Charles Leclerc and Ferrari commenced the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship season with an emphatic statement after both captured a dominant victory in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit on Sunday, March 20.
The 24-year-old Leclerc from Monte Carlo, Monaco, who qualified on pole position on Saturday, took off with the lead at the start, led all but two of the 57-scheduled laps and benefitted from three strong, strategic pit stops to remain ahead of his front-runners en route to a victory over teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. under caution as Ferrari captured a 1-2 finish to commence their bid for this year’s championship battle.
The victory at Bahrian was the third of Leclerc’s Formula One career and first since winning the Italian Grand Prix in September 2019. In addition, Ferrari captured its first Grand Prix victory since the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix in September with Sebastian Vettel.
“It feel amazing,” Leclerc said. “It really feels amazing. After all the hard work, to do the pole yesterday felt good, but I had to finish the business today and to have a race win, especially with a one, two [finish] for the team, it feels absolutely incredible.”
“A victory’s always very, very special,” Leclerc added. “I definitely feel much grown as a driver compared to my victory in 2019. Here today, everything felt a bit more under control and it felt nice. Obviously, there were some tense moments on track with Max [Verstappen] after the first stop, with the Safety Car restart after that, but everything was managed well. It’s great.”
“So happy,” Mattia Binotto, Team Principal of Scuderia Ferrari, added. “I think we’re not expecting or hoping for such a good result at the end. It’s great to be here, to win and finally, a one, two [finish]. I think it has been, overall, a great team effort, great team result. Everyone worked very well. Both drivers did a fantastic race.”
Behind, Sainz, who qualified in third place, commenced his eighth full-time season in F1 competition by tying his career-best result of second place.
“I think it’s a great day for the team,” Sainz said. “It’s a massive day. I just need to say congratulations to everyone, to everyone back at the factory because you cannot imagine how much hard work there’s behind these results. These last two years, there’s been a lot of struggles, a lot of suffering and suddenly, to come back with a one, two, it’s something huge for Italy, for Ferrari. Great day. Time to celebrate and then, time to get our heads down and keep going.”
Rounding out the podium was Sir Lewis Hamilton as the seven-time F1 champion, who never contended for the victory but settled quietly near the top five, settled in third place for his 183rd career podium in Formula One competition.
“Honestly, I’m generally quite happy with today, given the struggle that we’ve had in the forms we’ve had,” Hamilton said. “I’m positive. I had a pretty decent lap in the end. I’m excited. I know it’s a long, long season. It’s easy to get down when you know that you can’t compete for wins, but just proud of the team. Proud of us all keeping our heads down. I know that this is the best team. We will huddle together, unite and fix whatever problems we have, and be back in the fight with these guys.”
While Ferrari celebrated their strong start to the season, Red Bull Racing, the reigning champions, were left disappointed after both Max Verstappen and Sergio “Checo” Perez retired late due to late fuel pump issue. Verstappen, the reigning champion, retired on Lap 54 of 57 after he fell off the pace due to his mechanical issues while running in second place, thus retiring in 19th place. Meanwhile, Perez, who had third place locked up on the final lap, spun through the first turn and just in front of Hamilton as he was unable to continue. With his late issues, Perez settled in 18th place as both competitors failed to record points for Red Bull Racing one race into the new season and in their bids to defend the drivers’ championship.
George Russell, Hamilton’s new full-time Mercedes teammate, came home in fourth place while Kevin Magnussen finished fifth in his return to Formula One competition following a one-year absence, thus scoring the first points for the Haas F1 Team since the Eifel Grand Prix in October 2020 with former F1 competitor Romain Grosjean.
Valtteri Bottas earned a strong sixth-place result in his first event with Alfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen followed by Esteban Ocon, Yuki Tsunoda and Fernando Alonso. Rookie Guanyu Zhou for Alfa Romeo completed the top-10 points-paying results by capturing his maiden point in F1 with a 10th-place result.
The first competitor to finish outside of the points was Mick Schumacher, who rallied from an early spin following contact with Ocon, in 11th place followed by Lance Stroll, Alexander Albon, Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris. Nicholas Latifi finished 16th while Nico Hülkenberg, who filled in as an interim competitor for Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel after Vettel tested positive for COVID-19, settled in 17th place.
Pierre Gasly settled in 20th place, dead last, following a late overheating issue to his AlphaTauri-RBPT under the final 15 laps.
1. Charles Leclerc, 26 points, 55 laps led
2. Carlos Sainz Jr., 18 points, two laps led
3. Lewis Hamilton, 15 points
4. George Russell, 12 points
5. Kevin Magnussen, 10 points
6. Valtteri Bottas, eight points
7. Esteban Ocon, six points
8. Yuki Tsunoda, four points
9. Fernando Alonso, two points
10. Guanyu Zhou, one point
11. Mick Schumacher
12. Lance Stroll
13. Alexander Albon
14. Daniel Ricciardo
15. Lando Norris
16. Nicholas Latifi
17. Nico Hülkenberg
18. Sergio Perez – Retired
19. Max Verstappen – Retired
20. Pierre Gasly – Retired
Following the first event of the 2022 F1 season, Charles Leclerc leads the drivers’ standings by eight points over teammate Carlos Sainz Jr., 11 over Lewis Hamilton, 14 over George Russell, 16 over Kevin Magnussen and 18 over Valtteri Bottas.
In addition, Ferrari leads the constructors’ standings by 17 points over Mercedes, 34 over Haas Ferrari, 35 over Alfa Romeo Ferrari and 36 over Alpine Renault.
Next on the 2022 Formula One schedule is Jeddah Corniche Circuit for the second running of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, which will occur on Sunday, March 27.