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Five things to expect from the Sakhir Grand Prix

Five things to expect from the Sakhir Grand Prix


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Five things to expect from the Sakhir Grand Prix

Five things to expect from the Sakhir Grand Prix

Although Formula 1 remains in Bahrain for the penultimate race of this season, with new drivers, changed line-ups and an intriguing new layout, there is plenty to look forward to with the Sakhir Grand Prix.

Sunday's Bahrain GP was one of the most dramatic of the year, marred by a lap-one fireball crash involving Romain Grosjean.

The Frenchman spent three nights in hospital receiving treatment for burns and was discharged on Wednesday but will not race this weekend. More later.

With so many stories coming out of F1 this week, let's not waste any more time. Here are five reasons to be excited for this weekend's race.

Hamilton out - Russell in at Mercedes

On Tuesday, Mercedes announced world champion Lewis Hamilton had tested positive for Covid-19 and would be self-isolating for at least 10 days. The news, which Hamilton confessed left him "devastated", means he can no longer claim a 100th career pole position this year, while the record for most wins in a season - jointly held by Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher on 13 - is also now beyond his reach for another year.

While Hamilton misses out, however, George Russell has been handed the chance of a lifetime. The Mercedes junior driver, who has been racing with Williams for the past two seasons, was confirmed on Wednesday as Hamilton's replacement.

The British driver is yet to score a point in his F1 career, a run he will be expected to end this weekend, but has also yet to be out-qualified by a team-mate.

Should Russell leave his mark on Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes as a team, it could have huge ramifications for 2022 when the contracts of both drivers expire.

A duo of debutants

Pietro Fittipaldi and Jack Aitken will both officially become F1 drivers this weekend.

Fittipaldi has been granted his opportunity due to Romain Grosjean needing more time to fully recover from his injuries sustained in the Bahrain GP when the Frenchman was lucky to escape with his life.

Fittipaldi, grandson of two-time champion Emerson, most recently finished fifth in the F3 Asian Championship and won the World Series Formula V8 3.5 title in 2017.

Aitken will replace Russell at Williams in a move that is part of the knock-on effect of Hamilton's illness. A veteran of 67 F2 races across the past three years, Aitken is the official test and reserve driver for Williams, and the team has said it is "thrilled" to be in a position to grant the 25-year-old his F1 debut.

Both Fittipaldi and Aitken have been thrown in at the deep end and, but with the line-ups of both teams confirmed for next year, the outing is more about gaining experience than acquiring any result.

Memories of one week ago

F1 is a fast-moving sport, but in the build-up to this Sunday's race you can guarantee that almost every one of the 20 drivers will cast their minds back, however briefly, to the start of last weekend's race.

Freak accidents, such as that involving Grosjean, are by nature seldom seen but it is impossible to shake off the images of the flames, and of the driver appearing through the blaze, which remain terrifying and miraculous in equal measure.

It is predicted we will witness the highest average speeds ever seen in a grand prix this weekend and with that comes added danger.

It is incredibly unlikely we will ever witness scenes like those of Sunday again, but in every driver's mind will be the thought 'never say never'.

About those speeds...

High speeds and qualifying chaos

Three long straights and just four braking zones in total - Monza may just have met its match as the cathedral of speed in F1. Even the Italian Grand Prix venue has five braking points.

Lap times are expected to be around the 54-second mark in qualifying and, even flat out, it has been predicted cars will be separated on track in the Saturday session by little more than 150 metres.

Getting a clear lap in Q3, let alone Q1, will be close to impossible so get the popcorn ready because there will be plenty of complaints of traffic and likely several trips to the stewards' office to counter claims of blocking.

In the race, the long straights will come into play for a different reason, however, which brings us to...

All of the overtaking

Without question, the Sakhir GP will be the best race of the year for overtaking.

With DRS zones along the main straight and the one linking turns three and four, there will be as many passes as last weekend.

But the higher speeds at which the drivers will enter the back straight leading down from turn nine to turn 10, make slipstreaming a real possibility.

With engine modes set ahead of qualifying, it remains to be seen if teams will be able to remain at full throttle for the duration of the race, but this final unexpected layout of 2020 has the potential to be the best of the bunch.

Comments (1)


Q1 will be a Gong Show of the highest variety

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