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Formula One

Three excellent reasons to watch the Bahrain Grand Prix…

… plus everything you could possibly need to know as F1 returns with a Saturday (?) race

Published: 28 Feb 2024

These had better be good. GO.

Right you are. Three reasons so compelling that even the ‘Eff WoN is b0ring’ brigade will feel compelled to tune in for the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend.

Reason one: there’s never more uncertainty in F1 than ahead of the first grand prix of the season. Sure, testing last week hinted at the pecking order, but with so many variables at play it’s impossible to know for sure how all of the teams stack up. Plus, we’re in the third year of these ground effect rules, so in theory the grid should be closing up. Here’s hoping.

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Reason two: Adrian Newey’s work has to be seen to be believed. Having built a car that was only beaten once last season, the F1 design legend has not only overhauled a winning formula with the new RB20, but seems to have embraced a concept that Mercedes gave up on 12 months ago. Can you imagine the look on Toto Wolff’s face if Red Bull can make it work?

Finally, reason three: Lewis Hamilton dropped a bomb by announcing his shock move to Ferrari in 2025… and now he has to spend a year living in the crater with Mercedes. No matter how much he and the team focus on finishing on a high (this will be his 12th season with the Silver Arrows), inevitably it will get awkward. And we are here for it.

I’m sold. Set the scene for me.

Max Verstappen returns as a three-time world champion, and if testing is anything to go by he is the heavy favourite to make that four in a row by the end of 2024. But instead, the spotlight is very much on the team and its boss Christian Horner, who is facing claims of inappropriate behaviour. The investigation is ongoing.

Back on track, the driver market is getting spicy and we’ve not even had a competitive session yet: who will replace Lewis Hamilton? Where will Carlos Sainz end up? Will Sergio Perez survive at Red Bull? Where does Fernando Alonso fit into the puzzle? Can Daniel Ricciardo 2.0 force his way into a half-decent car?

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And what of Andretti? Its bid to become F1’s 11th team was rejected last month, so… is that it? There is another route into F1 of course: buy an existing team. And noises about the fairness of there being two Red Bull-owned (hello Credit Card Extravaganza RB, or whatever you are called now) outfits are beginning to be made… dominoes could fall, right?

What time does the Bahrain Grand Prix start?

UK fans will need to be on the sofa at 3pm GMT sharp on Saturday 2 March to catch the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Qualifying is on Friday at 4pm, so make sure you’re in a position to clock off early if you want to watch the action unfold without having to deal with Annoying Keith’s late-afternoon emails at the same time.

The race is on Saturday this year because next week’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix has been brought forward by 24 hours to account for the start of Ramadan. F1 races need to be at least seven days apart, and so the Bahrain GP had to be shifted back too.

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So hooked on F1 that you’ll watch practice too? FP1 is at 11.30am on Thursday 29 February, and FP2 begins at 3pm. FP3 is at 12.30pm on Friday, a few hours before quali.

Is it going to rain?

In Bahrain? No, of course it isn’t.

Actually, there was some heavy rain in Bahrain a few weeks ago. But for this weekend? The weather forecast is warm and dry, with strong winds possible for qualifying. No brollies required.

Gimme some history in 100 words or fewer.

The Bahrain Grand Prix first appeared on the F1 calendar in 2004, and in 2014 it became a night race after someone had the (literal) bright idea of installing floodlights around the track. The 5.412km (3.363mi) circuit features 15 corners, but in 2010 a 24-corner layout was used in an experiment that lasted just one race. Oops.

In 2020 the venue hosted two races on back-to-back weekends (using different layouts), with the second named the Sakhir Grand Prix: it was made famous by George Russell’s surprise Mercedes cameo, and won from last place by Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.

The top three will be…

… Formula 1 drivers? Kidding.

Oh boy, you’re putting us on the spot here. Let’s go for Max Verstappen (because form), Charles Leclerc (because Ferrari looked good in testing) and Lewis Hamilton (because there’s room for two Ferrari drivers on the podium, amirite?).

Lewis Hamilton

Seriously though, the consensus is that Red Bull still has an advantage over the field and it’s too close to call between Ferrari, Mercedes, Aston Martin and McLaren behind. Let’s see how things shake out.

Shock of the weekend?

Having sacked a bunch of people in the middle of last season in a bid to escape mediocrity, Alpine will discover that it has succeeded… by plunging towards the back of the grid. You heard it here first. The noises coming out of the team after testing were decidedly un-positive, and on Saturday we’ll find out exactly how un-positive Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly have the right to be.

Where can I watch the Bahrain Grand Prix?

In the UK, you have two options: purchase access to Sky Sports’ F1 channel (in exchange for money) or get a subscription to Now TV’s Sports Membership (also in exchange for money). Channel 4 will broadcast highlights of qualifying and the race this weekend: the former airs from 7.30pm on Friday and the latter from 7.50pm on Saturday. Failing that, you can listen to live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra.

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