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Leclerc hails 'dream' start for revitalised Ferrari

Charles Leclerc was ecstatic to lead home a Ferrari 1-2 in Bahrain, with the Scuderia winning their first race since the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc has returned Ferrari to the winner's circle in Formula 1, having held his nerve during a race-long duel with Red Bull's Max Verstappen. After weathering some mid-race attacks from the reigning World Champion, Leclerc was in control at the point when Verstappen encountered a mechanical issue that resulted in his retirement and Carlos Sainz inheriting second place. A beaming Leclerc said post-race that he was thrilled to have capitalised on the potential of the Ferrari package, as the team knew they were sitting on a big opportunity with F1's huge rules reset for 2022.

Leclerc on Ferrari's "incredible" return to the front

"[I'm] so happy!" Leclerc smiled as he climbed out of his Ferrari at the end of the race. "I keep repeating myself, but the last two years have been incredibly difficult for the team. We knew this was going to be a big opportunity for the team and the guys have done such an incredible job giving us and building this amazing car. "It's starting in the best way possible – pole position, victory, fastest lap and a 1-2 today with Carlos. We couldn't hope for better. "Thank you to all of you guys that kept supporting us in the past few years. It hasn't been easy, but it's incredible to be back at the front!"

Leclerc explains fending off Verstappen for the race lead

Leclerc had to go wheel-to-wheel with Verstappen on several occasions following the first round of pit-stops. The Dutch driver made use of the undercut effect to get within DRS range of the Ferrari after the stops, and managed to edge in front of the Ferrari into Turn 1 on two successive laps. But Leclerc held his nerve to fight back down the next straight, holding onto the race lead despite Verstappen's best efforts. "I was trying to be as clever as possible, using the DRS as much as possible," Leclerc explained about the battle. "I was trying to brake early at Turn 1 just to be behind him at the DRS detection point, and twice it worked out! "I took back my first position and I'm just incredibly happy that we made it work."

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