Episode two of the 2018 Formula One season takes us into the desert. The baking heat of the Bahrain Grand Prix is accompanied by sand-laced gusts. A relatively modern addition to the Grand Prix calendar brings its own nuggets of history, however. Nine of the 13 previous winners have gone on to lift the Drivers’ Championship.
The winner of the first Grand Prix of the season, Sebastian Vettel, arrives in Bahrain with the best record of any driver. Only Fernando Alonso can match his three wins, while Ferrari have won five times at the track. Don’t rule out the Mercedes, though, which had been very strong here prior to Vettel’s win in 2017.
Often this circuit has been criticised. The racing has not always been the wheel-to-wheel stuff that the sport thrives on. The track has a blend of sweeping corners and lengthy acceleration zones, but, for one reason or another, that has not always been conducive to exciting sport.
The drama has frequently come as a result of accidents. The high-speed corners and straights provide little margin for error, which could see the safety car employed at some point during the race. Safety cars have caused chaos on the track in the past, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar again come Sunday; 888sport are going 13/10 for the safety car to be used.
Unfortunately, tyre wear – as is the case in modern Formula One – could be the main tale on race day. This track is renowned for eating up rear tyres. Pirelli have brought the medium, soft and supersoft compounds to the circuit just as they did in 2017.
The majority of teams have opted for a similar tyre selection, but McLaren have gone for an extra set of supersofts. This could see them go for a two-stop strategy, which might make Fernando Alonso’s 20/1 price for the podium appealing. We will likely see one-stop strategies from most of the grid.
Ferrari’s impressive record here stands them in good stead. Vettel is at decent value of 15/4 to take pole, which is surprisingly at the same price as Valtteri Bottas. Lewis Hamilton is again the favourite to finish atop Q3, but the value is just not there at 11/20. As quick as the Brit is on a Saturday, the price is on the short side.
Vettel stands at 13/4 to make it two wins from two for the season. I was surprised to see the German so far off Hamilton, who is at 3/4, given the events in Melbourne and Vettel’s success on this track a year ago.
Away from the big two, it’s again Daniel Ricciardo that grabs my attention. The Australian notched the fastest lap of the Grand Prix in the season opener and was within touching distance of Kimi Raikkonen for the final podium berth. His 5/4 price to finish in the top three this time is my pick of the betting.
For those searching for a longshot, the Force India cars could be the place to turn. Bringing a new front wing into this weekend, a safety car impacted race could make that 150/1 price on a podium finish worthwhile.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*