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Bahrain GP: Bernie Collins analyses strategy options for teams at opening race of 2024 F1 season

Sky Sports F1's strategy expert Bernie Collins analyses the key considerations for teams at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix; watch the Bahrain GP live on Sky Sports F1 with practice under way on Thursday and SATURDAY's race at 3pm

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Look back at some of the most dramatic moments to have taken place at the Bahrain International Circuit

Ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Sky Sports F1's strategy expert Bernie Collins analyses some of the key considerations for teams and drivers in Sakhir.

While there are plenty of unknowns going into the first race of any season, the somewhat predictable conditions at the Bahrain International Circuit allows us to make some assumptions.

Last week's pre-season testing at the same circuit suggested that reigning world champion Max Verstappen remains a step ahead of the field, but it remains to be seen how significant an advantage Red Bull might hold over their rivals.

In the event that Ferrari's promising long runs at testing have the Italian team closer to Red Bull than many expect, strategy could - as is always the case in Formula 1 - play a key part throughout the event.

Collins, who was head of race strategy at Aston Martin up until midway through the 2022 F1 season, has flagged the following elements.

High degradation expected

The combination of the rough surface at the Bahrain International Circuit and high temperatures in the desert ensure a high level of tyre degradation.

While that provides a challenge for the drivers, it's great news for race fans with the additional entertainment of a multiple-stop race guaranteed.

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This weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix will be taking place on Saturday rather than the usual Sunday slot!

Despite a relatively significant amount of time being lost during pit stops, we are highly unlikely to see anyone attempting a one-stopper during Saturday's race.

Another thing that the high level of degradation is likely to lead to is plenty of overtaking, with those who best manage their tyres set to be in a position to scythe through the field.

How will it impact qualifying?

The degradation will not only be a factor during Saturday's race, but also in Friday's qualifying. Performance can go away so quickly that drivers need to manage their tyres even during a qualifying lap, ensuring that they save enough life for the final sector.

We saw several drivers during testing last week put in impressive times on performance runs in the first couple of sectors before fading towards the end of the lap.

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Sky Sports' Craig Slater and James Galloway discuss the current state of Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren following testing in Bahrain

Also significant is that each new set of tyres is highly unlikely to be good for more than one flying lap, which puts more pressure on the drivers to deliver with each run, such is the time it will take them to get on a fresh set.

While most in the paddock expect Red Bull to have the edge in race pace, Ferrari regularly had the speed to challenge and beat Verstappen in qualifying in the latter stages of last season.

There is every chance that we have a competitive pole battle on our hands, and the driver who is able to remain patient early in the lap may well be the one that earns that coveted P1 slot for Saturday.

Watch out for wind and kerbs!

Another hugely significant element in Sakhir is the wind.

The strength of the wind, which can be very significant at times, can have a huge impact on any session throughout the weekend.

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Craig Slater is joined by Ted Kravitz to discuss the top-10 pecking order after F1 testing in Bahrain ahead of the season-opening Grand Prix

Depending on what is expected, teams may need to alter the setup of their cars to adjust, while a badly timed gust has the potential to ruin a lap or force a driver to make an error at a key moment.

Amid that challenge, the drivers also have to be wary of the kerbs at this track, and that's not just the one at Turn 11 with a loose drain cover that caused two delays during testing!

Many of the kerbs, if not given enough respect, have the potential to cause damage to the cars, and you are unlikely to see them being ridden too aggressively.

What are the most likely race strategies?

The fact that overtaking around this circuit is relatively simple means that strategists will prioritise optimum race time over track position.

While getting a strong start is important and could be the difference between two tightly matched cars, true pace is likely to tell over the 57-lap race distance.

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Highlights of the F1 2023 season opener at the Bahrain Grand Prix

With tyre manufacturer Pirelli sticking to the same allocation they provided last year, we would expect to see relatively similar strategies.

The most popular way to go was starting the race on soft tyres before running two further stints on the more durable hard compound to get to the end.

Red Bull's performance was so impressive that both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, who came home in a dominant one-two, were able to do two stints on soft tyres and just one on the hard.

The medium compound was almost entirely left alone due to the fact it offered only a marginally better life in terms of degradation, but significantly less speed than the soft.

Sky Sports F1's live Bahrain GP schedule

Thursday February 29

  • 11am: Bahrain GP Practice One (session starts at 11.30am)
  • 12.55pm: F3 Qualifying
  • 1.40pm: F2 Qualifying
  • 2.35pm: Bahrain GP Practice Two (session starts at 3pm)
  • 4.15pm: The F1 Show

Friday March 1

  • 10.10am: F3 Sprint Race
  • 12.15pm: Bahrain GP Practice Three (session starts at 12.30pm)
  • 2.10pm: F2 Sprint Race
  • 3.10pm: Bahrain GP Qualifying build-up
  • 4pm: BAHRAIN GP QUALIFYING
  • 6pm: Ted's Qualifying Notebook

Saturday March 2

  • 8.55am: F3 Feature Race
  • 10.25am: F2 Feature Race
  • 1.30pm: Bahrain GP build-up: Grand Prix Saturday
  • 3pm: THE BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX
  • 5pm: Bahrain GP reaction: Chequered Flag
  • 6pm: Ted's Notebook
  • 6.30pm: Bahrain GP highlights

Watch every round of the new season, starting with the Bahrain Grand Prix from Thursday February 29 to Saturday March 2. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership

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