The F1 Oracle – Predicting the results for GP #03: Sakhir, Bahrain

Formula 1

In this series of posts, which will be published the friday before each race weekend, I will attempt to predict the top 10 of both the qualifying session and the race ahead based on previous form and the individual performances in the first two free practice sessions on friday ahead of the weekend. I will enter these predictions on GuessTheGrid, a website which takes your top 10 predictions and ranks them against other’s. Feel free to sign up and battle me for the title of F1 Oracle – but first, read on what my prediction will be for the 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix and why I think this prediction will ring true come sunday afternoon (local time).

Note beforehand: I intended to write and post this friday night, but I had a running event (proof) yesterday which prevented me from sitting down and writing it. I am still writing this comfortably before the start of FP3, so the format is still intact.

Before I will present my prediction, let us take a look at how my prediction for the Chinese Grand Prix worked out.

China Recap

Whereas my Australia result was quite disappointing, the China result was uplifting, especially for the race. Beforehand, I went in blind since there was no actual competitive running on friday due to the weather. I had predicted the entire top 5 correctly for qualifying, but due to Giovinazzi’s crash at the end of Q1, both Verstappen and Grosjean got eliminated.

Had Giovinazzi not crashed, I’m convinced my prediction result would have been even better, but so would have been my competition’s.

For the race, I didn’t want to go balls to the wall with a full on wet race prediction, and I guessed correctly. The first few laps of the race were run under wet conditions, but after five or so laps most had already switched to dry weather tires. It then became a regular race, but by then Verstappen had already made it in a podium scoring position. I was perhaps a bit too conservative with his fifth place, but I didn’t expect for Bottas to spin behind the safety car.

Perhaps I got lucky with correctly guessing #9 and #10. It did get me into the 3rd spot for the race result. Overall, I’m now ranked 22nd 15 points behind the leader. This is a big step up, as I was about 120th after the first race – further proving that the title to this series of blog posts isn’t just me being a pushover!

 

Bahrain Prediction

Now, lets move on to the actual predicting. It is expected to be an all dry, very hot weekend. Temperatures for Saturday indicate 36 degrees Celsius, and Sunday a cloudy 31. However, since both qualifying and the race are run in the dark, these temperatures might be a bit lower during these sessions.

Bahrain is a track with two long straights, which offer some options for overtaking. Tire degradation is normal. While the track does run hot, the absence of sunlight means the tarmac has cooled off a lot.

The air might be an issue for some teams: since Bahrain is an island nation, it’s humidity is relatively high for a desert area. Compared to Abu Dhabi, for instance (which is still in a coastal area), the humidity is roughly 20% higher. Thick air, combined with expected winds of 40km/h on Sunday, might make it harder to overtake. Especially the back straight is notorious for unpredictable cross winds.

 

Qualifying

FP1 and FP2 were both topped by Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari. In FP1 he was followed by both Red Bulls, while in FP2 Bottas was a close (+.041s) second, who in turn was followed by Ricciardo (+.025s). This looks very promising for Ferrari, yet I consider Mercedes to be a bigger threat to take pole. While Hamilton came in 10th during FP1 and 5th in FP2, I suspect he was taking it easy and he will only show his true pace come FP3.

I am still unwilling to take the gamble and give Vettel the pole position in my prediction, especially since Ferrari’s running yesterday was hampered by technical difficulties (Vettel with dead electronics, Raikkonen with an overheated turbo).

Behind the leaders, Williams and Force India are looking good. Hulkenberg put his Renault on 6th during FP2, but he did this before in Australia (5th in FP3, 12th in qualifying) so I will ignore this result for now. Grosjean also looks set to make an appearance in Q3 today, with two 9th place finishes in FP1 and 2. And, since Force India are notoriously bad at qualifying, I will only put in the best of their two drivers: Perez.

 

Race

Again, for the race, I think it will be a battle between the Mercedes and Ferrari, with Red Bull trying to pull an offset. I do think reliability might become an issue, especially with the Ferrari’s having had multiple issues in free practice already. I don’t think the Mercedes’ will run into any technical issues, but the Ferrari and Renault engines (especially in the Toro Rosso) look more wonky in that regard.

Vettel seems to have a string of bad luck on this circuit. Last year, he didn’t even start due to an engine failure, and in 2015 he dropped his chances fighting for the podium when he broke his front wing running wide entering the final straight. Meanwhile, Raikkonen seems to prefer this track, taking two subsequent second place finishes.

However, you aren’t going to win any points off of superstitions. That is why I predict Raikkonen will DNF this year (sorry /u/Kimiquokka), and Vettel will come in second. Hamilton will win, Bottas third. Ricciardo a distant fourth, Verstappen fifth.

Williams experienced a lot of problems with tire degradation in China. The tarmac in Bahrain is quite similar, so it is an issue that might rear its head once again. Track temperature is closer to Australia though, so I don’t expect it to has as big an impact as it did the last week. Stroll is still too hard to predict, having had two DNF’s before.

I am fearful of Haas’ reliability, but since I already predicted one 2017 Ferrari engine not making it to the finish, I will give Grosjean the benefit of the doubt and due to me not taking Stroll into the top 10, I will put Magnussen on 10th. Force India, strong racers, will probably finish with both cars in the top 10.

 

This makes my prediction as follows: 

Discussion

 

The ‘Mercedes-Ferrari-Mercedes-Ferrari-Red Bull-Red Bull’ top 6 seems to cement itself, especially for qualifying. Yes, Hamilton didn’t have the results yet to indicate he is in contention for taking pole position, but knowing Mercedes’ performance (and Bottas being only .041s off of Vettel, while Hamilton is most often about .2s+ faster than Bottas) it is a risk I am willing to take.

I hope the qualifying will be quite uneventful. At least there is no Giovinazzi now to crash into the wall on the final minute of Q1.

What do you guys think? Does your prediction align with this one, or do you have a radically different opinion? Let me know, either in a comment, or on reddit.com/r/formula!

This is the prediction for my alternative account (FelixDicitDotCom) on GuessTheGrid. On the website, you are able to predict right up until the start of qualifying and the race. I suggest you use the information gained from FP3 to change your prediction for the Qualifying session. And, you can use Qualifying to adapt your prediction for the race. This is a strategy I will employ on my main account (FelixR1991). Some might think this is cheating. Ultimately, it does not matter – since I have no knowledge ahead of the session about the result. Spreading my options between the accounts won’t work for the grand tally, as I won’t know which is the better prediction.

Previous posts in this series:

  1. Melbourne, Australia
  2. Shanghai, China

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