Lewis Hamilton’s victory in Turkey a fortnight ago confirmed him as a seven-time world champion, but will he continue to assert dominance on the rest of the field during the remainder of the season? We will get an answer to that question at this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
It was only a matter of time before Lewis Hamilton equalled the legendary Michael Schumacher’s record for most Drivers’ Championship titles, and he wasted very little of it as he took the chequered flag in Turkey a fortnight ago. The Mercedes ace did not need to take the honours on the day as multiple spins from Valterri Bottas meant he had no chance of closing the gap, but Hamilton opted to celebrate in style, taking advantage of a second stop for Lance Stroll to claim race win number 10.
“I definitely am lost for words,” Hamilton told reporters afterwards. “I think I have to start by saying a huge thank you to all the guys here and the factory for enabling me to have this opportunity. The journey we have been on is monumental. I want to say a big thank you to Team LH for sticking with me for all these years and then to my family. We dreamed of this when I was young, when we watched the grand prix and this is way, way beyond our dreams and it is so important for kids out there to dream the impossible. You have to work, chase, and never give up or doubt yourself.”
The British star will set his sights on a record-setting eighth world championship in 2021, but before that can happen there are three races left on the 2020 calendar, starting with this week’s Bahrain Grand Prix. The newly-crowned world champion won this race in 2019 and is a three-time winner here, but his track record in recent years has not been fantastic because his success here last year was his first at the track since 2015.
And even though Hamilton has been the master of qualifying in recent years, he has not sat on pole here since 2015. That may not change this weekend either, and that brings me to my first bet. Ferrari have reigned over practice in Bahrain in recent seasons but 2020 has been a campaign for forget for them with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel way, way, way off the pace all year long. Only Max Verstappen in the Red Bull has posed any sort of challenge to the two Mercedes and he has not managed pole all season long, so I am backing Bottas to start from the front row on Sunday. He took pole here in 2017 and has been on the second row in each of the past two seasons so he has a healthy track record here when it comes to qualifying.
My second selection is a riskier one, but it does cover Sunday’s race if you have got to this preview after qualifying has taken place. Sergio Perez stands fourth in the Drivers’ Championship and he would love nothing more than to retain that lofty position over the final three races of the season. There is no reason to think he cannot do that either. Perez has finished in the top six in five of the last six races and he shone a fortnight ago in wet conditions to finish second behind Hamilton in Turkey. That runners-up finish marked his first podium appearance of 2020 and I would not bet against the in-form Mexican following it up with another on Sunday.
The Bahrain International Circuit was opened March 2004 ahead of the first ever Formula 1 race to take place in Sakhir, but there was some controversy because Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone demanded the race took place despite the venue not being fully completed. A wide track means there are plenty of opportunities to overtake and that could lead to thrilling scenes like the ones we saw when Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg battled to win the race in 2014. The race gets underway at dusk and is completed under the floodlights, making it the first race of the season to end at night. Pedro de la Rosa surprisingly holds the record for the fastest lap around this circuit, but that did not translate to a victory. Sebastian Vettel is a four-time winner of this race and his success in 2018 saw him surpass Fernando Alonso as the most successful driver in the history of this race.
Location: Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain
Number of Laps: 57
Lap Length: 3.363 miles
Lap Record: Pedro de la Rosa, 1 minute 31.447 seconds (2005)
Bahrain Grand Prix Winners
|2004||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari||Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit|
|2005||Fernando Alonso||Renault||Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit|
|2006||Fernando Alonso||Renault||Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit|
|2007||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit|
|2008||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit|
|2009||Jenson Button||Brawn-Mercedes||Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit|
|2010||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||Sakhir Endurance Circuit|
|2012||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit|
|2013||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit|
|2014||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit|
|2015||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit|
|2016||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit|
|2017||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit|
|2018||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit|
|2019||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit|