The Ferrari power unit still lacks a substantial punch versus those of the Mercedes, Renault and Honda variety and with three arrow-straight ribbons of tarmac separated by a handful of corners, it could be a rough time for Haas and co.
Jack Aitken will also have the chance to show he has what it takes in Formula 1, as he will fill in for Russell at Williams. Aitken has tested the 2020 car already this season, taking part in the first free practice session all the way back at the Styrian Grand Prix in July.
He has scored three podium finishes in Formula 2 this year with Campos, and only signed with the Williams to become a reserve driver at the start of the year.
Interestingly, of the three drivers making one-off appearances in Sakhir, only Aitken has sampled the car he will be driving, with Fittipaldi and Russell’s last bit of track time with Haas and Mercedes respectively coming at the end-of-season tests in 2019 in Abu Dhabi in last season’s cars.
Is Verstappen Bottas’ biggest threat?
The Dutchman has been champing at the bit for a chance to battle for race victory with Mercedes but every time he has been in with a chance, Hamilton has had the measure of him and a runner-up spot has been the best Max Verstappen can do without a little fortune going his way, like at the 70th Anniversary GP.
Last weekend showed just how hard he will push to put Mercedes under pressure and, had there been more laps remaining after the safety car had been withdrawn, it may have paid off with a victory with the Red Bull man on fresher tyres.
The whole way through, Verstappen kept a close watching brief and had long since dispatched of Bottas at the start before the Finn suffered his puncture and setbacks.
Many times already this season, a defeated Verstappen has complimented his team’s efforts with acknowledgements that the Red Bull just didn’t’ quite have enough to be a match for Mercedes on race day. That could all change with Hamilton out of the picture.
A slight weak point going into the weekend though is the power requirement ramping up versus the Bahrain event last week, with the outer layout placing a greater emphasis on engine power versus overall package. Will it be enough to prevent Verstappen from mounting a serious challenge for victory?
It won’t be through a lack of effort that’s for sure.
Schumacher vs Ilott
The F2 title comes down to this, a final feature and sprint race with just 14 points separating the championship leader in Mick Schumacher from the likely challenger Callum Ilott.
While the former has been confirmed as a Haas F1 driver for next season, Ilott has already said he will not have a seat at the top level next year, and will be fighting for pride.
He certainly made his life more difficult last weekend with a near collision with the championship leader during the sprint race resulting in a drive-through penalty, but crucially it means that he will not have to serve a grid drop on the deciding weekend.