Formula 1 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix was held at the Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain. It was the 15th round of the current F1 season, and the 16th time that the Bahrain GP was held as an F1 world championship round. The Bahrain GP was rescheduled after an initial postponement due to Covid-19, marking the start of the last triple-header of the 2020 F1 season.
The Mercs Already Bagged Both 2020 F1 World Championship Titles But The Game Is Still On
While the Mercedes AMG F1 team has already bagged both championship titles (constructors and drivers), there are still plenty of battles to be decided before the end of the season. In the constructors' championship, P3 is still being fought. In the drivers' championship, the positions from P2 to P10 still need to be decided as well.
Mercedes occupied the front row of the grid, and on Sunday, Hamilton won for the 95th time in his career. He won the race on the last lap of the GP, while Formula One’s safety standards won by saving a driver’s life. In the first lap of the race, the Haas of Roman Grosjean speared at high speed into the barriers, splitting the car in half and resulting in an explosive fireball.
Miraculously, he was able to get out of the car after 28 seconds with only minor burns to the back of his hands. It underscored the great work done over the years by the late Charlie Whiting of Formula One, who was credited for such improvements as the Halo and other F1 safety measures.
Pre-Race Preparations Thursday
It only rains a few times in the deserts of Bahrain, but this weekend saw a slight possibility of rains affecting the race for the first time. With the season coming to an end, technical developments by teams have already started to wane as maximum efforts were being directed towards developing the next season's car.
The Bahrain International Circuit is a power circuit with long straights and medium-speed corners favouring cars with better traction. However, traction is limited as well because the rear tyres are always busy powering the vehicle out of the corners, which often results in overheating.
Mercedes was the car to beat when it came to single-lap pace, with Red Bull half a second behind and only a tenth ahead of Racing Point. Renault and Alpha Tauri completed the top five fastest teams.
Red Bull looked quicker on long-run pace than they showed on qualifying pace and were only a tenth slower than the Silver Arrowa. Racing Point was also quite close with an average lap time 0.3sec slower than the Mercedes. Renault and Alpha Tauri were 4th and 5th, followed by McLaren and Ferrari.
Mercedes topped both the Friday practice sessions but Max Verstappen clocked in the quickest lap for the third practice ahead of Hamilton and Bottas. All the teams only used red-marked soft tyres during FP3 to save medium tyres for the qualifying rounds and the race day. Albon was 4th ahead of Sainz, Gasly 6th, Norris 7th, Kvyat 8th, Stroll 9th, and Perez 10th.
Qualifying Rounds for the 2020 F1 Bahrain Grand Prix
Hamilton showed impressive pace right from the start of the qualifying and went quickest at the top of the table. Stroll and Albon finished the session 2nd and 3rd. On the bottom side of the grid, the Alfa Romeos, the Haas, and Latifi failed to reach the second part of the qualifying.
George Russell again showed great pace, and Saturday progressed into Q2 session with ease.
Q2 started with everybody going out on medium tyres, except from the two Alpha Tauris. Most of the drivers were on their hot laps when Carlos Sainz spun going into turn 1 and stalled his car on the track bringing out the red flag. When the session resumed, most of the drivers qualified on medium tyres for the race. Drivers who were eliminated included the Ferrari duo, Stroll, Sainz and Russell.
Hamilton started the last session by going quickest from his teammate and took provisional P1 position with a new track record time. At the end of last runs of the day, he had stretched his advantage further over his teammate and set a new track record time of 1m 27.264 sec for his 98th pole position. Bottas was 2nd nearly three tenths down on his teammate, Verstappen 3rd, Albon 4th, Perez 5th, Ricciardo 6th, Ocon 7th, Gasly 8th, Norris 9th and Kvyat 10th.
Sunday Race: Balls of Fire Lit Up 1st Lap of the 2020 F1 Bahrain GP
Five red lights and all the grid got away very nicely with Hamilton emerging in the lead after opening three corners, followed by Verstappen, Perez, and Bottas down to 6th after a poor start. Behind the midfield, Grosjean saw a gap to his right side. He moved towards that direction at a sharp angle and tangled with Kvyat, sliding towards the right-hand side barriers.
He smashed the car into the barrier at a speed of 137 mph and an impact of 53G, splitting the car in half. The monocoque went through the barrier while the other half towards the track. The car's tank was full, so when the latch opened under immense pressure, the escaping fuel generated a fireball.
The fire caught the exposed batteries as well, trapping Grosjean. Luckily the medical car was right behind the pack and was at the scene within 10 sec, rushing with fire extinguishers to the fire-engulfed monocoque and helping Grosjean get out 28 seconds after the impact and fire. Lady Luck was no doubt on the side of the Frenchman.
The Halo, which was introduced a few years ago, proved to be the critical component that saved Grosjean's life. FIA has also introduced new heavier six-layer suits which protected drivers from fire for 20 seconds. The race was suspended for nearly 80 minutes.
The race restarted after the barriers were repaired and only lasted half a lap when Lance Stroll's car flipped over after colliding with Kvyat. The safety car was deployed to recover his vehicle. Racing resumed on lap 9, with Hamilton restarting the race. Carlos Sainz, who qualified 15th, made a great start on his new soft tyres, weaving his way up to 7th by lap 12.
Hamilton and Albon pitted on lap 19 to take another set of medium tyres for their second stint in the race. In the midfield battle, the McLarens had a great race, running 5th and 6th before the second round of pit stops. Both Red Bulls pitted on lap 34 for new hard tyres with Hamilton doing the same a lap later.
Once the second round of pit stops ended, the order was Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Albon, Gasly (stopping once), the two McLarens, Ricciardo and Ocon. Norris and Sainz quickly passed Gasly on fresh tyres and regained 5th and 6th place, respectively. Bad luck struck the sole remaining Racing Point of Perez, who had to pull over due to a fire on the rear caused by MGU-K failure.
Norris and Sainz were now running 4th and 5th. The race finished under a safety car as the British champ scored his 95th career victory. The Dutchman finished 2nd ahead of Albon, making it two Red Bulls on the podium for the first time since 2018 and the first podium at Bahrain since 2013.
Norris 4th and Sainz 5th turned the table upside down and by scoring 22 points to Racing Point’s 0. McLaren now leads Racing Point by 17 points with only two races left on the calendar.
Bottas finished a disappointing 8th with two punctures in the race, Gasly 6th, Ricciardo 7th, Ocon 9th, and Leclerc 10th.
F1 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix
The penultimate race of the season will be held at the shorter outer loop of Sakhir circuit, making it two races at the same track.