George Russell topped both Friday practice sessions for Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton’s stand-in ahead of the Formula 1 Sakhir Grand Prix. Here’s how and when to watch qualifying.
With Hamilton ruled out of action after testing positive for COVID-19 on Monday, Russell has impressed while adapting to the Mercedes W11 having been granted permission from Williams to act as the seven-time F1 world champion’s replacement for this weekend.
Russell set the fastest time in both Friday practice sessions as Valtteri Bottas appeared to struggle in the sister Mercedes. The Finn had a succession of soft tyre lap times deleted for track limits in FP2, which ultimately left him down in 11th place.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen acted as Russell’s closest rival, as Racing Point’s Sergio Perez slotted into third place at the end of the second session ahead of Esteban Ocon in the Renault.
Friday turned into a tricky day for Ferrari, with Sebastian Vettel suffering two spins in the second session while team-mate Charles Leclerc did not set a lap time due to damaging a driveshaft.
Further back, Pietro Fittipaldi ended the day 18th fastest ahead of his F1 debut as he steps in for the injured Romain Grosjean at Haas, with the French driver hoping to return next weekend in Abu Dhabi after his fiery crash at the Bahrain GP.
Jack Aitken finished FP2 in 19th place, only ahead of Leclerc, as he stands in at Williams with Russell in action for Mercedes.
Why is F1 racing in Bahrain again?
Due to the redrafted 2020 F1 calendar following the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent cancellation of 13 races, series bosses have scrambled to produce a campaign of a minimum of eight races to meet FIA world championship criteria along with reaching a minimum of 15 races to fulfil the TV broadcasting deal.
As well as hosting double-headers at the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone, F1 has also visited venues not on the original 2020 calendar, with Istanbul Park having been the fifth of the new destinations last month, following on from Mugello, the Nurburgring, Portimao and Imola.
Bahrain’s second race becomes the final new addition to the 2020 F1 calendar, with the season wrapping up next weekend with the Abu Dhabi GP.
What is the Sakhir GP?
The previous ‘new’ races on the redrawn 2020 F1 calendar were either part of double-headers at the same circuit (Styrian GP at the Red Bull Ring and 70th Anniversary GP at Silverstone) or races taking a new name as the national race title was already used or unavailable.
With different races not allowed the same name in the same F1 world championship season, the Nurburging’s F1 race, Mugello’s F1 race, Imola’s F1 race and the Red Bull Ring’s second F1 race were named after the region the circuits are each situated in. The second Silverstone race was named as a way to celebrate the 70th year of the F1 grand prix world championship.
The final unique race name for the unconventional 2020 calendar is the second Bahrain race, which is called the Sakhir GP, which is also named after the region the track is based.
What is the Bahrain outer loop circuit?
The Sakhir GP will also be unique as it is being run on a different track layout to last weekend’s Bahrain GP, using the Bahrain International Circuit’s outer loop.
Taking advantage of the shaken-up 2020 calendar, F1 has seized the opportunity to try out new formats and ideas – including the two-day race weekend schedule at Imola – with the latest trial being Bahrain’s “almost oval track”, as called by F1 managing director for motorsports Ross Brawn.
The track configuration follows the current grand prix layout up to Turn 4, after which it turns left before a series of fast corners.
The cars then rejoin the existing circuit at the top of the hill leading onto the back straight before completing the lap as normal with the double-apex right-hander.
At just 2.277 miles, the outer loop is more than a mile shorter than the current grand prix circuit, but holds an FIA Grade 1 licence required to stage an F1 event.
What time does qualifying for the Sakhir Grand Prix start?
Qualifying for Sakhir GP starts at 8pm local time (5pm GMT), using the regular Q1, Q2 and Q3 knockout session format.
Qualifying starts three hours later compared to last week’s Bahrain GP, with organisers opting for a different setting with a complete night race compared to the twilight atmosphere from last weekend.
Date: Saturday 5 December 2020
Start time: 8pm local time – 5pm GMT
How can I watch qualifying?
In the United Kingdom every F1 practice, qualifying and race is broadcast live on Sky Sports F1, with qualifying coverage starting at 4pm GMT.
Channel 4 is broadcasting highlights of qualifying for the Sakhir GP at 9:30pm GMT. Autosport will be running a live text coverage of qualifying.
What’s the weather forecast for qualifying at the Bahrain International Circuit?
Mostly clear conditions are forecast for Saturday evening at the Bahrain International Circuit and it is expected to remain dry despite throughout.
Temperatures are set to be 23 degrees Celsius at the start of qualifying – around two degrees Celsius cooler than qualifying for last weekend’s Bahrain GP due to the later start time.
Sakhir GP FP2 result:
|1||George Russell||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||54.713s|
|2||Max Verstappen||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||0.128s|
|3||Sergio Perez||BWT Racing Point F1 Team||0.153s|
|4||Esteban Ocon||Renault DP World F1 Team||0.227s|
|5||Alexander Albon||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||0.323s|
|6||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||0.355s|
|7||Lance Stroll||BWT Racing Point F1 Team||0.391s|
|8||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault DP World F1 Team||0.411s|
|9||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||0.420s|
|10||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team||0.545s|
|11||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||0.608s|
|12||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||0.771s|
|13||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||0.820s|
|14||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team||1.025s|
|15||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Racing||1.071s|
|16||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari||1.117s|
|17||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team||1.318s|
|18||Pietro Fittipaldi||Haas F1 Team||1.397s|
|19||Jack Aitken||Williams Racing||1.547s|
|20||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari||–|
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