The Formula 1 circus arrives in Bahrain this weekend for a very special race. With 2014 marking the tenth anniversary of the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix, it is being promoted as a “celebration” for the island kingdom. Part of this ‘celebration’ sees the Bahrain International Circuit play host to just the second night race on the calendar, following in the footsteps of the Singapore Grand Prix.
It might be something of a final roll of the dice for Formula 1 in Bahrain. Although money is not a problem, the race has hardly been one that is looked forward to. Very few fans are stirred by the circuit or the racing it produces, but a night race may resolve this. Hundreds of floodlights have been erected around the circuit to illuminate the cars throughout the weekend, as we saw at the final round of the World Endurance Championship back in December.
Following his dominant victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend, Lewis Hamilton will be looking to go back-to-back and cut the gap to championship leader and teammate Nico Rosberg on Sunday. Both drivers enter this weekend’s race as favorites thanks to the immense pace of the W05 car, but with Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen all in the shake-up, it is by no means a foregone conclusion.
2014 Bahrain Grand Prix – Talking Points
Lewis versus Nico – Round 3
Round one of this inter-team battle went to Nico Rosberg as he won in Australia; round two was a convincing victory for Lewis Hamilton by a full 17 seconds in the exact same car. And so we come to round three in Bahrain. Both drivers are champing at the bit to be team leader and mount a serious title challenge, but with Red Bull rapidly catching up, now is the time for Mercedes to make the most of its advantage.
How much closer will Red Bull be?
Sebastian Vettel finishing in third place last weekend may not appear to be a momentous result given his glittering career, but following such a disastrous winter, it meant the world to Red Bull. Now, the team must use the momentum gained in Malaysia to push Mercedes even closer in Bahrain. For Daniel Ricciardo, it is merely about scoring some points. His luck makes you unsure whether to laugh or cry.
Ferrari needs to turn up
Fernando who? Kimi? Eh? It’s been that kind of start to the season for Ferrari. The erstwhile Alonso has picked up two solid fourth place finishes so far, but the pace of the F14 T has left much to be desired. Similarly, Raikkonen has – despite a slice of bad luck in Malaysia – been largely anonymous. However, write the team off at your peril. After two quiet races at the beginning of last season, Ferrari roared back into life to win the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix. It might take a bit more than aggressive tire wear this year, though.
Some dry weather answers
Wet qualifying for both the Australian and Malaysian Grands Prix has clouded our idea of the pecking order (over one lap, at least), but Bahrain should remedy this situation. Given that we have never seen a wet session at Sakhir, we should finally see just how great Mercedes’ advantage is. Further to that, we’ll also begin to appreciate the impact of the new tire rules that mean drivers start the race on their Q2 compound, not their Q3 selection as per 2013.
250 not out for Jenson Button
If it’s a celebration for Bahrain, then it’s also a celebration for Jenson Button. Having made his debut in the 2000 Australian Grand Prix, the British driver will now start his 250th race this weekend. In a career full of ups and downs, he has done it all: been a rookie, a backmarker, an unlikely winner, a world champion and a team leader. He won his 200th race at the Hungaroring in 2011, so could it be another big result to celebrate a big landmark for JB?
2014 Bahrain Grand Prix – Facts and Figures
Track: Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir (5.412km)
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:30.252s (2004)
Tire Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Prime)
2013 Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2013 Pole Position: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:32.330
2013 Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) – 1:36.961
DRS Zones: Main straight (T15 to T1); T10 to T11
For the complete schedule and TV times, click here. Please note that qualifying is live on CNBC.