Bahrain Grand Prix Preview: Alonso out Vandoorne in

Written by F1_Charlie

Formula One heads to the desert of Bahrain this weekend for race two of twenty-one this season. After what was a thrilling curtain raiser two weeks ago in Melbourne, Bahrain will be eager to put on a race that is just as exciting.

Speaking of Melbourne, who could forget Fernando Alonso’s horror crash on Sunday? Although he walked away from the crash, the McLaren man will be reduced to a spectator this weekend. The two-time champion somehow managed to escape with just rib fractures on both his right and left side, injuries which could also see him sit out the next race, the Chinese Grand Prix. Thankfully McLaren can call upon reserve driver and reigning GP2 champion, Stoffel Vandoorne who many including myself tip to be future world champion.

There was a hint of luck about Nico Rosberg’s victory in Melbourne. Not because teammate Lewis Hamilton had a poor start which saw him fall to as low as seventh place on the opening lap, but because Ferrari were looking comfortable until the red flag.

Ferrari went the wrong way on strategy by opting to stay on the super-soft tyres as opposed to the medium compound. It was a mistake that gifted Mercedes a one-two victory that after the opening laps was looking unlikely.

Mercedes have won the last two races in Bahrain. Both races have been by recent standards fantastic. 2014 saw the Mercedes pair duel for the final ten laps of the race with Hamilton holding off Rosberg who was on the better tyre at the time.

2015 was a race that Kimi Raikkonen perhaps should have won. The Mercedes pair were struggling with their brakes in the final stages of the race after looking comfortable from the off. The Finn closed the gap to the Mercedes pair to just 3 seconds but ran out of laps. If this weekend’s race is anywhere near as exciting as the previous two seasons then we could be in for fireworks.

Despite throwing away the win at the last race there are reasons to be cheerful at Ferrari. The Ferrari seems to be an easier car to get off the line at the start, something that helped the Ferrari’s a great deal at the Australian Grand Prix. Mercedes have the outright pace over the red cars over a single lap but off the line is a different story. Do not be surprised to see a Ferrari leading the pack after the opening lap.

The race itself is going through somewhat of a resurgence. It was once seen as a snooze fest with little chance of overtaking and often dull races. The race was pulled from the calendar in 2011 after political unrest. Bahrain was reinstated in 2012 and has thankfully ran trouble free since. It was changed to a night race in 2014 to improve the spectacle, to the change has improved the show would be an understatement. 

Expect the midfield to be full of excitement this weekend. Williams and Red Bull seem to be leading the midfield battle but that could all change in Bahrain. It is a track that can sometimes throw up unlikely result. Sergio Perez of Force India made his way onto the podium in 2014. The Bahrain International Circuit is a power track. Mercedes will no doubt be strong here with the Renault and Honda powered teams going into the weekend on the back foot. 

There is no doubt that both engine suppliers have made a leap in terms of power but still see themselves behind the mighty Mercedes engine that has been the class of the field for the last two seasons. This could be what powers Williams ahead of the likes of Red Bull this weekend. Williams were hoping to take the fight to Ferrari in Australia but that did not materialize. 

As noted previously on the site, qualifying will for some bizarre reason remains unchanged. The elimination style qualifying which confused everyone in Australia was scrapped to much fanfare following the farce that was qualifying last time out, only to be reintroduced for Bahrain. Hopefully common sense will prevail and the knockout system will be back soon.

Below is your guide to the Bahrain International Circuit. Will Hamilton make it a hat-trick of Bahrain wins on Sunday? Can Rosberg make it two from two in 2016? Or can Ferrari get it right and take the victory? Leave your comments below.