Mercedes set for hat trick of F1 wins at Bahrain

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 2, 2014 at 10:13 am •  Published: April 2, 2014

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — The switch from a steamy Malaysia to a night race amid the sands of Bahrain is unlikely to be enough of a shift to prevent Mercedes this weekend from a hat trick of victories to open the Formula One season.

After Nico Rosberg won the season-opener in Australia, his teammate Lewis Hamilton took victory at Malaysia last weekend, leading home his teammate in a one-two finish that underlined the degree of dominance Mercedes is enjoying in the early stages of the new V6 turbo hybrid era.

Rival teams made no discernable progress in challenging Mercedes in the two weeks between the races, so they stand little chance in making headway in the one week between Malaysia and Bahrain, which has switched to being a night race, joining Singapore as F1's only races under lights.

The only succor for those in Mercedes' wake is that the two drivers split the honors in the first two rounds, and Hamilton gathered no points in Australia due to an engine misfire, meaning the drivers' championship is more open than it otherwise could have been.

Chief among those rivals is Red Bull ace Sebastian Vettel, who was third in Malaysia but worryingly for the team, he had higher fuel consumption rates than the Mercedes pair just trying to keep up, and that compromised his capacity to challenge at least Rosberg in front of him.

Beyond the Mercedes drivers and the indefatigable Vettel, it is hard to make a case for any other winners in Bahrain, with its stable weather and low incidence of safety car periods, although many teams are still having teething problems with the new engines, so a surprise is possible.

"I've finished on the podium a couple of times here but, for one reason or another, I've never managed to get the win," Hamilton said. "Until last week it was the same story for me with Malaysia, so fingers crossed this can be the year of breaking those cycles.

"We know it's going to be tough to maintain our current form, particularly at a circuit where every team has had so much running time over the winter."

Vettel's new teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, has suffered a cruel reversal of fortunes since he celebrated on the podium in front of his home fans in Australia. That second place was taken off him due to the team exceeding new fuel-flow limits, and then in Malaysia he was running fourth before a botched pitstop cost him vast amounts of time. To make matters worse, he will have a 10-place grid penalty in Bahrain as a result of that pitstop, with stewards ruling the car was released when it was unsafe to do so, as a wheel was loose.

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