2022 F1 Race 1: Bahrain International Circuit
A new season filled with new opportunity
It was a bumpy start for the constructor's champions in free practice 1 and 2 with the porpoising issue still plaguing the car along the main straight. Ferrari and Redbull traded their last laps in practice with both Haas and Alfa Romeo also posting respectable times pointing towards some Ferrari wizardry for the engine. Mercedes powered cars appeared to struggle with both Aston Martin, Mclaren and Williams all a margin from where we expect them to be. A mixed fortune faced the drivers with Ricciardo unable to run as many laps as he would have liked.
Into qualifying and finally the world would see if teams were sandbagging or bluffing and it was the men from Maranello that got off to the strongest start with both Leclerc and Sainz leading the way. Their greatest rivals last season, Mclaren, struggled with only Norris making it out of Q1 whilst both Aston Martins were out along with Latifi for Williams and Tsunoda for Alpha Tauri. Bottas pushed on in second qualifying, managing to make it into the top ten at the cost of Ocon. Haas' Mick Schumacher had a respectable qualifying securing twelfth whilst his teammate Magnusson made it into Q3. This is where Ferrari again showed their ability, split at the front by Verstappen and taking pole with Leclerc. Bottas out-qualified his replacement at Mercedes with a sixth-place whilst Russel only managed ninth in the Mercedes. Hamilton took fifth and had his old teammate right on his tail. Magnusson brought a smile to the Haas team that was missing all last year with a seventh-place qualification, and Perez kept the racing bulls in contention against the red team with a fourth-place keeping both the cars ahead of Mercedes.
It's been a long wait for F1 fans but finally after the winter break the five lights finally blinked and the first race of 2022 was underway. An immediate move across the track from Leclerc secured him the inside of turn 1 and eliminated any chance of an early move from Verstappen. The battle continued up ahead with Bottas dropping eight places in his new red and white race suit at Alfa Romeo.
To the relief of Guenther Steiner, Magnussen didn't fade backwards although Russel would eventually pass. A questionable call was made by Mercedes to pit for hard tyres, a decision Toto Wolff would describe later describe as 'putting your hand in the toilet'.
In his return to F1, Albon wasn't able to reach the heights of his Redbull finishes however he was able to show off his racecraft holding F1 debutant Guanyu Zhou for several laps before having to accept his car didn't have the pace to match the Alfa Romeo.
In opposing fortunes to Ferrari, Mclaren struggled and ended the race out of the points having spent almost the entire race towards the back of the pack. The Mercedes power unit cars all struggled during the race with Aston Martin having to lift their ride height at a cost of nearly a second a lap to avoid the porpoising that also plagued Mercedes at Abu Dhabi. Alpine will be happy to have quietly taken points with a seventh and ninth for their drivers.
A great duel took place upfront with Verstappen trading places with Leclerc several times after the opening round of pitstops. The challenges wouldn't end there however Ferrari began to look more comfortable as we headed for the closing stages of the race.
Late drama would decide the point positions. Gasly had a suspected MGU-H failure causing a fire and a safety car on track. Meanwhile, Verstappen started to notice a steering issue which Christian Horner later noted as something that likely bent or was damaged during the last pitstop. The problems soon metastasised, and after half a lap of reporting more and more problems, Verstappen crawled into the pits with just a few laps to go as his engine failed. Perez would only last another two laps, his power unit seizing and locking the rear wheels with just a single lap left of the race. This handed rivals Mercedes a podium for Lewis Hamilton and a fourth-place finish for Russel in his first race as a full-time Mercedes driver. We move on to Saudi Arabia with Ferrari taking a one-two finish and Mercedes securing third and fourth. Redbull will take some positives from the weekend having been very close to Ferrari pace all race long. Mercedes may be a little worried how far off they were during the race but with 70 laps full of data they will look to make improvements, we're in for a very exciting season.