After a dominating victory two weeks ago in the season opener in Melbourne, Valtteri Bottas and the rest of the Formula One stars get back to action this weekend in Bahrain. Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix will make the second race of the 2019 season as the race is met with plenty of storylines.
Here’s how Sunday’s race should play out.
Shocker, I know. But, no one has ever won the race at Sakhir from a starting spot past the second row. With Ferrari and Mercedes likely duking it out of the pole on Saturday, it makes Sunday their race to lose.
Sebastian Vettel has the most pole positions of anyone on the grid in Bahrain with three, including earning the top starting spot last year. He’s got to be the pole favorite for Ferrari.
In Mercedes’ factor, Lewis Hamilton may have scored two poles compared to Bottas’ one, including winning the pole in the last race in Australia, Bottas has never been outqualified by a teammate on the 3.363-mile road course.
Plus, look for whomever wins the pole, that their teammate will start alongside.
The front-row has been locked out by one team for three years straight now (Mercedes 2016, 2017 and Ferrari 2018).
Don’t Expect Teams To Finish 1-2 On Sunday Though
Despite front row lockouts in Bahrain, don’t expect them to finish that way. In the history of the event, a teammates sweep of the top two finishing positions has happened just three times.
Big 3 Likely Favorites
While overtaking is relatively easy in Bahrain compared to other F1 tracks, don’t expect any not of the Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull camps to be victorious on Sunday. Over the last 119 races, these three organizations have won every race. The last non member of the “Big 3” to win in F1 competition came all the way back in the opening race of the 2013 season.
With how Australia went earlier this month, this is a race for one of these three teams to lose.
Plus, the last five winners have come via Ferrari or Mercedes and the last eight overall being combined between these two and Red Bull.
Red Bull Has Struggled
Red Bull may have a new engine supplier this year (Honda) but they still need some help in Bahrain. In the hybrid era, none of the Red Bull drivers have ever started or finished in the top three. They’ve also never led a lap either.
Max Verstappen finished third in Albert Park two weeks ago, but has a DNF in three of his four Bahrain starts. His former teammate Daniel Ricciardo had a DNF last year and finishes of fourth, sixth, fourth and fifth respectively prior.
His new teammate Pierre Gasly did finish fourth last year, but Red Bull has struggled overall though. Granted, Gasly drove a Honda last year, so this could be another coming out party for him.
Honda may have showed improvements in Australia but their engine reliability in F1 has been suspect. With a hot race in a desert with a potential to have sand get on the track, I struggle to put Red Bull up there as favorites with Ferrari or Mercedes.
Whom To Bet
You have to start with Vettel here. He’s +500 which is a steal. Normally, he’s in the +100 or +200 range. You’ve doubled your odds. Plus, Ferrari has aimed at fixing whatever went awry with their pace in Australia. Vettel, is the two-time defending race winner and has scored four wins in his last seven Bahrain starts.
Another one to watch is Bottas (+200). He won the season opener and as I said earlier, he’s outqualified his teammate in all six of his Bahrain starts. He also has two consecutive podiums on the Middle Eastern road course to go along with a runner-up last season.
His teammate Lewis Hamilton is (+110) but he’s yet to win in Bahrain since 2015. He finished third in two of the last three years and was runner-up in the opening race of the year to Bottas. With 1-2 finishes for a team unlikely in Bahrain and Bottas being Mercedes’ top bet this weekend, I’d look for a Bottas-Vettel-Hamilton top three in that order. So, why risk Hamilton at +110 when you get better odds with Bottas and Vettel?
If anyone is going to be a sleeper, look no further than Gasly. He did finish fourth in a Toro Rosso Honda last year and now is with Red Bull and their new Honda’s. He’s +1100. That’s a very good bet for an F1 race. If he wins, that’s a good chunk of money.
Kevin Magnussen is also intriguing. He finished sixth in Australia and was fifth in Bahrain last year. Magnussen is +12,500, so why not throw a few bucks his way?
Then there’s Kimi Raikkonen. If the front runners take themselves out or engines expire, Raikkonen could steal a win in his Sauber. He’s +6,000 and has four runner-up finishes in his last seven Bahrain starts.
Nico Hulkenberg is also intriguing. He’s +17,500 and came home ninth in 2017 and sixth last year. He also brought his No. 27 Renault home seventh two weeks ago in Australia.