Cars getting ready for 57 laps around Bahrain to see who will take the first win of 2021 season.
15 minutes to go!!
Pitlane is open!
Engines are roaring – a brand new season is about to get underway. It’s Max Verstappen on pole, with the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas behind them.
Cars heading out to the grid now…half an hour to go until lights out.
News drivers on the grid, Haas drivers Mick Schumacher, Nikita Mazepin and Yuki Tsunoda in an AlphaTauri.
Christian Horner has told Sky F1 Honda reported an issue so they’ve changed the energy store as a precaution in Sergio Perez’s car.
Speaking about Mercedes, Horner said to Sky F1:
“They’re going to throw the kitchen sink at it, I think it’s going to be a really interesting fight today.
“It’s the first of 23 events, it’s a track you can overtake at. We’ve got this high gusting wind which is going to be a factor also.
“We’re going to see race performances for the first time this year.”
Thanks to a five-place grid penalty, Sebastian Vettel starts from the pack of the grid, and picks up 3 penalty points. Not an ideal start in his new Aston Martin.
Meanwhile Charles Leclerc and Ferrari are looking to put one of their worst seasons behind them today, Leclerc starts P4.
“We will know about the race pace very soon, I am surprised by the fourth place yesterday, but we need to keep our feet on the ground.
“Bahrain is always very special and it’s a bit of a standout of the season, the conditions are very different from what we’re used to in the season, but it’s a nice surprise and it seems like we’ve done a great job from last year to now.”
Full starting grid: Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc, Gasly, Ricciardo, Norris, Sainz, Alonso, Stroll, Perez, Giovinazzi, Tsunoda, Raikkonen, Russell, Ocon, Latifi, Schumacher, Mazepin, Vettel
Lights out at 4pm…
3pm: We are now just one hour away from lights out, where we’ve heard that Sebastian Vettel has a five-place grid penalty and will start 20th on the grid.
The four-time world champion failed to respect double waved yellown flag after Haas’ Nikita Mazepin span during qualifying yesterday.
Meanwhile ahead of the race, Lewis Hamilton has just spoken:
“Yes, we weren’t quick enough yesterday, we were half a second off. There’s work to do.
“Naturally I’ve got to get out there and do the job, and we’re going to be faced with so many different challenges in these races, such as the wind today.
“But that’s what I live for, it’s going to be a tough battle against these guys because they’ve made huge improvements naturally on their engine. I think they’re a little bit ahead of us on the engine for probably the first time you’ve probably seen in a long time, and also with their car. The change has affected their rear floor less than ours.
“But that doesn’t mean we can’t give them a hard time.”
Max Verstappen meanwhile sounded confident ahead of the start of the race starting on pole.
“It looks exciting, we had a good day yesterday and now I’m just looking forward to today to try and have a good result.
“We knew we had to close the gap and that’s what the team have been doing all winter. Try to work hard.
“We’ll just try and have a clean start, and if the car is fast enough then we can seal the deal.”
Tyres for the race – Verstappen has only one new set of hards, Hamilton has two, but Verstappen has a new medium and Hamilton only has used.
2.45pm: Good afternoon and welcome to Express Sport’s coverage of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix!
Stay tuned to see if Lewis Hamilton is still the man to beat this year or whether Red Bull have finally provided Max Verstappen with a car capable of challenging for the championship.
Verstappen showed blistering pace throughout practice and will start on pole position.
Hamilton is set to join the Dutchman on the front row, with his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in third.
Full starting grid: Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc, Gasly, Ricciardo, Norris, Sainz, Alonso, Stroll, Perez, Giovinazzi, Tsunoda, Raikkonen, Russell, Ocon, Latifi, Vettel, Schumacher, Mazepin