Formula 1 2022: Bahrain Grand Prix

New season, new rules, Bahrain F1 Grand Prix

F1 cars look very different in 2022 with the return of ground effects, and all-new 18in wheels, with a view of increasing the ability to follow cars more closely and improve overtaking, but more importantly, it has leveled the playing field with the prancing horse, Ferrari finding themselves at the very front of the grid.

The Bahrain Grand Prix was set for fireworks with two young chargers, world champion, Max Verstappen and Ferrari ace, Charles Leclerc on the front row, with the Monégasque driver taking pole, but sadly those fireworks didn’t happen, at least not at the start, Leclerc managed to stay ahead of the Dutchman off the line and then created a big enough gap to deny Verstappen DRS when it was activated on lap 3.

In pre-season testing, Lewis Hamilton said that Mercedes would not be challenging for wins, which I dismissed as pre-season testing is often very different from the reality of racing in anger, but Hamilton’s prophecy seems to be true, with Hamilton and new boy, George Russell, qualifying in fifth and ninth places respectively, although the final race result was somewhat better for the Mercedes duo.

Back to the race for the victory, although Verstappen could not stay close enough to Leclerc’s Ferrari to benefit from DRS, after the first round of pitstops, Verstappen was much closer, and the two young guns battled back and forth for the lead over 3 laps before Leclerc finally managed to pull out of DRS range. Verstappen without the DRS boost, found himself lacking the pace to challenge for the lead again.

Verstappen’s issues only got worse, after failing to utilize the undercut on his second stop, Red Bull elected to make a third stop, at which time, the Dutchman suffered power steering issues, costing him time, then 3 laps from the end, while running in second place, his Red Bull’s fuel pump developed a fault, starving his Honda supported, RBPT power unit of fuel, forcing him to limp back to the pits. It got worse for Red Bull, the same fuel pump fault forced teammate Sergio Perez out of the race on the penultimate lap, his engine locked up going into turn 1, sending the Mexican into a spin.

All this meant that all of a sudden, the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz and the Mercedes of Hamilton was up to second and third places respectively, with Mercedes teammate Russell recovering from his poor qualifying to finish in fourth place, behind his fellow Briton and teammate. And what’s more amazing is that Haas finished in fifth place with the returning Kevin Magnussen, who was running in a solid seventh place, before the Red Bull’s issues, that’s a hell of a turnaround from last season for Haas.

Former Mercedes driver, Valtteri Bottas, driving for Alfa Romeo, finished his first race for the team in sixth place, of course benefitting from Red Bull’s retirement, also, Bottas’ Alfa Romeo teammate Zhou Guanyu impressed me, a very solid mature drive from the rookie to score a point in his F1 debut.

It’s a little early to make any conclusions, but it seems that the regulations changes have had the desired effect. The drivers definitely appear to be able to follow each other more closely, and it has certainly shaken things up, back of the grid teams like Haas are now suddenly solidly in the top 10, and Mercedes are not the dominant force they have been, Ferrari scored a 1 – 2, reliability issues seem to be back, adding some unpredictability, which I’m sure will improve as teams get to grips with the new regulations.

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