Two years after engine troubles cost him the Bahrain Grand Prix by only three laps, Charles Leclerc has found redemption in Sakhir.
He won the Formula 1 season opening grand prix and led every lap in the process.
Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz followed him home in second place, with Lewis Hamilton rounding out the podium after both Red Bulls suffered engine failures in the closing laps. George Russell crossed the line in fourth place, while Kevin Magnussen placed his Haas in fifth place, recording the team’s first points since the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix.
The victory was an understandably emotional event after the fortune Ferrari had endured since 2020.
“So happy. I mean, I keep repeating myself, but the last two years have been incredibly difficult for the team,” Leclerc said. “We knew this was going to be a big opportunity for the team, and the guys have done such an incredible job building this amazing car.
“It’s starting in the best way possible: pole position, victory, fastest lap, 1-2 today with Carlos. We couldn’t hope for better.”
The Ferrari’s superior pace was evident as soon as the lights went out. Leclerc went unchallenged by Max Verstappen off the line, while Sainz maintained his third place spot through the opening leg of the race.
Verstappen looked to challenge Leclerc for the lead, coming within half a second of the lead after the first round of pit stops. The two dueled ferociously, swapping the lead from laps 17 – 19. But multiple lockups into turn 1 meant Verstappen’s tire life was cut short, and Leclerc waltzed into the distance.
A late-race safety car was deployed after Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri ground to a halt at the exit of turn 3 with an overheated engine. That meant the field would be bunched up and restart with seven laps remaining, putting Verstappen and Sergio Perez in striking distance of the Ferraris once more, with a free pit stop for good measure.
Fate had other ideas. Verstappen had been struggling with vibrations and power steering issues throughout the latter half of the race, but looked apt to hold off Sainz on the restart. Nevertheless, on lap 55, the 2021 champion began complaining of power issues before his engine gave out altogether not four corners later.
The next lap, Perez, too, noted that his power was diminishing. The very next lap, the Mexican suffered an engine seizure, causing his Red Bull to snap sideways in turn 1. That gave Hamilton third place and left both Red Bulls outside of the points.
Aside from Magnussen’s shocking pace through the weekend, Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu managed sixth and 10th place finishes for Alfa Romeo. Likewise, Mick Schumacher posted a career-best finish, placing his Haas 11th at day’s end.
Fortune did not bode so well for McLaren drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, who were off pace from lights out to the checkered flag. The best the orange squad could manage were 15th and 14th, respectively. A far fall for a team that won Monza just last year.
The F1 circuit will next visit the Jeddah Corniche Circuit for the second running of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Coverage will begin Sunday, March 27, at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The finishing order for the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix is:
7. Esteban Ocon
8. Yuki Tsunoda
9. Fernando Alonso
12. Lance Stroll
13. Alex Albon
16. Nicolas Latifi
17. Nico Hulkenberg
About the author
Alex is the IndyCar Editor at Frontstretch, having initially joined as an entry-level contributor in 2021. He also leads the Center for Asia-Pacific Policy at the BIED Society, an international think tank in Washington, D.C. With previous experience in China, Japan and Poland, Alex is particularly passionate about the international realm of motorsport and the politics that make the wheels turn - literally - behind the scenes.