After a Mercedes clean sweep in the season-opening race in Australia, Ferrari have some catching up to do at this weekend’s Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix 2019 (Race: Sunday, 11.10am ET).
Mercedes seemingly surprised everyone, including themselves, with just how much faster they were than the chasing pack in Australia. They locked out the front row in qualifying and went on to convert that into a one-two finish in the race.
Lewis Hamilton started from pole position, but it was his teammate Valtteri Bottas who took a commanding victory, overtaking Hamilton into the first corner and powering on from there to claim his first win since the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix of 2017. He also achieved the fastest lap of the race, which this year yields an extra point.
Ferrari looked to have the fastest car during pre-season testing, but not only did they fail to challenge Mercedes, but their two drivers also finished behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen in a promising performance for that team in their first race with Honda power. Sebastian Vettel came home fourth with his new teammate Charles Leclerc in fifth.
One race doesn’t make a season and the Albert Park circuit in Australia has often exaggerated differences between cars in the past. There was plenty of visible head scratching in the Ferrari garage over the course of the weekend. At one point, Vettel even asked over the team radio: “Why are we so slow?”
In the circumstances, the team will be looking forward to the opportunity to get back on track in Bahrain, at a circuit where they have triumphed in each of the last two years, and at which Vettel has won more often than any other driver.
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]Vettel even asked: Why are we so slow?[/quote]
Ferrari have what is fundamentally a quick package and appear confident that the problems they faced in the season-opener will not be replicated this weekend. Their struggles in Australia have produced tempting odds with the USA sports betting site on a Vettel victory, making him a solid pick to strike a quick return blow in the championship race by topping the podium on Sunday.
Kevin Magnussen emerged at the head of a competitive midfield pack to take sixth for Haas in Australia, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault, the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen, Lance Stroll’s Racing Point and the Toro Rosso of the returning Daniil Kyvat.
Magnussen has a good chance of pulling off a similarly impressive result this weekend. Not only did Haas appear to be the fastest of the midfield teams in Australia, with his teammate Romain Grosjean also ready to challenge for a good points finish before a botched pitstop forced him to retire, but they have also gone well at Bahrain in the past.
In their debut year of 2016, Grosjean qualified in the top 10 and came home fifth in the race. In 2017 Grosjean qualified ninth and finished eighth. Last year, Magnussen qualified seventh and finished fifth, his best result since his debut year with McLaren in 2014.
The Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir has also been one that has produced some interesting results in recent years. Not once under the current engine regulations have the top six positions been filled by the six drivers from the top three teams of that season. Last year, Toro Rosso and Renault joined Haas in finishing in the top six. A second consecutive top-six finish could therefore well be within Magnussen’s grasp on Sunday.
Sergio Perez struggled to get into his groove in Australia. His Racing Point teammate Stroll was quicker across most of the weekend, aside from qualifying, where he was caught up in traffic. Perez was unable to recover from a poor start in the race to join him in the points.
The Mexican driver will, though, be confident of enjoying a better time of it in Bahrain, where he has produced some strong results in the past. He achieved a surprise podium for the then-Force India team in 2014, and he also finished in the points in 2013 (sixth), 2015 (eighth) and 2017 (seventh). Keen to ensure that his younger teammate doesn’t start to pull away, he can be expected to secure a points finish on Sunday.