PREVIEW GP BAHRAIN 2022. Max Verstappen opens the hunt for third world title in the desert: will the season opener again provide a spectacle?

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About the location

The Australian city of Melbourne has almost invariably been the season opener in the recent past, but in 2023 F1 will opt for a start in the Middle East for the fifth time in history. A region that was only allowed to organize a Grand Prix for the first time 19 years ago, but now has no less than four places on the calendar with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Abu Dhabi. And just like the previous times the season started in the Middle East, the honor this weekend falls to the small oil state of Bahrain.

The Bahrain International Circuit is located in the desert, a stone’s throw from the capital Manama. You can already expect a fun race: the Bahrain Grand Prix has often turned out to be one of the better races of the season in recent years. With four straights (of which the DRS system may be used on three, ed.) is it a circuit that lends itself to overtaking maneuvers. Especially in sector 1 you will often see the drivers side by side on Sunday.

The weather forecast

Racing in the desert, of course, equals drought. And while a drop of rain in the Bahraini sand plains is certainly not impossible, it will not happen during the Formula 1 weekend this year either. Clear weather is predicted over the three days. The race is driven after sunset, so the temperature is also not too bad: Sunday evening it will be around 23 degrees. (Read more below the photo)

The Bahrain Grand Prix has been an evening race since 2014.© AP

The Formula 1 program (Belgian time)

Friday March 3

12h30-13h30: first free practice

4-5 pm: second free practice

Saturday March 4

12h30-13h30: third free practice

4 pm: qualifying

Sunday March 5

4 p.m.: race

The Formula 2 program with Belgian Amaury Cordeel (Belgian time)

Friday March 3

10:05-10:50: free practice

5:30 pm: qualifying

Saturday March 4

2:15 pm: sprint race

Sunday March 5

11:20 am: main race

(Read more below the photo)

Will Fernando Alonso surprise in his debut race at Aston Martin this weekend?© EPA-EFE

Our forecast

Just like last season, our Formula 1 watcher Gert Vermersch and reporter Sam Varewyck will give their expected top three for each race. This year they will be joined by two voices from the podcast during their predictions The Paddock: Dennis Xhaët and racing driver Sam Dejonghe will also take a chance every weekend.

Our quartet is already very sure of who will win for this opening race: they all put their eggs in Max Verstappen’s basket. Opinions differ about the other two spots on the podium, with a surprising choice here and there…

Prognosis Gert Vermersch:

1) Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

2) Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

3) Carlos Sainz Jr. (Ferrari)

Prognosis Sam Varewyck

1) Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

2) Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

3) Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)

Forecast Dennis Xhaët

1) Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

2) Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

3) Sergio Perez (Red Bull)

Prognosis Sam Dejonghe

1) Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

2) Carlos Sainz Jr. (Ferrari)

3) Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)

That’s how it went last year

The new generation of cars experienced its baptism of fire at the Bahrain Grand Prix last season. It immediately became a direct hit: Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen dueled several times during the race. In the end it was Leclerc who came out on top and won the season opener ahead of the other Ferrari of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lewis Hamilton. Verstappen and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez both retired in the final laps with a mechanical defect.

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Nice to know

The shortest lap time ever recorded during a Formula 1 weekend was set at the Bahrain International Circuit. That happened in 2020, when the circuit also hosted the Sakhir GP in addition to the Bahrain GP. It was held on a shorter version of the circuit that is normally used: the very short and fast ‘Outer Lay-out’.

Valtteri Bottas clocked a pole time of just 53.377 seconds in qualifying on that configuration, setting a record that is unlikely to be broken any time soon. It was only the second time, after the French Grand Prix in 1974, that drivers set times under the minute during a Formula 1 weekend.

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