Bahrain Grand Prix: Will Hamilton slow down?

Lewis Hamilton heads into Sunday´s Bahrain Grand Prix as the most successful driver in Formula 1 history, and now a seven-times world champion, but the Briton will not be slowing down as he aims to round out a record-breaking season in style.

The Mercedes driver clinched the title at the previous race in Turkey to equal Michael Schumacher´s record seven, having already surpassed the Ferrari great´s tally of 91 race wins.

With three races to go and 10 wins from 14, Hamilton is on course for his most successful campaign yet and can become only the third driver after Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel to win 13 times in a season.

“Now it´s a bit more chilled but I still have three races ahead of me that I want to win,” said Hamilton, who has not previously won more than 11 races in a single year.

Hamilton has won three times around the 5.4km Sakhir desert track, including last year after a loss of power robbed Ferrari´s Charles Leclerc of an almost certain victory.

With Mercedes dominant, the Briton is favourite again but teammate Valtteri Bottas will be out to stop him.

Bahrain marks the start of a whirlwind floodlit Middle Eastern triple-header that wraps up the season.

A second race, the Sakhir Grand Prix, follows at the same venue but around the shorter outer circuit a week later before the finale at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina.

While the titles are already decided, other battles are still being fought.

Mexican Sergio Perez, Leclerc and Australian Daniel Ricciardo are separated by just four points in the battle for fourth overall.

Racing Point, McLaren, Renault and Ferrari, separated by just 24 points, are fighting for third in the constructors´ table.

There could also be a flurry of driver announcements. Thailand´s Alexander Albon is yet to be confirmed alongside Max Verstappen at Red Bull with Perez and Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg in the frame as potential replacements.

Japanese Formula Two racer Yuki Tsunoda looks set to replace Russian Daniil Kvyat alongside Pierre Gasly at Red Bull-owned AlphaTauri.

American outfit Haas are yet to announce their 2020 drivers with Ferrari-backed Formula Two championship leader Mick Schumacher, son of Michael, in the frame.

Hamilton, out of contract at the end of the year, is also yet to sign a new deal with Mercedes.

Sunday´s race, like most this season, will be closed to fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic but organisers are putting aside a limited number of grandstand seats for the families of health workers.

Reuters statistics for Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix at the Sakhir circuit, the 15th race of the season:

  • Lap distance: 5.412km. Total distance: 308.238km (57 laps)
  • 2019 pole: Charles Leclerc (Monaco) Ferrari One minute 27.866 seconds
  • 2019 winner: Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes
  • Lap record: One minute 31.447 seconds, Pedro de la Rosa (Spain), McLaren 2005.
  • Start time: 1410 GMT (1710 local)

World Championship

  • Both titles have been won by Mercedes for an unprecedented seventh year in a row.
  • Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton is now the most successful driver in Formula One history with more wins, podiums and pole positions than fellow seven-times champion Michael Schumacher.

Bahrain Grand Prix

  • Sebastian Vettel has won four times in Bahrain, Hamilton three. Ferrari have won six times at Sakhir, Mercedes three.
  • Bahrain is hosting two races this year, on different track layouts. The kingdom first held a grand prix in 2004 and there was no race in 2011 due to civil unrest. It switched to a floodlit event in 2014.
  • Vettel has been on pole three times in Bahrain, Hamilton twice.
  • The driver on pole in Bahrain has been the winner in six of the 15 races to date. It has never been won by anyone starting below the front two rows.
  • The track is heavy on the brakes.

Race Victories

  • Hamilton has a record 94 victories, of which 73 have been with Mercedes, from 264 starts. No driver has won more for a single constructor.
  • Hamilton has won 10 races in 2020, including the last four, and Mercedes 12. Team mate Valtteri Bottas has won two, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly one each.
  • Ferrari have won 238 races since 1950, McLaren 182, Williams and Mercedes 114 each and Red Bull 63. Former champions McLaren and Williams have not won since 2012.

Pole Position

  • Hamilton has a record 97 career poles. Canadian Lance Stroll’s pole in Turkey ended Mercedes’s pole domination, a run going back to Abu Dhabi last year.

Podiums

  • Hamilton has a record 163 career podiums.
  • Vettel’s third place in Turkey was Ferrari’s third podium of the year and the German’s first since Mexico 2019.

Championship Points

  • Hamilton has a record 47 points finishes in a row, which is also the most for successive classified finishes.
  • All of the 10 teams except Williams have scored points this season.
  • Hamilton and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez are the only drivers yet to suffer a retirement this season. Perez missed two races due to COVID-19, however. Hamilton and Perez are also the only drivers to have scored in every race they have started.