Bahrain Grand Prix Preview: Schedule, Predictions And More

Bahrain Grand Prix preview: schedule, predictions and where to watch

The first green flag of the 2024 F1 season will be waved in less than 48 hours at the Bahrain Grand Prix. With multiple practice runs already completed, the field is starting to take shape and we can begin to construct where this one is heading.

AT LONG LAST, Formula 1 racing is returning to our screens. This weekend, the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix will provide F1 fans with exactly what they’ve been missing: blistering speeds, eardrum shattering engine noise, and in all likelihood, another rendition of the Dutch national anthem. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s the first race of the season and anything can happen.

The first official day of the 2024 F1 season has already concluded, with teams taking to the track in Bahrain overnight for multiple practice sessions. Contrary to what early testing indicated, it appears that rival teams may have actually closed the gap between themselves and Red Bull. That’s exactly what F1 needs, and hopefully the Bahrain Grand Prix will be a demonstration of the back-and-forth battles and non-stop competitiveness the sport has lacked at the front of the pack in recent years.

There is a big weekend of racing ahead. Here, we break down the Grand Prix’s full schedule, where you can watch it, and what you can expect.


When is the Bahrain Grand Prix?


Two free practice sessions are already in the books, with a third to take place before qualifying at 7pm local time on Friday, March 1, or 3AM Saturday, March 2 AEDT. The race itself will begin at 6pm local time on Saturday, March 2, or 2AM Sunday, March 3 AEDT.

The first two GPs of the 2024 F1 season are breaking with tradition. Instead of the customary Sunday race day, the Bahrain and Saudi Arabian GPs will be held on Saturdays due to Ramadan. Really, this is great news for Australians. We’d typically need to tune in during the early hours of a Monday morning before work to catch the action. A late Saturday night/early Sunday morning viewing looks far more appealing.


What are the takeaways from the Bahrain Grand Prix’s practice sessions?


Red Bull slow off the mark, but not concerned

In what could be called a shock due to the team’s unprecedented dominance over the last few seasons, the Red Bull cars have not been the best on the track during initial practice sessions—they’ve been far from it actually. Reigning champion Max Verstappen could only manage the sixth fastest time, while his teammate Sergio Perez was even further back in the pack in tenth position. Hot laps aren’t everything in F1, though. Long run data—which analyses a car’s complete performance on the track rather than just their best efforts—puts Verstappen as the best of the lot across both sessions.

Mercedes aren’t messing around

At the front of the pack, Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton have proved they’re not letting their impending break up get in the way of any championship aspirations. Hamilton has managed the fastest time of all participants after two practice sessions, followed closely by his Mercedes teammate George Russell.

Ferrari has nothing to complain about, but nothing to boast about either

Behind the Mercedes drivers in third position was Fernando Alonso, who far-exceeded expectations with his practice performance. Behind him was Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, while his teammate Charles Leclerc sat back in ninth. While Ferrari may have outperformed Red Bull, they hardly did anything to establish themselves as threats to take pole position, especially Leclerc. It’s still early, but don’t expect a strong showing from Ferrari in Bahrain, whose recent run doesn’t confer the same forgiving attitude that Red Bull’s does.

Alpine has a serious problem

On paper, Alpine should be one of the better teams in F1. They have a pair of highly qualified drivers behind the wheel, are a respected outfit with a long history, and replaced most of their leadership last season due to a lack of progress. All signs have pointed to a resurgent year for Alpine, but early testing and practice runs at the Bahrain Grand Prix have shown the team has taken a step backwards.

The F1 pecking order has previously stood with Red Bull firmly at the top, followed by Mercedes and Ferrari, followed by the middling McLaren, Aston Martin and, presumably, Alpine, who are capable of landing podium spots from time to time. The middle group are then bookended by the bottom feeders and junior teams of Haas, Williams, Sauber, and RB. But Alpine are looking far closer to that group than their standard allotment. Pierre Gasly could only manage the 16th fastest time in practice, while Esteban Ocon fared even worse in 18th. For a team that underwent changes across the board last season in the hope of a dramatic improvement, you’d have to assume that unless we see that improvement soon, something will have to give.


How have the Australians looked?


Bahrain Grand Prix Daniel Ricciardo



Both Australian drivers on the grid will be pleased with their practice runs so far. Daniel Ricciardo finished the first session with the fastest time of the lot before sliding down to 12th overall after the second run. For Ricciardo, starting the Bahrain Grand Prix in 12th position would be a satisfactory outcome, putting him within striking range of the points. His scintillating first practice run also proves that he can show flashes of brilliance, no matter what car he’s driving.

Meanwhile, Oscar Piastri had an impressive showing. The sophomore driver tallied the fifth fastest time after two practice sessions, behind only Hamilton, Russell, Alonso and Sainz, ahead of Verstappen and Leclerc, and well ahead of his McLaren teammate Lando Norris, who sits all the way back in 20th. Piastri had the third fastest time in the maiden practice run, and long run data also indicates that overall, he was only bested by Verstappen throughout the full course of practice. Lando Norris has had a tough time of things recently, with frequent complaints about the quality of his car—only for Piastri to prove him wrong—a grim assessment of McLaren’s chances in Bahrain and an inexplicably poor practice showing. If this keeps up, we could see Piastri overtake Norris as his team’s primary contender.


Who will win the Bahrain Grand Prix?


Even though Verstappen and co. were slow out of the gate in terms of posting a quick lap time, it’s hard to look past the Dutchman’s history. Even if Verstappen were to qualify in sixth, he’s proven that he’s just as effective in chasing down a lead as he is defending one. Verstappen won on this track last year, expect more of the same this weekend.

Given the team’s impressive performance during practice, we would be remiss if we completely ignored Mercedes’ chances. The team has the best shot at unseating Red Bull, and at least one Mercedes should land on the podium.

Finally, we’re going to be bold and say that Piastri will continue his hot form from the latter half of 2023 with a top five finish—perhaps even a spot on the podium.


Where can you watch the Bahrain Grand Prix in Australia?


Like all races in the 2024 F1 season, the Bahrain Grand Prix will be broadcast live in 4K on Fox Sports and Foxtel Now. The race can also be streamed live and on demand on Kayo.



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By Cayle Reid

Cayle Reid is a fan of everything sports and fitness. He spends his free time at the gym, on his surfboard or staying up late watching sports in incompatible time zones.

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