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Charles Leclerc must end an ominous trend

Charles Leclerc earned his first win since 2019 in the 2022 Formula 1 season opener. Now he will look to end an ominous trend.

Charles Leclerc proved that Ferrari’s preseason pace was no fluke, delivering a dominant Bahrain Grand Prix victory to open up the 2022 Formula 1 season at Bahrain International Circuit on Sunday. Teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. finished in second place after a late fuel pump issue caused Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to drop out of contention.

Leclerc took the pole position for the 57-lap race around the 15-turn, 3.363-mile (5.412-kilometer) road course in Sakhir, Bahrain on Saturday, and he led 55 laps en route to his third career win. While Sainz spent much of the race in third place, he led the other two laps during pit stops.

The win was Leclerc’s — and Ferrari’s — first since victory 2019. Prior to Sunday, his last win had come in the 2019 Italian Grand Prix at Monza, and the Scuderia’s last win had come in the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay Street Circuit with Sebastian Vettel in what was a 1-2 finish with Leclerc in second place.

But the 24-year-old Monegasque will now be looking to end an ominous trend for recent winners of season-opening races.

The last five winners of season openers have gone on to finish in second place in the world championship standings.

Not since the 2016 season, when Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg won the season’s first four races to cap off a seven-race winning streak, has the winner of the season opener gone on to be crowned world champion.

In 2017, Vettel won the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit. Eventual champion Lewis Hamilton placed second for Mercedes. The same exact result occurred at the same venue in 2018, and the title battle ended the same way.

In 2019 at the same track, Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes their first season-opening win since 2016, with Hamilton in second place for the fourth straight year. But Hamilton went on to defeat his teammate in the championship battle.

Bottas won the 2020 season opener as well, this time at the Red Bull Ring in the Austrian Grand Prix after the schedule received a massive overhaul due to COVID-19-related restrictions. He went on to finish in second place in the title battle once again, and once again, he finished behind Hamilton, who finished the season opener in fourth.

Last year, Hamilton finally earned his first season-opening win since 2015 in Bahrain. But for the first time since 2016, he failed to win the title, as Verstappen, who finished the season opener in second place, went on to claim his first championship to cap off an all-time great title battle.

So can Leclerc become the first driver to win the opener and the world championship in the same season in the last six years? The 23-race 2022 season’s second race, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, is scheduled to take place on Sunday, March 27, and it is set to be broadcast live on ESPN beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET. Be sure to start your free trial of FuboTV, and don’t miss any of the action.

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