Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Associated Press
Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will be out to make amends at the second stop on the 2018 Formula One calendar in Bahrain, but has a five-place grid penalty to overcome.
Hamilton was in total control of the season-opening Australian grand prix a fortnight ago, before a loss of time under the virtual safety car allowed Sebastian Vettel to snatch the win for Ferrari. And his frustration continued on Friday when it was confirmed he would face the sanction for a gearbox change.
In the season’s first night race another absorbing battle appears to be on the cards between these two longstanding rivals, as they each chase a fifth world championship title.
Here are all the viewing details you need for one of the most entertaining races of the year and a preview of what to expect from the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir.
Date: Sunday, April 8
Time: 4:10 p.m. (BST) 11:10 a.m. (ET)
TV Info: Sky Sports F1 (UK), ESPN2 (U.S.)
For the full list of drivers, visit the F1 website.
Hamilton Out to Make Amends
Rick Rycroft/Associated Press
For defending champion Hamilton things were going so well in Australia, having produced a brilliant lap in qualifying to start on pole before getting a firmer grip on the race after a strong start.
His chances of victory were eventually undone when Romain Grosjean’s crash prompted a virtual safety and Ferrari brought Vettel in to pit. Hamilton had come in before the race was neutralised temporarily and lost time as a result.
Despite his best efforts to chase the German down, for the second successive year it was Ferrari on the top step of the podium. F1 writer Gianluca D’Alessandro praised the temperament showcased by Vettel in this victory:
Gianluca D’Alessandro @Gianludale27
Good race for Seb, especially after the VSC. Well managed, without any mistakes, despite Hamilton’s pressure from behind. That’s what a champion does. Still some work to do to improve the feeling with the car, but it’s a good starting point ☝️ #AusGP #Vettel
The former Red Bull driver has enjoyed a remarkable career and this weekend will see him involved in a Formula 1 grand prix for the 200th time.
As relayed by F1 journalist Luke Smith, ahead of the big day in Bahrain he was asked to reflect on some of the finest moments of his career so far:
Luke Smith @LukeSmithF1
Vettel was asked today to pick his three favourite moments in F1 ahead of his 200th GP. “The first win for sure stands out. Then winning the championship in Abu Dhabi. And probably the first win with Ferrari in Malaysia in 2015” #F1 #BahrainGP
Vettel will want the honours to continue coming in and while he won last week, the Ferrari star will be wary of a Mercedes team that will want to storm back.
Although there was little the Silver Arrows could’ve done about the circumstances that allowed Vettel to take initiative two weeks ago, not converting pole position into the top step on the podium would’ve stung Hamilton.
“I don’t understand what’s happened,” he said per Andrew Benson of BBC Sport. “I did everything I believe I was supposed to do. The safety car came out and I was coming down the straight and then really last minute I was told the Ferrari was coming out. I didn’t know it was in but I thought I had the delta.”
Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Associated Press
There’s no doubt Hamilton will be going all out for victory this weekend, but as noted by the F1 Twitter account he’s on the cusp of another landmark that showcases his consistency:
Formula 1 @F1
The records keep coming for @LewisHamilton This weekend he could match the most consecutive points finishes in #F1 Kimi Raikkonen currently holds the record at 27, set in 2012-13 #BahrainGP #F1FastFact https://t.co/H36ece0RXm
However, Hamilton will have to make up ground on the rest of the back. Per Andrew Benson of BBC Sport, it was confirmed he will be bumped down five places on Sunday:
Andrew Benson @andrewbensonf1
Mercedes confirm five-place grid penalty for Hamilton: “We had an hydraulic leak in Melbourne race and were fortunate to finish the race. Unfortunately we couldn’t repair the box within the six-race cycle so need to take a fresh one, incurring the grid penalty.”
It’s a circuit both men have enjoyed success at, with Vettel winning here in 2017, 2013 and 2012. Hamilton has also taken the chequered flag on a couple of occasions.
Aside from the two title favourites there will be a number of other storylines to keep an eye on, especially whether Red Bull pair Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen can respond after missing out on a podium places in Melbourne.
Between the two, who were fourth and sixth respectively, was Fernando Alonso, who produced a brilliant drive for McLaren. As noted by F1 writer Ed Foster, positive results have been scarce lately for the two-time world champion:
Ed Foster @AnotherEdFoster
Fernando Alonso’s F1 record makes for depressing reading, doesn’t it? I wonder whether he’d still be in F1 if he was told, after the 2013 Spanish GP, that he wouldn’t win for the next five years, minimum. https://t.co/nFe7Qn1Mgz
At the sharp end of the race Mercedes have the speed to win, although as was the case in Australia, Hamilton is likely to be frustrated again.
At a circuit that is primed for overtaking, he’ll have enough to make up ground on some of the drivers ahead of him. But Vettel and Ferrari have been impressive in practice and will be too far down the road to get close to.
Prediction: 1. Vettel, 2. Raikkonen 3. Hamilton