By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
The season opening Australian Grand Prix gave us more questions than answers to start the 2018 season. This weekend in Bahrain F1 fans will hope for a clearer running order and less mysterious proceedings. Has Mercedes advantage over the rest of the field grown? Can Ferrari’s straight line speed and penchant for hot conditions give them the edge? What is the true pace of Red Bull? Is the pace of Haas for real?
All these questions will be answered as the hot Sakhir sun slips below the horizon and the team’s race on into the night around Bahrain International Circuit for the 13th time since 2004. The track is longer than most at 3.3 miles, but the 2010 race was even longer as it ran on the nearly 4 mile long endurance configuration. The track features four very long straights interrupted by a good mix of flowing and technical corners. The tricky turn 10 is a unique challenge as well as a prime overtaking spot.
The race, like most on the calendar has been dominated in recent years by Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, as the title protagonists have five wins between them in the desert. It is also a strong track for Fernando Alonso who has won there three times, each with a different team. Surprisingly the only other repeat winner in Bahrain is the recently retired Felipe Massa who won there in 2007 and 2008. The lap record, set by Pedro de la Rosa in 2005 aboard his McLaren MP4-20 is definitely in danger of being broken late in the race when the cars are running light on fuel.
Valtteri Bottas set his first pole position at the race last year, though he only managed a third place finish, way behind his team mate Hamilton and winner Vettel. He will need such a drive this weekend to put the Q3 crash and eventual eighth place finish behind him. Can Bottas do it? Can Vettel repeat, or will Hamilton step up and stamp his authority on the early 2018 season? Tune in this weekend to find out.
By the Numbers
What: The Bahrain Grand Prix
Where: Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain. The circuit has hosted the Grand Prix every year since 2004, except in 2011 when it was cancelled due to government protests.
When: Sunday, April 8th 2018
TV: ESPN 2 from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm Central Time. Qualifying is Saturday, April 7th at 1o:00 am Central Time
Track Length: 3.363 miles
Lap Record: 1:31.447 Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren MP4-20, 2005.
2017 Race Winner: Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Ferrari SF70H