F1 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

© J. Francois Barnard – November 29, 2020

The Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2020 was the first of two back-to-back Grand Prix races at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain on November 29, 2020.

The first practice session was also a test session for the 2021 Pirelli tyres. All the teams used it early on and gathered data on it. There were no surprises in this session, and Mercedes topped the timing charts.

The second practice session saw Alexander Albon crashing out in the second corner, to the frustration of his technical team. They have a rebuild to do and derived fewer data from the session. The session was red-flagged.

2020 15 bahrain dog on track

Picture credit: SkySports F1

A second red flag came out as a dog ran on the track. This excitement caused Vettel to sing: "Who let the dogs out?"

The session continued, and the teams were required to do six timed laps with the 2021 Pirelli rubber. It caused a few drivers, like Bottas, to make excursions through the gravel traps, and Hamilton complained about the grip-levels of the tyres. With the drivers' and constructors' championships in the bag, Mercedes have the luxury using the last three races of the year to do extensive testing with 2021 in mind. The session ended with Hamilton on top, Verstappen second and Bottas in the third place.

The Saturday test session had Red Bull mechanics worried as Max Verstappen's rear wing started flapping up and down. They made adjustments, but the movement continued. It had to be replaced. It did not stop Verstappen from topping the chart ahead of Hamilton and Bottas.

2020 15 bahrain dog on track

Picture credit: SkySports F1

The first qualifying session yielded no surprises as it dropped both Haas-Ferraris, both Alfa Romeo Ferraris and Latifi in the Williams. We have seen that all too often. The second qualifying session started with Carlos Sainz's bad luck at this track. He has already three DNFs under the belt in Bahrain and his rear axle locked up again, bringing out the red flag.

The final and third qualifying session ended with Hamilton and Bottas locking out the front row and Verstappen and Albon behind them in the second row. Pérez is showing his faithful form in fifth alongside Ricciardo in sixth. The Ferraris are trailing behind in 11 and 12.

The race lasted close to 3 hours - 2:59:47.515 to be precise - due to the first lap incident which saw Romain Grosjean narrowly escaping an inferno, which reminded us of horrors years ago.

He collided with Daniil Kvyat on a straight after turn three and shot into the trackside barrier. His car split in half, and he emerged on the other side of the barrier, having been shoved right through it. His saving grace was a halo guard.

2020 15 bahrain dog on track

Picture credit: SkySports F1

Within 18 seconds, the team in the medical car, Alan van der Merwe and Dr Ian Roberts were on the scene, while Grosjean appeared from the flames. We all breathed a sigh of relief when we saw the Frenchman was safe. Van der Merwe said Grosjean suffered minor burn wounds on his hands and ankles, and a rib or two might be bruised or broken.

The race was red-flagged. It took close to an hour to repair the barriers. Parc fermé was packed with activity as some teams repaired damage to their cars. An atmosphere of shock on the one side and relief on the other could clearly be seen.

2020 15 bahrain dog on track

Picture credit: SkySports F1

The race restarted, but seconds later another accident left Lance Stroll hanging upside down in his car. He emerged unhurt from his Racing Point Mercedes, and Daniil Kvyat was penalised for his contribution to the tangle. A safety car was deployed.

2020 15 bahrain dog on track

Picture credit: SkySports F1

Immediately after, Valterri Bottas picked up debris which punctured a tyre. He had to make a pitstop under the safety car for new tyres, and in the process gain more pressure on his second place in the championship. He dropped down to the sixteenth place. The race restarted on lap 9, with Hamilton leading from Verstappen and Pérez.

We were entertained by wonderful overtaking during the midrace while the McLarens moved up the ranks. With only the single Racing Point of Pérez left in the race, the McLarens had to pull out all stops if they wanted to claim the third place and some handy prize money in the constructor's championship.

As the tyre degradation was relatively high, most teams opted to get on the hard tyres as quickly as possible. But having to use two different compounds during the race, the mediums were also used.

By lap 54 of 57, the remaining Racing Point Mercedes's engine gave up the ghost while running in the final podium position. Pérez was devastated, as were his team members on the pit wall. He handed the third place in the race to Alex Albon and the third place in the constructor's championship to McLaren.

2020 15 bahrain dog on track

Picture credit: SkySports F1

His car caught fire, and the safety car was once again deployed. The race ended under the safety car, with Lewis Hamilton ahead of the two Red Bulls of Verstappen and Albon.

The fans worldwide voted Romain Grosjean as the driver of the day in Bahrain. We wish him a speedy recovery.

The race classification:

Position Driver Constructor Grid Points
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1 25
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing-Honda 3 19
3 Alexander Albon Red Bull Racing-Honda 4 15
4 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 9 12
5 Carlos Sainz McLaren-Renault 15 10
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 8 8
7 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 6 6
8 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 2 4
9 Esteban Ocon Renault 7 2
10 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 12 1