Three very different races and three very different winners – the start of the 2013 season has provided the unpredictability and excitement everyone had been hoping for.
Now it’s to the desert as the Formula 1 circus returns to Bahrain for round four, a weekend which will again be closely scrutinised by the world’s press as human rights protesters threaten to disrupt the country’s most high-profile sporting event.
Sky Sports F1 will screen all three practice sessions, qualifying and the race exclusively live, as well as the second round of the GP2 Series. Free-to-air highlights of qualifying and the race will be shown on BBC One.
Triple world champion Sebastian Vettel turned pole position into victory last year, ensuring that there were four different winners of the first four races of the season for the first time in nearly a decade.
However, the whole race weekend was partly overshadowed by events off-track as anti-government protesters used the race to spread their message about human rights abuses in the country.
Protesters caused the 2011 race to be called off and a number of teams expected a similar outcome for last year’s race amid security concerns.
But the 2012 race went ahead after sport’s governing body said they had been assured the kingdom was safe for F1 personnel, though a handful Force India mechanics were caught up in an incident outside the circuit.
Activists, as well as a group of British MPs, have again called for a cancellation of the race due to reports of alleged abuses committed by the Bahraini authorities against pro-democracy campaigners, although strength of public feelings against the Grand Prix appear to have subsided considerably compared to last year according to reports.
The race weekend, however, is set to go ahead as scheduled on April 19-21, and although fans will be mindful of the political situation in the country, the primary focus will rightly be the on-track action.
With Red Bull, Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes all looking strong in the early stages of the current campaign, the drivers’ championship promises to be another close-fought contest.
The Bahrain International Circuit contains every classic element needed to create a truly competitive race.
Three lengthy straights, including the 1km pit straight, give drivers the opportunity to push their cars’ speed to the limit, while a tricky middle section including devilishly tight hairpins and tempting chicanes will test their handling, slickness and daring.
Last season, fans saw seven different drivers win the opening seven races, and three grands prix into 2013, three different faces have stood on top the podium, with the newest being Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso at last week’s Chinese Grand Prix.
With Ferrari showing good race pace in China, the signs look good for the Scuderia in Bahrain.
Between them, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa have won five of the eight Bahrain grands prix to date, although two of Alonso’s wins came in a Renault, whilst Ferrari themselves have picked up four wins at the circuit.
A year ago, triple world champion Sebastian Vettel surged to his first victory of the 2012 season.
The Red Bull racer fought off a determined challenge from Kimi Raikkonen, who had started 11th on the grid, to cross the line for the first of his five triumphs during the year.
British speedster Paul di Rest also enjoyed a fruitful drive in a difficult weekend for Force India
Force India’s gamble to make two pit-stops rather than the three of their opponents, paid off as Di Resta rose from tenth on the grid to finish sixth after a lengthy duel with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
The 2013 season may have only just started, but fans have already been treated to plenty of drama and moments of sheer brilliance as the Formula 1 campaign gathers pace.
With the European now season just round the corner, there’s no need to pull any more all-nighters either with the more convenient Middle East time zone meaning your earliest start over the weekend is 7.45am for the start of Practice 1 on Friday.
You can follow all the action from the fourth round of the 2013 FIA Formula 1 World Championship on Sky Sports F1 and BBC TV.SOTB’s viewing guide below:
Sky Sports F1 HD is the only place to see all the on-track action at the Bahrain Grand Prix as it happens, including the second round of the GP2 Series.
Every practice session, Saturday’s qualifying and the race itself will be shown live and exclusive in stunning high definition across the weekend, plus GP2 practice, qualifying and both races.
Simon Lazenby will present full coverage of the Friday practice sessions, qualifying and the race itself, where he will be joined throughout the weekend by Martin Brundle, Johnny Herbert and Damon Hill, with analysis on the SkyPad from Anthony Davidson.
Ted Kravitz will have the latest news and reports and from the pit lane while Natalie Pinkham will interview the drivers.
Commentary on all sessions comes from David Croft, with Davidson joining him for the free practice sessions. Martin Brundle then takes over for both qualifying and the race.
The F1 Show with Ted Kravitz and Natalie Pinkham will follow hot on the heels of Practice Two on Friday afternoon and will feature reaction to both the day’s running and an in-depth review of last weekend’s Chinese GP.
In Saturday’s live Qualifying show, which starts at 11am for a 12pm Q1 start, the Sky F1 team will be tackling arguably the big talking point of the moment head on – tyres.
As they look back on the events of China, Martin Brundle speaks to Pirelli chief Paul Hembery and McLaren’s Sam Michael over the current rubber conundrum.
Fresh from his career-best finish in Shanghai, Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo returns to the scene of his best ever qualifying result of sixth from Bahrain twelve months ago and joins Johnny Herbert for the track guide.
Both our live Qualifying and Race Day shows will feature separate installments of a behind-the-scenes feature with Lotus after the Sky team were given incredible assess to the team and their personnel over the Chinese GP.
Sky’s coverage will also feature regular updates from Lotus Team Principal during the track sessions across the weekend as their Team Principal Eric Boullier is the latest guest of Pit Wall Live.
On race day, the 90-minute build-up programme will – as ever – star Martin Brundle’s famous grid walk, while Natalie Pinkham will join the drivers on the Track Parade.
Sunday’s race show also features Anthony Davidson showing Johnny and Simon Lazenby how it’s done around a lap of Sakhir in the Mercedes simulator at Brackley and a post-qualifying Martin Brundle interview with Lewis Hamilton.
A host of interactive additions, including on-board cameras, pit-lane feeds, the latest race stats and much more available via the red button and the Sky Sports for iPad app.
For those who won’t be at home, every second of the drama from the Bahrain International Circuit can be seen via Sky Go.
Following the opening round in Malaysia four weeks ago, the GP2 Series returns action this weekend with the two races live on Sky Sports F1. Commentary will be provided by Will Buxton.
Tune into Sky Sports F1, the only place to catch every twist and turn wherever you are.
.Thursday 18th April F1 Drivers Press Conference LIVE: 1.00pm-1.45pm – Sky Sports F1 Gear Up For Bahrain 6.15pm-6.30pm – Sky Sports F1 Friday 19th April F1: Bahrain Grand Prix – Practice 1 | Start: 08:00 LIVE: 7.45am-9.55am – Sky Sports F1 GP2: Bahrain – Practice | Start: 10:00 LIVE: 9.55am-10.35am – Sky Sports F1 F1: Bahrain Grand Prix – Practice 2 | Start: 12:00 LIVE: 11.45am-1.55pm – Sky Sports F1 GP2: Bahrain – Qualifying | Start: 14:00 LIVE: 1.55pm-2.40pm – Sky Sports F1 F1 Team Principals Press Conference Delayed: 3.00pm-3.45pm – Sky Sports F1 The F1 Show – Bahrain Grand Prix Preview LIVE: 4.00pm-5.00pm – Sky Sports F1 Saturday 20th April F1: Bahrain Grand Prix – Practice 3 | Start: 09:00 LIVE: 8.45am-10.10am – Sky Sports F1 F1: Bahrain Grand Prix – Qualifying | Start: 12:00 LIVE: 11.00am-1.40pm – Sky Sports F1 GP2: Bahrain – Race 1 (Feature) | Start: 13:45 LIVE: 1.40pm-3.05pm – Sky Sports F1 Sunday 21st April GP2: Bahrain – Race 2 (Sprint) | Start: 08:50 LIVE: 8.45am-9.50am – Sky Sports F1 F1: Bahrain Grand Prix – RACE | Start: 13:00 LIVE: 11.30am-4.00pm – Sky Sports F1 F1: Bahrain Grand Prix – Highlights 7.00pm-8.30pm – Sky Sports F1
BBC TV will have free-to-air coverage of the fourth race of 2013 with extended highlights of both qualifying and the race on BBC One and BBC One HD.
Suzi Perry introduces all the action from Bahrain alongside David Coulthard, who will be on hand to provide lively analysis and discussion in the pits and paddock.
BBC One will broadcast peak-time extended highlights of the qualifying session on Saturday, April 20, after Final Score at 5.10pm, with comprehensive race highlights the following day, also on BBC One, at 5.00pm.
Commentary comes from Ben Edwards and David Coulthard, with technical analysis direct from the pit-lane from Gary Anderson, while Lee McKenzie and Tom Clarkson will conduct interviews with the drivers and team personel.
McKenzie will also host the BBC’s preview programme Inside F1 on the BBC News Channel on Friday at 6.45pm.
The BBC Sport website will have live streaming of BBC One’s broadcasts, as well as additional video content including highlights of practice sessions, qualifying and the race, plus interviews and analysis.. Friday 19th April Inside F1 – Bahrain Grand Prix Preview 6.45pm-7.00pm – BBC News Channel Saturday 20th April F1: Bahrain Grand Prix – Qualifying HIGHLIGHTS: 5.10pm-6.25pm – BBC One Inside F1 – Bahrain Grand Prix Preview 6.45pm-7.00pm – BBC News Channel Sunday 21st April F1: Bahrain Grand Prix – RACE HIGHLIGHTS: 5.00pm-6.35pm – BBC One
BBC Radio 5 Live and 5 Live Sports Extra will have live audio commentary of every on-track session at Sepang.
Coverage begins with the usual pre-race weekend show – 5 live Formula 1 – on Thursday evening.
James Allen will lead the commentary team for its live coverage of qualifying and the race on BBC 5 live.
Jennie Gow will be the pit-lane and paddock reporter gathering all the interviews and Gary Anderson will provide the latest technical analysis from the pits.. Thursday 18th April 5 live Formula 1 – Bahrain Grand Prix Preview 9.00pm-9.30pm – BBC Radio 5 live Friday 19th April F1: Bahrain Grand Prix – Practice 1 | Start: 08:00 LIVE: 7.55am-9.35am – BBC Radio 5 live Sports Extra F1: Bahrain Grand Prix – Practice 2 | Start: 12:00 LIVE: 11.55am-1.35pm – BBC Radio 5 live Sports Extra Saturday 20th April F1: Bahrain Grand Prix – Practice 3 | Start: 09:00 LIVE: 8.55am-10.05am – BBC Radio 5 live Sports Extra F1: Bahrain Grand Prix – Qualifying | Start: 12:00 LIVE: 12.25pm-1.05pm – BBC Radio 5 live Sunday 21st April F1: Bahrain Grand Prix – RACE | Start: 13:00 LIVE: 1.00pm-2.45pm – BBC Radio 5 live