After using the main track at Bahrain seven days ago, the F1 circus returns to utilise the Outer Track. It will be the shortest lap in F1 history, with sub 55-second laps being set in Practice 2 on Friday. Engine power will prove crucial with over 75% of the lap spent at full throttle.
87 laps makes it comfortably the longest race in terms of laps in the 2020 season. We can expect some fascinating racing on Sunday, with pit stops costing teams over 20 seconds, which is nearly half a lap.
Sakir Grand Prix predictions, betting tips and analysis
With Lewis Hamilton missing this race due to COVID-19, it has paved the way for George Russell to make his Mercedes debut. The British driver has long been touted as a superstar in the making and we’ll get our first taste of what he’s capable of this weekend. This weekend really is a lose-lose situation for Valterri Bottas as a result. If he beats Russell, it’s to be expected, but if he loses to him, then it perhaps spells trouble for his future beyond 2021. Given Russell’s remarkable qualifying pace at Williams, the Brit can be expected to give Bottas a big fright on Saturday. Ultimately, as much as it would be a fairytale, the edge has to be given to Bottas on Sunday. He has the experience of the Mercedes in race trim and it’s simply a must-win for the Flying Finn.
Hamilton’s absence also paves the way for a potential Max Verstappen victory. He’s regularly been a thorn in Mercedes side, out-qualifying and out-racing Bottas on a number of occasions. For Red Bull, they need to maximise everything they can get out of this weekend and they know they’ll get just that with Verstappen. Red Bull have done their best work when strategy plays a crucial role and you’d have to give the Dutchman an excellent chance of winning on Sunday. Don’t discount Alex Albon, either. Yes, he’s had a disappointing campaign, but if he’s able to stick with the front-runners early, the slipstream should keep him in play throughout.
Short lap brings midfield teams into play
This is a track that will suit Racing Point down to the ground. With a car closely aligned to last year’s Mercedes, they’ve benefitted heavily at tracks with an emphasis on engine power. Sergio Perez was in line for a podium when his engine gave way last weekend and he looked very strong on Friday. Lance Stroll has really struggled since his Monza podium and continues to have a point to prove after disappointing results.
Another team who will benefit from a fast and furious lap will be Renault. They’ve posted their best performances at similar circuits and signs on Friday were positive. Esteban Ocon was just two tenths off the pace in FP2 and you can be sure Daniel Ricciardo will come alive in qualifying. They need a good result this weekend and big points are on the horizon.
The same perhaps cannot be said for McLaren, who struggled on Friday after a brilliant Bahrain Grand Prix. A best finish of 10th over the two sessions doesn’t bode well and this might be damage limitation for Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz. They look the weakest of the teams vying for third in the Constructors Championship.
Speaking of struggles, this is going to be another painful weekend for Ferrari. They’ve lacked straight-line speed all season and Charles Leclerc is on the backfoot after a gearbox failure in FP2. Sebastian Vettel had a session marred by spins and with the car looking extremely unstable once again, even points might be a stretch for the prancing horses.
The dark horse this weekend is perhaps Daniil Kvyat, who looked strong for Alpha Tauri in practice. He was ahead of Pierre Gasly in both Friday sessions and a top six finish may not be out of the question for him. Alpha Tauri have been strong on similar circuits, so both drivers are set up for a strong weekend.
Sergio Perez to win the Sakir Grand Prix (20/1)
Racing Point were strong on Friday and it sets them up for a potentially landmark weekend. Sergio Perez has been a force all season and he certainly wouldn’t be winning out of turn. With such a short lap-time and slipstream proving crucial, the Mexican should remain in play as long as he qualifies strongly. If he can keep himself in the fight towards the pitstops, that’s where he can capitalize.
Perez is a master of looking after his tyres and playing the long game. With a pitstop costing you around 23 seconds, new tyres are going to prove very costly. If it comes down to a battle of nursing tyres in the latter stages, Perez is the one who will benefit. With a slice of luck, Perez is at very tempting odds to capitalise on any mishaps out in front.
Daniil Kvyat – Top 6 Finish (9/2)
Enjoying finishes of 5th and 6th on Friday, Daniil Kvyat is in top form and looks set for big points. Alpha Tauri took that shock win at Monza earlier in the season and looked really good at Imola, so it’s no surprise this circuit is playing to their strengths.
Ordinarily, Gasly is the one flying the flag for Alpha Tauri. Kvyat looks to have the upper hand, however, and given that Gasly is 11/10 in the market, Kvyat looks the value and a big race is surely in bound.