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Bahrain Grand Prix - five things to expect in F1 season-opener

Bahrain Grand Prix - five things to expect in F1 season-opener

F1 News

Bahrain Grand Prix - five things to expect in F1 season-opener

Bahrain Grand Prix - five things to expect in F1 season-opener

The new Formula 1 season begins in Bahrain just 15 weeks after the culmination of the 2020 campaign, and although the regulations have remained stable, much has changed.

In a bid to control costs due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 10 teams agreed to use predominantly unchanged machinery for a second season.

Whilst the development of larger homologated parts was subject to the spending of 'tokens', other changes elsewhere could be made without limit, resulting in some cars bearing less of a resemblance to their predecessors than was likely intended.

Numerous drivers have switched allegiances over the winter - Carlos Sainz, Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo all involved in the merry-go-round - whilst Fernando Alonso has returned from his two-year absence and there are three rookies on the grid in Yuki Tsunoda, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.

Without further ado, here are five things to expect from the opening weekend of the season.

The sandbags come off

Making any assumptions based on the pre-season testing timesheets is a very dangerous game. Looking solely at the outright pace displayed, Red Bull would be comfortably the favourites followed by AlphaTauri.

By this logic, Mercedes would be fifth at best behind Ferrari and Alfa Romeo as well as the two Red Bull-owned teams.

As we all know, the full pace of each team will only be truly revealed in qualifying on Saturday afternoon. If Mercedes is still struggling at that stage, the level of concern within the team will dramatically start to rise.

Midfield markers

The midfield fight appears to be even closer than it was last year. Although McLaren fared well in testing, the gaps between Alpine, Aston Martin and Ferrari were minimal, while AlphaTauri also appears to have moved firmly into the battle.

Last year the 'fight for third' between McLaren, Renault and Racing Point made for compelling viewing. Could there be a five-way scrap this season? Now that would be entertaining.

Whilst the championship cannot be won at the first race of the year, each and every driver will be keen to land the first blow.

AlphaTauri infighting?

The intrigue surrounding Pierre Gasly this year is interesting. The Frenchman was widely regarded to be one of the star performers of last year, and at times it appeared a return to Red Bull was inevitable given the form of Alex Albon.

This season, Gasly is up against rookie driver Yuki Tsunoda. The Japanese 20-year-old is backed by both Red Bull and Honda and showed pace on a level with Gasly in testing.

Should Gasly win this battle, he will have simply beaten a rookie. Conversely, should he lose, questions will be asked. If there is going to be infighting at any team this year, AlphaTauri could be the one where it will be found.

McLaren Mercedes

Something about this simply sounds right. The words 'McLaren Mercedes' just flow off the tongue.

As a partnership before their split at the end of 2014, the two claimed three drivers' titles and one constructors' championship in their 20 years together.

Given McLaren's recent rise up the constructors' table with the team finishing third last year for the first time since 2012, this reunion is definitely one to watch, notably with Daniel Ricciardo now partnering Lando Norris.

Grosjean flashbacks

It would be impossible to return to Bahrain and not think of the horrific scenes of just a few months ago.

When images of the fireball caused by Grosjean's Haas spearing into a barrier on the opening lap of last year's Bahrain GP were broadcast live, a chill of fear gripped everyone watching.

Equally, the relief of seeing the Frenchman appear through the flames resulted in a feeling of euphoria not often experienced.

F1 knows it escaped a truly tragic scenario on that occasion, leading to a thorough investigation into the incident from which additional safety lessons have been learned.

But on lap one on Sunday, Grosjean's lucky escape will be at the forefront of many minds.

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