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Bahrain Grand Prix preview: Mercedes, Haas eyeing redemption in the desert

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Floodlights, desert backdrop, next stop is Bahrain (2:52)

Jennie Gow and Maurice Hamilton preview the Bahrain Grand Prix and which team the track benefits the most. (2:52)

Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari roll into Bahrain on a high after outfoxing Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton to win the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Focus on... Bahrain redemption

Redemption will be on the minds of plenty of teams and drivers as they head to Bahrain eager to make amends for a disappointing opening race in Australia, none more so than Lewis Hamilton. Mercedes threw away an almost certain victory in Melbourne when a software malfunction caused the team to miscalculate Hamilton's delta during a mid-race Virtual Safety Car. While Hamilton has been on the Bahrain podium every year since 2014, he hasn't stood on the top step since 2015.

Max Verstappen is another driver who will look to bounce back in Bahrain after an underwhelming weekend Down Under. The Dutchman was less than a tenth of a second away from putting his Red Bull on the front row at Albert Park but was forced to settle for fourth, behind the Ferraris. He lost a place on the opening corner to Kevin Magnussen before spinning on lap 10 and ultimately finishing P6.

And then there's Haas who saw P4 and P5 disappear before their eyes in Melbourne after two botched pitstops. The American team will be eager to bounce back in Bahrain and prove they can be the new leader of Formula One's midfield.

It's also worth keeping an eye on Williams who struggled with overheating in Australia and will likely have further issues in Bahrain's scorching conditions.

In need of a win? Valtteri Bottas

The season is just one race young but if Valtteri Bottas ever needed a win it's now. His future with the world champions is uncertain and the last thing he can afford is to have a huge points deficit to teammate Hamilton after a couple of races.

Bottas had a weekend to forget in Australia after crashing hard at Turn 2 during qualifying. The Finn's car had a new gearbox fitted and as a result dropped him to 15th on the grid. He recovered to finish P8 but needs to stamp himself on this season or it could be a long year of playing deputy to Hamilton.

Bahrain will hold some fond memories as it was the circuit he first claimed a Formula One pole position (2017) so don't rule him out just yet.

In need of points? Force India

2017 saw Force India score an impressive 16 double-points finishes but winter testing and early signs in Australia suggest they are no longer operating at the same level as they were 12 months ago.

Like Bottas at Mercedes, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon will want to bank a haul of points in the early rounds of the season or they could quickly lose touch to Haas and McLaren in the constructors' championship.

Tyre talk

Available compounds: Medium, Soft and Supersoft

Pirelli's pointers:

  • The grand prix gets underway in the late afternoon and finishes in the evening, meaning that track temperatures fall substantially as the race goes on, affecting tyre behaviour.

  • Traction is a major factor in Bahrain, so drivers have to manage rear tyres in particular.

  • Most drivers did two stops last year, with a wide variety of different strategies.

Minimum starting pressures: Front 21psi, rear 19psi

Weather forecast

No surprises here. Bahrain's weather over the grand prix weekend is expected to be hot and dry with almost a zero percent chance of rain.

However, temperatures will cool in the evenings during sessions which will come as a huge relief for drivers.

Betting

Despite failing to win the season-opener, Hamilton remains the overwhelming favourite with bookmakers at 5/6 to take out the Bahrain Grand Prix. A Sebastian Vettel win will pay out 11/4 while Bottas is offering up enticing odds of 11/2. If you think Red Bull under-performed in qualifying at Albert Park, they are paying 9/1 to take pole position in Bahrain.

ESPN's prediction

After Mercedes' disaster in Australia you'd expect them to bounce back and do it quickly even if it's at a track they haven't won at since 2015.

Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

Bonus prediction: Raikkonen to finish ahead of Vettel