Bahrain GP: what time is the race? And how can I watch it?
The 2023 season kicks off with the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend. Here’s when to tune in
A few days on from pre-season testing, F1 is BACK. Hooray! And things kick off this weekend with the Bahrain Grand Prix, the first of 23 races between now and the end of November.
A lot happened during the winter break: Andretti and Cadillac announced their bid to form a new team; the FIA and F1 had a big argument; Ford announced its return with Red Bull; Lance Stroll, er, fell off his bike (he’s fine now).
So what should we look out for? Red Bull looked like the quickest team in last week’s shakedown, and with Ferrari and Mercedes sounding coy on their chances of catching them this year, Max Verstappen starts the campaign as the red-hot favourite for a third world title in a row.
Meanwhile Lewis Hamilton enters the final year of his contract at Mercedes, and while both he and the team have said they want to continue beyond the end of 2023, questions about his future will almost certainly keep coming up.
At Ferrari, the driver line-up is unchanged as Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz begin a third season together as teammates. Behind the scenes a major reshuffle has commenced in response to the many strategic errors and engine failures that saw both championships drift away from Leclerc and his team. It’s 15 years and counting now since Ferrari won either…
And what of the rest of the field? Fernando Alonso may have (for once) made a good career decision, signing for an Aston Martin team that looks to have built a strong car this year.
Meanwhile McLaren has publicly admitted that it’s missed its development targets and will start 2023 on the back foot. Just how far back on the back foot remains to be seen.
Still, we’ll get answers very soon indeed. Here’s all you need to know about the Bahrain GP…
What time is the Bahrain Grand Prix? And what time is qualifying?
For UK viewers, the Bahrain GP will start at 3pm on Sunday 5 March. Qualifying however is 24 hours earlier on Saturday 4 March, meaning we should know who’s on pole at the end of the session around 4pm.
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If you’re really into F1 and want to catch the practice sessions too, FP1 is at 11:30 on Friday 3 March. FP2 follows it at 3pm. The final shakedown - FP3 - gets underway at 11:30 on the Saturday before quali.
What’s the weather going to be like?
Er, hot? The current forecast is predicting highs of 25 to 28 degrees celsius throughout the weekend. And no, we can’t imagine that Pirelli will need to break out the wet weather tyres, either…
Where is the Bahrain GP taking place?
The Bahrain Grand Prix will be held at the Bahrain International Circuit in, you guessed it, the kingdom of Bahrain. It first appeared on the F1 calendar in 2004, and since then eight drivers have won the race: Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Charles Leclerc.
How many laps is the Bahrain GP?
The Bahrain GP is 57 laps, and given the circuit’s length of 5.412km that equates to just over 300km of racing; the standard length for every grand prix with the exception of Monaco.
Who’s going to win the Bahrain GP?
Pre-season testing is notorious for not giving a clear picture of the pecking order, but you’d be doing well to find anyone in the paddock who doesn’t think Max Verstappen and Red Bull are the overwhelming favourites based on their pace last week, and the fact that their Adrian Newey-designed car mullered the opposition last year on its way to winning 17 out of 22 races. If the Dutchman has a shock mechanical failure, then teammate Sergio Perez will fancy his chances of taking the chequered flag.
Anyone else? Ferrari had a relatively quiet test but should be there or thereabouts at the front of the pack. Mercedes has cured the bouncing problems that it suffered last season, but the team reckons it will be off the pace at the beginning of the season. So much so that it may find itself fighting a resurgent Aston Martin for best-of-the-rest status. Maybe.
How can I watch the Bahrain GP?
The Bahrain Grand Prix will be broadcast exclusively by Sky Sports in the UK, which means you can either subscribe to Sky Sports or subscribe to NowTV in order to get Sky Sports. Failing that, you can do what everyone else does and simply stay off the internet all weekend so you can watch the free-to-air highlights on Channel 4: quali highlights will be broadcast at 7:30pm on Saturday; race highlights at 9pm on Sunday. You’ll still check into TopGear.com though, yeah?
Final option: watch with your ears. Yes, we mean ‘listen’. Commentary of the race will be broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra, with coverage starting 15 minutes before lights out.
What’s the Top Gear view on the Bahrain GP?
Though it may have been built in the middle of a desert wasteland, the Bahrain GP is usually more exciting than your average oil-rich-state-funded grand prix. That’s because of the first sector in particular, which tends to be very good at encouraging overtakes and allows drivers to fight back too. The rest of the lap? Not so much.
Still, it will be interesting to see how much the pecking order has changed since the end of last season. Let’s hope for plenty of wheel-to-wheel racing and some close competition…