Race winner Charles Leclerc and team-mate Carlos Sainz gave Ferrari the perfect start to the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship by delivering the Scuderia’s first one-two finish in almost three years at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Leclerc put in a polished performance to cross the line to claim his first win since Italy 2019 after leading the race from the start, while Sainz claimed second place and his seventh career podium finish in a dramatic final sequence of laps that saw defending world champion Max Verstappen and Red Bull team-mate Sergio Pérez exit the race. Verstappen was forced to retire from the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix after suffering steering issues, while Pérez suffered an engine-related spin that robbed him of second place just a lap from the chequered flag.
When the lights went out at the start, Verstappen made a good start from the front row but ahead of him pole sitter Charles Leclerc also got away well. And the as the pair went into Turn 1 the Ferrari driver managed to hold onto the lead despite pressure on the outside from Verstappen .
Behind them, Pérez made a good start but to his left Carlos Sainz bogged down slightly. And as the Ferrari driver clawed his way up to speed he moved across to defend against Pérez’s charge. The Red Bull was forced to the inside line and as the field flowed through Turn 1 Pérez lost places to Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.
The Mexican was soon on the attack though and on lap three he closed up to Magnussen who had locked up at Turn 4. The Danish driver’s mistake allowed Sergio to pass with ease and he began to chase down Hamilton. Pérez was on the seven-time champion’s gearbox on lap nine and with the aid of DRS he muscled his way past the Briton into Turn 4 to return to fourth place.
At the front, Leclerc began to draw away from Verstappen as the opening stint developed and by lap 13 the Monegasque driver, who started the race on new softs, was almost six seconds ahead of Verstappen , who began on used tyres.
Red Bull then pitted the world champion on lap 14 and the undercut proved powerful. Leclerc made his first stop at the end of the following tour and when he rejoined Verstappen was right behind the Ferrari.
Verstappen attacked on lap 17 into Turn 1. He passed the Ferrari, but with following easier in the 2022 cars, Leclerc immediately fought back, retaking the lead in Turn 4. Verstappen stayed close and attacked again in the same place on the following lap. But despite once again getting past the Ferrari in Turn 1, Leclerc again stole back the lead in Turn 4. Verstappen tried once again on the next lap, but this time he locked up on entry and Leclerc was able to comfortably hold his lead.
Behind them, Sainz was being pushed hard by Pérez who took medium tyres in his first pit stop. After the action at the start of the stint, the remainder of the second phase of the race counted down without any significant movement at the front.
Verstappen made his second pit stop, for medium tyres, on lap 31, again seeking the undercut, but once again Ferrari reacted and thanks to a quicker pit stop the Italian squad managed to get the Leclerc back out in the lead, with Verstappen also complaining that he had gone too easy on his tyres on his out lap.
Sainz and Pérez made their second visits to the pit lane at the end of the next tour and the Red Bull driver went for a second set of softs in order to attack Sainz who had moved to medium compound Pirellis. But though Pérez was the fastest man on the track for a spell, Sainz was able to hold position and as the laps counted down Pérez’s times began to fade.
Behind the leading quartet, with 20 laps remaining, Hamilton held fifth place, though the Briton was almost 15 seconds behind the Red Bull driver. The Mercedes driver’s new team-mate George Russell was sixth and Kevin Magnussen in the surprise package Haas was seventh ahead of AlpaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, the Alpine of Esteban Ocon and the second AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda.
Red Bull brought both Verstappen and Pérez in for a third stop on lap 44 and both took on soft tyres. That dropped Verstappen behind Sainz and Pérez fell to fifth behind Hamilton. However Ferrari reacted by pitting Sainz, while Mercedes brought Hamilton in. That boosted Pérez back to fourth place behind Sainz. Leclerc stayed on track to maintain position at the head of the field. It was at this point that Verstappen began to complain of heavy steering.
On lap 46, Gasly pulled over at the side of the track just after Turn 3 with the rear of his AlphaTauri on fire. The safety car was deployed and Leclerc pitted. Verstappen , meanwhile, was continuing to struggle but despite his difficulties the champion stayed out on track as the Safety Car picked up the race leaders, who were now closely bunched with 10 laps to go.
When the safety car left the track Verstappen’s problems were compounded as he reported he felt that he was also losing battery power. His engineers informed him that it was not a battery issue but the champion continued to lose ground. On lap 55 he slowed dramatically and the field swept past as he limped to the pit lane to retire.
Pérez moved up to third place and initially the Mexican driver was able to hold off Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. But then with just two laps to go the Mexican radioed the Team to say he was losing power. Hamilton closed on and at the start of the final lap Pérez spun in Turn 1. “I lost the engine,” he yelled as Hamilton powered past.
Behind the top three of Leclerc, Sainz and Hamilton, Russell took a well worked fourth place after starting ninth. Magnussen claimed fifth place for Haas, with Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas in sixth ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, and the second Alpine of Fernando Alonso. Alfa Romeo rookie Guanyu Zhou took 10th place to score a point on his Formula 1 debut.
2022 FIA Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix – Race
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 57 1:37'33.584
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 57 1:37'39.182 5.598
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 57 1:37'43.259 9.675
4 George Russell Mercedes 57 1:37'44.795 11.211
5 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 57 1:37'48.338 14.754
6 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 57 1:37'49.703 16.119
7 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 57 1:37'53.007 19.423
8 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Red Bull 57 1:37'53.970 20.386
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine/Renault 57 1:37'55.974 22.390
10 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 57 1:37'56.648 23.064
11 Mick Schumacher Haas/Ferrari 57 1:38'06.158 32.574
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 57 1:38'19.457 45.873
13 Alexander Albon Williams/Mercedes 57 1:38'27.516 53.932
14 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren/Mercedes 57 1:38'28.559 54.975
15 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 57 1:38'29.919 56.335
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 57 1:38'35.379 1'01.795
17 Nico Hülkenberg Aston Martin/Mercedes 57 1:38'37.413 1'03.829
18 Sergio Pérez Red Bull 56 - 1 lap
19 Max Verstappen Red Bull 54 - 3 laps
10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Red Bull 44 – Retirement