By James Broughton, March 19, 2022
It was a consistent and strong performance by Ferrari during qualifying for the opening race of the 2022 season. Charles Leclerc secured pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix in the new era Ferrari, albeit narrowly, from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz was the other end of the Ferrari sandwich in third place while Sergio Perez secured 4th on the grid for Red Bull. Pre-season testing has confirmed what many believed, Ferrari is the King returning to its throne, looking down at the plebs beneath them in the new F1 pecking order.
Mercedes AMG F1, so dominant over the last eight years, for once, struggled to muster a challenge. Lewis Hamilton could only manage 5th just over six-tenths away from pole position. Considering Mercedes has struggled to fully optimize the new ground-effect era chassis during winter testing, anything over one second away from pole would have meant season over.
Mercedes’s new boy, George Russell, made a mistake on his final qualifying run and relegated himself to 9th on the grid. Mercedes exile, now Alfa Romeo driver, popped up into 6th position. The Alfa Romeo is a Ferrari in all but name and clearly has benefitted from its close relationship with the Scuderia.
F1 refugee, Kevin Magnussen, piloted his way into 7th, in what is for him an unexpected journey. The returnee Hass driver also benefits from a team that shares parts with the Ferrari. And he made good use of the equipment given to him. Fernando Alonso underscored that his natural speed is still a clear and present threat. But this in turn showed the deficiencies of the Alpine. It’s fair to say Alonso extracted more out of his car than the Alpine is worth.
Pierre Gasly rounded up the top 10 for Alpha Tauri. McLaren was the biggest loser, carrying the struggles of winter testing into the real-life world of a Grand Prix qualifying session. Lando Norris could only nourish into 13th while teammate Daniel Ricciardo floundered into 18th for Sunday’s race. Former Red Bull reject AKA F1 returnee, Alex Albon extracted as much as possible from his Williams settling for a credible 14th slot on the grid. Teammate Nicolas Latifi starts plumb last.
Aston Martin was nowhere and look set to prop up the back of the field for the foreseeable season ahead. So… Ferrari is now the team to beat on qualifying pace alone. They seem to have promising race pace based on practice race simulations. However, this is the first race of the season, and it is always Sunday when the points are won or lost.
However, two alpha males start first and second. How aggressive will Verstappen be? Leclerc can be just as ruthless if need be, but has better racecraft and possesses more racing etiquette than the current world champion. How much are they both willing to risk for the sake of being first into turn 1?
2022 Bahrain Grand Prix Qualifying:
1. Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:30.558
2. Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.123s
3. Carlos Sainz Ferrari 0.129s
4. Sergio Perez Red Bull 0.363s
5. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.680s
6. Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Racing 1.002s
7. Kevin Magnussen Haas 1.250s
8. Fernando Alonso Alpine 1.637s
9. George Russell Mercedes 1.658s
10. Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1.780s
11. Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:31.782
12. Mick Schumacher Haas 1:31.998
13. Lando Norris McLaren 1:32.008
14. Alex Albon Williams 1:32.664
15. Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Racing 1:33.543
16. Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:32.750
17. Nico Hulkenberg Aston Martin 1:32.777
18. Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:32.945
19. Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:33.032
20. Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:33.634