As the pair prepare to duel again under the lights in Sunday’s 57-lap race there is a growing sense that Ferrari can genuinely challenge Mercedes for the 2017 Formula One world title.
“Ferrari have done a great job catching up with Mercedes and it’s great to see Ferrari winning races,” Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean told CNN.
“I’m biased because I want Ferrari to win for the fans, for F1, for everyone but I think it could be a great battle.”
Bahrain has been a happy hunting ground for Grosjean who has finished on the podium twice for Lotus and last year he recorded Haas’ best F1 result finishing fifth in a race won by Mercedes Nico Rosberg.
This season’s rivalry between Mercedes and Ferrari has been welcomed in the F1 paddock and by fans following three years of dominance by the German team.
Even Lewis Hamilton is relishing the battle — “I love this fight that we are having,” the Briton said after embracing Vettel in parc ferme last weekend.
‘It’s more exciting racing another team’
Hamilton comfortably kept the Ferrari challenge at bay, winning by six seconds in cool, damp conditions at the Shanghai International Circuit.
But Bahrain is a different proposition.
“I think Ferrari have shown tremendous pace and I think obviously in the first race, particularly in race trim, they’re very, very quick, particularly on the hotter circuit,” Hamilton told reporters on Thursday.
“So, being that it is a hotter race here I think the gap is going to be even closer, if not different that to perhaps it was before, but we shall see.
“It’s more exciting racing another team, very much like I experienced in 2007 and 2008,” Hamilton said, referring to the title battle with Ferrari during his time at McLaren.
Grosjean’s aims will be more modest as he tries to track down for his first points of the year in Bahrain.
It’s a circuit he enjoys driving — he has finished on the podium twice for former team Lotus and 12 months ago he notched his and Haas’ best F1 result to date.
“It’s always super exciting to come here, you know I had that fifth place last year, as well as the podium here in 2012 and 2013,” the 30-year-old says.
“(The circuit layout requires) big braking which I enjoy and it’s always a fun race, so I’m looking forward to going on track.”