Welcome to round 2 of the 2018 F1 season. Welcome to a very different venue, in virtually every aspect, to the previous round in Melbourne, Australia. Bahrain will provide drivers and teams with completely different challenges.
For starters, the very track itself has different characteristics. The Bahrain International Circuit is built for racing, unlike the road circuit from Melbourne, which means the surface itself has different properties. This will impact upon tyre choices, as will another major factor – the temperature. It’s a hotter environment, which will play a major role in how teams manage tyre selection and stops. Thirdly, there’s the design of the track itself – Bahrain is a track dominated by three long, fast straights, plus a fast stretch in the middle of the second sector. It could be argued that corners 4-10 are better suited to exploiting downforce, but elsewhere you’ll be wanting to maximise your speed. Raw power will be the biggest factor here.
Not that having the most powerful engine helped Mercedes here last year. Sebastian Vettel won here for Ferrari, demonstrating the good overall design of the car and his predatory instincts. A 57 lap race, covering 191 miles is what awaits – what will be the key, perhaps decisive elements?
Whereas Australia provided little in the way of on-track action, Bahrain will see sharp corners at the end of long DRS straights, especially into turn 1, but maybe into turn 4 as well. The bold and the brave might fancy a go into turn 10 too, if they can hang in there and stay close – turns 9 and 10 are, from my paltry gaming experience, quite hairy – you have to resist the urge to brake too soon, but equally, it’s easy to put the car off track and even into a barrier. Could turn 11 see overtaking? I’m not sure the straight is long enough. Finally, turn 14 may offer opportunities, albeit with the faster cars, maybe not.
In any event, I’m predicting a slightly more exciting race this time around.