Round two of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship takes place in the Persian Gulf, with the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend.
This will be the 15th time that the race has been run over the 3.36-mile Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, and Sebastian Vettel will bid to extend his record as the most successful driver on this track, having taken the checkered flag on four previous occasions. He won the 2012 and 2013 editions for Red Bull, adding a third in 2017 and a fourth last year for Ferrari.
Ferrari won six of the renewals since 2004, while Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton took back-to-back victories in 2014 and 2015.
Despite never having won the Bahrain Grand Prix, Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen has more podium appearances at this track than any other driver. He recorded eight podium placings, comprising five runner-up spots (2008, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016), plus three third place efforts (2005-2007). Raikkonen is 500/1 to win in Bahrain, but each-way betting is available.
BATTLE FOR POLE
Valtteri Bottas won the opening Grand Prix of the season in Melbourne two weeks ago, beating Mercedes team-mate and five-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton.
The Finn took pole position in 2017, but starting from pole has not been particularly useful in Bahrain. Only six times has the pole position driver converted the advantage into victory, with Sebastian Vettel successful last year and Lewis Hamilton in 2015 the most recent to do so.
The eventual winner, however, has never started from further back than the second row, with both Fernando Alonso (2006) and Jenson Button (2009) winning from P4.
Vettel (2010, 2012 and 2018) and Hamilton (2015 and 2016) have also started from pole.
Bottas, runner-up here last year from P3, tore apart the Ferraris in Melbourne and it is worth noting that the team who finished 1-2 in Melbourne – which has now happened on eight occasions – has gone on to win the Constructors’ Championship, while the race winner has claimed the Drivers’ title. No wonder Bottas is now 11/2 to win the F1 title.
It is also perhaps worth noting that Ferrari started poorly in Melbourne last year, but they were a different beast in Bahrain, with Vettel taking pole from then-teammate Raikkonen.
Vettel’s new 21-year-old teammate Charles Leclerc, who made his Ferrari debut with a fine fifth place in Melbourne, is familiar with the track, having finished finishing third in the Formula 2 Feature race in 2017 and winning the Sprint. He also finished 16th last year when with Sauber.
Hamilton started ninth on the grid last year and commendably managed to get a podium, chasing home teammate Bottas and winner Vettel. He has previous winning form on this excellent track which, incidentally, is made of track is made of Graywacke aggregate, shipped from Bayston Hill quarry in Shropshire.
The GentingBet Formula One Grand Prix odds have Hamilton as the 6/4 favourite and with the Mercedes looking well ahead of the curve in Melbourne, you could not put anyone off.
Yet this circuit suits the Ferraris, who upped their game significantly from race one to race two last year, and they will be pulling out all the stops to be competitive.
Vettel, at 13/5, seeks a Bahrain hat-trick and it must not be forgotten that the Ferraris were winter testing pace-setters, despite slumping to fourth and fifth-place finishes in Melbourne, which is not a typical circuit.
The handling and grip problems the Ferraris encountered in Australia may not be apparent in Bahrain.
Red Bull did well to have a podium finish via Max Verstappen, who compounded Vettel’s misery by overtaking him to finish third. Verstappen is 13/2 to win in Bahrain, yet most feel that Bottas (12/5) and the Mercedes cars have the edge over the Red Bulls at this stage.
It should not be too long before Leclerc is making his mark at the top level and with each-way betting available, the Ferrari youngster’s odds of 9/1 might tempt a few.
The GentingBet formula one odds of 13/5 for a Vettel title win still make plenty of appeal, however.