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Formula 1 Preview: Bahrain Grand Prix

Written by Marcus Woodhouse, Edited by Debargha Banerjee

Credit: GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images

Ladies and gentlemen, take your seats and strap yourselves in for the riveting return of Formula 1 action. Amid a couple of team rebrandings, all 20 drivers have maintained their seats for 2024, but that has done nothing to quash the drama of the winter break. Lewis Hamilton shocked the world with the news that he would be jumping ship to Ferrari alongside Charles Leclerc for 2025, hanging Carlos Sainz out to dry, and leaving the F1 paddock in a state of frenzy. Team dynamics are up in the air, and our elite group of drivers will have the bit between their teeth this season, with everything to prove and everything to lose.

Circuit Guide

Credit: Formula 1

The Bahrain International Circuit encapsulates the essence of a season opener, as the cars will scream away from the start line under the floodlights. Three DRS (Drag Reduction System) zones facilitate overtaking and the pecking order is never set in stone with wind and fluctuating track temperatures for drivers to contend with. As we saw from testing, the cars seem to be much more adept at riding over curbs and eking out every last centimetre of optimal racing line, so expect to see a few spins from drivers taking one too many liberties, and track limits to be cracked down on.

Weekend Format

The Bahrain Grand Prix will run an irregular weekend format, as one of the three races this season to have the race on Saturday, in this case due to the beginning of Ramadan next Sunday pushing the schedule back by a day.

Schedule (in BST)

Practice 1 - Thursday, 11:30 am-12:30 pm

Practice 2 - Thursday, 15:00 pm-16:00 pm

Practice 3 - Friday, 12:30 pm-13:30 pm

Qualifying - Friday, 16:00 pm-17:00 pm

Race - Saturday, 15:00 pm-17:00 pm

Weather Forecast

Bahrain’s location in the Middle East sees a barrel load of sun forecasted for the Bahrain Grand Prix, with temperatures fairly high but not sweltering.

Major Talking Points

  • Can Red Bull be caught? - The early signs from testing are that Adrian Newey has nailed his car design yet again, and that Max Verstappen maintains a sizeable advantage going into this season, but how big will the gap really be come race day?

  • Inter Team Tensions - The announcements of big money driver transfers over the last month have certainly left tension in the air of some teams, and it will be intriguing to see how well teams can work with drivers that won’t be working together next season.

  • New Teams? - The transitions of Alfa Romeo to Kick Sauber and AlphaTauri to RB have certainly provided us with some striking liveries thus far, but how big of an impact can these changes really have to the fortunes of these straggling teams once they hit the ground running?

Bahrain in Years Gone By

Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Bahrain has played host to a great number of enthralling races since its introduction to the F1 calendar back in 2004, and none more so than the 2006 showdown between the two world champions of Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso, ending in Alonso narrowly pipping his rival to the chequered flag. The original ‘Duel in the Desert’ was back in 2014, which saw Mercedes teammates Hamilton and Nico Rosberg vie for glory under the lights, with the Brit ultimately emerging victorious. Lastly, we will never forget the beautiful chaos of the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, as George Russell finally got his Mercedes call-up to replace his unwell compatriot Lewis Hamilton, and was faced with problem after problem which denied him a maiden win, and allowing Sergio Perez to recover from a first lap collision to win the race for Racing Point, and secure himself a seat at Red Bull for the following season.

Drivers to Watch

Lewis Hamilton - One Last Dance

The seven-time world champion has had many memorable moments with Mercedes, including a period of dominance in which no one could hold a candle to him. But all good things must come to an end, and a downturn in car performance and results over the last few seasons had left Hamilton disenchanted with his team’s vision for the future, and he made the bold switch to the Scuderia for 2025. But what can he achieve in this last season with Mercedes, and will he even end up regretting his decision based on the outcome of the year ahead?

Carlos Sainz - Landing Feet First

Carlos Sainz must have been one ticked off Spaniard when his team informed him that Hamilton would be replacing him at the end of the year, seemingly through no real fault of his own. Charles Leclerc was simply Ferrari’s man, so when the opportunity came knocking to sign someone of that prestige and unquestionable ability, Sainz was always going to be the one to make way. This all means that Sainz will be moving teams next year, and the rumours are already swirling around with which team he will look to move forward, but arguably this season will be the most important of his Formula 1 career to date. Can he prove that he deserves a seat at the top of the pecking order, or will he be too heavily impacted by losing his seat and have to watch his career fade away?

Credit: Clive Rose/Getty Images

Marcus’ Predictions

It wouldn’t be a realistic prediction without a victorious Max Verstappen, but behind him everything is very much still to play for. McLaren and Ferrari had good tests here in Bahrain last week, while Mercedes seemed to struggle somewhat. That is why I’m going to go for Lando Norris finishing second, with Charles Leclerc filling out the podium. I can’t see anything other than the continuation of Sergio Perez’s decline this season, beginning with this weekend, but a mixed up order could well see teams like RB or Williams establish themselves within the points-playing positions.


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