Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Albert Park, 2019

Can Ferrari fight back? Six Bahrain GP talking points

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Mercedes ran away with victory in Australia, but can Ferrari take the fight to them in the Bahrain Grand Prix?

And who else needs to up their game after a disappointing start to the 2019 F1 season?

Here’s six talking points for this weekend’s race.

Can Ferrari fight back?

In the space of one month Sebastian Vettel went from love at first sight with his Ferrari SF90 – “very close to perfection” he claimed after the first day of testing – to finishing almost a minute behind the race winner in the season-opening race.

No way can that be a realistic reflection of where Ferrari really are. Certainly Mercedes made timely steps with their W10 and unleashed more of its performance in Melbourne. But the prevailing view that Ferrari made a mis-step with its set-up, and erred on the conservative side with its power unit, is persuasive.

Two weeks on, the key question for Ferrari, and for the state of this year’s championship fight, is how much progress they have made in addressing those shortcomings. On paper Bahrain, scene of victories for Vettel on F1’s last two visits, looks like a venue which should play to their strengths.

Is this really a ‘new Bottas’?

Is Lewis Hamilton is hoping Ferrari’s pace in Melbourne was a one-off, he might not be feeling the same way about his team mate. Valtteri Bottas was a genuine threat in qualifying and won the race to turn one; after that Hamilton’s floor damage meant it wasn’t a straight fight.

It’s too soon for Hamilton to start chewing his fingernails and dreading that things are all going a bit 2016 again. Nonetheless, he will be keen to lay all the talk of ‘Bottas 2.0’ to rest and to so at a track where, unusually, he hasn’t won for four years.

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Take two: The drivers needing fresh starts

Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, Albert Park, 2019
Ricciardo’s first race for Renault didn’t go well
Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz Jnr, Robert Kubica. All drivers whose first starts with new teams didn’t go entirely to plan in Melbourne.

While Ricciardo and Kubica could reasonably be considered the architect of their own demises, Sainz ticked off half a season’s worth of misfortune in one weekend: engine glitch in qualifying; baulked by Kubica; MGU-K failure in the race.

Bahrain, much less an ‘outlier’ track then Melbourne, offers a chance for a reset, to begin the season they all ‘should have’ begun last time out. But which has it in them to change the narrative?

Liberty’s 2021 vision

What did Liberty Media present to the 10 teams in London yesterday to woo them into signing up for more years of F1 fun from 2021 and beyond?

As RaceFans reported yesterday, the relevant parties are sworn to secrecy for now, but perhaps some details will slip out over the coming weekend.

Tobacco’s back

Carlos Sainz Jnr, McLaren, Albert Park, 2019
McLaren and Ferrari will switch liveries again
There was something slightly retro about the way Ferrari and McLaren quietly disguised the slogans of their tobacco-producing sponsors Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco (respectively) in Australia. Both ‘Mission Winnow’ and ‘A Better Tomorrow’ will be back this weekend, though you have to wonder how much longer it will be before another country raises questions about how they satisfy laws against tobacco advertising and they disappear again.

Renewed pressure over Bahrain

Formula 1’s presence in Bahrain remains controversial given the government’s stance on human rights. The race was cancelled in 2011 after the government brutally suppressed a pro-democracy protest. This year the case of footballer Hakeem al-Araibi has thrown new focus onto F1’s presence in the country.

Al-Araibi publicly supported the protests and, he claims, was subsequently imprisoned and tortured in Bahrain. He fled to Australia but was later arrested in Bangkok where the Thai authorities claimed he was subject to an extradition request by the Bahrainis. This was disputed, and Al-Araibi was released 76 days later, following lobbying by human rights groups and athletes’ associations.

Following his relief Al-Araibi turned his attention to, among others, Formula 1. “Activist Najah Yusuf was harshly interrogated, threatened, physically abused and sexually assaulted for speaking against the Bahrain Grand Prix two years ago,” he wrote last month. “Formula 1 has never called for her release.”

Formula 1 claims it has raised concerns over Yusuf’s treatment with the Bahrainis, who in return denied any connection between her case and the grand prix.

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Are you going to the Bahrain Grand Prix?

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Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Bahrain Grand Prix? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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23 comments on “Can Ferrari fight back? Six Bahrain GP talking points”

  1. No noo.. Ferrari is at the top of the pecking order and have much much faster car. Mercedes got lucky in Aus and are still the challenger. Can Mercedes continue there glorious fightback against a much better Ferrari car by sheer grit and sweat of our .. sry their brows?

    -Square-Route (also know as fake Toto Wolf)

    1. I am back under the bridge now.

    2. Haha Very well put :-D

      I always tend to support the underdog. So Mercedes it is then.

    3. Don’t forget that Bottas is now reborn and the Honda’s are bulletproof.

      1. And the Ferraris look planted!

  2. Ferrari may well be able to pull back the performance promised in testing but the fact that the disastrous outing in Australia happened at all suggests a weakness either in car concept or implementation.

    Either of those will have longer term consequences, the first because the season’s pattern is set and the second because it means team Ferrari are still not a solid proposition.

  3. On the one hand, I am looking forward to learn what this race brings. And the track seems to be really good for getting some good F1 racing done.

    But then I think about those tobacco returns, I think about the continuing suppression of everybody not aligned with the governemt and I decide that I will just read the results afterwards for another year.

    Bahrain, you can do better.

    1. @bascb

      Obviously there are no perfect nations, but some are much worse than others. The gross lack of basic human rights in Bahrain is appalling. Only tyrants fear such a basic human right as free speech.

  4. It will be a tragedy if the historic venues in UK, Germany and Italy do not host races in 2020 but dictatorships do.

    1. I completely agree

  5. ‘Wishing Minnow’ is not a good slogan if you want to fight back ;)
    Hopefully, Europe will come to the rescue.

  6. I don’t like Bahrain’s human rights abuses any more than I liked apartheid. But with the benefit of hindsight, we can see that the sporting boycott of South Africa not only didn’t work, but was actually counterproductive. Better to shine a light on it once a year.

    1. That’s actually a good point. If F1 doesnt go there, we’d not talk about it or the media would not cover it as much. Heck, I didn’t even know Barhain existed before F1 started visiting it.

  7. Mercedes will make ferrari look good by turning down the power, thus saving the engine and components and making the championship look like a fight.

    Only to destroy the morale at ferrari by turning it up again at will to ensure strategic victories.

    I dont buy that a gap as large as that seen in Aus was simply set up issues.

    1. Yeakel Edward
      28th March 2019, 16:42

      It’s my firm belief that they have a cooling problem after slimming down the bodywork this year.

    2. But you do buy that Ferrari had a 4 to 5 tenths gap to Mercedes in Barcelona testing and then 7 tenth deficit in Australia? Well in fact, that was a fact. So not sure what you could ignore from that.

      So now Ferrari are back to where they were and it’s still all fake? In what reality does this make sense?

  8. Can Ferrari fight back? – Yes.
    Is this really a ‘new Bottas? – Hopefully, yes.

  9. I have the feeling that the Bahrain GP will have results much more similar to what we see during the Winter testing:
    Ferrari will be fast and the midfield will be closer to Red Bull (well maybe not to Max in particular) lead by Renault this time (also the midfield fight will be fierce but that was already the case in Melbourne). The “only” difference is that Mercedes will be the one from the second week of testing, not the one seen on the first week of testing, meaning it will be on par with Ferrari’s pace.

    If that does not happen then I shut-up forever about “predictions” during the rest of 2019 ;-)

    1. I almost fully agree with your predictions, the only difference for me it’s that I believe Mercedes will still be able to lockout front row due to their party mode, even if the gap will be smaller than in AUS. On race pace they will be a bit more even but slight better than the Ferrari s

  10. In 2017 I criticised the Bahrain Grand Prix on Facebook. Since then I have been imprisoned, beaten and sexually assaulted.

    https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2019/mar/27/najah-yusuf-prison-f1-bahrain-grand-prix

    1. This woman is already in jail but still has the guts to put her real name and face to this article in order to push forward change. Goodness knows what the consequences will be for her.

      1. I admire her courage in facing all of it (again) @shimks.

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