F1 Fantasy: top picks and predictions for the 2021 Bahrain GP – Motor Sport

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Top tips for Fantasy F1 ahead of the first race of the season
Frédéric Le Floc?h / DPPI
Formula 1’s fantasy predictions game is back and a great chance to prove your knowledge against friends and strangers.
As with other fantasy team games, you are handed a $100million budget to spend on five drivers and a team that will score points on a variety of factors including qualifying position, overtakes and final race results
With up to three teams per player, you can afford to get a little creative across an entire 23-race season but there are some clear contenders to think about for your own teams for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Uniquely for this weekend, the second practice session on Friday is actually the most relevant one to pay attention to as weather and temperatures were closely aligned to Saturday and Sunday conditions during the all-important sessions, so you’ll have plenty of time to finalise your week one line-up.
Already we’ve seen enough evidence that Red Bull is looking quick, Mercedes might not be worth the outlay and there are several midfield drivers to consider for your own squad.
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If you’re looking at potential pole and race winners, Red Bull and Mercedes are your go-to’s. Max Verstappen ended both Friday practice sessions fastest of all, while Mercedes looked stronger across a race run.
With the usual caveats of unknown fuel loads, engine power levels and the like, it’s safe to assume that one of four cars will be lining up on pole come Sunday. If you’re following form over one-lap, Verstappen is the best bet here with the RB16B looking well poised across the entire lap while both Mercedes struggle by the final sector.
On race pace though, Hamilton was the quickest of the front-runners on Friday night so could be in with a chance of spoiling a lights-to-flag victory for Verstappen. Cost-wise though, the $8.7million difference in price makes the Red Bull driver the more attractive pick.
He stole some headlines during testing and he stole some of the attention away too on Friday. Yuki Tsunoda has rapidly acclimatised to AlphaTauri and out-paced race-winning team-mate Pierre Gasly in the race-relevant FP2 session.
In F2 last season, he looked comfortable carving his way through the field on several occasions as the races ticked by in a race for a superlicence to be eligible for an F1 drive this year, and the Japanese driver looks exciting out on track. At $8.8million, he’s one of the cheaper drivers to choose from. Inexperienced at this level he might be, but there’s no denying he’s one to consider for this weekend.
McLaren’s switch to Mercedes power looks to be going as seamlessly as could be, and with Lando Norris splitting title protagonists Verstappen and Hamilton in FP2 with a decent time albeit likely on less fuel, he’s showing the MCL35M is quick. But he cut a dejected figure after the session admitting that he expected to fall away from the top two teams on Saturday, so be warned.
Daniel Ricciardo’s signature divebomb technique has been missing since his move away from Red Bull and the young British driver is the one with the experience at the Woking team. If you’re going with McLaren, Norris is not a bad option for the midfield battle.
At Ferrari, Carlos Sainz looked the quicker than Charles Leclerc second practice though it was clear the run plans for both were slightly different. The Spaniard is the cheaper option of the two Ferrari drivers, and with a boost in horsepower for the new season, Sainz could be the smooth operator your fantasy team needs.
The Prancing Horse didn’t put up any headline times during the FP2 session, but race runs looked promising for both drivers and its looking like there’s more to come from Maranello come qualifying.
Haas has made clear its intentions to cease the development of its car by round two of the 2021 season, and it was already well down on rivals during both practice sessions in Bahrain. While Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin might be picking up positions, it’ll be from the back and they aren’t looking like gaining many.
Alfa Romeo had looked promising in FP1 but during the FP2 session, slipped away from other midfield teams. With a stronger Ferrari power unit for this season, overtakes could be an attraction but for now, there are better options available.
Alpine admitted it was still conducting tests during FP1 in Bahrain, with both Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon running a variety of different aero configurations, but the French team ended Friday well down on competitive midfield pace. The two-time world champion’s guile behind the wheel is a definite strength but team-mate Ocon doesn’t have that plus point going for him so it could be wise to stay away from Alpine for now.
Hamilton’s relentless consistency at the top means he’s usually a guaranteed points scorer for fantasy teams, but as the most expensive driver asset in the game at $33.5million, he eats into a third of your budget right away leaving little wriggle room elsewhere.
He ended Friday night fastest of anyone on the longer runs, but the tyre degradation also looked worse for Mercedes than Red Bull and Ferrari, a point which could come back to haunt them on Sunday night.
Bottas ended the second session describing his car as “undrivable” and over one lap and the long-run pace was left well behind his team-mate and the leading Red Bull. It means that neither Mercedes driver nor team should be a nailed on pick for week one.
Max Verstappen (24.8)
Charles Leclerc (16.8)
Carlos Sainz (14.4)
Lando Norris (13.1)
Yuki Tsunoda (8.8)
Ferrari (18.1)
Felipe Drugovich is leading the F2 championship with composure and maturity – but is anyone in the F1 world paying attention?
Max Verstappen topped FP2 for the 2022 Belgian Grand Prix by a substantial eight-tenths of a second in a weekend where he will be one of six F1 drivers to start towards the back as a result of engine penalties
Alfa Romeo has announced it will end its association with Sauber at the end of 2023, paving the way for an Audi tie-up
Analysing the intra-team battles of F1 2022 so far, with particular focus on the remarkable performance of Mercedes
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