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2022 Bahrain Grand Prix Rundown

13 mins read

In the weekend just gone, we watched the season opener of the 2022 F1 season, in which saw a very dramatic end to a very intriguing race.

Before we get into the review, it must be noted that Vettel had tested positive for COVID-19 during the week, and was replaced by Niko Hulkenburg.

We start, as we always do, in Q1, where we saw all 20 drivers out on track for their first competitive running in the new 2022 regulation cars. The session was filled with curiosity as to who would be the first to fall. Everyone had their suspicions, and these questions were answered, with the names of Latifi and Stroll in P20 and P19 respectively. Lining up on the grid on P18, was Ricciardo, not all too surprising considering the struggles McLaren were having in testing, and Practice, especially considering that Ricciardo himself, was just recovering from a positive covid test which took him out of pre-season testing. Hulkenburg took P17, showing that the Aston Martin’s were seriously lacking some pace. The final man to be knocked out was Tsunoda, who was unable to partake in Practice earlier that day due to a Hydraulic issue.

Moving into Q2, we saw the only debutant of the 2022 season, Zhou, qualify in P15, behind the returning Albon in P14. Norris was only able to manage P13, behind Schumacher, who had the best qualifying of his F1 career. The final driver to miss out on a Q3 appearance was Ocon, in P11, narrowly missing out by less than a tenth of a second.

Q3 saw the final 10 drivers head onto track to see who could claim Pole Position for the race. The one who was further away come the end of the session, was Gasly, just over a tenth of a second behind Russell in P9, who was unable to improve during his final flying lap after he lost a second by the end of the first sector. Alonso claimed P8, improving on his qualifying position from 2021. P7 was taken, impressively, by Magnusson, who only had one flying lap following hydraulic issues at the end of Q2. Bottas was able to claim an emphatic P6, allowing him to start alongside Hamilton, who was only able to claim P5, around 2 tenths behind Perez in P4. In P3, was Sainz, leaving the front row to be shared by Verstappen in P2, and Leclerc in P1, matching his highest qualifying result in Bahrain, back in 2019.

#16 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) claiming Pole on the opening weekend in Bahrain (Credit: formula1.com)

Race Report

Lining up on the grid, everyone had on a set of Soft tyres except the two McLaren’s, who had on the Mediums.

As the five light go out and the race begins, Leclerc gets off the line well and remains ahead of Verstappen by Turn One, but behind, Perez loses a place to Hamilton by Turn Two, and even falls behind Magnusson by Turn Four. Further back, Russell has progressed to P7, and Tsunoda has climbed to P12. The notable loser off the line was Bottas, who had dropped to P14.

It only took until the start of the second sector for the stewards to be involved, with Ocon leaving a wheel in on Schumacher through the twists of Turns Five, Six and Seven, sending the German into a spin. It must be noted that he caught the car beautifully despite dropping down the order. This was enough to give Ocon a five second penalty for causing the collision.

It takes until Lap Three for Perez to pass Magnusson going into Turn One, following a lock up for the Haas. A similar thing happens on Lap Five, allowing Russell to pass him at the same corner. By Lap Six, Bottas begins to climb his way back up the order, passing Schumacher for P13. Tsunoda is also able to make his way past the high flying Albon for P11. By Lap Nine, Bottas is able to pick off Albon for P12. On the following lap, Perez is able to pass Hamilton into Turn One.

It takes until just Lap 12 for the first driver to pit, that being Hamilton, who switches to a set of the Hard compound tyre. On exiting the pits, Hamilton looked as though he was driving on water, with his car unable to take Turns One and Two smoothly, which allows Zhou to pass him, putting the Brit down in P12. On the following lap, Alonso and Schumacher both pit onto the Mediums.

On Lap 15, both Verstappen and Sainz enter the pits, and put on another set of the Softs. On the following lap, both Leclerc and Perez pit, with the former putting on another set of Soft tyres, while Perez takes the Mediums. As Leclerc comes out of the pits, he finds Verstappen has closed the three second gap to under a second, and on Lap 17, Verstappen goes down the inside of Leclerc going into Turn One, however, Leclerc is able to retake the lead going around the outside at Turn Four.

On Lap 18, Max goes for the same move going into Turn One and is able to pull it off, but this time, Leclerc is able to go down the inside of the Red Bull at Turn Four. Onto Lap 19, and Verstappen hoped it was third time lucky, but instead, he goes down the inside of Turn One, locks his tyres, and allows Leclerc back past him by Turn Two.

On Lap 20, Hulkenburg is next to pit, after finally being able to pit following cooling his overheating engine. By Lap 23, Verstappen had fallen three seconds behind Leclerc as was in need of another pit stop strategy to get near the Ferrari. On Lap 26, Alonso enters the pits, putting on a set of the Hards. On the next lap, Alonso was able to pass Albon for P14, and by Lap 28, Hamilton entered the pits again for Mediums, returning to the track in P8.

On Lap 31, Verstappen enters the pits and puts on a set of the Mediums and returns in P4. Leclerc pits on the next lap, and is able to return to the track around a second ahead of Verstappen. On Lap 33, Hamilton is able to pass Magnusson for P6. On Lap 34, Perez follows Sainz into the pits, with the Ferrari putting on a set of Mediums, while the Red Bull puts on the Softs.

By Lap 37, the majority of the field have pitted twice, leaving the top 10 as Leclerc, Verstappen and Sainz on track for the podium, followed by Perez, Hamilton and Russell. This leaves Bottas and Zhou in P7 and P8 respectively, however both were yet to pit, leaving Magnusson in P9, and Gasly in P10. There was a worry on Lap 38, when Sainz was lapping Albon, with the two nearly colliding at Turn One. Luckily, they didn’t touch, but there were many in the Ferrari garage, and in the stands, that would have been breathless.

On Lap 41, Tsunoda was able to pass Alonso for P10, and on Lap 43, Norris pits and puts on the Softs. On Lap 44, Red Bull role the dice, and pit Verstappen and Perez, both for a set of Softs. On the next lap, Ferrari react, pulling Sainz in, also putting on Soft tyres. On Lap 46, Hamilton does the same, and Verstappen begins reporting heavy steering. A far more obvious issue can be seen, as Gasly is parked up just off Turn Three, with the back of his car on fire. Luckily, the driver is ok, but the incident causes a safety car. With this, everyone, bar Schumacher, pitting for newer Softs.

As the race gets back underway on Lap 51, Leclerc is able to surprise Verstappen on the restart, which allows Sainz to have a go at the troubled Red Bull going into Turn One. Verstappen is able to retain his position, and the top nine are able to hold position. Sadly for Schumacher, his older tyres leaves him vulnerable, and he finds himself dropping from P10 to P13 by Lap 54. Ahead, Verstappen begins to complain about another issue, saying his battery was on the blink. By Turn 11, Sainz was able to go down the inside of the Red Bull, and snatching P2 from the defending champion.

By the end of the lap, Verstappen was into the pits to retire, leaving all of Red Bull’s hope on Perez to save the day. Unfortunately for the Mexican, he begins reporting engine issues heading onto the final lap, and at Turn One, his engine cuts mid-corner, sending him into a spin, and retirement.

By the chequered flag, Leclerc had claimed his Third victory in 81 races, with Sainz behind to claim a One-Two for the Scuderia and Hamilton had kept his nose clean, bringing the car home to round out the podium. Behind, Russell claimed P4, with Magnusson claiming a truly fantastic P5 for Haas, followed by fellow Scandinavian, Bottas in P6. Tsunoda found himself in an Alpine sandwich in P8, ahead of Alonso (P9), and behind Ocon (P7). The final points paying position was claimed by the debutant, Zhou Guanyu, who put in an impressive performance, and should set a good foundation to build from throughout the season.

#16 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) on his way to covert his Pole Position to victory (Credit: motorsport.com)

My Driver of the Day goes to Leclerc, following a very competent victory, in which he also took fastest lap, meaning he comes away with the maximum 26 points, and a perfect start for himself and Ferrari.

The loser of the weekend have to be Red Bull. Despite McLaren’s very poor weekend, Red Bull going from a P2 and a P4, which would have brought home 30 points, to nothing due to mechanical problems is nothing short of unacceptable for the title challengers. They will hope to be able to sort out their issues come Jeddah, which starts on the weekend of the March 25.

Featured Image Credit: motorsport.com

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