Will elimination qualifying be a knock-out and will those extra soft tyres play into Mercedes’ hands?
Will Qualifying Be A Knock-Out?
Despite the protests of drivers, teams, fans and pundits, the new qualifying format will controversially remain in place for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
Introduced in a bid to up the ante on Saturday afternoons, not only did the new knock-out format fail to shake up the grid but it failed to offer any excitement whatsoever in Q3 with pole position decided four minutes before the chequered flag in Melbourne.
But despite a barrage of criticism and plans to revert to the 2015 system, Formula 1 is sticking with the new format in Bahrain.
The powers-that-be are hoping that – even though they have not changed the format in any way after Australia – it will somehow fulfill the goals they had set out. Formula 1, though, faces the prospect of turning fans away from what has – over the past few years – been the most exciting session of the weekend.
Haas, Beginner’s Luck Or Genuine Threat?
Many predicted that Haas would score in their debut campaign in Formula 1, few believed they could do so in their debut race but that is exactly what Romain Grosjean did.
Racing from P19 on the grid to sixth at the chequered flag, the Frenchman made the most of the Australian GP’s red flag stoppage to produce a dream result.
Team owner Gene Haas reckons it is proof that his team can play with the “big dogs” but as we all know one swallow does not make a summer, nor one P6 a midfield runner.
What About The Midfield Muddle?
Even if one were to take Haas out of the midfield battle, or at least drop them the back of it, it is still rather congested behind Mercedes and Ferrari.
The Australian GP result saw Red Bull, Williams, Force India and Toro Rosso all claim top-ten finishes while Renault were P11. In fact the only teams not banging on the top-ten door were McLaren, Sauber and Manor.
Last year’s Bahrain GP finished with Red Bull, Williams, Force India and Lotus – now Renault – all featuring inside the top ten while Toro Rosso had a nightmare evening with both drivers retiring. Added to that McLaren, out of the running in Australia, were P11 last season with all the stats pointing towards a thrilling battle for this year’s ‘best of the rest’.
Mercedes Go Quick, Ferrari Go Long?
Last season Lewis Hamilton won the Bahrain Grand Prix with a tyre strategy of soft-soft-medium whereas Ferrari opted for soft-medium-soft which allowed Kimi Raikkonen to hunt down Nico Rosberg, making the pass on lap 56 of the 57-lap grand prix to take P2.
This year, though, Ferrari have opted for more of the mediums than the softs while Mercedes have chosen just one set of medium tyres for each drivers.
As per the 2016 regulations, the drivers all have to run the harder of Pirelli’s three compounds during the grand prix, which will explain the one set of mediums that Mercedes have put on their list, while all the drivers in Q3 have to run a set of the softest tyres, in this case the super-softs.
Both Championship hopefuls have opted for six sets of super-softs with Mercedes having six softs and one medium, and Ferrari four softs and three mediums. A likely two-stop for Ferrari while Mercedes have left the door open for a three-stopper.
Will The Heat Cause Some Chaos?
As expected this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix is once again set to take place in hot conditions with the average temperature in the early 30s. It will be the first time that the teams have run their 2016 challengers in such heat and could cause chaos with their cooling.
With the Bahrain Grand Prix edging closer, make sure you check out our betting preview article written for Betsafe.