Following Valtteri Bottas’ surprise win in Melbourne, Formula One heads to Bahrain for round two of the championship.
Lewis Hamilton will be bidding to reduce the title deficit to his Mercedes team-mate, while Ferrari will hope to reverse their poor showing at Albert Park.
Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at five key talking points ahead of Sunday’s race.
Wolff predicts Ferrari fightback
Contrary to the evidence provided by pre-season testing, Ferrari ended the first race not just slower than both Mercedes cars, but behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, too, with Sebastian Vettel fourth, nearly a minute behind Bottas. Ferrari left Melbourne in shock, but after an investigation at their Maranello HQ, will arrive in Bahrain – a race Vettel has won for the last two years and a track which traditionally suits their car – keen to turn the championship on its head. Despite wrapping up a team one-two in Australia, Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff, is wary of Ferrari bouncing back with vengeance. “We have seen the potential of Ferrari’s package in Barcelona so we expect them to come back strong in Bahrain,” he said. “The fight has only just begun.”
Can Bottas prove Melbourne was not a one-off?
Bottas bathed in the plaudits after his impressive showing in Melbourne, beating team-mate Hamilton to the flag by 20 seconds. But the Finn, who failed to win a single race in 2018, must now show that his strong performance at Albert Park was more than a one-off. It is all very good getting the better of the tour de force that is Hamilton at one race, but it is a different feat to manage it over an entire campaign. How Bottas performs in Bahrain will provide a further indicator as to whether he is in this fight for the long haul.
Future F1 blueprint presented to teams
On Tuesday, F1 bosses met in London with the sport’s 10 teams and its governing body, the FIA, to present its future vision. The Concorde Agreement, the terms which binds all the major players to the sport, expires in less than two years, and F1 needs to get all of the teams onside before a new agreement is reached. Following owners’ Liberty Media’s instruction to keep the discussions in-house, details of the meeting were sparse. But F1 is a sport which likes to talk, and a clearer feel of how the London summit unfolded is likely to be made clearer when the paddock opens for business in Bahrain on Thursday.
Nowhere to hide for McLaren at second home race
Lando Norris delivered a fine lap on his debut to qualify eighth in Melbourne, but his race strategy saw the British teenager finish outside of the points. With team-mate Carlos Sainz failing to finish, it added up to a rather under-whelming opening weekend to the season for McLaren. Britain’s most successful team is owned by the Bahraini royal family. Their hospitality suite will be thronging with dignitaries in Bahrain, meaning they will be under pressure to deliver.
Schumacher handed Ferrari audition
One of the sport’s biggest names will return to the track next week when Mick Schumacher, the son of seven-times world champion, Michael, will test for his father’s former team. Schumacher Jnr, 20, who is also making his Formula Two (the feeder series to F1) debut this weekend in Bahrain, will drive for Ferrari and then Alfa Romeo at the Bahrain circuit next week. Barring a disaster, it will be another hurdle cleared on his now, seemingly inevitable path, to F1.