And then there were three. The final straight of the championship, the triple-header that will bring this bizarre 2020 season to an end, is finally here as Formula One heads to Bahrain and Abu Dhabi for three races under the lights.
First on the calendar is a very peculiar double header - the Bahrain and Sakhir Grands Prix, the first one taking place on the "traditional" layout used by Formula One in recent years, the second breaking new ground with the short and fast "outer" circuit. This specific configuration is a real leap in the dark for the sport, even by the standards of a season that brought unusual tracks and experimental formats to the fore: the short layout, featuring a narrow ribbon of tarmac on the "upper" side of the circuit connecting the traditional sectors one and three, measures 3.543km, just marginally longer than Monaco but a lot faster than its Principality counterpart. Modern Formula One cars are expected to run a lap in less than a minute, and with 20 competitors on track, things could get a bit crowded - especially in qualifying.
Adapting to these quirks and reacting to the unpredictability that derives from them will be crucial. With plenty of chances to score in the final three races, the objective is to build on the positive results of the last few events. After scoring in three of the last six events and qualifying both cars in Q3 in Turkey, the team is moving in the right direction. In the lights of night or at twilight, on tracks long and short, we'll be ready to fight.
Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal: "The final stretch of the season is here: it's a crucial triple-header and there's still everything to play for. Of course, after such an intense year everyone is starting to feel a bit of fatigue and, with next season just around the corner, the temptation would be to look to the future already and lose sight of the objective at hand, but we cannot underestimate the task ahead of us in these final three races. We have shown in Turkey, with both Kimi and Antonio qualifying in the top ten, that we are moving upwards, and the run we had in the second part of the season, scoring in half the events we took part in, gives us confidence we can keep performing well. Bahrain is a track that promotes good racing and the novel layout for the second race is a big leap into the dark for all teams. We need to be prepared for everything, including a very messy qualifying session on the second week's very short layout, but I am confident we will be ready for the challenge."
Kimi Raikkonen: "We'll have a bit of everything in the next two weeks: we race on a circuit we all know so well, Bahrain, and then on a completely new layout we never used before. Racing on a new track is something we have done quite a few times this season so by now I would expect all teams to have a tried and tested approach to this challenge and therefore I don't think we'll have big surprises. Still, it will be interesting to see how racing goes on a fairly unusual layout. In the end, we will adapt very quickly to whatever the situation is and try to get the most out of the race weekend."
Antonio Giovinazzi: "I'm excited for the final three races of the season and I think we will have the opportunity to do well. I had a good race in Bahrain last year, just missing out on the points in only my second race back in the sport, and I generally feel good about the circuit. The layout we will race on in the second week is a bit more of a question mark: it's very fast and it's a very short lap, which should make finding space in qualifying a challenge. It'll be interesting to see how the grip changes from the parts of the track we use in week one to the new ones of week two: there will be a lot to learn but it'll be an interesting one."