Formula 1

Formula 1: Leclerc leads sensational 1-2 for Ferrari in Bahrain as Red Bull suffer late heartbreak

Featured Image Credit: @F1 Official Twitter

It was the perfect start for the season for Ferrari, Charles Leclerc took his first win since 2019, while Carlos Sainz lined up in 2nd after a late retirement from Max Verstappen. Lewis Hamilton inherited 3rd on the last lap as Perez also suffered a mechanical failure.

The 2022 season finally gets underway.

There was no pre-race drama, thankfully, meaning all drivers lined up ready to race. Every car, bar the McLarens, bolted on the soft tyres and the race was predicted to be a two-stop strategy.

It was a clean start as the lights went out with Leclerc and Verstappen storming away. Perez dropped back, losing a place to both Hamilton and the fast charging Magnussen. There was a huge gaggle of cars at the back of the grid and this led to contact between Ocon and Schumacher. Schumacher was the big loser, being completely spun around. This resulted in a 5 second penalty for Ocon. It was a less than successful opening for Bottas, who dropped 8 places on one lap.

Leclerc was able to break the DRS territory by the time it was activated and there was a gap forming between the two leaders and Sainz behind. A big lock up from Magnussen gifted Perez the opportunity to fight for 5th, which he was able to take after some superb side by side driving in sector 2. Magnussen’s woes continued as the Dane went far too deep into turn 1, giving Russell an easy overtake.

It look 10 laps, but Perez showed consistent pace to catch the back of Hamilton. After a decent run with DRS, the Mexican was able to take back 4th place.

Shockingly, Hamilton was the first to pit on lap 12, bolting on the hard tyre. Matters were made worse as Hamilton squirrelled through the first 2 corners, letting Zhou past. He would soon take the place back, but the tyre heating issues were incredibly apparent.

As the lower placed teams started their stops, no one followed Mercedes’ choice with the hard tyres.

There were plenty of overtakes during the first phase, proving that the long awaited upgrades were working.

The battle fans had been hoping for.

Verstappen and Sainz both stopped on lap 15, reportedly they had started the race on a used set of softs.

Leclerc pitted a lap later and the 3s gap to Verstappen was completely wiped out. Verstappen started the race on old softs, but now had a new set at his disposal. The opposite was true for Leclerc.

On lap 17, an absolutely superb battle for the lead started. Verstappen lunged into the first corner, taking the lead. But, Leclerc was able to fight back and retake 1st on the second straight. This was replicated for 3 laps in a row, with both drivers showing fantastic skill. But, the skill ran out for Verstappen as he locked up into turn 1, raising worries about the temperature of his tyres and brakes. Verstappen had to back off in order to cool down his overheating car.

Behind the excitement, Sainz was managing 3rd, but Perez was within touching distance, despite being on a harder compound tyre. On radio, Sainz requested looking into an unprecedented 3 stop race.

Lap 27 saw a new low for McLaren. Norris stopped for the hard tyre, leaving the Papaya cars 18th and 20th.

The action calmed during the middle part of the race, most drivers choosing to manage their tyres before their second, and potentially final, stop.

Clean second stops

Hamilton’s gamble for the hard tyre led to a very early stop on lap 28, not even half distance. Other cars on the mediums were going far deeper into the race.

Verstappen stopped for mediums on lap 31, forcing Leclerc to pit a lap later. While Verstappen did get close, it was not enough to immediately challenge for the lead.

Hamilton was carving his way back up the grid, taking 6th by lap 33, 9s behind Russell who was still nursing the hard tyres. Russell soon got out of the way by pitting, moving from 5th to 7th place.

After his stop, Magnussen dropped a place to Gasly. This led to a tidy battle and Magnussen showed his class with a smooth overtake in sector 2. His superb return was continuing with 7th place in his sights.

Alonso dropped out of the points as Tsunoda managed to edge his way past. Similarly to McLaren, Alpine would have surely expected more from their season opener.

It had turned quiet at the front. Leclerc had a 4s gap to Verstappen and both appeared to be holding out for the end of the race. But, Verstappen took a suprising 3rd stop with 14 laps to go. This placed him 3rd and 27s behind Leclerc, but crucially on the softer tyre. This pressured Sainz to stop, but the drama was not over yet.

Late race drama

Verstappen was reporting steering issues with his car and there were frantic replies from his team engineer. That was before the cameras cut to Gasly’s car in flames at the side of the track. A VSC was immediately called and this soon turned into a full safety car. The race seemed to be meandering to a close, but the paddock was thrust into action.

Leclerc was able to pit and keep the lead, but his gap had been diminished. The same with Sainz and Perez just behind. Verstappen’s car was still receiving numerous updates, the steering was reportedly hard, but stable.

It took a while for the stricken Alpha Tauri to get moved from the side of the track, but it still left 7 racing laps. All cars were now going to face the end on the soft tyre.

Leclerc had a superb restart, but the same could not be said for Verstappen who almost lost out on 2nd to Sainz. There was heartbreak for Schumacher as he lost a precious 10th place finish to Tsunoda on the restart. Alonso would add insult to injury with a superb overtake.

Leclerc set the fastest lap on the restart, gaining a second from Verstappen by the end of the lap. Sainz was waiting behind, just inside the DRS territory, but would have to wait until 2 racing laps had been completed. Sainz used it to full effect and took Verstappen on lap 54, but this was compounded as Verstappen lost all pace, having to limp to the pits. This elevated Perez to 3rd, but Hamilton was looking fiesty behind.

Suddenly, Perez was reporting a similar issue with a lack of power. With two laps to go, Perez was giving it everything to keep his podium hopes alive. But, Red Bull had a complete nightmare as his engine locked through turn 1, causing him to spin. Hamilton leapt to 3rd and the favourites, Red Bull would go home with no points at all.

Ecastic scenes at the Ferrari garage as they claimed the perfect result at the first race, cementing themselves as true championship contenders. The emotions were the complete opposite at Red Bull as a strong finish of 2nd and 4th had resulted in tragedy.

There were plenty of last minute moves up the grid, promoting Magnussen to 5th, Bottas to 6th and Zhou to 10th, a points finish on his Formula 1 debut.

Full Race Results:

  1. Leclerc
  2. Sainz +5.598s
  3. Hamilton +9.675
  4. Russell +11.211
  5. Magnussen +14.754
  6. Bottas +16.119
  7. Ocon +19.423
  8. Tsunoda +20.386
  9. Alonso +22.390
  10. Zhou +23.064
  11. Schumacher +32.574
  12. Stroll +45.873
  13. Albon +53.932
  14. Ricciardo +54.975
  15. Norris +56.335
  16. Latifi +61.795
  17. Hulkenberg +63.829
  18. Perez RET
  19. Verstappen RET
  20. Gasly RET

The first race held plenty of anticipation and somehow it managed to deliver with overtakes, superb racing and absolute drama right at the death. Ferrari have had the dream start with a huge points advantage over their nearest rivals. If Red Bull are going to fight back, they have a huge mountain to climb already.

Formula 1 is back.

Featured Image Credit: @F1 Official Twitter



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