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Old 23 Mar 2021, 13:58 (Ref:4042442)   #1
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Bahrain Grand Prix 2021: Grand Prix Weekend Thread - Round 1 of 23

COVID-19 may have shrunk the 2020 Formula 1 campaign to 17 Grands Prix (small by today's standards, but normal in the mid-90s), but it was no less a season. In fact, a thrilling combination of some great battles, a little intrigue but few major political controversies, an admirably dominant and record-squashing performance by Hamilton and Mercedes, some surprising and welcome track appearances in the form of Mugello, Imola and Portimão and to top it off, some shocking moments and upsets all meant that 2020 somehow produced debatably one of the series' best seasons in memory.

2021 goes to the other end in terms of race numbers – the longest-ever Formula 1 season (and we have said that a few times recently) – lies in wait. COVID-permitting, there are due to be 23 Grands Prix (plus some sprint races in place of qualifying), including the return of Zandvoort and the searingly fast Jeddah Street Circuit in Saudi Arabia. Although we eagerly look forward to seeing the new cars next year, 2021 is no stop-gap. There are some rules changes, many of which are designed to rein in the downforce that bit more (which the teams will doubtless claw back) and many driver and team switches.

The rules

The floor now has to be solid and will feature a triangular cutaway at the rear, cutting down on downforce-generating surfaces and doing away with all manner of longitudinal and lateral slots at the back of the car. Diffuser fences have also been reduced by 50mm in length. The rear floor flex has been slightly reduced too, from 10mm to 8mm with a load of 500NM.

Designed to aid parity in the aerodynamic realm, a sliding scale based on 2020 championship results is being introduced to stipulate the amount of CFD and wind tunnel development that can be carried out, with Mercedes able to do the least, for example.

A cost cap has been adopted, set at $147.4m for this year, with an extra $45m for 'capital expenditure' and some exemptions to the cap.

Rear brake duct winglets have seen their length reduced by 40mm.

The minimum chassis weight has increased by 6kg, to 752kg, with the power unit up by 5kg, to 150kg.

Joining ICEs, MGU-Hs, turbochargers, energy stores, control electronics and MGU-Ks on the list of limited parts, drivers are restricted to eight exhausts each over the season.

Pirelli compounds have been made stronger and each driver will get a standard tyre allocation of 2 sets of hards, 3 of mediums and 8 of softs for each weekend. Incidentally, tyre pressures this weekend are 2 psi lower on the rear than they were in the last race here and 1.5 psi lower on the front.

Practice sessions have also been limited to just 60 minutes each.
We can expect to see a sprint race format trialled this year, but details are TBC.

Teams and drivers

Only 3 teams are due to field the same pairings in 2021, while there are two name changes this year. One of those with consistency are reigning champions Mercedes, seeking to break their own record of consecutive constructors' championships with eight. Hamilton, meanwhile, will be going for a new record of total drivers' title wins, also gunning for eight. It was a concerning set of testing days for the team, with a car that looked slower on the low-fuel runs than Red Bull and tricky to handle.

Having said that, it would be foolish to rule them out, as multiple champions, but also because the lack of test days means there may be potential that they would previously have unlocked in pre-season testing, but which they have just not managed to do yet.

Nonetheless, it presents an interesting scenario for a potential multi-team battle. Red Bull look back on form again, with Max Verstappen. He will be too old to be the youngest world champion anymore, but will be determined to put his name on the title trophy. Sergio Pérez has been given a reprieve by the team – ejected by Racing Point – but landing in what could be the best seat on the grid. If he can get much closer to Max than the previous incumbents, he should be alright, but the steely and canny Mexican will be looking for much more than that.

McLaren are fielding Ricciardo and Norris this year (and installing Mercedes engines) while Sainz switches to Ferrari alongside Leclerc. These intra-team battles are difficult to call.

Renault have become Alpine, meanwhile, and the return of double world champion Fernando Alonso should provide some of the best action of the season. Can Esteban Ocon hold a candle to him?

A happy Sebastian Vettel, away from the Prancing Horse pressure cooker, should more than match Lance Stroll at former Jordan-Force India-Racing Point and now Aston Martin. However, Lawrence Stroll looks like a man on a mission for future domination, so he will be expecting bigger results from a team with a high level of operational efficiency.

AlphaTauri were last season's 'punching above their weight' team, with Pierre Gasly's win among a variety of strong finishes. Yuki Tsunoda has had a meteoric rise to F1 and looks composed enough. He has acknowledged he will inevitably make the typical newcomer's, but we can look forward to seeing whether he will carve out a long-term F1 future for himself.

Kimi Räikkönen is around for his 19th season in an unchanged line-up at Alfa Romeo, the 41-year-old a wily racer who might not quite be one of the fastest anymore, but who has the nous to drive some aggressive but sensible races and extract some decent results. Antonio Giovinazzi has been around for a while and has been somewhat anonymous. Can he step up?

Williams are also unchanged driver-wise, with Sakhir star George Russell back alongside Nicholas Latifi, who returns for a second season.

Haas, however, publicly noting they are not pursuing 2021 development, will be one to watch to see if they can keep up with Williams and for their two new drivers – Nikita Mazepin and son of 7-time world champion Michael, Mick Schumacher.

Trivia

The 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix will be the third Grand Prix at this location in one day under four months.

Of the current drivers, only Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso competed in the inaugural outing in 2004.

Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton are the most successful drivers in Bahrain, with four wins apiece.

Of the current drivers, Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso and Sergio Pérez (in the Sakhir Grand Prix) have taken victory here.

Kimi Räikkönen has taken eight podium positions in Bahrain without winning.

Apart from the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the Bahrain Grand Prix is one of only two of the current Grands Prix that McLaren has not won (along with the Russian).

Seven of the fifteen races have been won from pole, yet never has the Grand Prix been won from lower than 4th on the grid (Pérez qualified 5th for the Sakhir Grand Prix).

Three different layouts have been used for a Grand Prix at the track – the 5.412km 'Grand Prix' circuit, used this time and in most races, the 6.299km 'Endurance' circuit, appearing in 2010, and the 3.543km 'Outer' circuit.

With Turn 1 being named after Michael Schumacher, Mick Schumacher becomes the first person to race in F1 since Bruno Senna in 2012 to race on a track with a corner bearing his surname.

The history

The first Bahrain Grand Prix was won by eventual seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher from his Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button in his BAR. In 2005, the forthcoming new champion Fernando Alonso took the spoils. Schumacher had run off the track in his pursuit of the Renault driver and soon retired with a hydraulic problem, bringing his run of 58 races without a mechanical retirement to an end. Race day also brought the hottest conditions yet seen at a Grand Prix, with 41.9 degree and 56 degree air and track temperatures.

Alonso again had the measure of Schumacher the following year, overturning Schumacher's lead during the pit stops. Bahrain hosted the season's curtain raiser this time, the first race for both the 2.4-litre V8s and for the Q1, Q2 and Q3 qualifying system. Perhaps most memorably, Kimi Räikkönen came a cropper in Q1 with a rear wishbone failure, failing to set a time, and charging through in the race to 3rd on a one-stop strategy.

Felipe Massa won in his Ferrari in 2007, with Lewis Hamilton 2nd in the McLaren. Kimi Räikkönen was 3rd for the third successive season, this time in a Ferrari. Alonso, Räikkönen and Hamilton all left the race equal on points after three Grands Prix. Hamilton also became the first person to ever take a podium in his first three F1 races.

Massa won again in 2008 from Räikkönen, with polesitter Robert Kubica completing the podium for BMW-Sauber. Hamilton drove into the back of Alonso and ended up a lap down.

In 2009, Toyotas locked out the front row of the grid for the first time, with Jarno Trulli on pole and Timo Glock second. Glock took the lead at the first corner, but it was Jenson Button who won for Brawn from fourth on the grid. In 2010, Bahrain had the season opener for the second time and Alonso led home a Ferrari 1-2, where for one occasion only, as it turned out, the Grand Prix used the longer 6.299 km Endurance layout. By taking victory, Alonso became the seventh and most recent driver to win on his debut for the Prancing Horse.

In 2011, a month before it was due to be held, the Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled following the Bahraini protests, returning the following season and seeing the first of two successive Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull victories (and two identical podia – with Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean second and third for Lotus both times), before Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes took two in a row in 2014 and 2015. In the first of those two years, there was a particularly thrilling duel between team-mates Hamilton and Rosberg, with some hard and close racing, the event at which Pastor Maldonado tipped Esteban Gutiérrez into a roll.

In 2016, the fairly unanimously unpopular qualifying format which saw a car eliminated every 90 seconds was used for the second and last time. Rosberg won, and there was a first corner collision between Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo, while Sebastian Vettel didn't even make the grid, thanks to an engine failure. Hamilton managed to get back to third.
The following year, Bottas took pole early in his Mercedes career, but Vettel won in the Ferrari from Hamilton and his team-mate.

In 2018, Max Verstappen, making his way up from 15th on the grid, tangled with Lewis Hamilton, who had fallen to 10th, puncturing his left rear. Kimi Räikkönen collided with Ferrari's Francesco Cigarini, breaking the crew member's tibia and fibula, after his team's pit light changed to green early. Bottas harried leader Vettel, but didn't make it past. They finished like that, with Hamilton in third. Pierre Gasly claimed his first points and Honda's best finish since their return, with an excellent 4th place.

In 2019, Charles Leclerc secured his maiden pole position, but was beaten away off the line by Vettel and Bottas. He got back in the lead, however, but lost likely victory when he lost a cylinder. Vettel was harried by Hamilton, who got by, causing Vettel to spin on his own. Hamilton won, followed by Bottas and the hapless Leclerc.

Last year's race was originally scheduled for March, but was postponed, eventually being placed in November in a double-header with the Sakhir Grand Prix, the latter of which would use the outer loop configuration.

Romain Grosjean collided with Daniil Kvyat on the opening lap and managed to extricate himself from his fireball accident after going through the barrier. On the restart, Kvyat again had a crash, this time with Lance Stroll, with the Racing Point driver rolling over (the second time a driver has rolled over in the Bahrain Grand Prix, along with Gutiérrez). Hamilton won from Verstappen and Albon, with Sergio Pérez retiring with flames coming from his car, after an engine failure on Lap 54, while in 3rd.

In the Sakhir race a week later, Pérez would make amends by winning, after an opening-lap accident that eliminated Leclerc and Verstappen and put the Racing Point driver at the back. This was only after Mercedes driver George Russell, who was replacing Hamilton who was not competing after contracting COVID-19, hit problems. Russell had made a sensational getaway off the line from 2nd on the grid to take the lead. However, during a pit stop, he was sent out on Bottas's tyres and had to come back in to change them. He later acquired a puncture too and it seemed that if it could have fallen apart for him, it did fall apart. He nonetheless put a great move on Bottas to get past him. Pérez claimed his maiden win (still without a drive for this season) and broke the record for the number of Grands Prix before the first victory, with Esteban Ocon 2nd for Renault and Stroll 3rd for Racing Point.

The track

As to this configuration, after the start-finish straight and DRS Detection Zone 1, Turn 1 is a right-hand hairpin, while the gentle left-hand 2 feeds into a small right-hander which just takes drivers onto the next straight (with DRS activation). Turn 4 is a slightly off-camber right, while the 5, 6 and 7 left-right-left challenges the downforce. Turn 8 is another right-hand hairpin.

DRS detection can be attained at the end of the next straight, just before the tricky Turns 9 and 10. Drivers go left through 9 and have to brake while turning, making it easy to lock up the unloaded tyre. 10 is a tighter left. The next straight can see DRS activation, before increased gradient and a change in style for the remainder of the lap.

There is a long left-hander in 11, before the flat-out right at 12. 13 is a tighter right and the start of Sector 3. DRS Detection Zone 3 is at the end of the next straight and the lap ends with the 90-degree right of 14 and its extension at the end of 15. The DRS activation will be on the next straight.



Other information

Circuit length: 5.412km
Number of laps: 57
Race distance: 308.238km
Race Lap Record: 1:31.447 (Pedro de la Rosa - McLaren-Mercedes - 2005)
Dry weather tyre compounds: C2, C3 & C4
First Bahrain Grand Prix: 2004

Join in the fun with the F1 Predictions Contest and Fantasy F1:

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Old 23 Mar 2021, 14:29 (Ref:4042453)   #2
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brilliant BR! thank you.

1 of 23 though...you will be busy this year!
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Old 23 Mar 2021, 14:40 (Ref:4042459)   #3
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Much appreciated BR, and thanks as always.
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Old 23 Mar 2021, 16:47 (Ref:4042483)   #4
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Yay!! You know it's on when Born posts his intro. Thanks Born, a great read/cool stuff. Enjoyed the trivia (as well as the rest of your intro(s) per usual).

Fernando's back and looking forward to Perez v. Verstappen among others. Not a favourite circuit of mine but....giddy-up!
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Old 23 Mar 2021, 18:42 (Ref:4042520)   #5
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Thanks.

Last2LiftOff, you raised a thought there that makes me want to pose everyone the question - what are you most looking forward to this season? A nice positive sentiment to start the season.
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Old 23 Mar 2021, 18:42 (Ref:4042521)   #6
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Hope 2021 is finally the year of the big change.
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Old 23 Mar 2021, 19:03 (Ref:4042530)   #7
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Thanks.

Last2LiftOff, you raised a thought there that makes me want to pose everyone the question - what are you most looking forward to this season? A nice positive sentiment to start the season.
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Old 23 Mar 2021, 19:42 (Ref:4042545)   #8
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Thanks.

Last2LiftOff, you raised a thought there that makes me want to pose everyone the question - what are you most looking forward to this season? A nice positive sentiment to start the season.
I'm most looking forward to the midfield battle. Last year was, in my opinion the best in F1 for many years, mainly due to the closeness of the midfield, and I think this year will be even better. We now have two world champions in there: Vettel (who will be much improved) and Alonso. It will be great to see that old rivalry back. Also, Alpha Tauri look better than last year and I genuinely think McLaren, Aston Martin, Alpine, Ferrari and Alpha Tauri could be in any order, although I would guess that McLaren will be the strongest of the five (but not by much). Alfa Romeo also look a lot better than last year and will most likely be hanging on to the end of the midfield. Also, I think Bottas and Verstappen will be closer to Hamilton and we could have a three-way title fight (although I can't see Hamilton losing it). Roll on, 2021.
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Old 23 Mar 2021, 20:44 (Ref:4042563)   #9
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Excellent intro as ever.


The season finally gets underway and what with Covid and lockdowns I'm looking forward to this weekend. 23 races, does F1 really need so many?
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Old 24 Mar 2021, 02:10 (Ref:4042591)   #10
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..... 23 races, does F1 really need so many?
I have to say no.... I have no doubt it will diminish my intensity of following this year. I prefer to closely follow a more limited calendar of say 18 rounds.

I found even last year with the season so compressed that I ended up watching stuff more out of habit than enjoyment, and to the detriment of life in general Races every weekend I hate to say it can become too intrusive on life.

Gone are the days when I would revolve my plans around the F1 calendar / coverage.

As for what am I looking forward to? Well I am hoping that we have a battle at the top and genuine multiple contenders for wins. Points made in the first part of my post become more relevant if we have another Mercedes at 80% effort doing a whitewash. My interest and following will suffer should it be like last year results wise..

I would like to see Perez do well, and take the fight to Max.

I would like to see Ferrari back in the mix (not a Ferrari fan it just seems right). I do like Leclerc and Sainz and wish them well.

I would like to see Williams and Alfa go well, particularly Raikkonen and Russell.

I am interested to follow the progress of Tsunoda. I hope he does well. Seems like such a nice guy.

I am not bothered about Haas this year. They have disappointed me with their having already seemingly given up. Steiner is always good for a few comments though.

Im not that bothered about Aston Martin. I like the name an the teams heritage but little else. Perhaps all the hype has put me off. Its always good to see Vettel throwing his toys around.

I would like to see Alpine do well. Not an Alonso thing, just I love the look of the car.

I would love to see McLaren back seriously in the mix. Both Lando and Danny Ric. McLaren have gone from being in the Ron days a team I cared not much about to a favourite now. They seem a happy bunch of people.
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Old 24 Mar 2021, 04:58 (Ref:4042603)   #11
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Great write up as always but the disrespect shown to Spyker and Midland!

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Old 24 Mar 2021, 05:32 (Ref:4042606)   #12
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Great season intro and GP intro BR - nailed it again.

Thank you.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the new McLaren pans out - new engines and one new driver for the 3rd best team from last year.

Can't imagine that Ferrari will keep having seasons like last year but the question is how long they take to turn it around - will we see it happening this year or will we have to wait longer?

Then there's Red Bull - just possible that we'll see some more relative speed this year but I'm not that excited about testing results, the races will show up how it's going to be. Even if they're quick though, I honestly don't think that Max has the temperament to be a season long challenger, race in race out but I reckon we might see some pretty wild stuff at times.
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Old 24 Mar 2021, 10:44 (Ref:4042639)   #13
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Great write up as always but the disrespect shown to Spyker and Midland!
Oh, goodness! My excuse is they were forgettable. Eddie Jordan certainly isn’t, though.
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Old 24 Mar 2021, 14:25 (Ref:4042702)   #14
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It's ok, we're focussing on the future. And yes, EJ certainly achieved more
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Old 24 Mar 2021, 18:01 (Ref:4042757)   #15
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BR has spoken; the season must be starting! Great intro.

My season doesn't start until Easter Monday so I'll actually get to watch this one live. Woohoo!
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