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Bahrain GP: Midfield feel the heat as battle for 3rd spices up

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The conclusion of the 2020 season starts this weekend, as we head to the Middle East to kick off the final triple header of the year. The Bahrain International Circuit hosts two of the final three races, and with the drivers’ and constructors’ titles all wrapped up, there is a spicy battle unfolding in the midfield in the fight for 3rd in the constructors standings.

With Red Bull poised to take 2nd in the championship, Silverstone based Racing Point are currently 3rd in the standings after a stellar performance from Sergio Perez last time out in Turkey. The Mexican clinched the second spot on the podium after an extremely strong drive in the changing conditions and is now finding a bit more momentum to end the season on a high.

“There is definitely a great atmosphere within the team right now,” explained Perez. “I also want to fight for P4 in the Drivers’ Championship and we managed to take that position after a great result in Turkey. That gives me confidence going into Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, We want to be fighting for podiums and the chance to sign off this era on a real high for the team and myself.”

Perez has still to announce what his plans are for next year, after being shockingly sacked by Racing Point to make way for Sebastian Vettel as the team rebrand to Aston Martin Racing next year. Despite missing two races this season after testing positive for coronavirus, he still has 4th in the standings, while his team mate Lance Stroll is currently 11th, but retains a seat in the team for next year. Both drivers will be keen to prove their worth, with Perez rumoured to be taking a seat in Red Bull next year. But for now, they have McLaren hot on their heels in 5th, just 5 points behind Racing Point.

McLaren are still very much in this fight. They made a great comeback in Turkey from a few difficult races with a double points finish. Consistency will be key for both drivers heading in to the final three races and they will be keeping a very close eye on their rivals.

We head to Bahrain this week to begin the final triple header on the calendar as the season starts to come to a close,” said McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl. “We’ve got three every exciting and equally challenging races left with two in Bahrain- which is a very special venue for McLaren and a home from home race, followed by the final race in Abu Dhabi. Looking back to the start of the season, we know what to expect with already having three triple headers under our belts. Of course, the demands and challenges that come with intense format still remain the same and as a team we’re ready for the task ahead.”

The main focus for McLaren will  be to stay on top of any reliability issues that have plagued the team in recent races. They need to maintain the form that they had in Turkey, and make sure they stay ahead of their rivals if they want to clinch third in the constructors standings. I doubt that either of their drivers can climb much higher in the driver championship but the next three races will decide which driver will come out on top. Sainz is currently one point ahead of Norris, and 21 points behind Daniel Ricciardo in 6th.

Renault are currently 13 points behind McLaren and with only Ricciardo finishing in the points at Istanbul Park, it seems that the French outfit may have given away that coveted 3rd place finish in the standings. With the Aussie grabbing two podiums this year, it was fair to say they were a strong contender. However, all it takes in the midfield is one bad races to ruin your chances and that is exactly what happened to Renault. Esteban Ocon really needs a bit of luck this weekend to bring home a double points finish for the team after struggling with grip in Turkey.

“I’m definately feeling motivated after what happened at the last two races,” explained Ocon. “I’ve said it doesn’t feel like we have had too much luck on our side of the garage, and I believe it’s in our own hands to turn that around. There’s not much time to feel sorry for ourselves, so I’m determined to have a solid weekend and take some big points at a strategic point of the season.”

Ferrari are outsiders to this three horse race for third, but a season best performance in Turkey which not only saw the team bag 27 points, but also saw four time world champion Sebastian Vettel take the podium for the first time in a year, proved to be a surprise. Another repeat performance could see young Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc take 4th in the driver’s championship.

Ferrari have not finished outside of the top four since 1981. Anything less than fourth will be an embarrassment.

With one of the roughest track surfaces of the season, Bahrain will provide higher tyre degredation, meaning tyre strategy will be key in the desert. The set up of the cars will be  very much focused on tuning the car up for low to medium speed corners, with the high speed sections of the track easily taken flat out. I will be watching action in turn 10, a long combined corner entry that gets tighter towards the apex, a brilliant corner to watch while onboard, especially as it is a high risk for the odd lock up.

No matter what happens, I am predicting some fun under the floodlights.



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