Bahrain Grand Prix 2016 Preview

A preview to the 2016 Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix.

As Formula One heads into round two of the 2016 season, the paddock pulls into Bahrain. The second night race to grace the calendar, and the second race of the year, provides elimination qualifying with a second chance – and a second chance for someone to dethrone Mercedes.

Back in Australia much discussion surrounded elimination qualifying, as the new format resulted in limited action on track and cars often eliminated while still in their respective garages. And in a twist and turn of events, the format was dropped, discussed, changes were discussed, and then elimination qualifying was kept.

The decision to keep qualifying unchanged for race two of the year came as the Formula One teams could not unanimously agree to alter the format. While, although many were in favour to tweaking the format to include the previous Q3 along with elimination Q1 and Q2, McLaren and Red Bull’s stance against this meant no changes could be implemented.

After qualifying in Australia, a unanimous agreement was reached between the teams to revert to 2015’s format however the FIA felt it would not be the best option. Therefore when it came to the F1 Commission and Strategy Group’s vote, they could only chose whether to adopt the changes to the format or leave it as it were in Oz.

Official Bahrain International Circuit track guide. From Formula1.com

The Bahrain International Circuit has hosted the Countries annual F1 event since 2004, with the race becoming a night race as of 2014. Coincidentally, both night races have been won by Lewis Hamilton. Although Fernando Alonso currently boasts a better record around the circuit, with the McLaren driver having won here on three occasions to Lewis’ two.

Lewis is joined on two wins around the 5.412 kilometre circuit by Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa. With Vettel a likely suitor to challenge Hamilton, and Rosberg, for the win come Sunday.

Hamilton will however need a stronger start with the single clutch system now in use than he was able to muster in Australia. Where Lewis fell to sixth while Vettel stormed to take the lead – and could have won the race had Ferrari opted for a conservative strategy similar to Mercedes.

Unlike Melbourne though, the Bahrain International Circuit is more favourable for overtaking with the circuit located on the outskirts of the capital city, Manama, offering multiple opportunities.

The first overtaking opportunity for the drivers is the heavy braking zone of turn one. Here, drivers are forced to stop from high speeds to cut back before making the run up the hill to the second overtaking area. Turn One often causes drivers to lock up under heavy braking which can aid or ruin an overtake manoeuvre.

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

On the flow down the hill, drivers will often jockey for position following a scrap out of turn four. But one will be forced to concede the position or run off the track through the start of sector two.

Bold moves can then occur at turns 8, 9 and 10. While the DRS zone to follow could provide a move into turn 11 providing the exit from 10 keeps them close to the car ahead.

An photo Nico Rosberg shared via Twitter of himself during the 2016 AusGP

Nico Rosberg during the 2016 AusGP via @nico_rosberg

As mentioned, Vettel could be a close challenger to Hamilton and Rosberg for the win on Sunday as he was in Melbourne.

For the race, his Ferrari team have selected two fewer softs than their Mercedes rivals in favour of the medium compound tyres. Mercedes similarly requested fewer mediums in Melbourne with their drivers only using the compound come the race interrupting red flag.

The two individuals involved in the red flag event, Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez, also have contrasting selections – with the Haas driver choosing the single set of mediums, five softs and 7 supersofts (the joint most of any driver).

As for Fernando, he will have the same choices of tyres as the Ferrari outfit. However, after his horrific crash at turn three in Australia, the McLaren driver is already one Honda power unit down from his five unit allotment for the season.

But while McLaren had requested those tyres for Fernando to use during the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend, a Thursday morning medical inspection by the FIA deemed Fernando not fit to race. In the FIA statement, they confirmed “Two sets of chest CT scans were compared and it was decided that there was insufficient resolution of the signs to allow him to compete on safety grounds”.

With Fernando out of the race, GP2’s 2015 Champion Stoffel Vandoorne will make his Formula One debut this weekend. The highly hyped driver was scheduled to carry out a Super Formula test in Japan this weekend but will instead fly overnight to Bahrain to replace the two-time F1 champion.

Two of Formula One’s all time greats have also made their debuts in the sport following a fellow competitors withdrawal. Firstly the most successful Formula One driver ever, Michael Schumacher, made his debut in the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix. While Sebastian Vettel made his F1 debut in the 2007 United States Grand Prix after replacing Robert Kubica following his extreme crash at that years Canadian Grand Prix.

In term’s of debuts, Stoffel Vandoorne also made his GP2 debut at the Bahrain GP during the F1 support race. In the 2014 race weekend, Stoffel qualified for the feature race in second place (three hundredths of a second off pole) before going on to win the race by 1.551 seconds. The following year, Stoffel went on to complete the perfect weekend with pole, fastest lap and the win during the season opening Bahrain feature race.

A second FIA medical check has been requested by McLaren for the Thursday of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend. But this is the second time in two years that Alonso has been forced to sit out a Grand Prix following his 2015 pre-season testing crash ruling him out of that years Australian Grand Prix.

Pirelli PZero's in use for the Bahrain Grand Prix

The Pirelli PZero’s selected for the Bahrain Grand Prix

The Bahrain Grand Prix 2016 will mark Channel 4’s first live broadcast of a Formula One Grand Prix following their highlight coverage of the Australian GP. Sky Sports will also broadcast the race live as part of their current deal. Unlike their upcoming contract from 2019 which provides them with full exclusivity of the F1 championship.

Wednesday March 30
20:30 – F1 Report – Bahrain GP preview (Sky Sports F1)

Thursday March 31
13:00 – Drivers’ Press Conference – Live (Sky Sports F1)
21:00 – Bahrain GP – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Friday April 1
11:45 – Bahrain GP – Practice One – Live (Sky Sports F1)
11:55 – Bahrain GP – Practice One – Live (Channel 4)
11:55 – Bahrain GP – Practice One – Live (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
15:45 – Bahrain GP – Practice Two – Live (Sky Sports F1)
15:55 – Bahrain GP – Practice Two – Live (Channel 4)
16:20 – Bahrain GP – Practice Two – Live (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
18:00 – Team Principals’ Press Conference – Live (Sky Sports F1)
18:30 – The F1 Show – Live (Sky Sports F1)

Saturday April 2
12:45 – Bahrain GP – Practice Three – Live (Sky Sports F1)
12:55 – Bahrain GP – Practice Three – Live (Channel 4)
12:55 – Bahrain GP – Practice Three – Live (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
15:00 – Bahrain GP – Qualifying – Live (Sky Sports F1)
15:00 – Bahrain GP – Qualifying – Live (Channel 4)
15:55 – Bahrain GP – Qualifying – Live (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
19:30 – Bahrain GP Qualifying – replay (Sky Sports F1)
22:20 – Ted’s Qualifying Notebook (Sky Sports F1)

Sunday April 3
14:30 – Bahrain GP – Track Parade – Live (Sky Sports F1)
15:00 – Bahrain GP – Pitlane – Live (Sky Sports F1)
15:00 – Bahrain GP – Build Up + Race – Live (Channel 4)
16:00 – Bahrain GP – Race – Live (Sky Sports F1)
18:30 – Bahrain GP – Paddock – Live (Sky Sports F1)
21:15 – Bahrain GP – Highlights (Sky Sports F1)
22:15 – Ted’s Race Notebook (Sky Sports F1)
23:00 – Bahrain GP – Highlights (Channel 4)
*BBC Radio 5 Live will have live race coverage via updates and online