Charles Leclerc secured a win in the inaugural race of the 2022 F1 season, as Ferrari secured a one-two. Meanwhile title rivals Mercedes rescued the race with a third and fourth place finish and Red Bull had a catastrophic finish which resulted in 0 points. That result ends Ferrari's two year wait for a race win, and sticks them well amongst the contenders this year.
When it looked as if Max Verstappen was ready to challenge for the win, he suffered a power failure with a few laps to go, before teammate Sergio Perez also suffered engine issues on the penultimate lap that saw Lewis Hamilton get on the podium.
All the talk in the build-up about this three-horse title race and one thing's for sure, we are set to have an epic season on our hands. Ferrari were so strong and deservedly at the top of the podium, and will surely challenge Mercedes and Red Bull for the rest of the season while Leclerc looks like a genuine contender for the Drivers’ Championship.
Kevin Magnussen remarkably secured a 5th place finish on his return to Haas in one of the standout performances of the weekend while the Chinese driver Guanyu Zhao secured a 10th place finish on his F1 debut.
This race certainly delivered the same drama we ended with last season. Leclerc on pole got the best start as Lewis Hamilton squeezed past Perez but came under serious pressure from Magnussen and managed to hold him off as he tried to challenge the Ferrari of Sainz.
Up front after lap one, Leclerc was looking to stretch clear of Verstappen, while there was a huge battle at the back of the field while Bottas had a nightmare start and was down eight places from his qualifying position.
Magnussen made an error on turn one and Russell got himself up to sixth before Perez got himself back ahead of Hamilton as Mercedes struggled for pace as they have done all weekend.
Verstappen came out of the pits and went toe to toe with Leclerc but couldn’t get past him immediately on lap 16 however the next lap the Red Bull squeezed past him, but only briefly. Leclerc came back at him and just got back in front in a ding-dong battle between the two cars.
On the very next lap they did exactly the same thing in a repeat and it truly showed that the changes made to make the sport more exciting this year have made a huge difference. Verstappen was able to close the gap when behind, and yet Leclerc somehow held onto the lead.
The DRS difference on this track played its part as the world champion was in attack mode but this was a clear sign of racing progress between the teams. If Ferrari have made massive strides over the winter then Mercedes have taken a slight step back. We thought over the winter that this could be a possibility but this was the first definitive proof that the German manufacturers were not blustering, they really could struggle over the opening couple of months.
Verstappen was left frustrated after struggling with break temperatures, while his team told him to take it easy on the out-laps, further exaserpating the Red Bull driver. "OK, this is two times that I have taken it easy on the out lap when I could have easily been in front. I am never ever doing it again,” he said over the radio.
The world champion took a risk by going for a late pit stop along with his teammate as Red Bull went for a three-stop strategy. That allowed Verstappen to get the hammer down without any risks and Ferrari had to react by pulling Sainz into the pits and leaving the race leader Leclerc out on the track. Then Hamilton pitted before Pierre Gasly’s Alpha Tauri overheated and burst into flames, leading to a safety car and several more stops, including this time for leader Leclerc.
That meant all the front runners were bunched up for the final seven laps although Verstappen was struggling with a power steering issue. The restart went perfectly for Leclerc at the front while his teammate was desperately trying to get past Verstappen who was forced to defend.
Singapore 2019 was Ferrari's last win and on that day they got a one-two. History would repeat itself as Sainz then got past Verstappen who suffered serious issues on lap 55 and was forced to retire as the Ferrari’s raced clear. But a personal nightmare for Verstappen turned into a team disaster as Perez, under pressure from Hamilton, span on turn one as the engine reportedly cut out.
That boosted the Mercedes duo into third and fourth, and saw Red Bull go from major points to absolutely nothing in the space of a couple of laps. Ferrari have got off to the perfect start, Mercedes will be happy with their return after a difficult winter, but Red Bull have had an absolute nightmare.
Reliability was the issue at the end for the world champion, but Charles Leclerc secured a major win. Make no mistake, Ferrari are contenders this term.