Bahrain Grand Prix 2022 Race Review | Formula One Bahrain GP Race Results

Leclerc hands Ferrari first win since 2019

March 20, 2022

Charles Leclerc kicked off the 2022 F1 season in the best way possible for Ferrari as the Monégasque scored the Italian team’s first win since 2019. Leclerc’s Spanish teammate Carlos Sainz also gave the team the dream start to the season with a 1-2. 

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who was off the pace the entire weekend, took an opportunistic podium place for Mercedes. Hamilton’s new teammate George Russell came home fourth. 

Haas’ Kevin Magnussen scored a brilliant fifth on his F1 return. Valtteri Bottas, in his first outing for his new team Alfa Romeo, finished sixth ahead of Esteban Ocon in the Alpine and Yuki Tsunoda in the only AlphaTauri to finish the race. Two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso and debutant Zhou Guanyu rounded off the points places. 

The race was one that Red Bull would want to forget, with both of their cars failing to finish the race due to technical issues. For Mercedes, though, a podium and P4 finish is something they only would’ve dreamt off given their qualification on Saturday, but with Red Bull not scoring at all, the German team will leave Bahrain even happier.

Leclerc got off well from pole and held off a fast-charging Verstappen, while his teammate Sergio Pérez had a horror start, losing two places at the start with one of them being to Hamilton. Further down the grid, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon had a moment with the Haas of Mick Schumacher, which saw the Frenchman spin the young German. 

By the fifth lap, Leclerc and Max Verstappen were pulling away from Carlos Sainz in third place, while Hamilton was on the Spaniard’s heels. Race control, meanwhile, announced that it would be Esteban Ocon who would be picking up the first penalty of the season — a five-second penalty for causing a collision with Schumacher. 

It was a less-than-ideal start for the other midfield contenders of McLaren and Aston Martin, both of whom were struggling. McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, who had to take evasive action in the opening lap, lay P20 by Lap 10. 

Hamilton was the first to head into the pits, on Lap 12, with the Brit switching to the hard compounds, much to everyone’s surprise. He came out P11, but it was evident that the hard tyres weren’t the ideal one, with Hamilton lacking grip on his new set. Verstappen dove into the pits on Lap 15, which saw Sainz and Ocon both follow him. Race leader Leclerc came in the next lap for a set of mediums. 

Leclerc joined the track neck-and-neck with Verstappen, and it seemed like the Dutchman would take the spot from the Monégasque, but Leclerc wasn’t in the mood to yield and fought back to take the lead of the race again. Verstappen tried to sweep past Leclerc again heading into Turn 4, but Leclerc was having none of it and showed the Red Bull driver who the boss was. Verstappen tried the same move third time in a row in as many laps, but this time he had a massive lock up which not only allowed Leclerc to get comfortably clear but also saw Verstappen damage his tyres. 

Hamilton headed in for a second pit stop on Lap 28 when he and his team realised that the hard tyres weren’t helping him anymore and, emerging on the mediums, he was given the instruction that that was the pair he had to finish the race with. The very next lap, Verstappen was frantic on his radio to the team as he complained about his flat spotted tyres, and the reigning World Champion came in for a stop on Lap 32. He once again made his frustrations clear to his team as he told them about the fact that both his pit stops had seen him lose places. Ahead of the Dutchman, Sainz and Pérez both came in for the second stops as Leclerc led Verstappen by almost two seconds. 

After failing to go past Leclerc, Verstappen and his teammate both came in for a third stop on Lap 44 in an attempt to catch the Ferraris ahead on a fresher set. Ferrari immediately responded by bringing Sainz in but left Leclerc out. Verstappen continued his grouchy radio messages as he complained of a steering wheel issue. 

Lap 46 saw the first retirement of the season as AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly saw his car go up in smoke because of an overheating issue. The incident initially saw the Virtual Safety Car deployed, but later the Safety Car was deployed much to the joy of Ferrari, who pulled in Leclerc for a free stop and managed to keep track position. 

As the Safety Car came in and racing resumed on Lap 51, Verstappen was at it again, though this time he was desperately trying to hold on to P2 after complaining about a steering wheel issue that was hampering his charge for the win. 

An exhausting race, which was just getting worse for the Dutchman, finished in the worst way possible on the penultimate lap of the race as his car lost power on Lap 56. To make matters worse for Red Bull, Pérez also got on the team radio informing his team about similar power issues, and the veteran seven-time World Champion behind him wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass. Hamilton pushed the Mexican to the limit and eventually a culmination of power issues and a spin saw the only remaining Red Bull retire from the race too as Hamilton grabbed an unlikely podium spot. 

Up ahead, Leclerc led Sainz for Ferrari’s first win and first 1-2 since Singapore 2019, when Sebastian Vettel and Leclerc finished on the podium together. For Leclerc, it was his third career victory and winning in Bahrain would’ve been even sweeter given the result of the Bahrain race in 2019, where he led from his maiden pole and only lost the win due to a late technical issue. 

Ferrari showed the pace in testing and they weren’t messing about, taking maximum points available. The Scuderia are going to be serious contenders for the world titles this season and although Red Bull will leave Bahrain crestfallen, they still showed good pace and if they can fix their technical issues, they should be in the fight as well. For Mercedes, though, they know they got lucky in Bahrain and have a lot of catching up to do.

The new season has definitely gotten off to the best way possible, with racing looking much more intense, and it can only get better from now on. If Mercedes can get on top of their issues quickly, we are set to have a three-way title race. 

It’s all to play for as racing returns on March 27 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah. 

Aditya Chaudhuri

Hailing from the City of Joy, the things that bring me joy are cricket, a good non-tilt CS:GO session, F1 and movies.

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