Mark these words. the Bahrain GP of 2022 is a classic that will be remembered for years to come. This was Charles Leclerc in a league of his own breaking Ferrari’s 911 day win-less streak. There were THREE RedBull DNFs and the only Redbull driver to finish was Yuki Tsunoda! We witnessed many firsts today, but we won’t just list them out here in statistical format, oh no- we will be telling a story today. So sit back and relax, and enjoy the story of the 2022 Bahrain GP- for it is one for the ages!
The Start and the Initial Few Laps
97 days of waiting came to an end today, as we saw the drivers take their positions on the starting grid for the first time since Abu Dhabi last year. The drivers set off on their formation lap, and slowly drove into their grid slots as they prepared to start the race. The green flag was waved, it was lights out and so were the drivers!
Leclerc initially did not get a great launch just like his rival and reigning champion Verstappen who was alongside the Ferrari driver on the front row. Sainz meanwhile held on to P3, while Lewis got an amazing launch, moving up into P4. Yes! A Mercedes moving UP into P4 was a highlight. As we said before, this was a race unlike any other we have seen in the past many many years.
Hamilton’s ex-teammate Bottas had a poor launch from 6th on the grid, and dropped back 8 places! Schumacher meanwhile was spun around by Ocon, while Russell made up 2 places at the start. Zhou (pronounced Joe) dropped to last place by the end of Lap 1, while Hulkenberg went from P17 to P15. The field was also very bunched up going into the tight Turn 9 on Lap 1, showcasing that these new cars really do improve the racing and help in bunching up the field!
Magnussen looked very racey, even battling Perez and Hamilton in the early stages and overtaking Perez who had a very bad start dropping down behind Hamilton and K. Mag in P6. Eventually though, Magnussen fell back. Perez and Hamilton then battled, with the Mexican getting past with enough ease to finally confirm to everyone that Mercedes really aren’t sandbagging and have a LOT of catching up to do.
The Pitstop Phase and Mid-Race
Lewis was one of the first to pit on lap 12 and did not have a great pitstop at the calibre we have come to expect of Mercedes. The stop was around 3.5 seconds with the heavier 18″ wheels and this time was quite behind the entirety of the grid that averaged around 2.8 seconds per stop. Lewis’ pit exit was exciting as well, as he came out on the least gripping tyre – the hard compound tyre. He squirmed his way back onto the racetrack and was overtaken by Zhou in the process. He did re-overtake the Chinese driver but lost quite a lot of time in the process. As Toto said at the end of the race, they were basically still in testing phase with that tyre and the hard tyre was like “putting your hand down the toilet.” Or did he say head?
Verstappen and Sainz pit a lap before their teammates and got the undercut advantage as they were a lot closer to them after the pitstops than they were before the stops. Leclerc and Perez pitted a lap later, and hence lost out a bit. Perez was the only one out of the top 4 to stop for mediums while Sainz, Verstappen and Leclerc all opted to run the softs a second time. Leclerc may have lost out but we as viewers certainly didn’t lose out, for we witnessed one of the best battles of the race and that too for the lead!
The battle between Max and Charles went on for a few laps, as we saw sparks fly and the rivalry pushed to its limits, but that was until Max locked up going into Turn 1 giving the advantage to Charles in the process. The battle was reminiscent of their superb battle at Silverstone back in 2019, where they stayed just within the limits of what was fair and what would be deemed illegal! Mercedes meanwhile were just settling into the rhythm, trying to salvage whatever they could. They fell back from Perez in P4, while the gap between Lewis and George was about 5 seconds and increasing.
Charles V. Max was expected to end in a pile of broken cars but it was amazing racecraft from both the young talents. Charles was asked before the race that everyone is supposed to yield to Max for his aggression as he is known for it to which Charles replied “so am I.” Without any question, Charles did not even flinch with Max on his tail and Ferrari’s dominance and 2 years of frustration was visible in how well Charles managed the overtakes and got the feat.
Ferrari got onto the radio and told Charles that the wear was lower than they expected and also lower than what Verstappen was facing, which was in itself a testament to how good of a car Ferrari have built this year! The top 4 again pitted, as the race now settled into a rhythm. The battle between Alpha and Alfa took center stage, as Bottas wrung every bit of pace out of his Swiss chariot in his attempts to get past the Japanese missile of Tsunoda.
Max’s high tyre deg forced him to make a third stop, and he pitted for the softs. He was followed by Sainz and Perez, but here’s when the F1 gods decided to breathe some unpredictability and drama into the race, as we were given a slight deja-vu from a certain Bahrain race from 2 years ago.
A Frenchman’s Car On Fire at Bahrain Turn 4 (again)
It might be something with the Frenchmen and Turn 4, though this time it was far less dramatic and the driver escaped without any injuries. Gasly’s AlphaTauri Honda ground to a halt after losing the will to continue going the full race distance. The rear of the car erupted into flames, forcing him to stop by the side of the track. And for the first time in the race, the new red and beautiful Safety Car made its way onto the track! This prompted all those who had stayed out to pit for fresh soft tyres, which included race leader Charles Leclerc.
The cars then slowly filed into a neat line behind the Safety Car, which was going really slow for Charles’ liking! We then saw a message pop up on our screens which had caused immense controversy the last time F1 was held.. need I mention more? It was the same “Lapped cars to overtake the Safety Car” message which had caused immense outrage and backlash at Abu Dhabi, but only this time it meant all lapped cars would pass the Safety Car instead of just a select few!
Around this point Max was suffering from steering issues which limited his attacking capabilities massively, the team also coming on the radio to tell him that the problem wouldn’t improve. The Safety Car was called in immediately once the last lapped car passed the SC, and we were gearing up for some dramatic racing in the dying stages of the race. But we sure didn’t expect what was to come next!
The Safety Car Restart and Final Few Laps
As the drivers were gearing up for the restart, we were onboard with Max and could visibly see how he was struggling with his steering wheel. Charles caught him by surprise, darting out midway through the last corner and leaving the Dutchman in his wake. As explained by Max after the race, his power steering stopped working and there was a latency delay to when he’d turn the steering and when the front axle actually turned. Carlos looked to be squaring up a move on Max too as was Lewis prepping up on Perez. None could make it stick. They needn’t have worried about not being able to make the overtake though!
After defending for a few laps, on Lap 55 car number 55 of Sainz (coincidence?) got past Max in the second DRS zone, and made it a Ferrari 1-2! It looked like Max would now finish P3 with teammate Perez in P4, but unfortunately a few corners later it all fell apart for the Dutchman, who slowed down and was forced to retire. A disappointment for Red Bull, but at least they still had Perez in the running, right? Right? Well, about that….
Starting the last lap, we were broadcast a radio message of Sergio telling the team that he was “losing power”. Approaching Turn 1, we assumed that it was nothing which would stop him from finishing the FINAL LAP, wouldn’t it? You probably guessed what happened next…
Sergio’s engine waved sayonara to a podium place at Turn 1 on the final lap, gifting P3 to Lewis who was for the entire race an unlikely contender for the podium. The gap between the Lewis and Perez had reached almost 20 seconds and it was 35 seconds from the leaders. Some of it is owed to Mercedes putting their hands down in the toilet with the hard tyres but it was very evident that Mercedes was never even in the radar for the top 2.
The night belonged to Ferrari, who took their first win in 46 races and 911 days, and a 1-2 in the process as well! Ferrari and 911 in the same sentence not for any comparisons sounds weird but the F1 gods made a Mercedes thankful to be on the podium so, no complaints! To anyone in Europe, don’t worry for yesterday that wasn’t an earthquake, but just the celebrations and joy of the Tifosi who finally got to see their heroes achieve what they’ve been waiting since Singapore 2019 to see, and just bask in the enjoyment of a sweet and well-deserved win.
Reigning champion Max Verstappen and his team Red Bull took away a grand total of zero points from the weekend, as did McLaren, the two UK-based teams having a very hard time. Aston Martin and Williams also took away nada from the weekend, but there was absolute joy for a certain American team in the form of Haas who took 10 points and currently sit 3rd in the championship. All thanks to Kevin Magnussen driving a fine, fine race to take P5!
Meanwhile, Leclerc took the lead of the championship for the first time in his F1 career, and this is the first time a Ferrari driver and Ferrari as a constructor have been at the top of the championship table since all the way back in Britain 2018, believe it or not! Rookie Zhou Guanyu also took the first point of his career thanks to finishing P10, and in turn becoming the 66th driver in F1 history to score points on his debut! Alfa Romeo also sit P4 in the constructor’s table as of now thanks to Bottas finishing a stellar P6 and boosting Alfa’s total to 9 points, just one shy of Haas. None of this was expected at the start of the race weekend, that’s for sure!
What we learned this weekend is that Mercedes definitely aren’t flipping the script any time soon. They have boat loads of catching up to do. But, with how smiling and confident Lewis looked, there is definitely something about the Merc that we don’t know about and it could very well flip the script drastically. Mercedes is that team and they have been doing this for a long time. We obviously want Russell and Hamilton competing at the top but that’s it. We want competition and not dominance… from anyone! With this, we end the story of the 2022 Bahrain GP. Did you find this to be one of the best season openers of recent times? Do let us know by commenting below, and be sure to not miss the race this weekend in Saudi Arabia either!