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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Formula 1 in Bahrain: Risen from the ruins

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Sparks flew from the wheels of the blue racing car, high in the Bahraini night sky. Two drivers, both 24 years old, were racing their cars around corners. Two drivers of the same generation, whose duel had been promised three years ago when they had a memorable hunt on a hot summer day at Spielberg, now dueled in the rocky desert of Sakhir. Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen raced around the track for three laps, brushing against each other. And they kept showing the same maneuvers and exchanging places. The Dutchman overtook at the end of a long straight and braked so late that he was surprised he made it through the corner. Sparks flew like stardust. Leclerc then sucked himself into his wake and counterattacked. Until Verstappen started the next attempt on the next lap and Leclerc couldn’t be shaken again.

It’s okay to love him when a plan works. And the dazzling idea behind the new aerodynamics concept that Formula 1 has been using since this season was that overtaking maneuvers should be simplified. Now that the first performance has taken place, and Leclerc really under all sorts of deserved fireworks in front of his teammate Carlos Sainz, who not only brought home Scuderia Ferrari’s first victory since September 2019, but also the first double victory since then, objectively to Congratulations: Formula 1 has made a powerful restart. The old balance of power has been shaken.

And they would have been had the Red Bull Team not been slowed down by two ominous defects shortly before the finish: Verstappen slowed down, complained that his battery was not charged and got out of the car. Sergio Pérez, who would have finished third behind him, spun and did not see the finish line either. According to its sports director, Helmut Marko, both drivers retired because “they could not get more fuel from the tank to the engine”. So Mercedes was very lucky. Without the misfortune of competition, the serial winner of the last eight years would have dragged his Silver Arrows to the finish line in places he had to research on the internet in the recent past to be sure of their existence: Lewis Hamilton would have finished fifth, George Russell sixth. Now suddenly it was third and fourth.

Ferrari looks to be rewarded for leaving last season early

“This is exactly how you start a new season,” Leclerc rejoiced on his lap of honour: “First and second place, baby, one and two! Mamma mia!” And Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff congratulated: “Charles was a force today. He dominated the race at will.”

The new technical regulations, which had been worked on since 2017, had already suggested in qualifying that they could start a revolution. At the beginning of the season, a red race car took pole position, followed by a blue one, followed by a red one, followed by a blue one. The first silver runner? fifth place! Aboard Hamilton, the seven-time world champion. And he was not disappointed at the sight of this parking space, which was very unfamiliar to him, but satisfied.

Formula 1 in Bahrain: tailor-made start: Charles Leclerc (right) and Carlos Sainz.

A tailored start: Charles Leclerc (right) and Carlos Sainz.

(Photo: Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters)

The new aerodynamics of cars, which adhere more and more to the asphalt through airflow in the underbody, means that many cars are subject to the so-called ‘porpoise’ phenomenon. As speed increases, the vehicle is drawn further and further into the track until the flow breaks off again and returns again. No one jumps as hard as the Silver Arrows pilots. “We need a few races to settle down, then we’ll be back,” Wolff announced.

Scuderia Ferrari has not only returned, but has risen from the ruins. After the last two completely screwed up years, Leclerc pushed his race car to the 10th pole of his career early on; His teammate Sainz lined up behind Verstappen in third place. Now it seems that they are rewarding themselves at Maranello for leaving last season early and opting for the completely new car development.

Because even behind the front, the reinvigorated Ferrari engine caused turbulence in the previous classification: Valtteri Bottas put the Alfa Romeo in sixth place in the first appearance with the Swiss team, Kevin Magnussen pushed the Ferrari Customer car to seventh place, five places ahead of Mick Schumacher, who crossed the finish line eleventh on Sunday. The last was Niko Hülkenberg, who had gotten into his Aston Martin to replace Sebastian Vettel, who was suffering from Corona.

In Bahrain, there are a number of views that are incompatible with old viewing habits.

The traffic lights went out in Bahrain and Leclerc did not give Verstappen the slightest pause. The top three rounded the first corners in the same order; behind them came Hamilton and Magnussen, who managed to overtake Pérez. Further back, Esteban Ocon’s Alpine touched Schumacher’s Haas. The Frenchman was given a five-second penalty, Schumacher spun, fell backwards and leveled at 13th.

In Bahrain, viewers were presented with a series of views that were incompatible with old viewing habits. In front was a Ferrari whose speed could only be maintained by world champion Verstappen. And after ten laps, Pérez overtook Hamilton, who gave the Mexican a pace so fair that it was obvious how little confidence he had in his car’s speed.

Formula 1 in Bahrain: Surprising obstacle: Lewis Hamilton (in front) passes Sergio Pérez, whose Red Bull spins, forcing him to retire.

Surprising Obstacle: Lewis Hamilton (front) gets past Sergio Perez, whose Red Bull spins and forces him to submit.

(Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Hamilton tried his hand at an alternative strategy, he was the first driver to pit. As he headed back to the track, he slid around the turns as if he were riding a sled in the snow. “Guys, I have no grip,” he radioed to his team. Verstappen followed three laps later. He screwed on soft tires again, with which he was now trying to put pressure on Leclerc. But the Monegasque defended his lead by a hair when he returned to the track a lap later after changing tyres. For three laps, Leclerc and Verstappen offered that brilliant duel that strained the tires and definitely the Dutchman’s nerves as well.

After 28 laps, Hamilton opened the second round of tool visits, at the end of which the previous order was maintained. Verstappen complained to his team that he had been asked twice to slow down on the lap he was driving when Leclerc stopped in front of him in the pits. “I’ll never do that again,” he complained. Consequently, he headed into the supply lane at his third stop in front of Leclerc, who only followed suit when the safety car ran onto the track due to Pierre Gasly’s car being on fire and rejoined the field. There was another rolling restart, but this time Leclerc didn’t give Verstappen a chance either.

It remains to be seen why both Red Bulls ran out of gas. But Ferrari is back in full force, that much is already clear. This is good news not only for the Maranello team, which has been sad for too long, but for the whole of Formula 1. “The team spent a lot of time getting a good car,” said team boss Mattia Binotto. ” Too long.”

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