New-look Bottas out to double up

Valtteri Bottas caught everyone by surprise a fortnight ago when winning the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.  The Mercedes driver failed to claim a single checkered flag in 2018, resulting in discussion over whether he warranted continuing as world champion Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate.

The Finn will look to continue to silence the critics in race two of the new Formula 1 season, the Bahrain Grand Prix, and in the process end Ferrari’s recent dominance in the Persian Gulf.

Silver Arrows aimed at Ferrari’s Sakhir fortress

After underwhelming in Melbourne, Ferrari have spoken confidently about rediscovering the pace they showed in winter testing, but missing at Albert Park, when they return to one of their favourite venues, the Sakhir Grand Prix Circuit.

The Scuderia have won six of the 14 races staged at the track, while Vettel has more victories than any other driver at Bahrain. The German has won the last two editions of the race to take his overall tally to four, while he has also claimed pole position on three occasions.

Last year, Vettel held off Bottas on worn tyres to claim the 25 points, the Mercedes driver failing to find a way past late on. However, that was the old Bottas it would seem with the new bearded Silver Arrows man having quickly put his below-average 2018 behind him.

Bottas is 3.50 to follow up his success in Australia with another win, with Hamilton the 2.35 favourite. This is one of the few tracks where Bottas has out-performed the Brit, out-qualifying and finishing ahead of him in the last two years.

As for Ferrari, despite team principal Mattia Binotto’s claims that they have made some “corrections”, it would require a leap of faith to back the Italians to get back to winning ways.

Given the massive gap between Mercedes and Ferrari in Australia, it is safe to assume a Silver Arrow will also start on pole. Mercedes are 1.50 to be the winning team in qualification.

Leclerc out to lay down a marker

While the win might be beyond them, a podium finish will be the minimum expected of Ferrari. Vettel is 1.36 to cross the line in the top three, with Charles Leclerc 2.90.

The Monegasque driver put in a solid performance on his debut for the Italians in Australia, coming home in fifth. He could have improved upon that position had he not been told to stay behind Vettel.

With the Red Bulls likely to lack the straight line speed to be in contention for the top three, Leclerc offers some value to land the first blow in his battle with his more illustrious team mate.

Bahrain to Haas’ liking

Haas looked to have gone up a notch again during the off-season after an impressive showing in Melbourne, Kevin Magnussen claiming an excellent P6.

They, like Ferrari, have shown a fondness for Bahrain in recent times with Magnussen ending last year’s race in fifth place.

The Dane is 2.45 for another top six finish, while his unlucky colleague Romain Grosjean is 2.55.

The Frenchman was on course to finish ahead of his team-mate Down Under before a bungled pit stop lead to him being forced to retire. Grosjean has endured more than his fair share of misfortune with mechanical issues over the last 12 months but should that change in Bahrain then he could edge out Magnussen.