Finally Ferrari, finally the red is back! And as in fairy tales, it was a prince who broke a spell that had lasted since 2019: Charles Leclerc won the Bahrain GP and broke the fast that had lasted from Singapore 2019, when Sebastian Vettel took the last victory of the Cavallino. A sensational party because at the second place there was the other red of was Carlos Sainz, for a fantastic double. A triumph that erases two years of technical darkness, suffering, criticism, jokes and even caricatures on TV. “Two years in which we worked like crazy,” Leclerc said today before the race. But at the dawn of the new technical era, with completely revolutionized single-seaters, Ferrari was ready: triumph in the first race, an unforgettable one-two.
Nothing to do for the rivals, with the Red Bull of Max Verstappen who contends the success to Leclerc until the end but retires due to a technical problem in the last laps. A total disaster for the Red Bull, who also lost Sergio Perez on the last lap, spinning out while in third. So Lewis Hamilton ended up on the podium, however never in the race because Mercedes disappointed and never matched Ferrari and Red Bull. But you have to get to the finish line and he ended up on the podium ahead of teammate George Russell.
Fifth place for the Haas of the incredible Kevin Magnussen, until a few days ago on vacation before being called to replace the fired Nikita Mazepin. Sixth place for the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas, who couldn’t start his adventure in a better way. For Alfa Romeo also the point of Guanyu Zhou, tenth. At the start, Leclerc made a good start, pointing to the right side and behind Verstappen at the first corner, keeping the first position.
Behind them Sainz held the third place, while Perez was not so brilliant, attacked and slipped by Hamilton and Magnussen, very wild with his Haas. Seventh Russell ahead of Gasly, Alonso and Ocon. On the third lap Magnussen made a mistake at turn 1 and Perez took advantage of it, putting the Dane for fifth position.
The Danish driver started strongly, but at the fifth lap he had to surrender also to the second Mercedes of Russell, who passed him at the end of the finishing straight. In the tussle of the first lap there was also a collision between Esteban Ocon and Mick Schumacher: the Frenchman of Alpine took a 5 seconds penalty. The first part of the race for Ferrari was good, with Leclerc keeping the lead quite easily, leaving Verstappen at about 2 seconds, Sainz at 6 and Hamilton at 7
Then at lap 10 a difficult moment for Hamilton’s Mercedes, which passes Perez’s Red Bull: the Mexican driver has thus recovered the fourth position of the qualifying. Hamilton was immediately called back to the pits for a tire change: on lap 12 hard tires for him and a difficult re-entry into the track, with braking problems that were taken advantage of by the Alfa of Zhou who passed him mercilessly. The following lap the Englishman conquered the eleventh position. Pit stops also for Alonso, Mick Schumacher and Albon.
On lap 14, a simultaneous stop by Verstappen and Sainz, who reassembled the soft. Red Bull’s undercut attempt was saved by Ferrari, however: Leclerc came back the next lap and stayed ahead of the Dutchman. This was a wonderful phase: Verstappen got in the Ferrari’s slipstream and between the 16th and 18th pass, Max made a double overtake with a double overtake of Charles. And on the 19th, another attempt by Verstappen under braking at the end of the finishing straight, this time a bit too long with a slight explosion from the right front: it was easy for Leclerc to defend himself. The new F1 had to put on a show and it did. Once the assault phase was over, Verstappen pulled away slightly from Leclerc, who took a 3-second lead. Sainz at 10 seconds, also on softs, began to see Perez threateningly getting closer and closer, who instead mounted mediums on his first stop, a different strategy for the two Red Bull drivers.
Mercedes is struggling, at 25″ with Hamilton and at 31″ with Russell, both on hard tires. It is Mercedes that inaugurates the second round of stops with Hamilton, who enters by mounting medium tires on lap 28, while Russell remains on track. On lap 30, Verstappen in the pit lane once again tries an undercut, fitting medium tires. Immediate response from Ferrari and masterpiece served: very fast stop and exit from the pits perfectly in front of Red Bull! At lap 34, Sainz and Perez make a double stop, with the Ferrari driver obviously on medium and the Mexican on soft for the final rush. On lap 43, Red Bull changed tires on Verstappen and Perez, followed by Sainz. And on lap 45, a twist with Gasly’s AlhaTauri caught fire, causing the Safety Car to be called. Leclerc changed tires on lap 46 and everyone lined up waiting to remove the Frenchman’s car. At lap 50 restart with a compact group and again a piece of skill by Leclerc, very good at turning, leaving Verstappen in the clutches of Sainz. An exciting final: Verstappen was passed by the Spaniard, then lost power and retired. Same fate for Perez, who spun and stopped, leaving the podium to Hamilton’s Mercedes, who managed to limit the damages, but really struggled today. Sunday will be repeated in Arabia, Stefano Domenicali and F1 rub their hands together for a start like this. Ferrari fans even more so.
1. Leclerc (Ferrari)
- Sainz (Ferrari) at 5 “598
- Hamilton (Mercedes) at 9 “675
- Russell (Mercedes) at 11 “211
- Magnussen (Haas) at 14 “754
- Bottas (Alfa Romeo) at 16 “119
- Ocon (Alpine) at 19 “423
- Tsunoda (AlhaTauri) at 20 “386
- Alonso (Alpine) at 22 “390
- Zhou (Alfa Romeo) at 23 “064
- Schumacher (Haas) at 32 “574
- Stroll (Aston Martin) at 45 “873
- Albon (Williams) at 53 “932
- Ricciardo (McLaren) at 54 “975
- Norris (McLaren) at 56 “335
- Latifi (Williams) 1’01 “795
- Hulkenberg (Aston Martin) at 1’03 “82