[F1 2019 VIDEO FEATURE] BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX: RACE PREVIEW

Melbourne Australia kicked off Formula 1’s 2019 season in stunning style, with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in a league of his own across 58 laps.

But, the action didn’t stop when the chequered flag fell, with the 10 teams packing down cars and garages for Monday morning’s early cargo flight to prepare for the next round.

F1 moving from Albert Park, across 12,000 kilometres to the Middle East, and the Kingdom of Bahrain, the first nation in the region to host a Grand Prix. Its debut made 15 years ago in 2004.

… with the inaugural race won by Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher during the Scuderia’s most dominant year, the F2004 a V10-powered monster, agile and quick like an African cheetah.

… Schumi’s 13 wins that season including 12 of the first 13, setting the record for most in a single campaign.

It’s a record since equalled, but not beaten, by Schumi’s compatriot, Sebastian Vettel in 2013 then with Red Bull Racing…

And the now Ferrari driver is the most successful in Bahrain, with four wins including the last two. Two more than current rival Lewis Hamilton, who last won in the Sakhir desert in 2015.

And it’s a challenging track… even more so now as a twilight race since 2014, with dropping temperatures affecting tyre performance.

The Bahrain International Circuit is 30 minutes’ from the capital Manama, the 5.4 kilometre desert track a technical challenge with 15 turns and a top speed of 325 kilometres an hour. Pedro de la Rosa’s lap record from 2005 with McLaren still stands. There are two DRS activation zones, along the main and back straights, and two detection points.

And through the years, Bahrain has hosted a huge variety of events including team launches, with Williams pulling the covers off the FW27 in 2005. Mark Webber paired with Nick Heidfeld, who found out he got the drive on the day of the launch after a shootout test, against Brazilian Antonio Pizzionia.

SOUNDBITE: (English) NICK HEIDFELD, 
F1 DRIVER, 2000-2011:
“Really, literally just five minutes before we went on stage, Frank [Williams] told us that I would get the seat, and Antonio wouldn’t. It was already difficult, especially for me, but imagine Pizzonia coming out five minutes later - smiling into the camera, telling everybody he was happy to be test driver, so…”

The standout Grands Prix at the Sakhir track include last season’s, when Bottas hunted down Vettel for the lead, but couldn’t pass, the Ferrari racer winning on his 200th F1 start.

…or 2014’s duel in the desert between former Mercedes teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton…  with the Silver Arrows pairing on the limit enough for the team to warn them against contact.

2006 saw Schumacher and Fernando Alonso go head-to-head, with the Spaniard getting the upper hand in the R26 beast.

… a feat Alonso would repeat on debut with Ferrari in 2010.

… while this year’s event should be a thriller, with Bottas against Hamilton, with the world waiting to see how Ferrari does, after a slump in Melbourne.

Hot, technical, and spectacular as a twilight race. It’s time for the Bahrain Grand Prix.