Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc led the team to a spectacular Bahrain GP result, and Carlos Sainz took second place for a historical comeback
After setting the qualifying leaderboards on fire last week, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc led the team to a spectacular Bahrain GP result on Sunday evening, as teammate Carlos Sainz took second place for a historical comeback.
For much of the race’s 57 laps, Leclerc and reigning champion Max Verstappen duked it out, recording the evening’s two fastest laps respectively, followed by their teammates. Despite all the signs of a good (if not dominant) race, Red Bull’s hopes were dashed as first Verstappen, and then teammate Sergio Perez were forced to retire their cars before the final lap.
While Verstappen and Perez showed steady pace through the early half of the race, Red Bull’s team radio was soon flooded with complaints from both drivers, citing steering and power unit concerns. By lap 54, Sainz was able to close in and take out the champ’s 2nd place position after a close attempt 3 laps earlier, and the latter was soon forced to bring the car back in.
“Then suddenly my steering, I don’t know what happened to that, it was just completely locked and the faster I was going, I could barely steer,” lamented Verstappen. “First of all the balance was off. I didn’t have the same feeling as on Friday on the long runs, so that was a bit disappointing. “First of all the balance was off. I didn’t have the same feeling as on Friday on the long runs, so that was a bit disappointing.
Meanwhile, Perez, who still had P3 in his pocket, lost control of his car and spun out on Turn 1 of the final lap, giving the last podium place to Lewis Hamilton. “I was very unfortunate,” said Perez. “I lost the engine, just locked the rears completely and there was nothing I could do. It looks [like] a very similar problem to what Max had.”
As the 0-point finale resulted in legions of shocked and furious fans, several eyes turned to Red Bull Team Principal, Christian Horner, who confirmed Perez’ suspicions. “It looks like a similar issue on both cars. We don’t know exactly what it is yet, whether it’s a lift pump, whether it’s a collector, or something along those lines, but we’ve got to get into it and understand exactly what caused it.”
While the race day turned out as an unmitigable disaster for Red Bull, it was simply one of the finest performances delivered by Ferrari across the modern era of Formula 1 — and a much-needed kick in the pants for headliners Mercedes-AMG and, of course, Red Bull.
“It feels amazing,” said an exhilarated Leclerc after his 3rd-ever F1 win. “Obviously after yesterday it already felt great, but we had to finish the business today and we did a one-two – so it’s the perfect start to the season.”
Ferrari’s win flies in the face of everything the team has experienced in the last twelve years of Formula 1. Recently described as ‘outsiders’ by Team Principal Mattia Binotto, their now-broken winless streak of 45 grand prix is the second longest in their history – after a 59-race long drought faced in the early 1990s.
In good spirits, Leclerc also complimented Verstappen’s valiant, if doomed efforts in P2. “It was tricky; it was nice though. It was on the limit, hard racing. But we would always give each other space, which was nice, and following him into Turn 2 was a bit more predictable than what I expected compared to what I had last year, so this was good.”
It’s also amusing to note that Leclerc himself has faced a similar situation to the Red Bull pair – back in 2019, who was pulled into the pits for engine problems after a magnificent 1st place run, in his very second race for Ferrari at just 21 years old.
This incident was clearly still on his mind, as the now-championship leader made a joke at his engineers’ expense.
Leclerc added: “I think I did a bit of a joke on the radio on the last lap saying there was something strange with the engine, which gave a heart attack to some of the engineers… but everything was fine. So, very happy this time we brought it home.”
With four out of the top six cars powered by Ferrari engines, it seems like the minds at Maranello have much to be proud of as we get set for the 2022 season.
Despite a fairly lukewarm experience pre-race, Mercedes’ new poster boy George Russel seems to have proven his worth with a solid 4th place finish behind Hamilton, despite serious aerodynamics issues faced by the team, that they even joked about on social media:
While Mercedes will take home a bunch of points largely at Red Bull’s expense, that doesn’t mean that P3 and P4 were ill-earned. Performing spectacularly in his first true race for the Silver Arrows, George Russell showcased an outstanding P4 finish, ending just 1.5 seconds after the 7-time world champ.
Despite this, Russell remains grounded. Post-race, he shared details on how boss Toto Wolff viewed the race as a ‘live test’ — and that despite their good track record, Mercedes was on the back foot compared to their main rivals Ferrari and Red Bull.
Another standout performance from the midfield came from Haas. No longer held back by Nikita Mazepin, the team led with a stunning 5th place fight from Kevin Magnussen, and a team-best 11th place for Mick Schumacher.
This gave Haas 10 points in a single race – more than they have scored in the last two seasons combined.
“If you think about the last two years and then coming back like this, you cannot write a story like this in my opinion,” said Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner. “But the guys on the racetrack, for the last two years they had tough times but they kept their heads [down], learned, and the pit stops today were good, and everything was just fine.”
Meanwhile, fans took to Twitter with messages of post-race support and plenty of memes:
A few also called out Verstappen for swearing on the team radio, although let’s be honest, every racer would do it in these situations:
Red Bull will return seeking red next weekend, as Formula 1 heads to Saudi Arabia on March 25-27th, 2022.
(Featured Image Credits: FIA, Red Bull Oracle Racing)