Did Australia show Kimi Raikkonen is Ferrari’s lead driver at the beginning of 2018? And can Haas deliver this time? Five talking points for this weekend’s race.
Can Raikkonen assert himself at Ferrari?
Raikkonen out-qualified Sebastian Vettel in Melbourne and probably would have finished in front of him if it hadn’t been for the Virtual Safety Car. Vettel admitted he didn’t get as much out of the car as his team mate, who seems more at ease with the SF71H’s handling. How long can Raikkonen sustain this advantage?
If he is ahead again, he could be well-placed to end his five-year victory drought. Mercedes have been strong here in the past and took pole position for all of the last five Bahrain Grands Prix, but Ferrari turned the tables on them in the race last year.
Lewis Hamilton believes the red cars’ straight-line speed will make them a threat this weekend. Mercedes ran closer to the limit of cooling in Australia and in the heat of Bahrain may be forced to make bigger concessions to look after their power units.
Raikkonen gives little away out of the car but his anxiousness to convert his early-season advantage over Vettel was clear from a mid-race radio message punctuated with expletives in which he complained the team hadn’t kept him briefed on Vettel’s pace.
Will Red Bull show their real potential?
Melbourne gave little real insight into the true pace of Red Bull. As Christian Horner explained after the race both cars spent much of the afternoon in traffic.
Starting both cars on the harder super-soft tyres was arguably an error as it left them vulnerable on lap one, which proved Max Verstappen’s undoing. But Daniel Ricciardo’s pursuit of Raikkonen over the final laps gave them cause for cheer.
Can Bottas bounce back?
Last year Valtteri Bottas claimed his first career pole position in Bahrain, edging Hamilton out by two hundredths of a second. He badly needs a repeat of that kind of performance this weekend after his crash in qualifying two weeks ago.
The question hanging over Bottas is whether he has reversed the dip he entered in the second half of last year. Yes, he ended 2017 with two poles and a win, but how much of that was aided by Hamilton ‘phoning in’ his post-title performances? His Australian Grand Prix troubles invite the interpretation that he still isn’t operating at the level he needs to.
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Are Haas going to be even quicker?
Haas provided the surprise of Melbourne and were on course for a superb result before two shoddy pit stops wrecked their weekend.
Getting to the bottom of what went wrong in the pits is job one. The second question is whether they will be as quick again, and the signs are positive. Grosjean believes the car will perform better in warm conditions and suggested they could be in even stronger shape this weekend.
Liberty’s big plans
The big off-track story this weekend looks set to be Ross Brawn’s briefing to the teams on Friday, at which he will present his vision for the sport in 2021.
The future of the sport potentially hangs on how Brawn proposes to address F1’s myriad challenges. Read Dieter Rencken’s assessment of the state of play in his new column:
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2018 Bahrain Grand Prix
- Three errors caused Ferrari’s botched Bahrain pit stop which injured a mechanic
- Verstappen not to blame for Bahrain qualifying crash – Horner
- Steiner warns against knee-jerk reaction to pit lane safety fears
- Ferrari explains why Raikkonen’s pit stop went wrong
- Problems in first two races not down to bad luck – Raikkonen