Charles Leclerc and Ferrari
It was a perfect start to F1’s new era for Ferrari in Bahrain as Charles Leclerc led home teammate Carlos Sainz in the Italian outfit’s first victory since 2019. It also marked the first 1-2 Ferrari had achieved at a season opener since the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Ferrari executed a flawless strategy and both drivers delivered with fantastic drives to kick off the new season on a winning note. Leclerc demonstrated exceptional race management and judged his thrilling wheel-to-wheel dice with Max Verstappen perfectly to repass the Red Bull driver and retain his lead.
Sainz may not have had the same kind of pace as Leclerc in qualifying or the race but he was there when it mattered to pick off an ailing Verstappen and complete a famous result for the Scuderia, which leaves Bahrain with the lead in both world championships.
If you told Lewis Hamilton that he would end Sunday evening on the podium, there is no doubting he would have jumped at the chance.
Such a prospect seemed highly unlikely when it soon became clear early in the race that Mercedes simply did not have the pace to keep up with Ferrari and Red Bull – just as it had predicted after qualifying.
A late Safety Car brought Hamilton back into play by wiping out his large deficit to the cars ahead, though it appeared as though Sergio Perez had done enough to keep the seven-time world champion ay bay. But a slice of fortune fell Mercedes’ way when Perez suffered a suspected engine issue at the first corner on the final lap, gifting Hamilton third place.
Mercedes still needs to address its issues if it is going to be a title contender this year, but third and fourth was the best result it could have hoped for given its struggles in Bahrain.
Kevin Magnussen and Haas
Kevin Magnussen celebrated his unexpected return to the F1 grid in style with a stunning fifth-place finish for Haas.
The Dane finished two places higher than he started as he ended Haas’ points-scoring drought to score the American outfit’s best result since the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix. After a tough couple of seasons and a troubled start to 2022 off-track.
After finishing last with no points to its name in 2022, Haas now finds itself sitting third in the constructors’ standings after the first race. It remains early days, but it looks as though the team’s decision to prioritise its 2022 development has been vindicated.
Alfa Romeo left testing with reliability concerns but will be left delighted at how the season-opener unfolded in Bahrain as the Swiss-based outfit claimed a strong two-car points haul.
A terrible opening lap saw Valtteri Bottas tumble down the order as he looked to have undone his excellent display in qualifying, but the Finn, aided by a brilliant strategy and retirements, recovered to where he started to take P6.
Meanwhile, his rookie teammate Guanyu Zhou had an impressive F1 debut and worked his way up into the top 10 from 15th on the grid to secure the final point on offer.
Yuki Tsunoda bounced back from missing the whole of final practice and the disappointment of his Q1 exit with a strong drive on Sunday.
The Japanese youngster rose from 16th on the grid and battled his way up to eighth as he split the Alpine drivers to collect AlphaTauri’s only points and give the Faenza outfit a positive to take away from an otherwise frustrating Bahrain Grand Prix.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner described his team’s double DNF in Bahrain as a “worst nightmare” scenario as the team lost what appeared to be a guaranteed second and fourth place finish in the closing stages of the season-opener.
It was a disastrous start to F1’s new era as reigning world champion Max Verstappen suffered brake problems, steering damage and then a fuel-flow issue that caused him to fall to third and then retire in Bahrain.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Sergio Perez then spun out of third place at Turn 1 on the final lap with a similar issue – something Red Bull said it had never experienced before.
Red Bull’s performance will provide it with some solace, though it will need to solve the reliability worry quickly with a short turnaround before the next race in Saudi Arabia.
McLaren had a shocker of a weekend in Bahrain. Neither Lando Norris or Daniel Ricciardo were able to get into Q3 and their fortunes did not improve on race day, finishing a lowly 14th and 15th behind Alex Albon’s Williams.
At one stage, McLaren’s drivers were running as low as 18th and 20th. The MCL36 appeared to have no pace throughout and a terrible race ended up being little more than a data-gathering exercise.
Ricciardo and Norris’ final finishing positions were only boosted by the late retirements for Verstappen, Perez and Pierre Gasly.
It was a miserable race all told for Mercedes’ customer teams, as Mercedes-powered cars filled the bottom four positions of the classification in Bahrain.
Last place went to Nico Hulkenberg, who did a good job in Sebastian Vettel’s absence considering he has not raced in F1 for the best part of two years, while his teammate Lance Stroll headed the pack in a distant 12th.
Aston Martin’s AMR22 was well off the pace in both qualifying and the race, which turned out to be tedious affair with Stroll and Hulkenberg both required to lift and coast at various stages of the 57-lap event. A day to forget for Team Silverstone.