Prancing Again
text | Richard Kelley
edit | Henry Lau

Scuderia Ferrari romped to a brilliant one-two in the 2022 Grand Prix of Bahrain from Sakhir with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, confirming their status as this season’s team to beat.



The Scuderia’s one/two triumph in Bahrain at Sakhir would have been unimaginable just three months ago. A rejuvenated Charles Leclerc repeatably fended off reigning world champion Max Verstappen’s last-second passes to lead home a brilliant victory for the Italian team, with team-mate Carlos Sainz second as a result of Verstappen’s late retirement.

Bahrain’s opening Grand Prix of the 2022 Formula One season echoed a rerun of Abu Dhabi 2021, with its late safety car, last lap drama and unexpected finishes throwing up no end of the theatre. However, this time, the resurgent Ferrari team firmly controlled the pace and storyline, confirming their status as this season’s team to beat.

The Glitch

A fuel supply glitch that ended Verstappen’s race prematurely also struck his fourth-place team-mate, Sergio Perez, at the start of the final lap, causing the Mexican to spin and stall in front of Lewis Hamilton.
The Mexican’s engine failure handed the seven-time world champion an unlikely third-place finish on an evening where the ‘porpoising’ Mercedes could not stay in touch with the Ferrari-Red Bull train.


After all the waiting and anticipation, the first qualifying session of Formula One’s brave new era did not disappoint. Charles Leclerc emerged on pole for Ferrari, 0.123sec ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, with the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz just a little further behind.

“The last few years have been incredibly difficult for the team,” Leclerc admitted. “We were pretty sure that Red Bull was going to be quicker than us so it was a nice surprise that wasn’t the case.”

Lewis Hamilton will begin the Bahrain Grand Prix from fifth on the grid after qualifying a massive 0.680secs slower than pole-sitter Charles Leclerc of Ferrari and half a second behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Another League

“The guys ahead of us are in another league,” admitted Hamilton, adding that he did not expect to be making up many places in Sunday’s race. “These guys [Red Bull and Ferrari] will be [pulling] ahead. We are not in the fight with them. My battle is with the guys behind us.”
Russell, who made an error at Turn 1 on his only lap in the Q3, would start three places below the man he replaced at Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas, who did a remarkable job qualifying his Alfa Romeo sixth on the grid.

Magnificent Magnussen

Even more remarkable was new replacement recruit, Kevin Magnussen, who put his Haas seventh on the grid in the team’s first top 10 qualifying performance since 2019. It was an unexpectedly mixed-up grid, that promised a fascinating race.

Other notable performances included Nico Hulkenberg, subbing for the Covid-stricken Sebastian Vettel, making his debut for Aston Martin at short notice. He out-qualified team-mate Lance Stroll by a couple of tenths, which is good news.

The 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix

In a change for this year, everyone gets a free tyre choice at the start. And everyone – but for Norris in 13th and Ricciardo in 18th – have gone for the softs.
At lights out, Leclerc darts right across the track to keep the lead at the start, cutting off Verstappen’s patented opening inside move. Sainz made a creditable start but can’t challenge Verstappen, who kept his spot in second.
By Lap 13 of 57, Leclerc led Verstappen by 3.6s thanks to a steady, healthy pace. Perez was closing on Carlos Sainz.
On the next lap, Verstappen stopped for another set of softs. Sainz also pitted from third. A cluster of cars dove for new tyres following the leaders’ moves.

Revived Pace

Verstappen’s revived pace had destroyed Leclerc’s 3.6s lead over one lap three laps later. The Dutchman was now drafting Leclerc’s rear wing heading into Turn 4.

The Dutchman waited to pounce until Lap 17 and took the lead with DRS. But Leclerc came back with DRS on the second straight, driving around the outside of the Red Bull to retake the lead!

Verstappen reloaded and snatched the lead on Lap 18 with the same move on the pit straight, but from much farther back! But Leclerc returned to the lead into Turn 4 again. But this time on the inside!

Verstappen’s Complaint

Leclerc pitted on Lap 31 and was stationary for 2.5 seconds, and returned in the lead. Meanwhile, Verstappen complained to his team engineers that he wasn’t happy looking after his tyres on both out laps. He said he’d done it twice and had not taken the lead because of it.

By Lap 37, Leclerc rebuilt his lead over Verstappen. Sainz remained 14 seconds behind the Dutchman. Ominously, Perez wasn’t making any impressions into Sainz’s lead.


On Lap 45, Verstappen rallied to set the quickest first sector while reporting the steering wheel was heavy for him.

Alpha Tauri Flames

Moments later, Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri rear end burst into flames, bringing out a Full Safety Car. Perhaps Verstappen might have a chance to challenge Leclerc one more time.
The Safety Car allowed most of the top 10 to stop for new soft tyres.
On the Lap 51 restart, Leclerc backed the pack up as the Safety Car pitted. Would Verstappen’s steering issue hamper him? The answer was a firm yes.
Leclerc disappeared up the road while Verstappen’s now sluggish Red Bull had Sainz on his tail. The Spaniard tried to line up a move at Turn 4, but he couldn’t keep the pace to make it stick.

Terminal Failure

By Lap 52, Leclerc led by 2.0s Verstappen, then Sainz and Perez. On the next lap, Verstappen suddenly seemed vulnerable. He reported a battery issue, but his engineers disagreed; it was a terminal fuel pump issue.
Sainz saw his chance and passed the stricken Verstappen into Turn 4. It was now a Ferrari 1-2.

Verstappen dropped back and limped back to the pits with three laps remaining. Not finished with its mayhem, the Red Bull fuel pump issues also attacked Perez’s car, causing a spin, just one lap from a podium spot.

Ahead, Leclerc glided to victory, six seconds ahead of Sainz.

Points Finishes

Mercedes’ George Russell took 4th place, with an overcome Magnussen 5th for Haas. Valtteri Bottas’s 6th place displayed the resurgence of Alfa Romeo, with Esteban Ocon (Alpine) and Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) claiming 7th and 8th. The evergreen Fernando Alonso took 9th, with rookie Zhou Guanyu taking his first point for Alfa Romeo.

In Red Bull’s first race after its split with Honda, three of the four cars running its power unit failed within a few laps from the checkers. That’s the worst-case scenario for a team that topped the leaderboard in preseason testing.

Still, with Red Bull and Ferrari swapping places five times in the space of two laps at one point, and Mercedes hanging on, there are genuinely three teams in the F1 championship fight this year, with plenty of battles waged down the entire field.

Previously /