The mechanics cheer best in red. There’s shouting, hugging, clenched fists stretched into the night sky and the Italian anthem being sung. After all, the last victory was already 910 days ago. Back then, in September 2019, Sebastian Vettel prevailed in Singapore. Right next to it in the Red Bull box, on the other hand, there was only bewilderment and silence on Sunday.
Ferrari managed a double victory at the opening of the Formula 1 season in Bahrain by Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Junior. Lewis Hamilton was third after both Red Bulls dropped out at the finish. “I’m so happy. You can’t start any better,” the winner cheered. And summed it up succinctly: “Pole position, victory, fastest lap, first and second place. It’s unbelievable!” There was also a “huge congratulations” from Mercedes star Hamilton.
Leclerc got off to a perfect start. Monegasse pulled away confidently, followed by Verstappen and Sainz. The clearly inferior Hamilton was quickly left behind by Ferrari and Red Bull.
When Leclerc rejoined the track after his stop just before Verstappen, the two engaged in a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle for three laps, with the lead changing hands several times. In the end, Leclerc stayed ahead.
When the seats were taken, it suddenly got exciting again. The engine of Pierre Gasly’s Alpha Tauri caught fire and the field narrowed behind the safety car. Verstappen struggled, complaining about the tires and brakes, then about the battery. “What’s going on?” he asked desperately on the radio. Then he rolled out. “Something like this shouldn’t happen, of course,” complained the Dutchman after the race.
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A disaster for Red Bull, can it get any worse? Yes it can. Sergio Perez also had problems on the last lap. The Mexican spun at the end of the long straight and was also eliminated. “We have no conclusive explanation for the failures and have to put our heads together,” said RB motorsport consultant Helmut Marko. “It wasn’t a day for us. The pace was lacking before and we also messed up with the strategy.”
It will be a long way for Mercedes
Hamilton benefited from the double failure. Mercedes could not keep up with Red Bull and Ferrari, fifth place would have been the maximum in a normal race. Hamilton knew that too: “It was very unfortunate for Red Bull. And for us it was the perfect damage limitation, but still not a turnaround.” The Silver Arrow still has problems with aerodynamics. In addition, the car should also be well above the minimum weight. Team boss Toto Wolff confirmed: “We have learned a lot, but we still have a lot of work to do. We remain the third force.”
Mick Schumacher’s legitimate hopes for the first points in his career, on the other hand, were not fulfilled. After an early incident through no fault of his own, he was initially at the back of the field in the Haas. Due to a late safety car phase, he slipped to tenth place, but was unable to hold the position with old tires and finished eleventh.
Sebastian Vettel must have suffered a lot from the performance of the new Aston Martin at home in Switzerland. The four-time world champion is currently in corona quarantine. Substitute Nico Hülkenberg was lapped almost halfway through the race and ended up in 17th place.
The Dane Kevin Magnussen made a sensational debut, benefiting from Red Bull’s bad luck and finishing fifth with Haas behind Brit George Russell. Behind them in the standings was Valtteri Bottas (Finland), a thoroughly satisfied Alfa Romeo driver.
A few questions remain after the first race: have the rule changes made any difference? Was the race even more exciting with the new aerodynamics? In any case, the conditions for this seem to be in place. Apart from the last few laps, the first Grand Prix of 2022 wasn’t a spectacle. But it was evident that the cars could follow the car in front in the corners. Overtaking was also done at various points. And for Ferrari it was a perfect race anyway. Carlos Sainz managed to sum up at the start in just three words: “Ferrari is back!” (with dpa)