics, but Daniel Ricciardo showed that the RB14 can challenge the Ferraris on pace, so a shot at the title isn’t out of the question for the youngster.
Like Hamilton, it seems harsh to put Raikkonen on this list considering the Ferrari man didn’t do much wrong around Albert Park. However, this could be a huge weekend for the Finn. Kimi has never won in Bahrain, but his record at the Sakhir circuit is impressive. From 12 starts, he’s stood on the podium eight times – more than anyone else. And if you believe Hamilton’s concern about Ferrari’s pace, he might make that nine by Sunday.
Bottas’ calamitous weekend in Australia can be traced back to one moment: his spin during qualifying. While setting out for his first run in Q3, Bottas took the first corner too fast, touched the grass and was into the wall before he could say “F1 W09 EQ Power+”. To add insult to injury, a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox meant that he started 15th, almost unheard of for a Mercedes. The Finn climbed seven places during the race, but most of those were due to retirements and strategy, rather than on-track overtakes.
Being part of one of F1’s top three teams comes with added pressure. And while last season could be written off as an adjustment period, 2018 has to be the year when Valtteri challenges Hamilton for the championship. He claimed pole at Bahrain 12 months ago, and a repeat will be welcome, as long as he doesn’t suffer the same tyres issues during the race.
So that’s our picks! But who do you think needs a good race in Bahrain? Let us know in the comments below!