After the cooler, damp conditions of last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, the Formula One World Championship faces a complete change of scene.

We’re now at round three, the Bahrain Grand Prix, and teams have to face desert conditions where the temperature averages around 104 degrees F (40 degrees C) during the day. The good news for teams is that the race starts at twilight and finishes under lights, in order to avoid the extreme heat of the day.

The race is held at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir. It’s a mix of high-speed straights and hairpins with heavy braking. Engine performance, traction out of the corners and stability under braking make up the technical challenge here. The on-track battles are usually spectacular. There’s a lot of run-off, which encourages drivers to be inventive with their lines and their passing maneuvers.

Pirelli has nominated its supersoft, soft and medium compounds for the race. The range is necessary to cope with the changing temperatures and track evolution as the race goes from the warmer twilight period to the cooler night. Weather conditions are forecast to be fine for most of the weekend, though we could see some cloud cover during Sunday’s race.

In early practice on Friday, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was the fastest followed by the two Red Bull Racing men Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

Going into qualifying tomorrow and Sunday’s race, Mercedes AMG’s Lewis Hamilton and Vettel are tied for the lead spot in the 2017 Drivers’ Championship with 43 points apiece. Verstappen rounds out the top three with 25 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes leads with 66 points followed closely by Ferrari with 65, while Red Bull is in third with 37.

In other F1 news, McLaren has confirmed that Jenson Button will come out of semi-retirement to fill the seat of Fernando Alonso during May’s Monaco Grand Prix. As confirmed on Wednesday, Alonso will be competing in a McLaren-Honda-Andretti car in the 2017 Indianapolis 500 which clashes with the Monaco race.

We also have some bittersweet news to report on. The Malaysian Grand Prix will be dropped from the calendar after the 2017 season. The reasons for the race’s demise are dwindling ticket sales and high operating costs. The good news is that the German Grand Prix will return to the calendar, at least in 2018.