This weekend sees the Bahrain Grand Prix take place 252 days later than planned, when it should have been the second round of the 2020 season. At the time the Australian GP was cancelled, it seemed highly unlikely that we would be racing at Sakhir this year. Indeed there were some who were concerned the season might never get off the ground. That was one of the topics tackled by the Scuderia Ferrari drivers in the usual FIA press conference which took place at dusk at the Bahrain International Circuit. Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc congratulated the FIA, Formula 1 and all the members of all the teams. “Clearly, this was not an easy season from a logistical point of view,” said Vettel. “Like everything else in the world, our sport had to stop because of the pandemic. But work on getting it going again began immediately to the extent that I think ours was the first global sport to resume. There have been a few positive tests in the paddock, but they were dealt with by the systems put in place and so far, up to this triple-header, the season has gone ahead as planned.”
Difficulties and discoveries. Charles echoed his team-mate’s sentiments. “Everyone involved did a fantastic job and I think the teams also played a big part. Over the past six months, we have raced almost continuously and that was only made possible because of the sacrifice of the mechanics and engineers and their families who accepted being apart for such a long time,” maintained Charles. “However, this season has also brought a few pleasant surprises. For example, it was nice to go to so many new tracks or ones we hadn’t raced at for a long time. Personally, over a qualifying lap, I don’t think anything can beat Mugello, but in terms of racing, the most fun was probably Portimao, with its gradient changes and its unique surface.” Sebastian said he had particularly enjoyed Imola and, “it reminded me in some ways of Suzuka that I love.” He also mentioned Turkey, where he finished on the podium a fortnight ago. “I’d say we needed that podium. It had been a long time since I’d been able to taste the champagne and it was very enjoyable.”
On track. The first of two rounds at Sakhir finally gets underway tomorrow with free practice at 14 and 18 local (12 and 16 CET). It was here last year that Charles took his first F1 pole and he led most of the race to finish on the podium for the first time. “Obviously, at the time I was going for the win,” recalled the Monegasque. “And it was definitely on the cards if it had not been for a reliability problem. When I think back to that race it was still important to me, for the pole of course, but also because at that moment, I realised I could fight with the best in this category.”
Expectations. Charles was realistic about his expectations for the weekend: “I don’t know if I can aim so high this year, but we will definitely give it our all. Realistically, if we want to aim for third place, which is pretty ambitious, then we have to have a perfect weekend, without any mistakes and maybe some of the others having some difficulties.”
Programme. After Friday’s track action, the final free practice session takes place on Saturday at 14 (12 CET) in preparation for qualifying at 17 (15 CET). The 16th Bahrain Grand Prix will start at 17.10 local (15.10 CET) on Sunday.