2020 Sakhir Grand Prix Preview: Shaken-up Grid to Provide Entertaining Race

The casual racing fan might have been tempted to turn away from F1 and it’s predictability after Lewis Hamilton put the final nail in the championship coffin several rounds ago.

It’s understandable; both titles already belong to Mercedes while second place handily sits with Red Bull. That fan might be thinking there is little left to fight for. But they would be wrong. 

The Track

Bahrain’s outer “almost oval” circuit shares Turns 14 through 4 with the standard layout. The rest has never been touched by an F1 car. Lap times in qualifying are set to be under one minute, while the race will take place over 87 laps.

Average speeds won’t be at the fastest of the year though, Monza, Spa and Silverstone are still faster.

Last Time Out – 2020 Bahrain GP

Having never run on Bahrain’s outer ring configuration, there isn’t anything precise to judge this weekend’s grand prix against. However, the standard track setup shares half it’s layout with the outer one and F1 put rubber to road there less than a week ago. 

While Romain Grosjean’s crash (and his miraculous survival) has rightfully dominated headlines since Sunday, there are still other big picture items to note. Red Bull, crucially Alex Albon, cleaned up what was left from Lewis Hamilton’s win and Valtteri Bottas’ lackluster day.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – SAFETY DOESN’T HAPPEN BY ACCIDENT

Third place in the Constructor’s was and is where the fiercest fight remains. Racing Point and their pink Mercedes had an awful day while Renault was unable to capitalise in the same way McLaren did by finishing in fourth and fifth place.  

A Wide-Open Weekend

In the wake of Lewis Hamilton’s contraction of COVID-19, we’ll finally get to find out what F1 would be like without him for a weekend. Mercedes have announced that George Russell will step-up to replace the world champion, so we’ll find out how the Brit can do in a fast car.

Who will replace Russell at Williams isn’t clear, but it’s believed to be either Jack Aitken or Stoffel Vandoorne.

Romain Grosjean will also be out of action this weekend. The Haas driver has been released from hospital, though, the team have confirmed. Pietro Fittipaldi will get his F1 debut this weekend in place of the Frenchman.

READ MORE: CHARLES LECLERC: F1’S NEXT NEW WORLD CHAMPION

In the midfield battle, the team from Woking now has a lead, but a vulnerable one, for third place. With two races remaining and a points gap of 27 between all three teams, don’t expect Racing Point or Renault to give up the chase.

Sergio Perez had shown every indication of a podium finish before his Mercedes engine packed it in. And it’s almost asking for a miracle for McLaren to repeat their showing from last weekend. 

READ MORE: THE DEVIL’S IN THE DATA: WHAT PEREZ COULD BRING TO RED BULL

In addition to the Constructor’s battle, Ricciardo, Perez and Charles Leclerc are  separated by only four points in the battle for fourth while seventh is within touching distance of Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz and Albon (who is fighting to keep his race seat).

To say Sunday should be exciting would be an understatement. 

READ MORE: F1 2020: THE YEAR OF THE HONEYBADGER

While the casual fan may be forgiven for feeling a little blasé about F1’s predictability the seasoned fan knows better. That kind of F1 fan knows the most compelling reasons for watching F1 are just now reaching a boiling point. 

Third place in the Constructor’s Championship, with its accompanying respect and prize money, is a dogfight between three closely matched teams. And a race win is on the line in a way it normally is not. Every tenth of a second counts on Saturday and every move has to stick on Sunday to emerge victorious. 

Session Times

Practice 1: 27 November 14:30 – 16:00 (9:30-11:00 AM EST)
Practice 2: 27 November 17:30 – 19:00 (12:30-2:00 PM EST)
Practice 3: 28 November 14:00 – 15:00 (9-10 AM EST)
Qualifying: 28 November 17:00 – 18:00 (12-1 PM EST)
Race: 29 November 17:10 – 19:10 (12:10-2:10 PM EST)

READ MORE: F1 ANNOUNCES SAUDI GP, BUT DO WE REALLY RACE AS ONE?

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