Bahrain Grand Prix preview

Bahrain is the next destination of the Formula One season, as the drivers do battle in the desert for round four.

The Bahrain Grand Prix will hold the next round of the Formula One world championship this weekend as the teams and drivers head towards Europe following the Chinese Grand Prix. This weekend’s race will be the first of the year under the night sky and tensions are set to be high after Hamilton’s win in China left Rosberg fuming.

The Chinese Grand Prix saw Lewis Hamilton mop up across the weekend, claiming the fastest time in every session bar Q1 before going on to take the win in China. Except it was Lewis’ middle stint, where he looked to stretch the life of his tyres by driving slowly, that annoyed his team mate as Nico Rosberg felt Lewis’ slow driving held him back and pushed him towards the resurgent Ferrari’s of Vettel and Raikkonen.

This weekend’s race could see Ferrari continue their progress as the high temperatures may cause the Silver Arrows issues with keeping life in the tyres, like what happened at the Malaysian Grand Prix. But this would be in extreme circumstances as the evening race time should come with more manageable conditions.

But for the Silver Arrows, Rosberg will be looking to make up ground in the championship as after three rounds, he sits in third behind Vettel but more importantly Hamilton.

2014 Bahrain Grand Prix - cars filing onto the grid. Credit: Faris Algosaibi

Jump back a year and the battle between Hamilton and Rosberg here in Bahrain, turned out to be one of the highlights of the season as the two battled it out for the win. Lap by lap, and following a safety car, Rosberg fought Lewis for the lead but despite having the faster tyres Nico was unable to maintain the lead whenever he gained it.

By the chequered flag, Lewis had fended off Nico and when the two parked up in the pit lane they embraced each other in a playful and celebratory fashion. Something that you would not expect to see now given how much tension has been built between them over the last year. This was evident in the Chinese Grand Prix post-race press conference last weekend when Hamilton appeared to be grinning whilst Rosberg fumed about the way the race had unfolded.

First corner of the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix. Photo credit: Habeed Hameed

Come this year, Mercedes should be at the front of the grid after qualifying with at least one car thanks to the advantage they hold. But expect Ferrari to be close behind given how challenging they have already been this season.

Williams will be looking to close the gap to Ferrari again this weekend, after the Scuderia team have moved ahead of them after the winter break. Now Williams have almost been in a race of their own with Mercedes and Ferrari running off in front, but no other team have realistically looked to challenge them.

Red Bull particularly will be looking for a much better weekend after Ricciardo just made it into the point scoring positions and Kvyat retired due to an engine malfunction. In the sister team, Verstappen had been driving a great race in his Toro Rosso before his engine also broke down leading to the race ending safety car. The whole affair does Renault no favours following Red Bull team owner, Mateschitz’s criticism of the engine provider. Another issue Red Bull will be looking to take control of is the issues they suffered with breaks across the Chinese Grand Prix weekend. However the Bahrain track will put even more pressure on the team’s Brembo brakes.

At the other end of the grid, McLaren should be looking to move further away from last-minute survivors Marussia. But for that, McLaren will be looking for the Honda engine to last the race with both drivers again and both drivers to push it further once more.

Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain Sunday 21st April 2013 World Copyright: Charles Coates/LAT Photographic ref: Digital Image _N7T5609

The Bahrain International Circuit itself has been on the F1 calendar since 2004, but up until 2013 the country had held its round of the Formula One championship during the day. But starting last year, the race is now held at night with the track covered with artificial lighting to illuminate the 5.412kms.

Based on the outskirts of the capital city of Manama, the circuit consists of 15 corners with most relying on a car to be planted as it snakes round while others need heavy braking to make the apex. As for the straights, the track utilises four long straights which allow for plenty of slipstreaming and overtaking. Particularly the pit straight and the middle straight of the circuit will be used for overtakes as these will be the two DRS zones.

Turn One should also be a home of action this weekend, but do not expect anything like last year’s race when Maldonado sent Esteban Gutierrez into a barrel roll after exiting the pits. This accident was partly down to the extended noses used for the 2014 season, but these have since been adapted and should prevent a repeat situation should a car t-bone another.

Official Bahrain International Circuit track guide. From Formula1.com

If you wish to watch or listen to the action unfold on the medium (white) and soft (yellow) tyres live in the UK, coverage can be found with both SkySports and the BBC. SkySports will also be covering the first round of the GP2 championship as it makes its return from winter in Bahrain.

For SkySports, their coverage of the Bahrain Grand Prix is as follows:

Thursday 16th April
13:00 – Driver Press Conference

Friday 17th April
10:00 – GP2 Practice
11:45 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Practice 1
15:45 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Practice 2
17:55 – GP2 Qualifying
19:00 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Team Press Conference
20:00 – Bahrain Grand Prix – The F1 Show

Saturday 18th April
11:05 – GP2 Feature Race
12:45 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Practice 3
15:00 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Qualifying
21:30 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Ted’s qualifying notebook

Sunday 19th April
12:10 – GP2 Spring Race
14:30 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Track Parade
15:00 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Pit Lane Live
15:30 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Race
18:30 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Paddock Live
21:30 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Ted’s race notebook

As for the BBC, their coverage is as follows:

Friday 17th April
11:55 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Practice 1 (BBC Red Button)
11:55 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
15:00 – F1 Rewind (BBC Two)
16:00 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Practice 2 (BBC Two)
18:45 – Inside F1 (BBC News Channel)

Saturday 18th April
12:55 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Practice 3 (BBC Two)
12:55 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
15:30 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Qualifying (BBC One)
15:55 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
18:45 – Inside F1 (BBC News Channel)

Sunday 19th April
15:00 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Race (BBC One)
15:55 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
18:05 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Race Forum (BBC Red Button)