Bahrain is about to become a Formula 1 proving ground with so many drivers and constructors looking to assert their dominance over their classic rivals – or even teammates.
The paddock will land in Bahrain this week for not one but two races as the 15th and 16th round of this unexpected 17 race season.
Put simply, Lewis Hamilton is the World Champion. Mercedes have won the constructors battle and the end one of the most unprecedented seasons is in sight.
But there’s still seats to drive for. A midfield battle that will come down to the wire and so a the Bahrain outer track that is expected to see sub-one minute lap times.
This won’t be any ordinary final three rounds.
It wasn’t always clear whether the Middle Eastern race would be seen on the calendar at all in 2020, following the announcement of its postponement earlier in the year, due to the growing concern over the COVID-19 pandemic.
The midfield battle
Despite both championship titles being confirmed, we head to the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, where it is pedal to the metal in the midfield battle.
With just four points between fourth and sixth position in the drivers’ championship, and 24 points between third and sixth position in the constructors’ championship, we’re set for some thrills and spills.
Currently in the lead of the midfield is Racing Point Formula One team, closely followed by a resurging Mclaren and consistent Renault, with the late charging Ferrari joining the battle with just three rounds to go.
There are many questions to be asked:
Is there still time for Williams to score a point this season? (after narrowly missing out at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix just a few weeks ago when George Russell crashed under safety car conditions).
Will Redbull’s Alex Albon do enough to save his seat?
How will the change in time of year affect the track conditions? It is going to be hot.
The battle out front
Redbull’s Max Verstappen is one to look out for this weekend as he is still a chance to score a second place finish in the championship. Could we see the 23-year-old even more determined to add to his tally of wins?
Or will Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas set out this weekend to prove his worth and lock up second?
A Verstappen win won’t come easy as the Finnish driver will be under pressure from Mercedes to secure the first and second for the team alongside Lewis Hamilton.
Last year the Bahrain Grand Prix delivered a classic race in terms of entertainment when young Monégasque Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc’s maiden race victory slipped through his fingers through no fault of his own after a mechanical failure.
He lost power and slipped to P3, allowing Hamilton to storm home and win that particular race.
It is expected that the 23-year-old will be eager to make up for his heartache last year.
Despite all of this, soon to be Sir Lewis Hamilton, and ten time race winner so far in 2020, is the favourite for the win having finished on the Bahrain podium eight times in just 12 attempts.
Hamilton will be motivated to further prove his championship credentials and warn the paddock – Lewis is in the fight for eight World Championships, the most of any other driver in history.
Tune into F1 LIVE on Fox Sports from Friday.