Charles Leclerc led a Ferrari 1-2 in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, while defending world champion Max Verstappen retired just two laps to the end of the race.

After a frantic finish to the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc scored his third F1 career victory – his first since 2019 as Carlos Sainz completed a Ferrari 1-2 with Lewis Hamilton taking a surprise third place finish.

After fending off repeated overtaking attempts from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who was racing second, Leclerc had remained in the lead for much the whole race.

But, in the closing minutes, a sequence of technical troubles erupted, first for Pierre Gasly, whose AlphaTauri caught fire, forcing a safety car, and then for Verstappen and his teammate Sergio Perez, who both had synchronised engine failures.

Following a late Safety Car period, Verstappen experienced engine difficulties and was passed by Carlos Sainz into Turn 11, before peeling into the pits and retiring three circuits later.

Red Bull’s first race of the 2022 season ended in disaster when both of its cars failed to finish, with Sergio Perez crashing out of third on the final lap after a freak spin into the first curve.

As a result, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton finished third, ahead of teammate George Russell, and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen finished fifth in his F1 comeback.

Mercedes had battled to keep up with its main opponents’ faster pace and appeared to be on track for a best finish of fifth or sixth until the late drama erupted.

Following a strong effort that included the fastest lap bonus point, Leclerc currently leads the world championship for the first time in his career, with Ferrari having a dream start to 2022.

Verstappen had the better start when the lights went out, but it wasn’t good enough to allow him to get by Leclerc into the first corner. In the Haas, Hamilton had better luck challenging Perez for third, and the Mexican lost a slot to Kevin Magnussen.

George Russell had moved up a position to eighth place, ahead of Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri and Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon of the Alpine team (who had collided with Mick Schumacher in turn 6, sending the Haas spinning and earning himself a five second penalty). Bottas, on the other hand, had a dreadful start, falling eight places to 14th.

On lap 3, Perez was able to recoup one of his two dropped positions thanks to a lockup for Magnussen. Russell then increased his pressure on the Dane, which was rewarded when the Haas went too deep into turn 1 at the start of lap 5, allowing him to overtake easily.

Meanwhile,¬†Leclerc was leading Verstappen by two seconds, and the two had begun to draw away from Sainz, who was fending off a DRS-enabled Hamilton, with Perez lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce if the opportunity presented itself. By lap 10, he’d had enough of waiting and decided to take matters into his own hands by passing the Mercedes, which was dealing with rear tyre wear at the time.

Bottas had started his comeback with a superb pass on Williams’ Alex Albon, which moved him up to 12th behind Yuki Tsunoda.

Guanyu Zhou, the rookie teammate, was quickly up to 13th, lowering Albon to 14th, ahead of Schumacher and the Aston Martin duo Lance Stroll and Nico Hulkenberg. The McLarens were in bad shape, with Norris in 18th place ahead of Nicholas Latifi and Ricciardo in last place looking totally lifeless.

Hamilton made his first pit stop on lap 12 for a pair of hard tyres, only to be surprised by how cold and low in grip they were. When he came out of pit lane, it forced him to squirm around turn 1, and as a result, he lost further positions to the two Alfas. “No grip on this tyre,” Hamilton confirmed over the team radio, unhappy.

By lap 20, Leclerc and Verstappen were eight seconds ahead of Sainz and Perez at the front. Hamilton had fallen behind the leaders but was now in fifth place, ahead of Russell, the only other driver who had switched to the hard tyres.

Magnussen, Gasly, Alonso, and Ocon completed the top 10, with Tsunoda still in 11th place ahead of Bottas and Zhou. In the meantime, Schumacher remained 14th, ahead of Norris, the only driver who had not yet taken a pit stop: on lap 26, he finally relented and came in for a set of hards, signaling that he was aiming for a one-stop strategy.

After not liking the feel of the medium tyres on the Alpine, Alonso was the first driver to make a second pit stop one lap later. On lap 28, Hamilton came in second, swapping from hard to medium tires and dropping to ninth for the time being.

On lap 31, Verstappen had a tyre change and chose the mediums, which he was warned to be careful with on the outlap or risk shredding.

Perez was the only driver in the top nine who chose soft tires, with the others opting for mediums. By lap 37, Leclerc had reclaimed a two-second lead over Verstappen, who was followed by Sainz, Perez, Hamilton, Russell, Bottas, Zhou, and Magnussen, with Gasly tenth on the hard compound, with Alonso and Ocon close behind.

Bottas and Zhou subsequently made their second stops, dropping to 12th and 13th place, just ahead of Stroll, behind Tsunoda. Leclerc had already lapped the remainder of the pack, including Schumacher, Norris, Hulkenberg, Albon, Ricciardo, and Latifi, with 20 laps remained.

On lap 44, Red Bull sent both drivers in for a final gamble and a change to a used set of softs, while Ferrari separated strategy, with Leclerc staying out and Sainz pitting. The back of Gasly’s AlphaTauri caught fire and came to a halt at turn 3, triggering the first safety car of 2022.

An anxious Verstappen was then on the Red Bull team comms with talk of a’heavy wheel,’ but there were bigger problems elsewhere as the back of Gasly’s AlphaTauri caught fire and came to a halt at turn 3, triggering the first safety car of 2022. After all, this allowed Leclerc to come to a halt while Red Bull worked on the issue with Verstappen’s RB18.

After a flurry of opportunistic pit stops, Leclerc led Verstappen, Sainz, Perez, Hamilton, Russell, Magnussen, Bottas, Ocon, and Schumacher ahead of Verstappen, Sainz, Perez, Hamilton, Russell, Magnussen, Bottas, Ocon, and Schumacher.

Tsunoda finished just outside the points, and all lapped cars were given the opportunity to reclaim their laps before the restart with six laps remaining.

Leclerc was able to take advantage of Verstappen’s steering issues to pull away, while Tsunoda was the sole driver to benefit from the scramble as the race resumed, beating Schumacher (who had not pitted for fresh tyres) to slip into the points.

The final act of Verstappen’s Sunday drama came to a head at the conclusion of lap 54: “What’s up with the battery?!!” he yelled over the team radio, to which the Red Bull pit wall responded with a solemn “It’s not the battery, there’s nothing we can do.” He limped to pit lane, his hopes shattered, as the car lost drive seconds later.

Perez was also on air, claiming that he was losing power; nevertheless, as Hamilton lined him up for a last-lap move and an unlikely podium, the Red Bull’s engine tragically seized, sending Perez tumbling out at turn 1.

Eventually,¬†Leclerc crossed the finish line to win, with Sainz gliding home in second to complete the Ferrari 1-2. Hamilton had snatched a stunning third-place finish, with Russell in fourth place. In fifth, Magnussen confirmed Haas’ bright new era, followed by Bottas, Ocon, Tsunoda, Alonso, and Zhou, with Schumacher just missing out.

2022 F1 BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX – RESULTS

POSDRIVERNAT.TEAMTIME
1Charles LeclercMONScuderia Ferrari57 Laps
2Carlos SainzESPScuderia Ferrari+ 5.598s
3Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team+ 9.675s
4George RussellGBRMercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team+ 11.211s
5Kevin MagnussenDANHaas F1 Team+ 14.757s
6Valtteri BottasFINAlfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen+ 16.119s
7Esteban OconFRABWT Alpine F1 Team+ 19.423s
8Yuki TsunodaJPNScuderia AlphaTauri+ 20.386s
9Fernando AlonsoESPBWT Alpine F1 Team+ 22.390s
10Guanyu ZhouCHNAlfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen+ 23.064s
11Mick SchumacherGERHaas F1 Team+ 32.574s
12Lance StrollCANAston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team+ 45.873s
13Alexander AlbonTHAWilliams Racing+ 53.932s
14Daniel RicciardoAUSMcLaren F1 Team+ 54.975s
15Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren F1 Team+ 56.335s
16Nicholas LatifiCANWilliams Racing+ 61.795s
17Nico HulkenbergGERAston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team+ 63.829s
18Sergio PerezMEXOracle Bull Racing+ 1 Lap
 Max VerstappenNEDOracle Red Bull RacingDNF
 Pierre GaslyFRAScuderia AlphaTauriDNF

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