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Charles Leclerc

Leclerc leads home Ferrari 1-2 after late disaster for Verstappen

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc won the season-opening Grand Prix in Bahrain, having engaged in a race-long battle with Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who retired within sight of the chequered flag.

Leclerc Verstappen Bahrain
To news overview © Red Bull Contentpool

Charles Leclerc has won the first race of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship, the Bahrain Grand Prix, having converted his pole position.

The Monegasque capitalised on Ferrari's much-improved F1-75 to hold his nerve off the line and maintain the lead into Turn 1, ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz.

The first stint of the race proved quite static at the front of the field, with only a brief battle between Red Bull's Sergio Perez and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton interrupting the top four in the early stages, as Leclerc opened up a gap of around three seconds over Verstappen by the time the first pit-stops rolled around.

But the battle escalated immediately after the first round of stops. Verstappen pulled in to take on a fresh set of Softs on Lap 15 of 57, with Leclerc following suit a lap later. The undercut effect proved hugely powerful, with Leclerc only just beating Verstappen into the first corner by the skin of his teeth.

Verstappen had no intention of sitting behind the Ferrari, though, and promptly overtook Leclerc down the main straight on the following lap. Leclerc made use of the DRS to immediately snatch the lead back, only for the exact same scenario to happen again a lap later.

With Verstappen locking up his front-right wheel into Turn 1 on his second attempt, this seemed to take some of the sting out of his attacks, and Leclerc settled down in the lead to start pulling away from the Red Bull again – increasing his lead back up to four seconds by the halfway point of the race.

On Lap 31, Verstappen pitted once again, this time for Mediums. Leclerc followed suit a lap later, emerging a second clear of the Red Bull.

Unable to get within DRS range for another attack attempt, a frustrated Verstappen got on the radio to yell at his engineer for being told not to push too hard on the outlap – the reigning World Champion clearly feeling an opportunity had been missed.

Result Race - Bahrain

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Red Bull roll the dice as the Safety Car is deployed

Red Bull, having been unable to get ahead of the Ferraris through the two stops, opted to pit both of their drivers again for a third time and roll the dice with another set of Softs. Verstappen and Perez pitted on Lap 43, with Sainz opting to respond to Verstappen's stop a lap later.

With Leclerc leading, around 30 seconds clear of Verstappen, the race was thrown into some chaos moments later as the Safety Car was deployed when AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly pulled over with his car on fire at the exit of Turn 3. This allowed Leclerc to make a free stop for another set of Softs, rejoining the track in front of Verstappen and Sainz.

With the AlphaTauri cleared, the race resumed at the end of Lap 50. But problems had arisen for Verstappen, as he reported issues with his power steering.

Verstappen appeared to be able to weather these initial gremlins as he kept up his pace, but then also reported a battery issue that was sapping his power as he drove down the back straight. This allowed Sainz a chance to overtake him, as Verstappen slowed and was forced to pull into the pits and retire.

Leclerc subsequently crossed the line to win Ferrari's first race since Sebastian Vettel's victory at the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix, with Sainz following him home to make it a Ferrari 1-2.

The final podium place went to Hamilton. Seeming to struggle with the same issue as teammate Verstappen, Perez had just started the final lap when his engine appeared to switch off going through Turn 1. This handed Hamilton third, as he salvaged a strong points position from his fifth-place grid slot.

The rest of the points finishers

Behind Hamilton, George Russell finished his first race as an official Mercedes driver in fourth, after starting from ninth.

Kevin Magnussen, who started seventh, crossed the line in fifth place on his surprise return to Formula 1 – also returning Haas to the points for the first time since the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix.

Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas finished sixth, the same as his qualifying result, but had to recover strongly after a dreadful opening lap saw him fall to 14th place. Esteban Ocon was seventh for Alpine, with AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda coming home in eighth.

Fernando Alonso was ninth in the other Alpine, with the final points place going to Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo) on his maiden outing in F1.

Also interesting:

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F1 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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