F1: Another Perspective – No shocks expected in ‘Duel of the Desert’
By Tamhas Woods at Motorsport24.com
On Sunday afternoon in Shanghai, reigning F1 champion Lewis Hamilton quickly silenced his critics (not to mention Team Ferrari!) with a resounding victory over rival Sebastian Vettel. In the process, Hamilton went 13 points clear at the top of the standings to assert early dominance in 2015.
If you know your history…
Since its inception in 2004, the Bahrain circuit has largely followed the formbook with Hamilton emerging victorious last year en-route to a second world title. On six further occasions, the eventual champion has won in Sakhir, marking it as a telling race on the calendar.
Mercedes are still the team with the greatest power unit mastery and, having utilised this trait at last year’s event, they cannot fail to emulate the 1-2 they achieved in 2014. The only ray of hope for the remaining competitors is that perennial underdog, Sergio Perez of Team Force India, managed a podium finish with the aid of a Mercedes engine.
A heated battle…
With an equal balance of straights and tight corners, the demand on tyres is not as prominent as in Shanghai – however, the heat experienced is second to none with daytime temperatures consistently exceeding 40°C (104°F).
Even races that take place later in the day impose a greater demand on engine capabilities than other circuits. Engine cooling strategies thus become the number one priority for all teams that want to avoid humiliation. In the advent of evolved power units, components such as the turbocharger and MGU-H will also raise the cumulative temperature for an additional challenge.
Keys to victory…
The race will be won and lost on the four straights, particularly the main drag (the final straight) between turns 13 and 14. Maximising on opportunities to allow the MGU-H to recover is hugely important, especially with heavy braking sections preceding this final straight.
As for the skills of drivers alone, Bahrain is well suited to Hamilton’s aggressive and results-driven style, and it would appear that only Vettel could match that come Sunday.
In complete contrast to the likes of Monaco and (the excluded) Nürburgring, the distinctly modern Sakhir circuit allows much leeway for drivers, such as Hamilton, that enjoy plentiful space to pull off the aggressive overtaking manoeuvres required to intimidate rivals. On such a hot, dry and tactically-demanding course, the mentality of drivers is also given additional importance.
The surprise package…
Beyond the podium of Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel, construction team Williams is once more likely to be the source of dark horses.
Valtteri Bottas will certainly be one to watch. He performed strongly in qualifying ahead of last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix, before enduring a frustrating race that saw him slip from P3 on the grid to finish a meagre 8th.
With his construction team following Mercedes’ imperious technical example during winter testing, there is no reason to believe that the 25-year old cannot improve on last year’s disappointing performance despite enduring tyre issues in Shanghai.
Visit Motorsport24.com for live standings of the Bahrain Grand Prix from 15:00 UTC on Sunday, April 19.