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Bahrain GP 2022: Formula 1’s new era welcomes back old favorites as Ferrari finish 1-2

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Leclerc and Sainz> Photo: Scuderia Ferrari

LEARN MORE: KnowledgeBase/Formula One

By Peter Habicht
Senior Motorsports Editor
Racing Is Life
The Auto Channel

Bahrain March 23, 2022; It's been said that when Scuderia Ferrari wins, it can be considered good for Formula 1, as roughly 1 in 4 fans consider themselves in the ranks of the ?Tifosi’, the loyal supporters of Ferrari.

Sunday’s race did not let them down thanks to Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz’ 1-2 finish in the season opener, and most everyone was happy to see them end the team’s 2nd longest win drought in their history. Sunday’s win came 2 years, 5 months and 26 days after their last victory with Sebastian Vettel at the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix.

Formula 1 cars looked a lot different in 2019, and even while competing then, teams were committing development resources to study upcoming rule changes for today’s new cars. This year is the culmination of years of development, and brings with it new regulations that promote overtaking and less reliance on ?clean air’ to keep following cars stable when fighting for position.

Following a week of testing at the Sakhir Circuit, Ferrari looked very quick, and along with several other teams’ ability to get a speed related instability condition known as ?pourposing’ under control early on in their car’s development, put them and Red Bull in a class ahead of 2021 World Constructors’ Champions Mercedes.

As some teams struggle with the new regulations, the rules appear to have done the job of creating close battles between cars, and the 2022 F75 Ferrari’s journey to victory saw Leclerc trading places with Max Verstappen in his RB18 in a pair of fights for the lead that had fans on edge early in the race.

Following a respectful but hard fought battle, the abrasive Sakhir circuit caught Max Verstappen out in his last bid to overtake, flat spotting his tires and keeping him just out of the DRS zone to overtake.

Farther down the field, Lewis Hamilton and new team mate George Russell were some 5s behind, and the middle third of the race saw teams filing in a fairly regular running order with Ferrari and Red Bull alternating 1-2-3-4 with Sainz at the back. Drama ensued when flames emerged from the rear of the Scudera Alpha Tauri AT03 of Pierre Gasly, and the field was bunched up under a safety car.

The closing scenes hit hard while fighting for the win in the form of a 1-2 punch for Red Bull. Earlier on in the race, Max had been complaining of steering issues, later attributed to a bad pit stop that damaged a control rod, but what this was minimal in comparison to a sudden lack of power Max suddenly felt with less than 4 laps to go. A standardized fuel pump quit feeding the engine late in the game causing him to retire to the pitlane, but it wasn’t only Max who would be affected by the same issue.

Team mate Sergio Perez was battling for 4th on the final lap when his RBR017 cut power, spinning him mid corner and ending the team’s chances for any points.

Team principal Christian Horner told Sky Sports: "It's a brutal finish to that race for us… What looked like a decent haul of points obviously evaporated in the last couple of laps there.”

Both Mercedes drivers had been performing well given slower machinery, Lewis was quick to take the final step of the podium, nearly some 10 seconds behind race winner Leclerc. Speaking to the media following the race, Lewis Hamilton shared: “…we’ve learned a lot from this week. [Ferrari’s] straight line speed as well as the Bulls were very quick in a straight line and their performance through corners is quite a bit different to us. So the car was very hard to drive but it could always be worse. So I’m hoping for the next race we manage to find some improvements but it's a fundamental issue that’s going to take a little bit longer I think to fix.”

With the drama up front unfolding, another story was years in the making with a re-signed Kevin Magnussen at the wheel in Haas F1 Team’s VF22. Kevin finished a very respectable 5th for the team’s highest points finish since 2018. Having spent much of the the team’s 2021 season developing this year’s car, Haas then lost their title partner, and with it driver Dimitri Mazepin. As that door closed, it also opened up a seat for Kevin to restart his career in Formula 1, who hadn’t turned a while in the sport for over 15 months.

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Kevin Magnussen Crossing the line> Photo: Haas F1 Team

The team shared Haas F1 Team principal Guenther Steiner’s thoughts after the race: “Its good to be back for the whole team. They’ve done a fantastic job not just today but for the last two years. Everyone kept their head high and just got ready for when we had a good car.”

This weekend’s race will be at the Jeddah Corniche street circuit, scene of a closing round in December last year and now featured earlier in the calendar. Several improvements to driver visibility and runoff areas have been underway since, and it’s a very quick circuit sure to provide new challenges for a new era in Formula 1.