Updated: Mar 22
(Formula One on Twitter)
After one of the most exciting championship battles in Formula One history where Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing sat upon the throne in 2021. The 2022 Formula One World Championship came to the Bahrain International Circuit for the season opening race where Scuderia Ferrari finished one-two at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Charles Leclerc led the field to green as Verstappen matched his timing off the lights. Verstappen managed to out brake Leclerc into Turn 1, but Leclerc held the preferred line through Turn 2 and managed to keep the 2021 World Champion at bay and managed to escape DRS range by the end of the first lap.
As Leclerc pulled away, Verstappen complained about problems with engine braking on the car but still was just a few tenths off the leader's pace and by lap 10, Leclerc has a three second lead.
Lap 14 saw the first pit stops of the day as Verstappen and Sainz pitted for new soft tires as they started on used tires carried over from qualifying. Verstappen used the flying lap to close the gap, but Leclerc was able to maintain the lead. Three laps later, Verstappen was within DRS range and begun a three-lap battle for the lead. From laps 17 to 18, Verstappen used DRS down the front stretch of the Bahrain International Circuit to attempt a move to the inside of Leclerc going into Turn 1. Much like the initial start of the race, Leclerc had the preferred line going into two and was behind Verstappen in the DRS pickup zone which allowed him to make a pass to the inside of Verstappen going into turn four and control the lead until that point on the track again.
On lap 19, Verstappen did the same move as he used the last two laps but had a severe lock up of the front tires and Leclerc was able to move out of DRS range and once again establish a three second penalty. After another stop at lap 30 to switch to medium tires, Leclerc still had a sizeable lead over the flying dutchman.
On lap 46, the virtual safety car was deployed after Pierre Gasly stopped at the exit of Turn 3 after an engine failure that soon became an engine fire. Leclerc came into the pits for another stop to put a fresh set of soft tires on the car.
Lap 51 saw the race restarted but during the parade laps under caution, Verstappen complained of and increasing weight to the feeling of his steering wheel. Red Bull race engineers said there was nothing they could do and would be an issue for the rest of the race.
Those issues cost Verstappen the race as Leclerc rocketed out to a 5.5 second lead to take home a victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix. With Carlos Sainz finishing second. Lewis Hamilton rounded out the podium with 3rd place.
Verstappen complained of battery issues on lap 56 and was seen dropping back in the field and retired the car due to engine trouble. On the final lap of the race his teammate, Sergio Perez spun going into Turn 1. Causing the engine to seize and him not being able to finish the race.
As a pleasant surprise in the event, Haas F1 driver Kevin Magnussen finished fifth, giving the team ten championship points. Rookie driver Zhou Guanyu finished 10th in his first race in Formula One with his Alfa Romeo teammate Valtteri Botas also finishing inside the top ten.
Charles Leclerc - Ferrari
Carlos Sainz - Ferrari
Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes
George Russel - Mercedes
Kevin Magnussen - Haas
Valtteri Bottas - Alfa Romeo
Esteban Ocon - Alpine
Yuki Tsunoda - AlphaTauri
Fernando Alonso - Alpine
Zhou Guanyu - Alfa Romeo
Driver of the Day: Charles Leclerc
Fastest Lap: Charles Leclerc - 1:34.570
Ferrari came to play for round one of the 2022 Formula One season after spending much of the past two years seemingly stuck in the midfield battle. Bahrain is a power track on the circuit which bodes well for Sunday's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as it too is one of the fastest circuits on the schedule.
For Red Bull and AlphaTauri, I would be very nervous moving forward as there seems to be some durability issues with both teams and with a very short turn around the chances are higher that we may see some of the same issues next week.
If you are a Mercedes fan, I would not be hitting the panic button just yet. Even though they were off the pace in most practice session throughout the week, Hamilton seems like he is still a threat for the world title, and I would not be surprised if George Russel will be contending for wins as he is arguably still in the most competitive cars in the F1 paddock.
McLaren had he most disappointing weekend out of all the teams this weekend. It seemed like the talent of the drivers outshined the pace of the car as it seemed at times during the race that Williams was faster in head-to-head speed.
Team of the week has to be Haas F1. With a driver getting the highest finish for the team since 2018, it seems like the Americans are heading in the right direction. They could have had two cars score championship points as Mick Schumacher finished 11th
The next race for the Formula One season takes place on the fastest street circuit in the world in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Coverage will begin on ESPN March 27th at Noon EST.
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