Nico Rosberg won the Australian Grand Prix but Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton will be feeling just as confident going into round two in Bahrain.
Nico Rosberg claimed victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix but Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton will be feeling just as confident going into round two in Bahrain.
Defending Formula One world champion Hamilton has won the past two Grands Prix in Bahrain and will be looking to equal Fernando Alonso's record of three race wins in Sakhir this Sunday.
However, Rosberg is on a run of four successive wins dating back to last season, and Hamilton knows the German is as hungry as ever to seal his maiden F1 title in 2016.
Ferrari showed great pace in Melbourne and, if not for a poor strategy, it would have been Sebastian Vettel on the top step of the podium.
The Italian manufacturer is expected to be just as quick in Bahrain, however, it remains to be seen if they can keep up with the pace of the dominant Mercedes.
WOLFF WANTS BETTER STARTS
Hamilton began from pole in Melbourne but a slow start saw his chances of triumph evaporate. Despite Rosberg going on to win in Australia, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff wants to avoid another bad start from his drivers.
"We have made a solid start to the season. However, while our advantage in Melbourne was a healthy one, it was nevertheless close enough that those bad starts could easily have lost us the race," he said.
"Bahrain is a track that should suit Ferrari, so we expect even smaller gaps and a very close match this weekend. After a successful debut for the new tyre regulations last time out, we can also expect an interesting strategy battle during the race - so there is plenty to look forward to."
VANDOORNE TO REPLACE ALONSO
After a terrifying crash in Melbourne, which completely destroyed his McLaren, Alonso had been looking forward to getting back in the cockpit at one of his most successful tracks.
"I'm very pleased to be heading to Bahrain after the crash in Australia. I've spent some time resting and I can't wait to get back in the car," the Spaniard said.
However, he failed to get medical clearance to race from FIA doctors, meaning reserve driver and 2015 GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne will deputise for the 34-year-old.
Bahrain's circuit, designed by the famed Hermann Tilke, is a purpose-built venue located in Sakhir. The track first featured on the F1 calendar in 2004 and will be hosting the event for a 12th time in 2016.
The circuit is characterised by long straights and slow corners, putting an emphasis on speed and traction. The run through the first sequence of corners up to turn four is typically one of the best overtaking opportunities on the track, with DRS available on both the main and back straights.
QUALIFYING FORMAT CONTINUES
The highly-controversial qualifying format that made its debut at the season-opener will continue in Bahrain. Teams had agreed to ditch the format - which sees the slowest drivers eliminated at 90-second intervals during each of the three sessions -completely, but the FIA were not so keen to revert to the old format.
A tweaked version of the qualifying system, in which the old Q3 would follow an elimination-style Q1 and Q2, was touted, but not all teams could come to an agreement, meaning the failed format seen in Melbourne will take place once again.
The weather forecast for Sakhir is more consistent than that of Melbourne, and there is expected to be no rain over the weekend. However, the real challenge will be the prevalent wind, as well as variable track conditions throughout the days due to the drop in temperature.
Grip is sometimes hard to come by in Bahrain as sand from the surrounding dunes can blow on the circuit, making this an intriguing track for tyre selection and strategies. Pirelli have nominated the same selection as Melbourne, with the choice of mediums, softs and supersofts.
"Bahrain is a very different type of circuit, with tyre behaviour affected by a big drop in temperature as the race goes on," Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery said. "This provides a different set of challenges and parameters, so it will be interesting to see who has learned most from Australia in order to take best advantage of another new situation.
"There are some quite diverse choices from the teams, which will play a key role in the race outcome."