Ferrari returned to the top of the timesheets as Mercedes seemed to falter on the first day of running at the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix. Here’s what to look out for on Saturday in Sakhir!
THE HEADLINES FROM FRIDAY:
- Ferrari fastest: Leclerc leads FP1, Vettel leads FP2
- Hulkenberg impresses – just 0.112s slower than Mercedes
- Ricciardo struggles to find pace for Renault
- Alfa Romeo problems in FP2 after water leaks on both cars
- Hulkenberg and Giovinazzi collide in FP1, no penalties applied
HAVE FERRARI FOUND PACE?
Ferrari seemed to have found their testing pace on Friday in Bahrain, with their SF90 looking much more stable on track. Charles Leclerc set the pace in Free Practice 1, while Sebastian Vettel topped the timesheet in Free Practice 2. Ferrari were six tenths faster than closest rivals Mercedes in the second session. The reigning champions may have been sandbagging however, with their best time only a tenth faster than Nico Hulkenberg’s best for Renault – a scenario which seems unlikely to repeat itself in qualifying.
If Sebastian Vettel does take pole this weekend, he’ll become the first driver to take back-to-back poles at the Bahrain International Circuit on more than one occasion. Ferrari topped all three parts of qualifying last year in Bahrain, but Mercedes had dominated on Saturdays in the hybrid era before that. Will Ferrari take their first pole of the season in Bahrain?
QUALIFYING SESSION TOPPERS IN BAHRAIN IN RECENT YEARS:
CAN BOTTAS WIN THE MERCEDES QUALIFYING BATTLE?
Valtteri Bottas leads the championship by eight points as the second round gets underway. Powered by porridge and facial hair, there’s reason to believe that the Finn could continue his unexpected comeback this weekend.
Bottas is yet to be beaten by a team-mate in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix. In fact, this track is the place where Bottas took his maiden Formula 1 pole position back in 2017. On that occasion, he beat team-mate Lewis Hamilton’s fastest lap by just 0.023 seconds – the closest ever margin a driver has taken pole for the race by. While Mercedes could only challenge for the second row of the grid last season, Bottas extended the pace advantage over his team-mate at the track to 0.096 seconds.
Will Bottas’ advantage over Hamilton grow once again in 2019? Or can Hamilton end Bottas’ 100% win record?
You can keep track of the team-mate battles throughout the 2019 season on our Team-Mate Battles page!
WILL RICCIARDO REMAIN UNBEATEN IN BAHRAIN?
Just like Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo is yet to be out-qualified by a team-mate in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix. Ricciardo will have a challenge on his hands to beat Hulkenberg this weekend though, as the German is also pretty nifty on Saturday nights in Sakhir. Hulkenberg has set a better time than his team-mate here in all of the last four seasons. Here’s how much each driver has out-performed their team-mate by in Bahrain in the past four years:
*The gaps above are taken from the last part of qualifying where the driver and their team-mate both set a time. Last season, Ricciardo out-qualified Max Verstappen only as a result of Verstappen crashing out in Q2. In the first part of qualifying, Verstappen’s time was faster than Ricciardo’s. Hulkenberg has out-qualified his team-mate by a larger margin on average over the past four seasons.
On Friday, Ricciardo seemed to be uncomfortable in his car, ending up around 1.2 seconds slower than Hulkenberg in Free Practice 2. Who will come out on top in this weekend’s battle?
WILL WILLIAMS QUALIFY WITHIN 107%?
There has been plenty of speculation as to whether Williams will fall foul of the 107% rule in 2019. In Australia, Williams qualified just within 105% of Charles Leclerc’s pace-setting time in Q1 (104.9% to be exact).
If there is a similar gap between the fastest Free Practice 2 time and the fastest Q1 time at the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix as there was in 2018, we can expect the lap time to drop by around two seconds between those sessions, giving an expected fastest Q1 time of around 1:26.800. If that were the case, Williams’ fastest time from Free Practice 2 (a 1:31.904) is 105.8% of that predicted time. This doesn’t take into account the extra DRS zone at the track this year, which could skew the predicted time slightly.
Barring any strange or unexpected circumstances, Williams should safely qualify within 107% of the fastest Q1 time in Bahrain.
You can find the Track Records for all 21 current Formula 1 circuits on our Lap Records page!
WILL THE ROOKIES IMPRESS AGAIN?
In Australia, all three rookies – Lando Norris, Alexander Albon and George Russell – out-performed their team-mates in qualifying. Will that happen again this weekend?
All three have recent experience at the Bahrain track, having all competed in Formula 2 here last year. Strangely, both Albon and Russell have more recent race experience at the circuit than their respective team-mates Daniil Kvyat and Robert Kubica, with Kvyat’s last race here in 2017 and Kubica’s last in 2010.
Norris and Russell were faster than their team-mates in Free Practice 2, with Norris 0.175s faster than Carlos Sainz and Russell over a second faster than Kubica.
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