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Charles Leclerc and Ferrari dominate at Bahrain GP

The new Formula One era got off to the best possible start for Ferrari with Charles Leclerc leading teammate Carlos Sainz Jr in a one-two at F1’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

Leclerc crossed the line 5.5 seconds ahead of his teammate after starting from pole in Sakhir.

It turned out to be a night to forget for World Champion Max Verstappen and his Red Bull team with he and teammate, Sergio Perez forced to retire in the dying moments of the race. The Dutchman was on course for a second place finish after going wheel to wheel with Leclerc on several occasions as he battled for the lead.

The uncharacteristically poor start to the season for Red Bull was compounded by Mercedes’ success with Lewis Hamilton finishing in third while George Russell secured a career-best fourth. There was also plenty to cheer about in the Haas camp with the returning Kevin Magnussen coming in fifth. The Danish driver gave Haas their first points in over a year after being axed by Nikita Mazepin at the end of 2020.

Leclerc’s Bahrain victory marked the end of a 45 race winless streak for Ferrari and was just the third win of the Monagesque’s career.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 20: Race winner Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari celebrates with his team in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 20, 2022 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

“The last two years have been incredibly difficult for the team,” said Leclerc. “Now, starting in the best way possible. Pole position, victory, fastest lap, one-two with Carlos, we couldn’t have hoped for any better.” His teammate Sainz perhaps best summed up how the feeling will be at their base in Maranello on Sunday evening. “Ferrari are properly back with a one-two, where the team should be,” he said.

Smart driving from Leclerc warded off Verstappen’s advances however team principal, Christian Horner, believed that engine issues were to blame for his team’s demise.

"I can't remember the last time that happened to us but obviously it's your worst nightmare," Horner said.

"It looks suspiciously like the failures are related to each other. It looks like potentially an issue within the fuel system. So, it's very disappointing to lose 30 points."

"It's something we haven't seen previously. We'll strip the cars; we'll get into it and understand what the issue was.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 20: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving (16) the Ferrari F1-75 leads Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB18 and the rest of the field going into the first corner at the start of the race during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 20, 2022 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

"I suspect it's something similar between both because the symptoms looked very similar."

Former Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas came in sixth for Alfa Romeo, Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso in seventh and ninth for Alpine and Yuki Tsunoda in eighth for AlphaTauri.

Guanyu Zhou sneaked into 10th position for Alfa Romeo as he became the first Chinese driver to race in Formula One.

Mick Schumacher was just outside the points as he enjoyed his best career finish of 11th for Haas while Pierre Gasly joined the misfortunate Red Bull pair in failing to finish after his AlphaTauri came up in smoke.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo and his McLaren teammate, Lando Norris, struggled in Sakhir as they finished 14th and 15th respectively.

Driver Standings (Top 10)

1 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
2 Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
3 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
4 George Russell (Mercedes)
5 Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
6 Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)
7 Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
8 Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
9 Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
10 Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo)

Formula 1 - 2022 Race Calendar