Since becoming a night race in 2014, the Bahrain Grand Prix has carved itself a curious niche as being one of the most entertaining events in the early part of the season.
Nico Rosberg arrives in Bahrain on a high after winning the opening race of the season in Australia, leading home Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton for a comfortable one-two finish.
It was a brilliant strategy call that won it for Mercedes Down Under, but this time around, Ferrari may pose a more serious threat after impressing early on last time out.
Here are the MST team’s picks for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)
Race Winner: Nico Rosberg. Go on then, let’s run with Rosberg again. Nico showed signs of his 2014 self in Australia with a cool, fuss-free victory. At the site of one of his most painful defeats in racing two years ago, I’m backing him to extend the winning streak to five.
Surprising Finish: Carlos Sainz Jr. Having been stuck in Max Verstappen’s shadow for much of his rookie season, Sainz showed signs (or should that be sainz, hur hur hur…) in Australia that he is no longer willing to lay down for his hyped up teammate. The Toro Rosso car is solid, so I’ll back Sainz to score a top five on Sunday.
Most to Prove: Haas F1 Team. Harsh? Maybe. We all loved Haas’ debut charge to the points, but the real challenge now facing the team is repeating it. Bahrain could give us a sign of what to truly expect from the American team in its first F1 season.
Additional Storyline to Watch: Qualifying. I worked a Fall Out Boy lyric into my race preview, and I’ll do the same here: “Sugar we’re going down swinging” – let’s hope this is the last we see of elimination qualifying.
Predict the Podium
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
3. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)
Race Winner: Sebastian Vettel. Going to go bold with the first non-Mercedes pick of the season. Had Ferrari got its tire choice correct at Melbourne, Vettel’s start vaulted him ahead and put him in position to win. And with Ferrari having gone for more mediums than Mercedes in Bahrain, it may aid them in terms of tire management during the race. Vettel could win it with that combo of close enough pace and better tire strategy, compared to the Mercs.
Surprising Finish: Max Verstappen. After the disappointment of Melbourne, pegging the precocious teenager to bag a big result in the desert.
Most to Prove: Haas F1 Team. The follow-up act is always harder than the premiere. With the team riding the wave of momentum after its shock sixth place in Melbourne, how will Haas fare in what is more likely to be a more straightforward GP, absent a mid-race crash and safety car period? Points aren’t required again but if Haas can put together two clean races for Grosjean and Gutierrez, including standard pit stops, it’ll have been a solid second act.
Additional Storyline to Watch: Qualifying. Again. Qualifying was a debacle in Melbourne, so naturally, it’s getting a second chance encore in Bahrain. What’s the old saying about trying the same thing and expecting different results? We’ll see whether the sequel here is as bad as the debut.
Predict the Podium
1. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes