The Formula 1 titles have been decided but with three grand prix weekends left to go, there’s plenty still to race for.
Mick Schumacher’s Haas futureRomain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen have already been confirmed, and details are expected soon on who will replace them.
Mick Schumacher is a clear favourite. He has a handy lead in the Formula 2 championship and Haas announced last week he will appear for them in the post-season young drivers test.
Ferrari has previously indicated they will confirm which of their juniors will progress into F1 before the F2 season ends, now just 10 days away. Sparing Schumacher the disruption of having that on his plate during next week’s potentially championship-deciding round would be a smart move. That said, there’s a fair chance Schumacher could get that job done with one double-header event to spare.
He may not be the only F2 driver stepping up to the top flight next year. Yuki Tsunoda and Nikita Mazepin are tipped to make their debuts, with AlphaTauri and Haas respectively.
Both need to ensure they have sufficient superlicence points. Mazepin should be eligible already, due to the more lenient approach the FIA are taking this year due to pandemic-related disruption.
Tsunoda, currently third in the standings, will get the job done so long as nothing disastrous happens to him over the next two rounds. But it is perhaps more important is that he impresses on-track, especially if any of the current Red Bull or AlphaTauri drivers have a poor result. While F1 begins the first of three ‘dead rubbers’, F2 may be where the action is this weekend.
The return of grip?
Sakhir is normally a slippery circuit, compared to the rest of the season, due to the large amount of sand that makes its way onto the track from the surrounding desert.
However it’s seen more running than usual recently. WEC held their finale there just a few weeks ago, putting down a lot of rubber. Plus, unlike at Istanbul, F1 will have support races this weekend. Formula 2 and a regional Porsche series will both be running, giving a chance to clear the racing line before the top cars hit the track.
Following an extremely slippery weekend in Turkey, Bahrain could turn out to be one of the grippiest tracks we’ve had to run on this year, flipping the form book as a result.
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Ferrari’s true form
Ferrari had a good result at Istanbul Park, despite Charles Leclerc late-race error costing him a podium finish. However, the Turkish Grand Prix was a very shaken-up race with cars running well below full speed all weekend due to the very low grip surface and wet conditions.
The Scuderia have completed their upgrade plan for 2020, so Bahrain will show whether that’s made a significant difference. Leclerc very nearly took his first win here last season and they looked faster than the Mercedes all weekend. While that won’t be the case this weekend, it points to the circuit potentially suiting them better.
However both Sakhir layouts will have high power demands, which generally hasn’t suited this year’s Ferrari.
Team mate battles
For a lot of teams this season, there’s been a clear driver in the lead in terms of points – notably at Red Bull, Ferrari and AlphaTauri.
However some team mates are very close as we go into the final rounds. In a tricky year for Alfa Romeo, Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen are neck-and-neck on four points each, with Raikkonen ahead on finishing position but Giovinazzi having passed the chequered flag in the top 10 more times.
Closer to the top, Carlos Sainz Jnr has finally passed Lando Norris in the points, but only just. Sainz is on 75 points, Norris 74. Although both will be focussed on McLaren’s tight battle for position in the constructors’ title, neither will want to lose the intra-team one either.
Three- or four-way fight for third?
It’s almost repetitive at this point to say that this is a very competitive F1 season in the midfield. But that’s definitely something to relish, particularly with the titles already won. Racing Point, McLaren and Renault remain locked in a three-way fight for third place in the constructors championship and Bahrain could be a key race in deciding that.
With the outer Sakhir circuit an as-yet unknown quantity and Abu Dhabi often difficult to overtake on, Bahrain could be the moment when clever strategy will let one of the three get a major lead. The points spread widened in Turkey (prior to which just one point separated all three) but they’re close enough to each other that a good weekend could tip things either way.
Racing Point have the lead on 154 points, followed by McLaren on 149 and Renault trailing a bit on 136. Their biggest differences, over race weekends, have been qualifying pace. But Bahrain usually offers opportunities to address that with racecraft, so we could see some bold calls, especially on tyre wear – recall Sergio Perez’s superb run at Imola before a costly Safety Car pit stop.
Nor can Ferrari necessarily be ruled out of the contest following their surprise result at the last round. However it’s doubtful the red team can expect to be contenders on pure pace alone.
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2020 so far
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2020 Bahrain Grand Prix
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