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Leclerc leads Ferrari 1-2 in the season opener as Verstappen retires

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Formula 1 Bahrain
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Charles Leclerc wins the Bahrain Grand Prix in commanding style as he fended off fast-charging but unlucky Max Verstappen

Qualifying on Saturday saw the trio of Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, and Charles Leclerc battling for pole position. Sainz overcame his struggle in practice to score a brilliant provisional pole but failed to improve his second lap. Verstappen and Leclerc went neck-and-neck on the split until a mistake from the reigning World Champion saw the Monegasque taking pole by 0.123s.

 

Leclerc vs Verstappen

Leclerc made a good start from pole position, and the top 3 stayed as-is for the first ten laps. At the start, Perez was overtaken by Hamilton and Magnussen but managed to repass both cars before the first pit-stop. Verstappen pitted on lap 16 for soft tires as he attempted to undercut the race leader Leclerc. The Monegasque followed suit a lap later to cover the Dutchman. He came out of the pit just ahead of Verstappen.

Verstappen had warm tires and battery deployment, which helped him scream past Leclerc at Turn 1. But the latter repassed at Turn 4, with the help of DRS. The pair went wheel-to-wheel again the next lap with the same outcome. Verstappen became impatient and lunged down the inside of Leclerc at Turn 1, but he overshot the corner and allowed the Monegasque to build a gap again.

The second round of pitstop for the leaders was again initiated by Verstappen on Lap 31, pitting for Medium tires. This time Leclerc came out of the pits with a much more comfortable gap to Verstappen. The Dutchman was furious on the radio about the team’s instruction to take a slow out-lap for both pit stops and thus failed to get the lead.

Verstappen enjoyed a free pit-stop on Lap 44 for a set of soft tires, hoping to catch Leclerc in the last laps, just like the 2021 French GP. Unfortunately for Verstappen, Leclerc enjoyed his time on the Medium set of tires and was willing to go to the end of the race.

 

Red Bull Powertrains woes

Things were straightforward until lap 48 when Pierre Gasly became the first victim of an engine failure and retired from the race. The Safety Car was deployed, and all 19 drivers restarted with a set of soft tires. Simultaneously, Verstappen was enduring a power steering issue that later turned into a power unit failure shortly at the restart and forced him out of the race. Things turned from bad to worse for the Red Bull Powertrains when Perez’s engine gave away on the final lap while battling with Lewis Hamilton for the final podium place.

 

Leclerc emotional win

Leclerc lead home a sweet 1-2 for the Ferrari, marking the comeback of the Italian squad. Mercedes and Hamilton enjoyed a thrilling podium after the Red Bull’s mishaps. Kevin Magnussen was brilliant the whole race. He stayed in striking distance of George Russell and finished 5th for Haas. Both Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou had a software failure at the start, which dropped them to the back of the field. However, both had excellent race pace and climbed back to the points. The last six positions were all covered by Mercedes customer teams, signaling a difficult season ahead for them.

Full results here.

 

What’s next?

The 2022 Formula One season started with high hopes and expectations from the new regulation. If the dramatic season opener indicates anything, we might be in for an even better treat than the 2021 edition. Stay tuned for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on March 27.

 

We hope you enjoyed the article ‘Leclerc leads Ferrari 1-2 in the season opener as Verstappen retires.’ What was your favourite moment from the Bahrain Grand Prix? Let us know!

 

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