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Pre-Sakhir analysis - Hamilton predicts ‘a really special race’

17 Apr 2015

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will metaphorically be watching their rearview mirrors like hawks for red shadows this weekend, as Mercedes expect another serious challenge from Ferrari.

On a circuit where rear tyre wear is critical and the track and ambient temperatures will still be appreciable even though it is an evening event, they expect them to be quick.

“This is as it was in Malaysia, very much a rear-limited circuit, so you have to assume that Ferrari will be very strong again,” Hamilton says. “But I think, from our experience in Malaysia, we’re going to try and take a slightly different approach and hope that that helps us combat that weakness or area in which we can improve. I feel quite confident that as a team we can rectify that issue that we had in Malaysia, but it’s still going to be tough and Ferrari have been very, very competitive in the last couple of races. So I anticipate they will be very strong this weekend and our race is definitely with them.”

Hamilton, who won here last year after a gripping battle with Rosberg, has never started from pole position here, though the statistics say that it is less important here than at other tracks.

“I’ve been on the front row but I’ve not been on pole here,” the world champion concedes. “So naturally that’s something I want to try to change.”

Here in particular last year his battle with Rosberg was psychologically fraught as he won by just a second after a nip-and-tuck fight. And that’s the way he best likes it.

“My attitude hasn’t really changed much. I just do my talking on the track, that’s how it’s always been since I was eight years old. And naturally you just try to learn from decisions you take and experiences you have and hope that you get better. All the stuff that comes out of the car, I have no particular interest in. Ultimately our job as two drivers is to try to help the team get the best result overall and regardless of whether you’re first or second, it’s your job to try and make sure you secure the most points as possible for the team.”

Of course Sebastian Vettel can be expected to push really hard for Ferrari, but team mate Kimi Raikkonen also loves James Allison’s new SF15-T and says that it gives him the best vibe of any Ferrari he’s driven since his return to the fold last year. And his performance, not just in the opening laps in China but throughout the race, when he was poised to challenge Vettel’s podium slot when the safety car intervened with three laps left, demonstrated that he’s right back on form.

"I must say, in the past when I was here at Ferrari they were good times and it was a good atmosphere," he says. “But this year is the best that I have had in any team; how the team works together, how people work together, how the atmosphere is and how things are being run. That tells you a lot. I'm very happy."

Vettel is also very happy and happy drivers are the most dangerous to their rivals…

“Last year Nico and I had an amazing race here, it was really fantastic, great fun,” Hamilton says of 2014. “A huge, huge challenge both for Nico and for me in the first night race here. It was honestly the best race, visibly, that I had seen here in Bahrain. With these tyres and with Ferrari in the mix, I think we could see a really special race here. On my part, I’m just going to keep doing what I do and try, ultimately, to improve. Last year I didn’t qualify on pole here, and like I said I’ve never been on pole here, so that’s the challenge, so as it doesn’t get in the way of the challenge of trying to win the race.”