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Bahrain GP Preview: Hamilton seeks revenge as F1 seeks reassurance

Written by  Apr 04, 2018

Lewis Hamilton will likely have justice on his mind as the world champion heads to this weekend's Bahrain GP aiming to right the wrong of his defeat to Sebastian Vettel in Australia two weeks ago.

The Briton and his Mercedes team made it clear they are the combination to beat in 2018 with their crushing single lap pace in qualifying and the ease with which he was leading at Albert Park before the mid-race Virtual Safety Car turned everything on its head.

It may not be quite so easy for Hamilton, however, as it was in Melbourne with the deserts of Sakhir potentially more suited to Ferrari and Vettel, who won in a thrilling battle 12 months ago.

The multiple long straights will undoubtedly give the German manufacturer's remarkable engine a chance to power ahead but in hotter conditions and on a circuit much harsher to the tyres, they are the weaknesses which the Scuderia can look to exploit.

Then there's Red Bull who remain the unknown quantity after the first weekend of the season. Over a single lap, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo know fifth and sixth is their likely spot but, after being held up by Haas in Australia, there was a glimpse at a speed which would put them very much in contention with the top two.

The other big question hanging over F1 though is if the racing will be better in Bahrain after just three overtakes were completed after the first lap Down Under.

There was a similar debate after Melbourne last year and the following races in China and this weekend's venue at Sakhir eased worries with much more exciting action, but with the cars getting ever more complex, the issue is more about getting close enough to pass rather than making the move itself.

Higher tyre degradation should help and teams will be more aggressive as they change approach based on the data from the first race and in the midfield, there is everything to play for.

Haas shocked many with their performance in Australia, leading some to query whether their 2018 car is a little bit too much like a Ferrari, however, it will only act as motivation for the likes of McLaren, Renault and Force India to push even harder.

McLaren, in particular, believe they will be waving that battle goodbye in the coming races as they fully adjust to Renault power and overcome the niggles from the winter, but if the Haas is just like a Ferrari then we can expect it to be strong again in Bahrain.

The Renault works team surprised some with their pace relative to their new customer in Australia but the question is can they maintain it over a race distance after slipping back on the Sunday.

Force India traditionally aim for top speed thanks to their Mercedes engine and that could bring them into play this weekend as they too look to unleash performance from their new car.

Williams can be spoken of in a similar vein but their problems at present are much deeper meaning that, while they should have the edge over Toro Rosso and Sauber, scrambling to make Q2 and requiring luck for points remains their likely scenario.

To decide who brings up the field it will be a matter of which is more detrimental, a lack of power or a lack of downforce. The junior Red Bull team had high hopes after testing but Honda did prove to be a weight holding them down in Australia and Pierre Gasly's MGU-H problem also highlighted reliability remains a problem.

As for Sauber, they too hoped to make progress up the pecking order but are still behind the rest on the chassis front. The race pace was reasonable, however, so they are far from guaranteed to be leaving the Middle East with the wooden spoon.

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