With the first race of 2022 in the books, the Bahrain GP gave a good account of what to expect in the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship. The new regulations seemed to have done their job to help closer racing. We also have a first look at who may be involved in the championship battle in the races to come.
Ferrari and Red Bull once again showed their pace, especially relative to the Mercedes. McLaren really struggled to get anywhere, and Haas put in a good showing with Kevin Magnussen proving why they brought him back for this season, while Mick Schumacher almost got into points positions.
The start of the race saw movement in the field with Valtteri Bottas falling down the order after a bad start, Magnussen getting himself up into fifth, Daniel Ricciardo falling to last place. Sergio Perez falling to sixth behind a good start from Lewis Hamilton who got up to fourth, while Pierre Gasly and George Russell both went up two places. Zhou Guanyu and Lando Norris losing out by three places, and Yuki Tsunoda along with Alex Albon gaining places.
Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen were increasing their lead slowly over third placed Carlos Sainz, while within five laps from the start both Russell and Perez had got past the Haas of Magnussen.
By lap eight Bottas had started making his way up the field again by getting past the Williams of Albon.
Coming into the pits on lap thirteen, Hamilton made the switch to the hard tyres, with Mercedes attempting to go long as they did not have the raw pace to keep up with Ferrari or Red Bull. A couple of laps later, Russell Came into the pits and went out on the same tyre.
On lap seventeen, Verstappen made a move into turn one on Leclerc for the lead of the race, however Leclerc got the lead back into turn four, using the DRS in the rundown to turn four to gain the lead back. The following lap, the same thing happened in what was a brilliant bit of racing. Then the lap after that, Verstappen tries the move again into turn one and this time locks up his front right tyre, causing him to end up dropping back a little, giving Leclerc a larger lead.
At the end of lap 30, Verstappen came into the pits for the second time to undercut the Ferrari of Leclerc. Leclerc came into the pits the lap after, with both drivers on the mediums. It presented an opportunity but were not able to make it happen. In a radio message it turned out Verstappen took it a bit easier on the out lap, which may have cost Red Bull the chance to make the undercut successful.
Russell ended up on the medium tyre after pitting six laps later than Hamilton who also changed to the medium tyre on lap twenty-eight. A lap later Magnussen stopped again to go onto the mediums and remained in the top ten which also put Russell back up into sixth.
On Lap forty-six, the Alpha Tauri of Gasly failed, taking him out of the race, this brought out the safety car. This brought on drivers pitting for fresh tyres to go to the end of the race.
The safety car then ended at the end of lap fifty. The restart had Sainz go after Verstappen down the main straight into turn one but the dutchman had it covered and emerged still in second place. This gave Leclerc the opportunity to build a gap over one second, giving the Ferrari driver an advantage.
The following lap Zhou managed to overtake Mick Schumacher, whose restart was lacklustre, this putting Zhou up into twelfth.
With Leclerc building a gap to Verstappen, the Red Bull driver was able to keep Sainz at bay for a lap or so. However, come lap fifty-four, Verstappen started losing power which gave Sainz the opportunity to take second place with just three laps to go.
Verstappen ended up having to retire by the end of the lap and needed to go into the pits to retire the car. A massive disappointment for Red Bull and Verstappen who were on track for a sure-fire podium finish. Worse was to come for Red Bull when on the final lap, the Red Bull of Perez lost power and Perez spun out of turn one and had to retire on the final lap.
This all allowed the Mercedes of Hamilton to get up into third place which at the beginning of the race seemed unlikely for them but with both Red Bull cars out of the race it allowed Mercedes to pick up even more points than they expected. It also gave Magnussen and Bottas fifth and sixth respectively. Zhou also benefited from this with the two retirements meaning he finished in tenth, picking up his first point in Formula 1 on his debut.
Ultimately though it was Charles Leclerc who drove a great race, which gave him the win at the Bahrain GP, with Sainz coming home to get the one-two for Ferrari, their first win since Singapore in 2019 which was a one-two on that occasion as well.
With Ferrari back looking like proper championship contenders once again, Red Bull still in that fight even after the retirements in the race, and Mercedes ready to bring the upgrades in future races to make it a three-way fight. It could be one of the best seasons of Formula 1 we have seen. The beginning of the championship battle will continue at the Saudi Arabia GP.
Bahrain GP Results:
1st - Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
2nd - Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
3rd - Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
4th - George Russell (Mercedes)
5th - Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
6th - Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)
7th - Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
8th - Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri)
9th - Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
10th - Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo)
11th - Mick Schumacher (Haas)
12th - Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
13th - Alexander Albon (Williams)
14th - Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
15th - Lando Norris (McLaren)
16th - Nicholas Latifi (Williams)
17th - Nico Hulkenburg (Aston Martin)
DNF - Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
DNF - Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
DNF - Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri)