Ninety-six days after the disputed Abu Dhabi Grand Prix of 2021, the Formula 1 World Championship returns to open the curtains of the circus again to bring a new season to life. Ninety-six days after the last race in Abu Dhabi, Masi-Wolff-Horner triangle team radios can still be heard echoing in the air, while the gates of the new Formula 1 World Championship have already been reached. We are entering a new era: the main innovations do not only deal with the single-seaters, whose aesthetics already show a radical change compared to the previous year, but also a change in regulation. The new cars' aerodynamic setup is probably the first thing that attracts the eye: to avoid excessively damaging the pursuing cars with continuous and constant turbulence, the downforce of the single-seaters is now totally generated by the bottom of the car and by the front wings and rear.
The technological revolution of Formula 1 also involves Pirelli tires, which - accepting the challenge of this change - after more than half a century have produced completely innovative tires, going from the standard dimensions of 13 inches to those of 18 inches. The advantage of the new compounds is that they ensure a wider window of use, guaranteeing less overheating and degradation. In this challenge, Pirelli seems to be able to rediscover what has been the company's cornerstones for 150 years, moving towards a more sustainable management of motorsport. The history between Pirelli and Formula 1 has been a perfect match since 1950, when Pirelli won the first Formula 1 World Championships with Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and Maserati, front-engine cars that raced on tall, narrow tires.
It was then raised to 13 inches before Pirelli's current period as Formula One's Global Tire Partner began in 2011. In 2017, Pirelli introduced innovative tires with a 25% wider tread than their predecessors, which offered a larger footprint area and a higher level of grip. This has helped to improve many lap records at circuits around the world, and this year, with 18 inches, opens a new chapter in this exciting story. Increasing tire and frame dimensions, resulting in a rise in the overall weight of the single-seaters, which now stands at 798 kg. This year, it has not been possible to tweak the power units, but teams have interfered in the fuel management by fuelling the V6 turbo with E10 blends or 10% ethanol, a choice in terms of sustainability that, unfortunately, sacrificed absolute power in the single-seaters.
This new era of sustainability and renewed dimensions begins with the three days of testing in Barcelona, with approximately 3000 total laps available to become familiar with the different innovations introduced for this 2022. The single-seaters immediately proved slower, as they were heavier, than those of previous years and the first evident test came from the time recorded by Lewis Hamilton, who set a lap time two seconds slower than his current record on this track. In the first two days of testing - February 23rd and 24th - Mercedes and Red Bull, the two teams at the top of the last world championship, appear to prefer to keep a low profile, and we are starting to wonder if it is due to a lack of potential or a simple strategy.
The novelty of these three days of testing is certainly Porpoising; a term coming from the wing-cars of the 70s and unknown to the most, but which in recent days seems to have spread out of all proportion and at this rate risks becoming the most used term among the frequent paddock patrons. Porpoising refers to a phenomenon caused by the ground effect, which causes enormous jolts to the suspensions; this phenomenon is mainly the outcome of the proximity of the front wing to the ground, with consequent crushing of the air flow. During the tests on the Barcelona circuit, Porpoising seems to be the only defect of an almost perfect Ferrari F1-75, with which the Maranello team can aspire to be the protagonist of the 2022 World Championship.
Not just completely renewed tires and regulatory changes: in 2022, Red Bull Racing will be ready to manufacture its own powertrains, culminating in the formation of a new firm known as Red Bull Powertrains. The goal is to keep Honda engine production going as well as development and maintenance until 2025. The Barcelona tests immediately have revealed the strengths and weaknesses of these new cars, but the teams still have three days of testing in Bahrain before jumping off the starting grid for the first race on the 2022 Championship calendar. The best performance of Day-1 is up to Carlos Sainz who performs 1'33"532, a proof of the immense work carried out at Ferrari in terms of reliability, power and endurance. Ferrari F1-75 thus leaves behind Max Verstappen's Red Bull, second in 1:'34"011, and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes, third in 1'34"141.
McLaren has had a difficult time showcasing its capabilities, both due to the absence of Ricciardo and due to technical issues with Norris' vehicle, which is only ninth at the end of the second day of testing. A big news animated this test session: the official return to Formula 1 of the Danish Kevin Magnussen, called by Haas to replace Nikita Mazepin. Finally, Yuki Tsunoda: the Japanese driver has grinded the most kilometers - 113 laps - with his AlphaTauri. On the third and final day of testing, the current reigning world champion, Max Verstappen, resumes the scene by shooting in 1'31"720 with his Red Bull. Behind the Dutchman we find the Haas of Mick Schumacher, with an extra time exploited in the best way, and the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, third in 1'32"415. He has been followed by Fernando Alonso's Alpine, which surprisingly finished ahead of George Russell's Mercedes.
On Thursday 17 March 2022 the weather conditions are particularly adverse due to a strong wind that forces the teams, under the order of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), to close their respective pits for safety reasons. Williams and McLaren take the opportunity to work on the car, without receiving any kind of sanction. This is due to the revised regulations for the new Formula One 2022 Championship: this year, a team is no longer required to use the same gearbox on a single-seater for six consecutive Grands Prix, and can instead use alternate components. The only limit that remains for the teams is the maximum number of changes that can be used during the season, which stands at four. The beginning grid penalty of five positions is triggered again when the fifth unit is inserted. Furthermore, the requirement that the top ten qualifiers employ the same compound as in Q2 to qualify for Q3 has been removed.
Starting with this race, the Federation has decided to regulate some valid scenarios: if at least two running laps are not completed without the use of the safety car or virtual safety car, no world points are awarded; if the race leader has completed more than two laps but less than 25% of the total planned distance, only the first five classified receive points in the standings, in the order 6, 4, 3, 2, 1; if the distance covered is between 25% and 50% of the total planned distance, only the first nine classified acquire points in the standing, in the order 13, 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1; if the distance raced is between 50% and 75% of the projected one, points are awarded to the first ten drivers in the following order: 19, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1; if the distance reached is greater than 75% of the expected one, points are awarded on a regular basis. If the race distance is more than 50% finished, the point for the fastest lap in the top 10 is now awarded.
Starting from this race, the Federation chooses the two new commissioners of the championship, the German Niels Wittich and the Portuguese Eduardo Freitas, respectively former race directors of the DTM and the endurance world championship; moreover, they are assisted by the British Herbie Blash, former deputy race director in the category active until 2016, who has the task of holding the role of race controller of the race. Wittich and Freitas, so, replace the Australian Michael Masi, who has held the role of race director since the 2019 season, taking over from the former director Charlie Whiting. The Federation also establishes a remote garage for all Grand Prix races to support the race control, to check all the salient facts on the track. Furthermore, the FIA announces that radio communications between the teams and the race direction are no longer broadcast live on television, but it is still possible to contact the race control according to well-defined and non-intrusive procedures.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Haas ends its partnership with Uralkali, changing the name from Uralkali Haas F1 Team to Haas F1 Team after removing Nikita Mazepin as driver. Changes have occurred also in the Alfa Romeo house: not only the name, which has been changed from Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN to Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN, but also for a completely renewed roster of drivers. The seat of Kimi Räikkönen, who retired at the end of the previous season, is taken by fellow countryman Valtteri Bottas, out of Mercedes, with a multi-year contract. The Italian Antonio Giovinazzi, who was unable to renew his contract last year, is replaced on the track by Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese to compete in the highest category, who finished third in the 2021 Formula 2 championship. Zhou opts pick race number 24, which was driven by German Timo Glock in the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix for the erstwhile Marussia team.
Meanwhile, Mercedes employs British George Russell to replace Valtteri Bottas; he was already behind the wheel of a Mercedes in 2020, losing the podium by a whisker after a spectacular race in which he nearly completely controlled. Russell leaves Williams after three years and his place is taken by the Thai Alexander Albon. He, too, has recently returned from a tumultuous career in motorsport after a one-year hiatus from Formula 1, where he last drove for Red Bull Racing. Albon was originally supposed to run as a neutral athlete as the World Anti-Doping Agency discovered that Thailand did not comply with its code, and was therefore banned from participating in world championship competitions. Then, the World anti-doping agency removes Thailand from the list of not-compiant countries, thus allowing Albon to run as a not neutral athlete. World champion Max Verstappen will no longer race with his famous number 33. In fact, he has chosen number 1 for this new championship, probably as a reminder for himself and for the other riders in the race.
Bahrain Grand Prix weekend officially begins on Friday 18 March 2022, chosen as the opening race for the second consecutive season. It is a race that has been on the Formula 1 World Championship calendar since the 2004 season, and opening race also on the occasion of the 2006 and 2010 world championships. The FIA confirms the three DRS zones used by the 2020 edition of the current Grand Prix in which the drivers can activate the mobile device: the first zone established is on the pit straight, located before turn 14; the second area is located in the section between curves 3 and 4, with the detection point set before the first turn; while the third zone is established between curves 10 and 11, with a point to determine the gap between drivers placed before curve 9.
With an official communication, the FIA designates the German Wittish as race director of the Bahraini Grand Prix. The stewards called to judge in the chorus of the Bahrain Grand Prix are Gerd Essner, Richard Norbury, Derek Warwick and Mazen Al-Hilli. Gerd Ennser has successfully combined his formal education in law with his passion for motor racing. Since 2006 he has been a permanent steward at every round of Germany's DTM championship. Since 2010 he has also been a Formula 1 steward. Dr Ennser, who has worked as a judge, a prosecutor and in the legal department of an automotive-industry company, has also acted as a member of the steering committee of German motor sport body, the DMSB, since spring 2010, where he is responsible for automobile sport. In addition, Dr Ennser is a board member of the South Bavaria Section of ADAC, Germany's biggest auto club.
Richard Norbury is the Permanent Chairman of Stewards for the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup and Permanent Steward for the GT World Challenge series. He has acted as FIA Steward and Observer for FIA Historic race championships, as well as working regularly as National Steward at the British Formula 1 Grand Prix and FIA World and European Karting events. He is a Permanent Steward to the British Touring Car Championship. He sits on the Board of Directors of Motorsport UK and is Chairman of both their Rules Committee and Judicial Committee. He is also a member of the body's Motor Sports Council and sits on its National Court. Derek Warwick raced in 146 grands prix from 1981 to 1993 for Toleman, Renault, Brabham, Arrows and Lotus. He scored 71 points and achieved four podium finishes, with two fastest laps. He was World Sportscar Champion in 1992 driving for Peugeot and also won Le Mans in the same year.
He raced Jaguar sportscars in 1986 and 1991 and competed in the BTCC between 1995 and 1998 as well as a futher appearance at the Le Mans in 1996, driving for the Courage Competition team. Currently Vice-President of the FIA Drivers' Commission, Warwick is a frequent FIA driver steward and is also a past President of the British Racing Drivers' Cub. Mazen Al-Hilli is the co-founder and current president of the Bahrain Circuit Racing Cub, the official Bahrain Motor Federation affiliate responsible for organising and developing circuit racing in the Kingdom. He is a founding member of the Bahrain Motorsport Marshals Cub and the Bahrain Karting Cub. Since 2004, he has been involved in the organisation of events and has sat upon the FIA Karting Commission since 2006, the year in which he also first served as the National Steward at the Bahrain Grand Prix. He completed the FIA International Steward Programme in 2018 and has attended WEC, WRC and Fl events in an FIA Steward Trainee capacity.
The wind does not seem to want to drop and the performance of the new single-seaters seems to be affected much more than in previous years. Free practice begins with a first session dominated by a surprising Pierre Gasly, behind whome the two Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz are immediately classified, despite a small error by the Monegasque driver resulting in a spin. George Russell gets the fourth time, far above his teammate Lewis Hamilton, who is only seventh penalized by a strong hopping of the car, not limited enough by the changes made to the bottom of the car. World champion Max Verstappen is fifth, after facing the session with medium tires. The first free practice session is interrupted by a red flag, due to the breaking of the chassis on Esteban Ocon's Alpine, a few minutes before the end of the session; in facr, the race direction chooses to wrap up the tests by reducing the entire session by 15 minutes.
For this race weekend, Pirelli has selected the three hardest compounds in the new 18-inch tyre range for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix: the C1 compound is the P Zero White hard, the C2 is the P Zero Yellow medium and the C3 is the P Zero Red soft. This nomination is one step harder than the selection made for last year’s race as the new 18-inch tyres are completely different in comparison to their 13-inch predecessors, also in terms of compounds. This choice has been made because of Sakhir’s layout, asphalt characteristics and temperatures. Bahrain remains among the most abrasive tracks on the calendar (scoring five out of five in Pirelli’s abrasiveness classification) thanks to a high percentage of granite within the asphalt, which leads to high levels of wear and degradation.
Although asphalt abrasion is high, sand that blows in from the surrounding desert can cause a lot of sliding that affects grip - and that’s why this track scores three out of five in Pirelli’s overall grip classification. Sakhir is a stop-and-go track, scoring four out of five in Pirelli’s traction classification and four out of five in Pirelli’s braking classification. In terms of lateral loads the score is just three out of five, with the rear tyres worked hardest. There’s normally a high degree of track evolution over the weekend, and this year it will probably be even higher as both Formula 2 and Formula 3 will be present as support races. The Bahrain race gets underway just after sunset at 6pm, with track temperatures that are quite different compared to FP1 and FP3. Instead, they are more similar to FP2 and qualifying, but track temperatures can also drop throughout the course of the 57-lap race.
In anticipation of the upcoming start of the season, the Mercedes’ team principal Toto Wolff expresses his feelings about the upcoming championship:
"The start of a new Formula One season is always exciting, and this year more than most. With new technical and sporting regulations, there is so much to learn and discover as this new season begins. Barcelona was a productive first test of the W13, then we brought a big update to Bahrain for the pre-season test which resulted from a huge effort by the whole team. We completed good mileage, had solid reliability, and learned a lot about our new car, but it was not a straightforward three days for us. We tried plenty of set-up options and made good progress in understanding our limitations, and there's still plenty of room for us to improve further. There is a lot of potential to unlock in the W13, and we know how much we relish the challenge of understanding the car and extracting the maximum from it, and this will be our focus for the coming days, weeks and months. It's hard to say exactly where we'll fit in the competitive order this weekend in Bahrain, but that's what makes this new season and new era so exciting. It's a clean slate for everyone and all to play for. Like we always say, what we love about F1 is that the stopwatch never lies - and we will get our first understanding of the competitive truth on Saturday in qualifying. I'm excited to see what the weekend has in store".
One team that has impressed positively and is waiting for a chance to redeem itself is McLaren. Lando Norris says:
"I can’t wait to get jump back into the MCL36 and go racing. We’re coming off a tricky test in Bahrain, but I’m feeling positive for the season ahead. The team has been working incredibly hard to address the issues we had at testing and make sure we’re ready to battle it out on track this weekend. I’m really looking forward to the close racing and exciting battles that the new regulations will bring. I’m not sure what the order will be but it’s going to be a close fight heading into the first qualifying session of the year and across the entire season. I can’t wait for the challenge ahead. I’m excited and prepared to be entering my fourth season in Formula 1 with the team. I’m looking forward to building on the progress we’ve made together over the years and I’m ready to hit the ground running. The tests in Barcelona and Bahrain have taught us a lot about the car but there’s still more for us to understand and work on. I want to thank every person in the team for their hard work and dedication in building the MCL36 so we can go racing this season. Hopefully we can have a strong start to the year".
Daniel Ricciardo adds:
"I’m glad to be back, feeling better and ready for the Bahrain Grand Prix and season ahead. I was disappointed to not be in the car last week but despite being unwell, I’ve been able to keep in touch with the team, chat to Lando about the car and prepare as best as I can for the race weekend. I want to maximise the Free Practice sessions to better understand the car and fine tune everything ready for qualifying and lights out on Sunday. It’s hard to know where we’ll be on the grid but it's going to be competitive and I’m hungry to get back in the car and go racing. Heading into my second year with team, I feel more confident and comfortable than ever. I’m determined to build on last year’s performance and use everything the team and I learned from the highs and lows to make this season one of our best. A new iteration of cars is something I’m no stranger to and comes with a lot of excitement. I’m looking forward to the battles out on track with these new cars, particularly at Bahrain with its overtaking opportunities. Let's get some great results for the team".
Finally, the team principal of McLaren, Andreas Seidl, explain:
"After a busy winter, we’re kicking off another exciting season of Formula 1 and the team is ready to go racing under the new regulations. Our aim is to continue to build on our progress from 2021, further closing the gap to the top and bringing the fight to our competitors. The entire team and our colleagues at Mercedes HPP have worked incredibly hard to build a car under new regulations and delivered a good platform to start the season. We continue to understand the car after a mixed pre-season test and the team are working hard to address the issue we encountered, in preparation for the first race. Daniel’s season preparations were compromised by him being unable to drive during the test in Bahrain, however he got some good laps in at the Barcelona test. Daniel is fully recovered, and we look forward to having him back in the car this weekend. Thank you to every single member of the team for their dedication this winter to prepare us to go racing alongside Lando and Daniel. I also want to thank our incredible McLaren partners and fans for their continued support. The competition around us will be incredibly tight; it’s hard to predict the pecking order at this stage but we are excited for very close racing, fierce on-track battles and a thrilling season ahead".
For the rival team, Scuderia Ferrari, Matteo Togninalli, Head of track engineering, answers three questions. Personally, how does it feel to be starting your 15th season in Formula 1?
"The first race of the season is always special, because it’s the start of a new adventure. This time however, it’s even more special because there are many new factors to take into account and I’m keen to find out, if everything we have done in terms of processes and procedures is taking us in the right direction and delivering the benefits we are expecting. Of course, we used the test sessions to do a sort of general trial run, but it’s only on a race weekend, with its pressure and expectations, that we can really judge how well we have prepared. Those pressures and expectations can lead to mistakes and we have worked with the entire team so as to be calm in managing all the various aspects of the weekend. We must concentrate on ourselves and work with confidence".
The cars are completely new: from a technical point of view, what do you think could make the difference on track this weekend?
"I think that, putting to one side the different car designs, whoever has done the best job in preparing for the season down to the smallest detail, will have a competitive advantage at the start. There are so many new elements involved and whoever has understood the new format better, especially the limitations involved, could have the edge for at least the first third of the season. When I say format, I mean the whole package: the completely new car, the little time available to work on it, the 18 inch tyres and also the fact the drivers must modify their driving style to suit it. All in all, whoever understands the limitations and opportunities of this more compressed weekend format, will have an ace up their sleeve on track".
And looking at the long term, given this is the first of 23 races, what factors could be key over the course of the season?
"Car development will clearly be the main element, but there are other key factors such as on-track organisation, which is my responsibility. Let’s not forget we are embarking on the busiest season ever in the history of this sport, so I think that now, more than ever, it’s the smallest details that can count when it comes to making every task more efficient. One of the aims will be to expand the flow of information between the engineers and the team at the track and those back in the factory".
New year, same pilots for AlphaTauri. But Pierre Gasly can't wait to get started.
“The way testing went was positive, we had no reliability issues and we got through all the work we had planned. However, it’s still too early to know exactly where we are in terms of performance and we won’t get a first idea about it until Saturday afternoon in Bahrain. The new car gives you some very different sensations to the previous one, but in some ways, it’s not so different in terms of what you feel when driving. The car is heavier so you slide a bit more and the tyres are bigger, which changes visibility from the cockpit. The car is also stiffer, but it’s still a Formula 1 car that you have to drive on the limit and that feeling stays the same. Every area of the car has changed in terms of what you have to get used to: on the aero side there’s a lot to understand, how the underside of the car performs now and the new tyres. So, it is very complex and at this stage there are still a lot of questions concerning how to make the car work as well as possible. These are things we will continue to work on at the first few races of the season, starting this weekend. I think with the new cars, it is easier to follow another one closely. At the Bahrain test I had a nice little fight with Lewis for six laps and it was interesting to see how the car behaved and also how the tyres felt while following another car, how much you slide. Overall, I think it will be easier to fight and to overtake than in the past, which is a really good thing. Within the team, the atmosphere is very good but there’s a lot of work to do to understand these new cars and there’s lots to learn. Our mentality is still the same, to do the best we can, but it’s too early to say if the car will be good enough to give us as good a season as we had last year. This year, Yuki will be able to bring a bit more to the team as he has more experience, he will contribute more in terms of technical feedback and so we have a strong line-up. It will be up to the two of us to get the job done and bring home as many points as possible for the team. We start the year in Bahrain, where I have gone well in the past. I’m ready and excited to get going. Of course, we have to be open minded in terms of what we can expect. One topic of winter testing has been the “porpoising” that affected all teams. From our side, the situation regarding this was already much better in Bahrain than in Barcelona, so it’s one thing we still need to work on, as it’s definitely not a nice sensation and it shakes your head around, but I’m not too anxious about it. We seem to be working in the right direction. In terms of the track, we know what to expect after three days testing there last week and so we have a clear idea of what we need to work on to have a good race. We have only had six days on track in total and so there is going to be a lot to do, a lot to learn, with the aim of developing the car as quickly as possible".
And Yuki Tsunoda is also happy to be able to start his second World Championship.
"I am looking forward to the season and generally feel much more prepared than Bahrain a year ago. My overall fitness improved a lot from last year and now, just before the start of the season, I feel very different. Last year I didn’t expect anything and I wasn’t fully in control of all the situations. Now I know much better what I have to do to improve myself. I have a clear target and I am more relaxed. I am happy and my mentality is good and ready for the first race. It's true that I have to deliver more and reduce the number of mistakes I make compared to last year, but I don’t feel any pressure. I am convinced I can achieve that and I’m not worried about making mistakes. I am just focussing on developing the car through the season with the team and giving them good feedback. I have the confidence to achieve those things now. I will know most of the circuits this time, apart from Singapore and Australia and even though I have driven at Suzuka, it was in Formula 4, so 45 seconds per lap slower than an F1 car. The car is very different to last year in so many ways, car shape and tyre size. In terms of driving, I’d say the new tyres make the biggest difference, something I’d already noticed at the end of season test in Abu Dhabi. The switch from 13 inch to 18 means the car feels much sharper, snappier in high speed corners but with a bigger range of control through those corners. In the slower corners, with the increased weight of the cars, you are slightly slower. I remember driving the Formula 2 car on 18 inch tyres and I think that experience could be useful now. It's still too early to get a clear idea if it will be easier to follow another car. During testing there were a couple of times when I followed another car. I’m not sure what I could say about how much the dirty air was reduced but it did feel easier to follow another car at high speed. But that won’t be the same situation as in a race when you can have a few cars ahead of you and you are surrounded by cars immediately after the start, so we must wait and see. We did have some porpoising which was one of the limitations in terms of developing the car at the tests, even if it was not a major problem. We know what we need to do to reduce the effect and I’m very happy with the way we are going now. I think our car has potential, but after just six days of testing we can’t say where we are. We will see what happens in Bahrain, where we must just focus on ourselves. I’m in better shape I know how to adapt to a track as quickly as possible, staying calm at all times. I finished ninth on my debut in Bahrain last year, we’ve just had three good days testing at the Sakhir track, so now I’m excited to see what we can do in the race there".
It will be the unprecedented couple Valtteri Bottas-Zhou Guanyu to defend the colors of Alfa Romeo in the 2022 season. In this regard, the team principal of the Swiss team, Frédéric Vasseur, says:
"It’s finally time to start the season and I think we are as eager as anyone to see where everyone really is when it matters. Some may see it as the moment of truth but, in reality, it will still take a few rounds to have a clearer idea of the pecking order. Still, points are on offer on Sunday and we need to do our last bits of homework after the test to make sure we’re in the best possible shape come raceday. Everyone back at base and here at the track has done a massive job over the winter: now it’s time to reap its rewards. We are hungry, we are motivated and we are ready: we have two drivers eager to show their mettle in the cockpit and I am sure we will all enjoy being back in a competitive setting after the winter break".
Rookie Zhou Guanyum in his first Formula 1 race, admits:
"I have been dreaming of making my debut in Formula One for years: this weekend will be an unforgettable moment for me and my country. It’s a moment I will relish, and so will my family and everyone who helped us on this journey: we have worked so hard to be here and I am grateful for all the support I have received over the years. The hard work doesn’t stop with my debut, of course: I am now in the most prestigious and competitive motorsport series and I am aware of the scope of the challenge ahead. I know how hard I will need to work and how quick I will need to learn: thankfully, the team is around me and they have been superb at helping me be ready for this moment. I know so many people will be watching me on Sunday and I want to make them proud".
Valtteri Bottas adds:
"This race is the start of a new chapter in my career and I am confident I can achieve the goals I set together with the team. I’ve been impressed by the work ethic I’ve found since I first got to Hinwil and by the work we did over the winter: we encountered some issues in testing, but I know we’re on top of them and we can focus on achieving the best possible result on Sunday. It’s going to be a long season and it’s still a bit of a question mark in terms of where everyone stands: I think everyone is looking forward to a bit more clarity this weekend! The important thing, however, is that we keep working to unlock all the potential of the C42 and we focus on having a clean weekend: this way, we will maximise our chances to come home with a good result to start our season. I believe in this team and I believe we can achieve so much if we work hard together".
After many internal developments, Alpine is ready to continue its growth path within Formula 1. Laurent Rossi, CEO of the French team, says:
"It’s always exciting to embark on a new Formula 1 season and, this year especially, there are more question marks surrounding the deeply changed technical regulations and subsequent impact on competitiveness and hierarchy. I’m looking forward to seeing all the hard work from Enstone, Viry and the trackside team come to fruition when Esteban and Fernando drive the A522 at full capacity in real racing conditions. We had some very positive days across Barcelona and Bahrain and we also endured some slightly trickier sessions with the usual testing glitches and gremlins popping up from time to time. I’m very proud of the efforts from everyone in allowing as much preparation as possible. We were able to conclude the Bahrain Test with our two best days of running and over a double century of laps completed. Now, it’s time to see what we’ve got in hand, so bring on this weekend".
Esteban Ocon points out:
"We’ve spent quite a bit of time in Bahrain the last couple of years. Of course, it is where I achieved my first podium in Formula 1, alongside some other good results in the past, so I have great memories of this track. It is a great venue and an exciting place to host the first race. We need to work very closely as a team to keep learning and improving the car to extract maximum performance week in and week out. My goal is to help the team do that while keeping my head down and performing every weekend. I have a lot of confidence and trust in this team, but we need to stay humble and leave no stone unturned to achieve our 2022 objectives".
And Fernando Alonso concludes by saying:
"The winter has gone well for me. I feel in good physical shape and I had some rest over the winter too. We’ve been busy in Barcelona and Bahrain the last few weeks and because we’ve had more time in the car I’m far more prepared. We’re reasonably pleased with the A522 and our preparations over the winter. Nobody knows what fuel or engine modes everybody has been using during testing, so it’s impossible to place an order right now. We always want to do more laps as the learnings are endless in Formula 1 but I’m looking forward to Saturday and seeing where we are against our competition".
Daniel Ricciardo manages to recover from Covid-19 in time. Unfortunately, Sebastian Vettel doesn't manage the same feat, having contracted the virus on the eve of the Grand Prix. However, a few days earlier he had declared himself ready for a new challenge.
"These new Formula One cars are so incredibly different to their predecessors. We’ve spent the past weeks learning as much about them as we can and I’m looking to racing a ground-effect car for the first time this weekend. Everything is new in Formula One and I think we’re looking at a very tight battle, and some very close gaps, between all the teams. There’s a lot to play for - and that’s F1 at its best".
Lance Stroll will be ready instead:
"We may have just finished testing in Bahrain, but this weekend is a real step into the unknown, which is so exciting. I can’t wait to jump into the AMR22 and begin to find out where we are relative to the other teams. We’ll be learning every lap of the season and I’m expecting an intense development race this year. For a driver, it’s awesome to play your part in such a big season of change".
After performing well in 2021, the Williams team is ready to achieve new goals. Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance, says:
"The opening race of any season is an exciting prospect and an opportunity to understand what our rivals were doing during pre-season testing. This season, with substantial changes to the cars, the tension and excitement is even greater, and we won’t know the true order until Sunday night when we see which drivers are able to deliver reliable performance. Winter testing has been tough, with only six days to investigate an almost entirely new package. Despite one day of low mileage last week, we still completed a lot of valuable running and have discovered quite a lot about the FW44. There is no doubt that there is a lot more to learn and we will see all the 2022 cars evolving quickly over the coming weeks. However, our job this weekend is to get everything possible out of the race on Sunday, to continue our setup work and to complete the integration of Alex into the Team by completing our first race weekend together".
Among its drivers, the Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi begins his third World Championship.
"It goes without saying that I’m super excited for the first race of the year. It’s been a long pre-season with a lot of effort from everybody both trackside and in the factory at Grove to build us a car to go racing with, so I’m excited to see how we’ll do come lights-out on Sunday. We’ll be pushing for the best result possible. Bahrain International Circuit is an interesting circuit, and the fact that it’s a night race adds another unusual element to contend with. It’s tough from a tyre management perspective as the temperatures are high and track is very rough; we also have the added challenge of understanding how the 18-inch Pirellis cope with those conditions. It should make for a really exciting season opener”.
Back after a year of testing at Red Bull Alex Albon, who this year joins the Williams team.
"I’m obviously very excited for the first race of the year and to be back racing. It will be the result of all the hard work over winter and everything we’ve learnt from six days of testing, so I’m looking forward to seeing that come together and pushing as much as we can. The track is tricky because, as we saw in testing, it’s very windy, sandy and hot which are tough conditions to contend with. It’s a good track for racing though, so it should be an exciting weekend for Formula One".
Finally, even the Haas’ team principal Guenther Steiner answers some questions. Having had a few days to digest events at the Bahrain pre-season test, what went well and what areas need to be worked on for the team ahead of this week’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
"What we need to start working on is the reliability. We didn’t have it as we wanted it and we’ve got a big mountain to climb ahead of us. Performance-wise, it’s difficult to say because we haven’t done enough running, but I would say it doesn’t look bad".
Were you surprised at just how quickly Kevin Magnussen integrated back into the team - in particular his strong performance in the VF-22 first time out?
"A little bit but then again, that was one of the reasons why we got him back because he knows the team well after being with us for four years, and he’s a good driver. Obviously, I was happy with what he showed but it didn’t surprise me massively because that’s what we expected and is why we brought him back".
The pairing of Kevin Magnussen with Mick Schumacher blends youth and experience. What are their respective strengths as drivers and how do you see them complimenting each other over the season?
"I would say Kevin also has youth to him still, he’s not even 30. We’ve got one experienced young guy and one really young guy who needs a bit more experience. The strength of Kevin is he’s been through ups and downs in his career which has made him a lot tougher but he’s well prepared for this challenge. Mick is someone who wants success, whatever work it takes or how hard he needs to push himself to be as good as Kevin, and Kevin can be a good leader in the team because he’s more seasoned than Mick. I think we have a good pair at Haas now".
What will represent a successful Bahrain Grand Prix for Haas F1 Team?
"First of all, to finish the race. We had a lot of issues reliability-wise that I’m a bit scared of, but I think if we can finish the race, we have a big chance. I’m optimistic, cautiously optimistic, about getting into the points and that would be success".
Then it's the turn of Kevin Magnussen. You return at a poignant moment for the sport, with the introduction of a new set of regulations and radically different looking cars. What’s your early assessment of your time behind the wheel of the VF22 and what are the main differences you’ve experienced?
"First of all, I think it’s good that Formula 1 has moved in a direction that is more accommodating to close racing. It’s also good timing for me to come back into Formula 1 after a year out and that everyone is having to adapt to these new cars. It fits quite nicely, and I would say lucky timing. Driving them, they’re still very fast. They have a lot of downforce. You can feel that they’re heavier but mainly changing direction at slow speed with the grip, it’s a bit lower, but still very fun to drive and it still feels like a Formula 1 car".
How quickly can you get up to speed with the new car, new processes, and new members of the team?
"Coming back to the team felt very natural. There are new faces in the team which is exciting and good to see as it shows that the team has been growing since I left. You can really feel that there is an upwards trend of growth in the team which is positive and just the atmosphere was super good. Everyone is excited for this new season".
You’ve only had a few days of working with Mick, but how is your early working relationship and did you follow his progress during his rookie season?
"I’ve only had a few days to get to know Mick. Straight away it feels like he’s a really cool guy, down to earth and obviously a massive talent. I did of course follow his progress during last season - I think he did what he could with a difficult car - and got the car into Q2 a couple of times which was impressive. I’m looking forward to working with him this year".
The Bahrain Grand Prix is Round 1 of a record-breaking 23 race calendar, what are your objectives for this weekend, and do you think we’ll see a true reflection of the pecking order early on?
"Our objectives for this weekend are - first of all with these new cars - my biggest worry is not finishing the race. I think it’s important to get off to a solid start rather than an explosive one. Of course, it would be nice to get a super good result and that’s 100 percent what we’re gunning for but most importantly it’s to get a good start, some foundation to work from for the rest of the season. In terms of pecking order, I think it’s always hard to say even after the first race. You get a much clearer idea after the first race over winter testing, but it does tend to change quite a lot after the first race. We’ll see, I’m excited".
And finally to Mick Schumacher. The season is officially beginning this week for Round 1 of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship. After setting over 100 laps throughout testing, can you tell us how the VF-22 feels to drive and the main differences to last season?
"The season has definitely begun. I’ve been fortunate to get some laps in during testing, although we didn’t really get the full opportunity to try everything nonetheless, the car feels good. There are a huge number of differences to how this car feels compared to last year, especially coming back to this track and having driven here, you really feel them. It’s very positive, I’m happy and ready to bring on the season".
The Bahrain Grand Prix will herald a new era of racing for Formula 1, what are your targets and where can Haas capitalize on its rivals?
"Targets are difficult to set right now. Obviously, we want to be able to put everything together that we’ve learned over the last few days and put it into a good package for the start of the season. In terms of where we stack against the rest of the grid, it’s very hard to say. I think we’re in a good space where we’re feeling positive about many things and hopefully, we’ll be able to show everyone we’ve made the right steps and the car is in a better place than we were last year, and I don’t think that’s awfully difficult to achieve".
A lot has happened since Haas F1 Team last competed at the Bahrain International Circuit, how do you feel after a full season of racing and being involved in the development of the VF-22?
"A lot has changed since my first race with the team. First and foremost, the way I feel in the team is great, I feel super comfortable and really happy and ready to take on this new challenge of the VF-22. It’s been great to be a part of the development of it and to see it now in one piece and be able to drive it and feel all the hard work that has been put in by the whole team. Seeing it come to life is quite special. To see it’s felt quite positive has been great".
You have a new team-mate in Kevin, someone that is no stranger to the team. How have your first days of working together been and what do you think Kevin will bring to the team and your own development?
"It’s been a thrilling way for Kevin to come back. It’s a great chance for me to have him in the team as I can learn from him. The feeling within the team is great because they know him so well. He spent four years with them and he’s only been away for one year which isn’t a huge amount of time. I’m sure he’ll get back into the groove quickly and hopefully we can benefit from each other".
We’ve seen Inspector Mick appear throughout the test - what’s caught your eye and what do you make of the many ways that the regulations have been interpreted?
"I think there were a lot of different interpretations of how the cars have been built, especially for this year. It’s super interesting to see what direction different teams have decided to go down and who will get it right and who will get it wrong. I would imagine that in the first five races we’ll see a lot of changes on a lot of the cars - maybe adapting, changing - or simply just finding a revolutionary fit again so it will be very interesting to keep an eye out and have a look at also what we can do to go quicker".
The team has stayed out between the test and the race. Have you had any time to relax and have fun away from the track?
"We did manage to get some time off to relax and as a team it’s really nice to be able to spend time together and go indoor skydiving or simply going to the track and for me just to help them - as much as I can - to build the car. There are definitely a lot of opportunities that I like to take to be a part of the team and get to know everyone better and build a stronger working relationship".
On Friday 18th March evening, the weather conditions change and the asphalt temperature drops by 10 °C. This change seems to benefit several cars including Verstappen's Red Bull that records the fastest time under one minute and 32 seconds. The Ferraris are back again in second and third place, with Russell's position remaining intact, whilst Hamilton's performance has deteriorated, causing him to drop to ninth. In fact, behind Russell we find Fernando Alonso with his Alpine and Bottas. Daniel Ricciardo, on the other hand, was unable to participate in the second free practice session due to a hydraulic issue, despite being back on track following his recuperation from Covid 19. At the end of the session, Yuki Tsunoda and Charles Leclerc are summoned by the stewards as the Japanese hindered the Monegasque at turn 8.
Tsunoda receives a reprimand, the first of the season. Valtteri Bottas takes advantage of the new regulations for the first time: his electronic control unit is replaced, but unlike previous years, this does not result in a penalty on the starting grid because the installed unit is among those usable in the maximum number allowed by the technical regulation. Same dynamics occur for the cars of Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon, wherein the transmission is assembled outside of the two free practice sessions - the technical regulation allows for a maximum number. On Saturday 19th March, the last free practice session will be held, in which Verstappen will set the fastest time despite a wheel lock; behind him, Leclerc will be the author of a track exit. At the end of the session Verstappen himself says:
"The car felt good today, testing here last week means we've all started in a good place. We had quite a straightforward and smooth day so I'm pretty happy, we also tried a few things on the car in each session and they seemed to work well. You can see that Ferrari are pushing hard and are very close so that’s exciting. Looking ahead, we’ll have to wait and see with different teams' engine modes, no one is in which spec yet so I think everyone still has a lot more to give. It’s good to see the teams are all closer together, in general that’s what everyone wants and I think over time teams will get even closer together".
Sergio Perez is third, ahead of George Russell, Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton and is satisfied with the return to the track and confident in view of qualifying day:
"It's nice to be back out on track for a new season. We have some work to do overnight to find a good compromise with the set up. We tried some different settings across the two cars, so I think we have good data to look at and then we can pick out the best bits for qualifying tomorrow. We are learning a lot about the tire degradation and overall, there is some work to do but I am hopeful we will have a positive day tomorrow. FP2 will be the most useful session before qualifying because the conditions should be similar and I think it will be interesting to see where everyone is come Saturday evening. The pack is really close and I think the race will be even tighter so there will be some good racing all around".
Different sensations for the two Mercedes drivers. George Russell declares:
"It's all about lap time and we're certainly not where we want to be. We made progress on solving some of our issues but the pace isn't there at the moment. We need to go over the data tonight to understand where we're struggling with the car. We've got lots of work ahead of us to get the car where we want it but if any team can, we can. It was windier today than last week, you're running at different times of the day, plus we're trying lots of things on the car to improve performance, so there's so many factors for us to weigh up. We are truly throwing everything at it to unlock the performance which we think is there but we're struggling to tap into at the moment. We need to go away, do our analysis and make the best of this situation".
Perplexity, similar to Russell’s one, is shared by the teammate, Lewis Hamilton, who states with a critical point of view:
"In the second session, my front two discs were at different temperatures, the left one running cooler and the right one coming up in temperature, so when hitting the brakes the right one was pulling the steering. It meant you didn't get the laps in so that wasn't great but it's not a massive issue and we can fix it. The bouncing we're experiencing is losing us downforce compared to the others which is making it much harder out there. We're not bluffing like people assume we are but we'll work as hard as we can to get through it and do what we can. At the moment, we 're not going to be in the race for the win here, Red Bull are 0.8/0.9s ahead and Ferrari are half a second ahead so we're scrapping with whoever is behind them. I'm still calm, just trying to be the best I can be and get the best out of the car. It's not ideal but we'll pull together as a team to try and fix it".
After a particularly complex world championship, in Ferrari both the drivers seem to have found the right feeling with the single-seaters and beyond the times obtained. In the post-free practice interviews, the drivers themselves confirm it. Sainz argues:
"FP1 went well, the feeling with the car was good and an improvement from testing. Unfortunately, in FP2 this good feeling went away a bit, we didn't nail the set-up and I struggled to put a clean lap together. We definitely need to have a close look at that tonight. I'm confident we can get back to the feeling from this morning and we'll be ready for qualifying".
Good sensations also confirmed by Leclerc who states:
"Our first two sessions have gone rather well, without any issues. We seem to be quite competitive, but we have to keep in mind that it is still early to draw any conclusions. I am quite confident in the car and it felt good overall. We tested many things and worked on the car a lot since the first session. We made good progress and have to keep pushing to find small details ahead of qualifying tomorrow".
Undoubtedly, the return of Nico Hülkenberg to Formula One to replace Sebastian Vettel, who had a solid result at Covid 19, is one of the most exciting stories from this weekend in Bahrain. Nico declares:
"I think today was promising for me: it was all about getting up to speed with the car. I spoke to Sebastian yesterday and he gave me his feedback and insight, so it is always good to have that preparation before jumping into the car. However, I was surprised by how different it was, the feel of the tire, in particular, and the braking process. I am happy with my feeling in the car, th ough, and how I was able to build on every run to feel more and more comfortable. There is always room for more and we will keep working to make progress. This weekend will be a good challenge and I will enjoy every lap in the car".
At the end of the third free practice session, Carlos Sainz is summoned by the stewards for exiting the garage while Fernando Alonso arrives. The Spanish Ferrari driver thus receives a reprimand. Fernando Alonso, post free practice session, declares:
"It was a good day for us today and we completed our program efficiently. It was a lot cooler today than last week at testing, so we tried to adapt to these different conditions and learn how the tires work at these temperatures. Obviously, some tweaks are still needed on the setup of the car. We'll look at this all tonight and digest all of our information. There are many questions left for us to answer tomorrow, but I think overall it was a positive day for us".
Fernando Alonso's teammate, Esteban Ocon, seems to partially share the impressions of the Spanish driver:
"It was the first proper Friday of the year, where we really got to see all the other cars on track. From what we have seen today, it looks very tight in the midfield and for us it was another day of learning and working through our program. The issue with the loose sidepod early in FP1 slightly delayed our run plan but was quickly addressed. Despite that, it was a solid day for the team on track as we keep learning more and more about this new car. Tomorrow, we'll really see everyone's true pace and I'm looking forward to giving it my best in Qualifying".
Reprimands arrive also for Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll. The Japanese driver declares:
"We started quite well today with FP1, but in the second session we started to struggle a bit. We'll have to work hard tonight to see what the limitations were today and see how we can improve for tomorrow. We've made a big step up after the tests and I'm much more comfortable in the car, but we've still got a couple of tenths to find and then I hope we'll be closer to that top group. We've got one practice session left so we've still got to time to make some improvements ahead of Qualifying".
Instead, Lance Stroll argues:
"I think there is some real excitement in the paddock this weekend because it is the first race with these new regulations. It is very tough to tell where everyone stands and we will not truly find out until qualifying tomorrow. For us, today was about continuing to learn about the car. We had some solid days in pre-season testing, but there is always more to learn so every lap is valuable. I do not think our times today were representative: I ran wide at Turn 11 on my Soft tire run, but I am happy with our overall progress. I am looking forward to fighting for the best possible grid position tomorrow. I also want to say that Nico did a good job today after a late call-up, it is not easy to jump back in after time away".
Pierre Gasly, the best in the first free practice session, claims:
"We've had two very different sessions today; we topped the timings in FP1 and then in the second session we were P13, so two very contrasting outcomes. I think purely for us the hotter track conditions helped, the car really seemed to click, but tonight we struggled massively in the cold. We need to look through everything and understand what happened, especially as Qualifying and the race are both at night here in Bahrain. I think our long run pace was slightly better than the shorter runs, but still we've got a lot of work to do to fully understand our performance in these conditions".
Valtteri Bottas appears to be back on track atop an Alfa Romeo with a fresh enthusiasm after shutting the Mercedes chapter:
"We recovered strongly from FP1, ending the day with an important session and plenty of laps, so I can say we saved the day. There're still lots to improve, like for everyone else so early in the season, but you can definitely tell the potential is there: in the running we did in the evening session, the car felt really nice, especially on high fuel. It feels we're not far off where we want to be, which is really positive. It will be interesting to see how it will be tomorrow, in qualifying, when everyone puts out everything they've got: now, however, it's time to look at the data we collected together with Zhou and the team and learn from it".
Baptism for Zhou Guanyu, replacing the Italian Giovinazzi this year. Zhou, in this first experience in F1. Claims:
"It was a good day to start the season, all went very smoothly and, at least on my side, according to our program. The car felt comfortable, although there are, of course, still a few things we need to improve. All feels still quite new to me and there's still something to explore before qualifying tomorrow. FP1 was quite tricky as the track conditions were challenging, but already in FP2 the evolution made it easier. What really mattered, however, was doing all we had on our plan for the day. It's a promising start for the weekend and I am looking forward to tomorrow".
To the microphones of the journalists present on the track, Kevin Magnussen declares himself super excited:
"The car has been feeling good all day again, like last week. In FP1 we were focusing a little more on race set-up and feeling, we weren't trying to set a lap time. In FP2, we did a qualifying sim - not fully going for it - and that looked better on timings, but I think it was the long run that I was really encouraged by. It was so consistent, lap times were really strong, and I'm still super excited".
An enthusiasm also shared by Mick Schumacher:
"It was overall very positive - we made good steps at the right moment. Now it's just about trying to fine-tune what we have and then I think the package is there to be used. We've done quite a few long runs which seem to be positive and hopefully that will be the case on Sunday as well. It's only FP2 but it does feel good to be in the top 10".
Alex Albon, finally back at the wheel of an F1 car, declares himself happy with his return:
"It's been good to get back out on track today and do some running in conditions that are more representative of those we'll be racing in. I think we're all aware that the car felt better in Barcelona; historically Bahrain is a track that we struggle with and the wind, sand and heat doesn't help, but we're understanding the limitations and adapting our driving style to cope with the challenges. The team have a strong direction that we're pushing for and we're all very motivated, so I think we're making progress".
On the other hand, the driver Nicholas Latifi analyses the results obtained on the track in an extremely rational way:
"We're where we expected to be after the test last week, but our learning from today is that there are some easy areas we can find some time and try to improve the performance. It's clear we're not where we want to be and we know the limitations that are holding us back. We're still building confidence with each lap, each session and each new set of tires and working to understand exactly how the car needs to be set up to be driven fastest. That might not be based on knowledge we have from previous years, or experience from my natural driving style, so it's working out the set-up to extract the most potential, which we're still working on".
At McLaren the expectations do not seem to have been confirmed by the performances obtained in the three free practice sessions. Daniel Ricciardo, recovering from a positivity at Covid, claims:
"It's good being back in the car and back out on track but we didn't have the smoothest day. Unfortunately, we missed out on some running this evening, so we've got our work cut-out tonight. We've also got some pace to find, but it's only day one. We'll keep at it, study the data tonight and try to make up for it tomorrow morning, before qualifying".
Even Lando Norris recognizes the great work the team has to in order to be able to compete for the top positions in the race:
"Today was always going to be a tough day, trying to make up for the lack of long running that we missed out on last week at the test. We stuck to our run plan and can take some positives from the day, but there's a lot of work to do to be competitive. That will be our aim overnight, we'll go and analyze the data, work out where we can improve and do what we can to get the car in a better place for tomorrow".
Heading back to the Mercedes house, engineering director Andrew Shovlin argues:
"Our first session made use of the fact that we had two cars for the first time this year and chose to run them in different specifications. That was a useful test and we got a clear read on which setup and floor specification was best for the bouncing. However, we're still struggling to get the rear of the car much lower and trying to do that gave the drivers a fairly bumpy time of it in the second session. In terms of pace, we have a significant gap to Ferrari and Red Bull, especially Max on the long run. There are some relatively easy gains we might be able to make overnight with the balance but we're not going to find more than a few tenths. More important is that we keep learning as we don't seem to have understood the bouncing as well as some of the others, it may also be that we're lacking a bit of car pace. So, we're expecting a tough couple of days where we need to focus on damage limitation but also continuing to experiment to see if we can find a better place to run the car".
Focus on the development of single-seaters are also shared by Mattia Binotto, who is enthusiastic about the results obtained so far and about the red drivers:
"The tests had indicated that we could be fast and that Verstappen could be just as fast, if not faster. Mercedes is very close, however, and these sessions are confirming that. You have to keep your feet on the ground. The competition is strong. It will be this weekend and then for the whole season. You have to aim for the best, including victory. So, the enthusiasm is right and it's right to believe. But we must not be too eager. The engine has improved a lot since last year. Then we will see it better tomorrow in qualifying, when everyone will unleash every horsepower. Mercedes, us and Red Bull didn't push hard. You have to conserve the engine. Let's wait 4-5 races, then we'll see the real values. Competitiveness will change depending on each track. Carlos is good and I am confident that tomorrow he will be able to get close to Charles' pace. Being able to count on two drivers who can score points is fundamental. That's why we make a great team. The budget cap issue is difficult: I was joking with Red Bull's technical director about this. They brought an update at the end of the test and I laughed and said: now you've already run out of budget to update. Joking aside, the only way to stay within it is to tweak the developments. Second place? That would be a good result, as would having two riders on the podium. But we want to try and aim high".
Last but not least, there are still several elements that are in the spotlight: Pirelli tires which appear to be ready to make a significant difference this season. In this regard, Pirelli' Motorsport Director Mario Isola argues:
"Conditions in the key FP2 session were quite cool, while the race will probably take place in warmer temperatures. The performance gaps between the compounds are definitely bigger than the targets agreed and it will be interesting to see what effect this has on strategy, when it comes to deciding whether to use the soft or the medium tire to start the race. We saw no graining in the cool conditions of FP2, despite the abrasive surface in Bahrain. Although they had a brand-new package, the teams carried out their usual run plans this evening, with performance runs at the beginning of FP2 before concentrating on long runs in the final part. The FP2 lap times so far look impressive, with the cars only around 1.2 seconds off the equivalent times from the same session last season - when they had a compound that was one step softer than this year".
On Saturday, 19th of March, it starts to get serious as all teams get on track for the official qualifying for sunday's race. It is 6:00 p.m. and there are 19 °C, an unusual temperature if compared to the 33 °C registered during the tests last week. Even the asphalt temperature is quite uncommon with just 26 °C. This year, the new rules provide that drivers who will qualify in the top ten during Q1 will not be forced to start the Q2 with the same set of tyres that make them gain their fastest laps in Q1. In addition, the possibility to choose multiple combinations between the front and rear tires expands the range of strategies available to the teams during the season, including the choice to make two pit-stop to drivers, given the asphalt conditions of the Bahrain International Circuit, highly abrasive and with a demanding layout. Moreover, this year, the white line is valid for the track limits. Therefore, the cars will no longer be able to trespass in the curbs, which are no longer part of the circuit.
Kevin Magnussen is back in Formula 1, after 15 months of absence, alongside his teammate Mick Schumacher for the Haas team, which from this year will use the Ferrari engine. The return of Mercedes is highly anticipated. Despite some difficulties, the car has enormous potential as the two drivers: on the side, George Russell, who joined the team this year; on the other side, the 7-time champion Luis Hamilton. Luis is determined to win again, as shown by his choice to wear a yellow helmet like that he wore during competitions with the go-kart, to rediscover his past energy. Before qualifying, Toto Wolff acknowledged that Mercedes could not currently match the performance of its main rivals, the Ferrari and Red bull teams. Nevertheless, there are 23 races to dispute, and even if they lost some, this would not mean that the team would be excluded from the fight for the Championship. Over the course of the Championship, Mercedes will know the car more and more and adopt the necessary improvements to return quickly competitive.
"Again, purely based on assumption that we’ve seen on pace, I don’t think we can match the leaders’ performance at the moment. I personally believe there are simple solutions to get the performance back, that will start to crystallise, and it’s 23 races. Even if you lose a race or two and you end up outside of the podium, nobody is protected from DNFs or crashes in a way, and we’ve seen last year - they played a big role - so we’ll give it whatever we can, bring updates as quickly as we can and understand the car more and try to find performance".
In contrast to Christian Horner, who expressed satisfaction with the work of the Reb Bull team:
"I think the whole technical team have done a tremendous job. Last year was such an intense title fight, that obviously drew us into developing RB16B later into the season than would have been ideal for such a new set of regulations. So the hard work, long days, weekends that have been worked by the whole technical group to come out with a car that - you know, we felt we'd be very much on the back foot coming into the season, but I think we've got a good foundation and it's going to be a season of hard development. I think Ferrari have looked quick from the first lap of testing, I don't think Mercedes have showed their full potential yet, so I think what's important for us is that we focus on ourselves, extract every bit of performance we can out of this new car".
Horner knows that the hard work behind the new car will require a bit of break-in, but he also knows that they have a good starting base. Speaking of his opponents, he recognises the competitiveness of Ferrari and the problems of Mercedes, which does not seem to have shown its full potential yet. This season the cars are very different from each other. The Alpha Tauri is quite competitive, except in the last free practice session, but the team expects to see both cars, driven by Gasly and Tsunoda, in Q3. Alpha Romeo is also competitive with Bottas and debuting driver Zhou, who finished second in Formula 2 last year. Regarding Hulkenberg, he came close to the free practice session to replace Sebastian Vettel, who is positive to Covid-19. Therefore, he will have to compete with a car of which he has limited knowledge and he did not test it first in the simulator. At 6:00 p.m., the traffic lights turn on for the start of Q1. The first to get on track is Gasly, who in the first sector drops below 30 seconds (29.89), marks the first best time with 1'33"016 and puts himself in the lead. He is followed by his teammate, Tsunoda, who chooses the soft C3 compound tyres and scores on the clock 1'33"581, with 5 tenths more than Gasly.
The two Mclaren also slide on the track, led by the young Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, who lost part of the free practice due to a positive diagnosis at Covid-19. Lando Norris closes the first sector with 0.018, slightly improving Gasly's performance, registers a 0.097 in sector 2 and closes with 1'33"113. Ricciardo seems to go rather slowly, compared to his teammate, with +0.126 in the first sector, +0.385 in the second sector, and 0.587 in the third, in a total of 1'33"603 and a gap of 0.412 from his teammate. It is the turn of the reigning Champion, Max Verstappen, who runs very fast in the first sector, with an average of 250 km/h in curve 11 and curve 12; in the second sector, he registers -0.893. Max brings so much speed and does not lose the rear. He closes the lap in 1'31"909 and dictates the pace of all the other drivers. However, in the first sector, Verstappen complained that his front was not quite ready and warm. In turn 1, he went understeer and then had a sudden change of direction.
He makes a good traction output even in turn 4, with the front and rear aligned. At turn 13, which is very hard, he is forced to use the brake and steering together, but the front and rear behaved well and went hand in hand. Sergio Perez, driving the other Red Bull car, is 009 seconds behind Gasly and almost half a second behind his teammate in the second sector. He ended his first lap in 1'32"383 due to a slight skid in the final part of the circuit that made him go wide. For the Alpines team, Esteban Ocon recorded 1'32"667, aboard his pink car, a colour that will be retained for the next two races for sponsorship's duty. The two Ferraris take to the track, driven by Leclerc and Sainz. The Monegasque is shooting in the first sector (-9.367) and registers -0.483 in the second sector. He places himself in front of Verstappen, with 1'31"471. Carlos Sainz is using soft tires. He loses some time in the first sector but manages to recover in the second, recording a good time like his teammate in -0.305 and in the third sector -1.958. He finished the lap in third place behind Verstappen in 1'31"567 and a gap of -1.742 from Leclerc.
For the Haas team, Kevin Magnussen runs well in the first sector, a few thousandths from Verstappen's best time with +0.310. He recorded a +0.377 on the chronometer in the second sector and totalled 1.32.286, bringing him behind the Dutch champion. However, Schumacher is fourth, with 1'32"593. For Alpha Romeo, Valtteri Bottas pushes his Ferrari engine in the first sector, and reaches -0.026 in the second sector, ahead of Verstappen times. He finishes the lap in 1'31"919, ten-thousandths from the world champion driver. If last year Alpha Romeo failed to qualify for Q2, it is now second. Instead, teammate Zhou finished 14th with 1'32"493, qualified for Q2 and put Tsunoda out. The two Mercedes do not shine. Hamilton records +0.192 in the first sector (29.5), a good time but not at the level of Ferrari's performance. In the third sector, he gains a +8.14 and places in fifth place, behind his former partner Bottas. Luis has turned very slowly, so much so that he is forced to move to let the next driver pass and avoid a reprimand by the technical commissioners, who this year are more strict about bothering other drivers. Hamilton closes with a -1.024 Gap from his former teammate.
Contrary to Verstappen, Luis turns well in turn 1, while he has a change of direction and goes on gas and oversteer in turn two. It seems that the Mercedes does not have a good balance. In turn 4, Luis struggles with the rear part of his car that appears not to follow the driver's commands. George Russel, with soft tyres, has a slightly better performance than his team-mate, with 0.459 in sector 1, +0.855 in sector 2 and +1.075 in sector 3, but closes in the eighth position and with a gap of -0.763. Gasly records a great time in sector 2 (29.6) and closes in 1'32"315 and in the seventh position. So far, the first to be excluded from Q2 and Q3 will be Lance Stroll for Aston Martin, followed by teammate Hulkenberg. Norris and Ricciardo are also heavily at risk, while Latifi is 20th with Williams. Russell does a second lap and records a +0.748 in sector 2, and a +0.798 in sector 3, for a total of 1'32"269. Ricciardo also tries to improve his first best time and records -0.236 in the first sector, -0.176 in the second, and -0.168 in the last sector, closing in 1'32"945, in the 15th place, with almost half a second behind Norris.
In the second lap, Norris records +0.265, then +0.525, and +0.768 in the third sector, with 1'32"239 and finishes behind Magnussen, who is at 1'31"955 in the fifth position and saves a Mclaren from elimination. Fernando Alonso for Alpines is in the twelfth position while Schumacher slips to the thirteenth position with 1'33"032 and Zhou for Alpha in 14th with 1.32. The Q1 ended: Albon (Williams) and Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) were excluded from Q2 with 1'32"650, Hulkenberg (Aston Martin) finishing 17th, Ricciardo (McLaren) with 1'32"945, ahead of Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) with 1'33"032 and Latifi (Williams) 20th. It seems that the teams that use the Mercedes engine, the Williams, the Aston Martin and the Mclaren, are having some difficulty in catching on. The Aston Martin team is disappointed with the results obtained during qualifying, especially after having received a positive result during the third day of free practice. The Aston Martin' team principal Mike Krack says:
"We are obviously disappointed by today's qualifying performance, but we will work hard this evening to see what we can do to optimise our race pace and strategy for tomorrow. There is not a lot more to say at this stage, but we are racers and we will work as hard and as fast as possible to remedy the situation".
Lance Stroll comments:
"We are disappointed with today's result and it is not what we expected after a positive FP3. We made some changes to the car and perhaps they were in the wrong direction. In qualifying, we did not have the grip to extract the performance. We need to go over the data and understand it so we can learn from this. The early races are going to be a learning curve as we try to understand the car more. Tomorrow is a new day, so we will come back ready to try to make progress in the race".
In the case of Nico Hülkenberg, the driver found himself driving a car on which he had relatively limited experience. A few tenths have separated the team from reaching Q2. Nico Hulkenberg said:
"Obviously we are not happy with P17 but, on a personal level, I am happy. Considering that I had very limited experience with the car, I was able to put together some clean laps without any errors. The field is very close this year so it was fine margins that stopped us from reaching Q2. The real challenge begins tomorrow for me: I have not raced a Formula One car in almost two years. You cannot really prepare for going wheel-to-wheel with other cars and having to do things like tyre management. However, I am looking forward to racing the AMR22 tomorrow and I intend to enjoy every lap in the car".
At 6:25 p.m., the Q2 starts. The only drivers who opt for the tyres used during Q1 are Leclerc, Sainz and Gasly, while the other drivers mount the new ones. Before completing the third sector, Albon for Williams could not close the lap and returned to the pits. Magnussen made the first best time with 1'31"461. At five-tenths, the teammate Schumacher is positioned with 1'31"998, which recorded 29.538 in the first sector, 0.386 in the second sector, and 0.537 in the third sector. Verstappen turns once again faster than the others do. In the first sector, he turns in 29.0, while in the second in 38.8; and registers 1.30,757. Leclerc also fell in the chronometer, recorded 29.04 in the second sector, and qualified second in 1'31"356, more than half a second from Verstappen (+0599). Carlo Sainz closed the first sector in 29.3 and qualified fifth. Sergio Perez is third with 1'31"377, while Zhou is sixth, behind Schumacher and Sebastian Ocon (seventh). Russell finishes in 1'31"606, takes the sixth place from Zhou, and places behind Hamilton, who turned in 1'31"496. Both are behind Magnussen. Bottas slides quickly to the tenth position in the elimination zone.
The first excluded driver is Schumacher, in the 11th position and six-tenths from the first in the standings, Verstappen, who is ahead of Leclerc with 0.599. Finally, Ocon manages to complete a lap in Q2. He took turn 1 at 313 km/h and closed the first sector at +0.536. Ocon seems to go up gears with his Mercedes gearbox and registers +0.577 in the second sector, half a second ahead of Valtteri Bottas, and +0.47 in the third sector. He ends his lap in 1.32 and in 12th place behind Norris. Verstappen records an incredible time of 1'30"757. Instead, after mounting the new tires, Leclerc turns in the first sector in +0.327, paying three tenths in turn 1 and furiously scaling from eighth to second gear. He gives up gas until turn 10, where it is forced to brake and, at turn 13, to use combined brake and steering. Schumacher does not improve, and at turn 1, he was eliminated, because he goes out of the white line, in 11th position.
Leclerc tries a new lap and improves the time but stays behind Verstappen. Instead, with 29.0 in sector 1, Sainz is very close to the absolute best time of Verstappen and goes up to the second position with 1.30.787, 30 thousandths from the World Champion. Zhou (15th) and Norris (13th) are eliminated, along with Albon. Alpha Romeo returns to Q3 with Bottas in tenth place. Gasly has a fantastic performance, as from the 14th he gains the 9th place and eliminates Esteban Ocon. Alonso is eighth. Magnussen is in seventh place, despite some hydraulic problems that forced him to return to the pits. Russell is sixth at +0.495, behind Hamilton. Perez improved his performance and went into fourth place less than three tenths from the other Red Bull and Ferrari. On 6:48 p.m., the final part of these qualifying sessions starts. Haas did not go to Q3 from Brazil 2019.
Russel starts the round, ending with 1'32"291. In turn 11, Leclerc goes early on the gas and ends up at the curb limit. The Monegasque takes 38.825 seconds in the first sector and is half a second faster than Hamilton is in the second sector. He closes the lap in 1'30"731. Sainz makes an excellent performance and gains the position before Leclerc, turning in the first sector in 29.036 and closing in 1'30"687. Currently, there are two Ferraris on the pole position, with a gap of -044. Verstappen goes out, turns in the first sector in 28.995, and finishes in the third position with 1'30"743. The Dutch driver complains that he went slower than he could have done because the team suggested that he do so. A few tenths separate the first three drivers. Perez finishes fourth with 1'31"013. Gasly makes another excellent performance with 1.33.
Another lap starts. Russell is in front of everyone, but he does not improve his time, finishing in the sixth position. Hamilton runs in the first sector in 29.3 and +0.551 in the third sector and retains the fifth position. Sainz gets Leclerc on track first, according to the team's directions. Leclerc enters the track and is very close to Bottas, who does not want him to move forward. However, the proximity between the two is not ideal for the Ferrari driver's tires, especially if Bottas heats the tire to a different temperature. Therefore, Leclerc decides to let him go, and Hamilton's lap starts. Hamilton opts for the used tyres and ends his lap in 1'32"158 and records in the first sector 29.721, slightly slower than his teammate (29.630).
The Monegasque driver records in the first sector +0.079 (29.2), -0.061 (38.702) in the second and +0.129 in the third, closing with 1.30.558 and maintaining the first place. Bottas climbs in front of Russell. Sainz runs 29,046 in the first sector, recovers many tenths of a tenth of free practice, but does not improve in the second sector, and remains on the thousandth with Verstappen. Perez remains in fourth place while Verstappen comes second with 1.30.681 and 28.970 in the first sector, -0.015 in the second sector, and +0.123 in the third sector. After qualifying, the statements of the various teams were not delayed and aligned with the performance recorded today. The Ferrari team is delighted with today's qualifying. The Maranello team is strongly convinced of the potential and strength of their car package, the drivers, and the staff on the track and in the headquarters. The Scuderia Ferrari' team principal Mattia Binotto says:
"We are extremely pleased with today’s performance: we were convinced the potential was there to do well and the fact that both our drivers were in the fight for pole says a lot about the strength of our package - the car, the drivers and everyone who gives their all every day both at the track and back in Maranello. This pole position is a reward for all the hard work of the entire team and it’s even more important when one considers where we were two years ago. We have always said that to excel against such strong opponents we have to be perfect and I think, today, as a team we were very good. I know we have the best driver pairing and I feel that was shown to be the case today".
Charles Leclerc claims that today's victory does not allow the team to relax because the opponents to beat are strong and that the most challenging part was identifying the winning combination of tires.
"We knew that it was just a matter of time before we were back in the mix and I’d like to thank our whole team for the hard work that everyone has done to put our car back where it belongs. We are all happy with today’s result, but at the same time we are aware that we can’t relax and have to keep pushing because our competitors are strong. We focused on short runs so far in the weekend in preparation for qualifying and did a lot of high fuel laps during testing, so we have gotten to know the car in different situations and it feels good. The trickiest part today was putting the tyres in the right window, but at the end I put it all together and it feels really good to be back on pole".
Carlos Sainz also acknowledges that the weekend has not been easy and that there is work to be done, but the Spanish driver is glad.
"It’s not been an easy weekend for me up until Quali, but we managed to put together a very strong performance this afternoon. Fighting for pole until the very last attempt is good news. The gap at the top has been super narrow all session, so overall I cannot be too disappointed with this first qualifying of the year. Congrats to Charles for this result and to the entire team for giving us such a competitive car. It’s a promising start. Looking ahead to the race, I think there’s still a bit of work to do from what we saw during the long runs in practice, but we will definitely give our maximum. I can’t wait to race tomorrow".
In the words of Dave Robson, the vehicle performance manager, the Williams team feels mixed feelings:
"We have mixed feelings after qualifying today. We expected it to be difficult even though we have made some steady progress over the last couple of days. In Free Practice this morning we got a good understanding of what Alex is looking for from the tyres and we were to able apply that successfully in Qualifying. Although we set out to achieve something similar with Nicholas, the difficulties of a busy track in Q1 made this difficult to achieve. We understand where the raw pace of the car is, and we know that we need to work on that quite quickly. However, we also have a good idea of how to make the most of what we have and today that allowed Alex to beat several faster cars. There are challenges to overcome, but we are looking forward to the race tomorrow knowing that there will likely be opportunities to outperform the car".
Indeed, Alex Albon is satisfied with today's performance and car's performance:
"We put it all on the table today and the result was more than we expected, so it’s a pretty special one. The car gives me a lot of confidence, as do the team, which really enabled me to push and get the most out of Qualifying. Coming into the session, I was expecting similar struggles to those we experienced in testing, but the car felt alive, quick and agile, so I’m going into Sunday feeling positive".
Different opinion has Nicholas Latifi:
"It's definitely not what we expected from Qualifying. There’s clearly been a lack of pace all weekend. Each session we’ve actually been learning quite a lot, but for some reason it’s felt like we’ve been going backwards as the car felt the best in FP1, which is strange for a track like this especially. I know why I was so far off - the answer is clear - the question is why we couldn’t make the tyres work the way we need them to. It’s not ideal, but the race is tomorrow and we’ve got a lot to analyse before then to further our learning".
Kevin Magnussen is of course speechless for his P7 today:
"It’s crazy. This is all we ever could’ve hoped for - I’m speechless. The last couple of weeks have been insane. Getting here, learning about the car, seeing that it is maybe a pretty good one and being so anxious about this qualifying to really see how it is and then finding out it is really good. I got through to Q3 on one set of tires and in Q2 I only ran one set - I think I was P4 or something after the first run and ended up P7. Then we had some issue that needed more time to fix so we only got that one run again Q3 and still managed to get P7. It’s just so cool and I can’t wait to get started".
For the Haas team, the team principal Guenther Steiner says:
"It was another exciting day for us again. We had a very good result, qualifying P7 and P12 is something we dreamt of at the end of last season and the beginning of this year. Now we’ve done it, but I think there is more to come from us this year".
Mick Schumacher says he is sorry he did not make it to Q3 today. However, he knows the Haas team has potential:
"Q3 was definitely possible today and I’m gutted that I didn’t get there. The good thing is that we know we have the potential and it’s just a matter of putting it together over the next 23 races. Points are realistic, we have a car to do that, it’s just a matter of putting everything together. We have a lot of races coming our way so I’m sure we’ll be in a position to do that".
Similar reactions come from the Alpines team for today's Alonso (P8) and Ocon (P11) results. Explains Otmar Szafnauer:
"It was a great qualifying performance from the team today. Esteban was slightly unlucky to just miss out on Q3. Unfortunately, he had to run the old spec sidepod, which is a loss in performance for him. That said, starting in eleventh puts him in the mix and points are only given out on a Sunday, so he has every means to be looking forward to the race. Fernando did a wonderful job, and he was close to being one or two places higher, such are the fine margins in a competitive field. This qualifying performance gives the team an excellent starting platform to push on and we must aim for a strong rate of development to push even closer towards the front. As we’ve seen between both of our cars today, every ounce of detail is going to make a huge difference but that’s an exciting challenge for us. Looking ahead to tomorrow, we can certainly have a strong race from eighth and eleventh on the grid and we have the potential to score points with both cars".
Esteban Ocon acknowledges that getting into Q3 was a difficult challenge, and he gave his best together with the team today.
"Firstly, it’s a great feeling to be back in qualifying mode and giving it my all under the thrill of proper racing conditions. Heading into the session today we knew it was going to be a tight one, especially to get into Q3. We were lacking a bit of pace on my side of the garage during the weekend, but we stepped it up today for qualifying and losing out on Q3 by such a small margin is of course frustrating but there are definitely positives to take. We still have a new set of tyres for tomorrow and we’re starting from the clean side of the grid, so that should lead to an exciting race and I already can’t wait to get back out there".
Instead, Fernando Alonso is satisfied with the team's performance today because it is known that the winter break could always reserve either positive or negative surprises.
"I’m happy with today’s qualifying, because after the winter you never know exactly where the team’s performance is going to be. Every new season you can have positive or negative surprises, so to see both cars fighting for the top ten, is a good start. The job done over the winter at Enstone and Viry-Chatillon has clearly been positive, and the car feels good. The development has been good and now we need to be fast off-track as well. It’ll be interesting to see how the new cars can fight tomorrow and it’s great to see a mixed-up grid. It seems easier to follow the cars ahead, whether it provides more action on track we shall soon see, and the first couple of laps will be interesting. Tyre degradation and the resulting race strategy are going to be critical considerations for tomorrow".
From the Mercedes team, Toto Wolff recognises the difficulty of analysing today's performance level, which, however, earned it the third place as the fastest team on the grid behind Ferrari and Red Bull.
"We have to be realistic about our performance level at the moment and that is the third quickest team on the grid. Lewis put the car there and for George, it was probably us misguiding him in his last outing because we advised him to push the outlap stronger and he had no edge anymore with the new tyre. It's very difficult to make a judgement on PU performance at this stage - our data shows we are running more drag than anybody else, and you can see we are losing on the main straight but not so much on all the other areas of the track. So we need to make an assessment after the first couple of races to see if we are lacking power. Realistically, we are missing about half a second on a single lap. Let's see tomorrow - whatever happens, we're gathering valuable learning. We have been in difficult situations in the past against a very strong Ferrari Power Unit and last year we were four tenths off Max at the first race, so we just have to keep our heads down and find the performance".
Indeed, for George Russell, today's test was not what he expected because it was a second slower in Q3 than he did in Q2. However, he does not seem bitter to have tested a different strategy with tyres, although it did not work, because his goal is to beat Ferrari and Red Bull and win the podium:
"Today wasn't ideal for me, I went one second slower in Q3 than I did in Q2; with only one set of fresh tyres for Q3, I tried something different on my out-lap and it didn't work. I'm glad I tried something because we want to be fighting Ferrari and Red Bull. We had one shot, maybe it was too risky but we're here to fight for podiums and victories, not to settle for P5 and P6. The pace of our car is definitely behind Ferrari and Red Bull, and ahead of the rest of the midfield, so my target for tomorrow is to get ahead of that group. We're trying absolutely everything at the moment to solve our global issues with the car. We all knew with the regulation change that anything could happen, the only promising thing is we have major issues and we're still the third-fastest team. If we were in this position and everything felt great, then we'd be a little bit puzzled. It race day tomorrow and I'll be giving it my all".
Overall, the teammate Lewis Hamilton is satisfied with the result achieved in this qualifying, given the difficulties the team had last week. The English driver recognises the superiority of the two teams in pole position. Tomorrow, he will try to play a lot with the strategies to keep the pace and stay in the fight.
"The session was tough but I'm really proud of what we've managed to do, given the issues we've had the past week. Those guys ahead of us are on another level at the moment but there's a lot to play for tomorrow at the start and with strategy so I hope I can at least stay with them and stay in the fight. We're not quick enough to win but I told you that before the weekend. It was looking like we were further behind last week, we've made some improvements and we're closer, so I'm proud of what we've achieved and where we've got to. I hope we'll make another step next week and bit by bit, we'll hunt those guys down. The improvements come from our collective efforts, we're working as hard as we can and I know it's a long, long way to go but I love a challenge".
Mercedes' trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin commented on the performance of the two Mercedes, noting that the choice to use only a soft tyre in the final session for Luis, ahead of the race, affected the driver's performance, that he could have earned a few tenths with another combination. However, he probably would have not changed the choice. On George, he claims that the tyres were not ready in Q3, that is why he lost seven or eight-tenths, a second down on his Q2 time.
"We were realistic with our expectations going into qualifying and anticipated a pretty difficult session, but considering the issues that we're having to manage on the car at the moment we weren't as far off as we might have feared. We only had a single Soft in the final session as we've biased our tyre selection towards the race, for Lewis it might have meant he found another tenth or two but probably wouldn't have changed the order. For George, only having the one set in the final session was much more costly; the tyres weren't ready and he lost seven or eight tenths, a second down on his Q2 time. We know we have to improve before thinking about fighting for the win so our focus is very much on damage limitation in the championships. We'll see where our race pace is tomorrow, there may be some opportunity for Lewis if either of the Red Bulls or Ferraris are struggling but he should be well placed to race all the cars lining up behind him. With George we have a bit of ground to make up but it's a track where that is possible".
For Mario Isola, we saw the true pace of all the team during the qualification finally, thanks to the good conditions on the track.
"In qualifying we finally saw the true pace of all the teams. With cool temperatures that were similar to FP2 and the hardest tyres in the range selected this weekend, tyre warm up was marginal, especially with track temperatures dropping as the evening went on. Another decisive factor in the qualifying strategy was the removal of the rule this year that obliged drivers to start the race on the tyres with which they set their best Q2 times. As a result, everyone begins the race tomorrow on an entirely level playing field and the focus tonight will shift towards the race strategy, and which tyres to start on. With a big performance gap between the compounds, this adds another level of complexity to what is already a tricky decision, as the new formula makes its race debut on Sunday. We’re expecting slightly warmer conditions compared to today and two pit stops; but there may be scope for some drivers to do something different".
Valtteri Bottas, the former Mercedes driver is proud of his smooth performance during qualifying, in which he managed to improve a few tenths in each heat and earn Q3. Bottas also comments on the superiority of the teams in pole position and does not hide that he would like a duel with Mercedes:
"To be on the third row in our first qualifying together is a big achievement and we need to be satisfied - both me and the team. My session was really smooth and I improved a little bit in every run, which is what you set out to do in qualifying. It’s an important moment for us as it shows we can be up here. I am proud of the job everyone did, here and at the factory: we knew we had a chance to be in Q3 but it was good to actually do it when everyone turned up with everything they had. Now we focus on the race: our long run pace looked even better than on the single lap, so we can be in the fight. The top four are probably out of reach for everyone, but it would be nice to have a battle with Mercedes. In any case, this is the start of our journey and I want us to look forward and not back: the objective is to be up here at the flag and bring home good points".
His teammate, the debutant Zhou Guanyu, brings home a good performance today, despite the elimination in Q2. There is so much satisfaction at Alpha Romeo, where engineer Frédéric Vasseur comments:
"Starting our season with a car in Q3 and one in Q2 is a really good outcome and it’s a big confidence boost for the whole team. Everyone here and in Hinwil worked really hard to get to tonight in the best possible conditions, but then it was a matter of delivering when it counted - and we did it. We looked strong in FP3, then Valtteri and Zhou produced a really good display in the heat of battle. Valtteri’s performance was of the first order and it shows his talent is all there; Zhou didn’t let the pressure of his first ever F1 qualifying get to him and cleared Q1 to book a place in the top 15. Still, there’s a lot of work ahead of us: there are no points on offer tonight and we need to do our job properly tomorrow to bring home the result we want. However, we can be pleased with our Saturday as it set us in a very good position to fight for the points".
According to Vasseur, Valtteri's performance shows his true talent. Instead, Zhou was not overwhelmed by the pressure of the first qualifying and he passed Q1 and gained a place in the top 15. In addition, the Chinese driver adds:
"I am really happy with Q2 on my first race weekend. This was always my initial target and to clear this box in my first race is something that I really wanted after seeing how the car performed in the practice sessions. I was very relaxed this morning as I knew my preparation for tonight had been good, but there was still a bit of pressure as I knew we could have a good result: once I made it to Q2, the pressure was off and I could give everything in the laps I had. Unfortunately, my best attempt was deleted - I saw the replay and it was really close. We lost one place due to that, but we’re still in a good position: there are a lot of positives we can take ahead of tomorrow. I am pleased with the progress I have made from one session to the other this weekend: even during qualifying, there was a lot of evolution as the session progressed, so the learning never stops. I don’t have a set target for my first race - I want to move forward as I know we were good in race trim during testing, so we have an opportunity to make up places. I know everyone will be watching at home, it’s great to have so much support and I want to give everything for them and for the team".
The World Champion Max Verstappen comments positively on his start of the season, stressing that of course, you always want more. The Dutch driver adds:
"Overall, it’s not a bad position to be in, of course you always want more but this is a positive start to the season. I think we have a good race car which is important and with it being the start of the season, there are still a lot of things to learn. Q2 was good but Q3 was a bit more hit and miss with not really getting the right balance. There was some oversteer and understeer so you can’t really attack the corner which makes it quite difficult to put that lap together, so that’s something we’ll need to look into. The Ferraris are of course very close and it’s going to be a tough battle, they have two strong drivers so it’s going to be exciting. The weather is meant to be warmer tomorrow so it’ll be a bit tougher on the tyres. As a Team we just have to see how competitive we are in the race, it’s a long season and a lot can happen".
Sergio Perez is optimistic about tomorrow's race. Although he failed to get the most out of his car, he got a great starting position and hopes to recover some places tomorrow.
"I am optimistic about tomorrow and in the race anything can happen. I just didn’t manage to get one hundred percent out of the car today but we still have a good starting position and I hope we can make up some positions come race day. It is great to have other teams up there to make things more competitive, but it is a long road ahead and what matters is tomorrow. I think P3 was possible if we had put everything together and I was able to do that final corner again, I ran a bit too much curb through it. It would have been good to start on the clean side of the grid but a lot of overtaking can happen here and hopefully we are able to fight the Ferraris and have a good race for the fans. I am looking forward to it, I want a strong lap one and strong pace. My goal is to at least get on the podium and get a one, two for the Team. We are in a good position to fight the Ferraris".
Comments Christian Horner.
"With a completely new car and new regulations, to be on the front row, we are very, very happy with where both cars have qualified. We put a lot of effort into last year, we were late coming onto this car, and I think the Team have done a wonderful job. With such a clean sheet of regulations, everything is different, but the times are so close, so it’s going to be a great race. We don’t really know how strong the long-run pace of Ferrari is, we’ve also got more to find out about ourselves and it’s only going to be when the lights go out tomorrow that we’ll see what kind of shape we are in. It’s going to be interesting to see how the strategies unfold with these new cars and critically can we follow closer due to the new regulations?"
Pierre Gasly is enthusiastic about his performance. Regarding the strategy used on the tyres, he explains:
"I’m really happy with today. We knew we’d struggle in Qualifying, which is why we started with three sets in Q1 but then I had a really strong lap in Q2 and made it through with just one new tyre, there’s no way heading into Quali that we would’ve believed that would happen. Obviously, we’d like to fight for more, but we know at the moment that we’ve got some work to do. Considering our performance in practice, particularly in these colder conditions, we should be really pleased with today. It’s difficult to predict what’s going to happen tomorrow, as it’s the first race with these new cars, but I think there’s going to be some good racing from what I felt in practice. We’ll aim for some good points and hopefully we have a good one".
Given the uncertain outcomes of tomorrow's race with the new cars, Gasly aims the team will earn good points. In contrast, his teammate Yuki Tsunoda is embittered for his result:
"It's been quite a difficult day. We knew that the car hadn't been performing as well as we thought it might here in the colder conditions, then of course we missed FP3, but we'd still aimed to make it through to Q2 and sadly that didn't happen today. We don't know what other teams' race pace will be like here tomorrow, the aim of course is to make it to the points, but I think it's going to be hard".
The Technical Director AlphaTauri, Jody Egginton, underlines the improvements adopted by the team from the point of view of balance compared to the last free practice session on Friday.
"The first Saturday of the season has highlighted how close the midfield is this year, as well as showing us the importance of having clean sessions and maximising track time. After a difficult Friday for both sides of the garage, there was a lot of work required overnight to understand some of the balance issues. It’s fair to say that the steps taken for FP3 and Qualifying have resulted in some good improvements being made, however I don't feel we are yet extracting everything from the package we have. For sure there is lots of work ahead of us to improve our current performance, whilst also bringing updates to move us forward. Regarding the results today, Pierre has put in a very good Qualifying, getting the most out of the car to get into Q3, which is a fantastic result for everyone. Yuki unfortunately, through no fault of his own, did not run in FP3 due to a hydraulic issue, which meant he went into Qualifying with only limited running".
On today's results, Egginton comments that Pierre made an excellent qualifying, getting the maximum from the car to enter Q3, which is a fantastic result for everyone. Instead, Yuki did not run the last of free practice due to a plumbing problem, so he went into qualifying with a limited number of tests.
"We now look ahead to the race, where we will be focused on trying to get Yuki moving up the field, as well as seeing what opportunities we can generate for Pierre, to get him further into the points, in what we expect will be a very competitive battle tomorrow".
Enormously disappointed is the Mclaren team that gets the 18th place of Ricciardo and the 13th of Norris. Andreas Seidl comments:
"P13 and P18 is a disappointing first qualifying session of the new era here in Bahrain. It was clear that we were starting this weekend on the back foot, following a challenging test that Daniel missed out on. At the same time, we also need to acknowledge that we are simply not delivering the level of performance we want. Back at the MTC, we’ll kick-off a detailed investigation and analysis of our performance here in Bahrain today, but here at the track it’s important to switch our focus to tomorrow’s race, put up a good fight, and score some points. Having said that, I still want to thank every single member of the team, here in Bahrain and back at the factory, together with our colleagues from Mercedes HPP for all the hard work everyone has put in. We keep going".
Lando Norris says he had a good performance, but Mclaren simply is not fast enough.
"Mixed feelings from today. I think we did a good job with what we had, we’re simply just not quite as quick as we want to be. I feel like I did a good lap and we had a good plan. We did make some improvements but, of course, so does everyone else. We do need to find a lot of pace in the car but I think we maximised what we had today and we’ll try to gain a few more positions tomorrow in the first race of the season. We’re a little bit on the back foot comparing to other teams, so there’s many things for us to learn and find out in the race tomorrow. We’re always aiming for points, and that’s what we’ll be working on tonight and into the race tomorrow".
Finally, Daniel Ricciardo explains that this weekend has been more difficult than he hoped due to the time lost last week, but that he will focus on working for tomorrow and see how it goes.
"It’s been a tough weekend so far, unfortunately. Last time I drove in Barcelona, we left pretty optimistic but, we’ve got new kinds of challenges here this weekend. With the lost time last week, trying to get up to speed, it proved trickier than I hoped. There’s a lot of work to do, and today we didn’t have a good result, but we’ll work on it and look at how we move forward tomorrow".
On Sunday, March 20, 2022 at 4.00 p.m. the lights go out and the Bahrain Gran Prix, first stop of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship, officially begins. At the start, Leclerc manages to hold Verstappen off on the opening lap, while Sainz is in third position, Hamilton goes fourth and Kevin Magnussen on Haas moves up two places to fifth. At the same time, Perez loses two places from the start and Bottas, who started sixth, is fourteenth by the end of the opening lap with a getaway. After a good start, Mick Schumacher loses one place and goes thirteenth, having been tipped into a spin by Ocon, who will have a five-second penalty in the pits for this reason. On the third lap, Magnussen and Perez go wheel-to-wheel through the first sector but the Haas driver suffers oversteer down the hill and goes in sixth place, while the Mexican driver goes on. Soon after, the Danish driver loses another place to Russell, who started ninth.
Hamilton runs after Sainz but, on lap 9, Perez steals the fourth position from the Britishman on the run up to the fourth corner. Hamilton is also the first to stop (he goes from hard to soft tyres) and then returns twelfth behind the Alfa Romeos. However, he soon goes eleventh off Guanyu. Leclerc is still ahead of Verstappen in the battle for the lead, when the Red Bull driver pits on lap 15 to swap to another set of softs. A lap later, Leclerc choses to stop, emerging then just three-tenths ahead of Verstappen. The 2021 world champion slices past Leclerc with DRS at the start of lap 17 but the Ferrari driver fights back on the run to the fourth turn and retains the lead. Verstappen makes the same move at the start of lap 18, but Leclerc hits back down the inside of the fourth turn.
The champion comes back on lap 19, but has a big lock-up down the inside of the first corner and Leclerc takes the lead once again. Verstappen stops again for medium compounds on lap 31. Leclerc does the same on the next lap with a switch to mediums and emerges with a more comfortable lead, followed by the team mate Sainz and Perez. On lap 34 Sainz enters the pits, followed closely by Perez. Verstappen pits for the third time on lap 44. Meanwhile, Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri comes to a halt in flames on lap 46 bringing out the Safety Car: the top five remain as they started the race. The Safety Car leaves the race on lap 51 and soon after, Verstappen warns of a possible steering issue, and has a slow getaway out of the final corner. There is also a power unit issue which is plaguing Verstappen’s RB18; Sainz and Hamilton pass while the champion goes back to the pits on lap 54.
At this time Perez is favourite for the third position, but while Hamilton is on his tail the Mexican begins to worry about power unit issues too. So, on the first corner of the final lap, the second Red Bull spins and is forced to retire, giving Hamilton the podium place. Charles Leclerc on Ferrari wins the 2022 Bahrain Gran Prix, while Mercedes manages to salvage a podium and the fourth position with Russell. In fifth place is Magnussen, while his team mate Mick Schumacher is eleventh. Alfa Romeo manages a double-points finish; Ocon, penalised for that contact early on, rescues the seventh position, while Alpine team mate Fernando Alonso manages to place ninth. Between the Alpines is AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda, eighth after a rapid Safety Car restart. Three Mercedes-powered teams lose out on points: Aston Martin, McLaren, and Williams.
"I'm Happy. Beautiful team result. I personally never doubted the team. Maybe someone did. I know that the team is strong, worked in a united way. I also believe that it has tightened up after the problems of 2020. We have done everything to arrive at today prepared. We couldn't have hoped for a better result today. It's great to come to the race and know that we can fight for the best result. Next week we are already in Jeddah, a completely different track. We are curious to see how we will go there. Then I am already thinking about Imola. We are very keen to see our fans. We knew we had two cars and we knew we had Max in the middle. We looked at scenarios where we would catch him in the vice. The first goal was to try not to let Max win today. He was our opponent today. It didn't matter if one or the other of our drivers won in that logic. We were lucky in the last laps. But you have to look for luck. We were there. Carlos was aggressive after the restart following the Safety Car. He would have tried his best to make it regardless of Max's problems. Great pit stops today. The guys have trained a lot. They've been training with these tires since April 2021 to begin to understand how to make perfect tire changes. We reported the problems with the covers to the FIA and they modified them for everyone because they couldn't get them off. The mechanics made more than 1300 pit stops before Christmas, a sign of dedication to their work and to the team. I'm happy for everyone, in Maranello, on the track and for the drivers. We want to fight on the track meter by meter. Charles did a great race. Today Charles was the best example, defending the position when it was time. Being Ferrari is our vision. It identifies us. We've been the only one in F1 forever, the most successful team ever. There's that passion behind it, our cheering. All of Italy is there. I think today's result also gives morale to all of us in this situation that we live in, with the Covid before and the war after. It's nice and I'm personally proud of what we've done in these months, working hard and with our heads down trying to pull out products that would lead us to celebrate today. Frenzy in the past calling for change? I never doubted the team. We have been criticized, but in those moments you have to act as a lightning rod and let the team work calmly. We also have foreigners, Enrico Cardilè is in charge of the chassis, while Enrico Gual-tierr is in charge of the power unit".
The winner Charles Leclerc confirms the hard work of the team, who created a good car to be in the title fight, despite the last two years have been tremendously difficult:
"Bahrain isn't always representative of the pace you'll then have throughout the year, so it doesn't mean it's going to be like that all year. But it does mean that we are there, more or less. Now we have to work harder than ever to try and win this title. Even if it's very early in the year, but I believe in it and I want to believe in it, otherwise it's no use coming on the track. I always want to win, this year it looks like we have the car to be in the title fight. So we have to have that as a goal. The step forward in terms of the engine has been great, this is thanks to the team. But the car in general is going well, the balance is good. In my opinion, it's the result of two years of hard work, where we understood where we wanted to work and understood what we drivers needed to make 100% of our driving pay off".
On the podium, he adds:
"I'm really happy. The last two years have been tremendously difficult for the team. We knew this was a great opportunity for us and the guys did an incredible job delivering and building this fantastic car. We got off to the best possible start. Pole position, win, fastest lap, one-two with Carlos. We couldn't have hoped for better. Thanks to all you guys who have continued to support us over the past two years. To be back on top is incredible. Duel with Max? I tried to be as smart as possible, using the DRS in the best way and trying to brake early in turn 1 to be right behind him with the DRS. It worked. I regained my first position and I am very happy that this strategy worked. Safety Car? I wouldn't have wanted it to be there, but I got a great restart and kept the margin to control the race".
Same for Carlos Sainz Jr., even if this has been a diffuclt weekend for him:
"We deserve this result. You can't imagine how much we have worked to get there: finally Ferrari is back and has done it great. I think it's a very good day for everybody: it doesn't happen every time, as we have seen in the last 12 years. For me it was a very difficult weekend, honestly. Maybe it's strange for me to say this, but as a Ferrari driver it's the most difficult weekend I've had. Already in free practice I had no feeling and I was very far from Charles. In qualifying I already had some good laps and I was almost on pole, but in the race I went back to the feeling I had on Friday and I struggled with the rear tires, with which I usually never struggle. I had a lot of degradation, but if in the most difficult weekend as a Ferrarista I do second is not so bad. I have to learn now, work and come back stronger. The car is beautiful. At night to see two cars come back on parade like that is beautiful. We made a really nice car and also fast, which allows us to fight for victories. Now we have to exploit it well".
"A big, big congratulations to Ferrari, I'm so happy to see them doing well again, they are such a historic and epic team. It was a difficult race for us today, we've struggled throughout practice and this is really the best result we could have got. Of course it was unfortunate for the other two drivers but we did the best we could and we are grateful for these points. I know the guys are working really hard back at the factory and it is not going to be a quick turnaround but we've been the best unified team for so long, we all know to just keep your head down, keep working, there's a long way to go. We've got to maximise our weekends and at some point, we'll be back in the fight".
His team mate, George Russell, who pulled off some good moves to climb from ninth to sixth, tracking his team mate who was always a few seconds ahead, declares that the car has a lot of potential and it is now important to understand how to extract the performance:
"It was a positive race, I made a good start and then Lewis and I were on a race of our own, albeit on different strategies. We came home with a P3 and P4 for the team which we would have definitely taken prior to the weekend so in a long championship, we can be pleased with how today went. Considering we're half a second behind in qualifying and probably the same, if not more, on race pace, it was a good damage limitation weekend. There's a lot of potential in the car and we really need to dig down into the data and understand how to extract the performance. We recognise our rivals are a long way ahead of us, we know what the overall limitations of the car are, and we won't settle until we have the chance of the win".
Team principal of Mercedes, Toto Wolff, looks at the future improvements:
"Today we were punching above our weight class, with the Red Bulls DNF-ing, but third and fourth is a fantastic result. I think with the Soft tyre, on pure pace before the tyre degrades, we are almost there - not where Leclerc is but with the others. Then degradation is too big and today we tried to do something different by putting the Hard on but it was a second slower every single lap so lesson learned. I think we were over winged today, we had too much drag and that is just because we are lacking parts at the moment but hopefully we can remedy that, and make progress on the top two's advantage. We really need to leave no stone unturned on the PU side and look for all performance gains but the wing was the issue for us today on straight line speed. At the moment we are fifth and sixth on the track, and we are trying to recover ground but it is not going to come from one day to the other - we'll keep pushing".
The Mercedes engineer director, Andrew Shovlin, is aalligned with Toto Wolff. For him the result of the race underlines the potential of the W13:
"We knew we weren't quick enough coming into the weekend so our goal for this weekend was one of damage limitation in the championship. In terms of pace we're more or less on our own; we couldn't realistically put any pressure on Red Bull and Ferrari, and we weren't really under any pressure from behind. This allowed us to play a bit with the strategy, moving quite early to a three stop with Lewis. Our priority has to be to get on top of our current performance issues; we don't have a car to fight for pole or race wins and that isn't something that we can tolerate for long if we ambitions to win the championships. The balance was quite tricky but the main issue is just a lack of grip, caused by the fact that we have to run the car so high to avoid the bottoming. However, the weekend hasn't been without it's positives. The gaps are pretty big but we can see so much performance that we can bring relatively quickly, the team has also worked well and the car has been reliable. We have a lot of ideas to explore to improve our pace and we'll be working hard over the next few days and weeks to bring those to the track".
Bad race for the Red Bull, that will conduct a full investigation into what happened. The team principal of Red Bull Racing, Christian Horner, says that it looks suspiciously like the failures are related to each other and the reason for these may be an issue with the fuel system:
"Obviously we are hugely disappointed to lose the chance of podium finishes today, but congratulations to Ferrari on their one, two finish and a return to the front. We will need to conduct a full investigation into what happened, but it looks suspiciously like the failures are related to each other and it may be an issue with the fuel system. The positive side for us is that we clearly have a competitive car, I don’t think we quite had the pace today, but there was some great racing between Max and Charles. It’s an incredibly long season with 22 races remaining, so we need to get on top of whatever this issue was today and come back stronger next weekend".
"We were feeling quite competitive throughout the weekend so the result today was very unfortunate for us. The problems started initially with the brakes, they were overheating so I had to lift off and as a result I lost pace and had to let Charles go. After that, there were still a few issues with car balance and after my final pit stop my steering wheel was locked. That made it very difficult to drive so defending from Carlos at the re-start wasn’t easy. The final issue looked like a fuel system problem, which is why I had to retire and it was extremely painful for both our cars to DNF. We don’t know exactly what went wrong yet but we’ll definitely analyse the data and make sure we learn from it. At the end of the day, motorsport is unpredictable and these things can happen, this is race one, we have plenty more ahead of us".
Sergio Perez moved up to fourth after a bad start and alternated between attacking Sainz ahead and defending from Hamilton behind. After the retire of his team mate, he suffered issues too, and in the end spinned his car in the first corner after his engine stalled:
"It was going to be a great start to the season but unfortunately, we didn’t manage to get the result we were hoping for. It is very disappointing to not be able to execute the result we wanted; we had the podium in our pocket until the last lap. A couple of laps before the end I could feel I was losing power, we knew there was an issue and we knew what had happened with Max. I had a similar issue to his car, at the moment we think it was a fuel system problem and basically the engine just stopped. It is tough to digest but we are going to look for the positives and come back stronger next week in Jeddah. I am sure we will get to the bottom of the problem, we are a great Team and I really believe in them. Today is very disappointing and an unfortunate start to our season but a year is a long time in Formula 1 and we’re only one race in".
Problems for McLaren: Ricciardo and Norris ended in fourteenth and fifteenth place. This is not a good result, due to the problems shown by the MCL36 during the week. Says Lando Norris:
"Not what we wanted at all; it was a very tough race. We’re a long way from where we want to be and we’ve got work to do to make sure we’re working on every area possible and making the most of every race. We gave it our all today, but it's just not enough at the moment. We’ll look at all the data from the race today and see how we can improve for Saudi, as well as where we need to improve throughout the season. We’ll do our very best next week to make the most of where we are".
Daniel Ricciardo declares:
"It sounds very simple, but the first objective today was to do the race distance and just build some knowledge in the car. I think even just for myself, especially after the last week, just to get that kind of fitness in, was good. We tried all three compounds of tyres, so there is plenty to feedback. I’m pretty clear where our weaknesses lay in the race, so we’ll try to understand that and work on those. I think we had some strengths in some corners as well. So, we’ll just feedback everything we can to the team and obviously, we knew it was going to be a tricky day, but we got both cars home and have lots to look at. We will now look ahead to a completely different track in Saudi Arabia to see what that brings".
Team principal of McLaren, Andreas Seidl, defines this race a painful experience, and continues:
"As expected, after a difficult Friday and Saturday in Bahrain for us, today’s grand prix was a continuation of the issues we’re facing at present. We had to manage a lot of different parameters throughout the race, and that didn’t allow us to be competitive. Thanks to Lando and Daniel who battled hard all weekend together with the team here in Bahrain and back in Woking, who have put in an immense amount of work. This was a disappointing and painful experience for everyone within the team, and of course for all our great fans. We are now analysing in detail why we’re not competitive and working as hard as we can to bring more performance to the car, as rapidly as possible. In the meantime, hopefully all the learnings from today’s race, the first time we’ve completed a full race distance with this car, will help us prepare and be in a better position for next weekend".
Williams did not appear to have the pace to fight for the top 10, so the team hopes to be more competitive in Saudi Arabia. The words of Dave Robson, Head of vehicle performance, seem encouraging:
"It has been a tough evening in Bahrain, but we got both cars to the end, and at times showed some reasonable pace. Alex made a good start and made some places early in the race. Unfortunately, today we didn’t have the pace to hold on. However, we were able to race competitively with both the McLarens and the Aston Martins, which was an improvement from what we saw at the test last week. Nicholas raced hard as he always does but struggled to find a sustainable pace without the tyre degradation becoming unmanageable. Alex was calm and collected throughout the race and he has had an excellent start to his Williams career. Qualifying and racing with a new team is never straightforward as there are so many procedures to learn and relationships to form. However, after solid simulator and winter testing programmes, he was able to acquit himself very well all weekend. There is more to come from the drivers and the car over the coming weeks, but this was a solid start for the whole team, and we are now looking forward to the very different challenges posed by Jeddah Corniche Circuit".
Alex Albon, on his first Formula 1 race with Williams, is pretty satisfied:
"My first Formula One race with Williams went pretty well; it felt like we did a good job and really maximised what we had. I had a good start and managed to make up a few positions, so I was pushing hard. Inevitably, a few faster cars overtook and we slipped back down a couple of places, but it’s a step forward considering the struggles we had last week. We knew it was going to be a difficult weekend, so to come out P13 with no reliability issues is something we should be pleased with".
Team mate Nicholas Latifi is not of the same opinion. He is sure that the team has a lot of work to do:
"It was a tricky day and it’s clear we’re not starting off as strong as we would have liked. We’ve been lacking pace, struggling with overall grip, balance and tyre degradation, so we need to work out how we extract more out of the package we have now and have a real push to react as soon as possible to bring some more speed to the car. Jeddah will be a different kind of track and one that should suit us a bit better, but we’re still going to be going there with a similar package. I’m sure we’ll be able to optimise it more, knowing what we’ve learnt here, but I suspect it will still be tough. It’s a 23 race season though, so there’s plenty of time to claw things back".
Lance Stroll, who passed his team mate on track and managed to recover up to twelfth, could not get into the points:
"It is a shame we were not able to fight for points today, but we will benefit from completing our first race and understanding more about these new regulations. It is early days and there is lots to learn about how we can extract more performance in time for the race in Saudi Arabia next weekend. My initial impression is that it could be an exciting season of racing because it appears that you can follow cars more closely and today I had some great battles with [Alex] Albon and [Mick] Schumacher. It was challenging to keep temperatures cool and manage these new tyres, too, but we now have some useful data to work with over the next few days".
Nico Hülkenberg fought hard but had cooling issues; he could not pit as planned and it cost him time:
"It was interesting to be back in a Formula One car for a Grand Prix again, especially in such a busy race with lots going on around me. It was not easy to manage the tyres and drive with a changing fuel load. The car balance was changing a lot too, and it is not easy to prepare for this until you start racing. We knew that today was likely going to be the most difficult day in the car for that reason, which proved to be the case. I think I put together a good race, all things considered, with only the one mistake when I outbraked myself into Turn One. It was a more challenging race after that. I will be on standby should the team need me again and I am hoping that Sebastian makes a speedy return to racing".
The team principal of Aston Martin, Mike Krack, comments on today’s result with a lot of hope for the next race:
"Both our drivers were required to lift and coast at various points during today’s race, but they did it proficiently and we were therefore able to bring both cars to the finish. A P12/P17 result is not what we wanted, of course not, but it was always going to be hard to achieve a strong finish from our starting positions. Nonetheless, Lance drove well to convert his P19 grid slot to P12 at flag-fall, and, having not raced in Formula One since November 2020 [the Eifel Grand Prix at Nürburgring], Nico also did a good job today. Our car currently lacks pace - clearly - but we will endeavour to put up a better show in Saudi Arabia in a few days’ time".
Esteban Ocon, despite the five-second time penalty for tipping Schumacher into a spin on the opening lap, managed to climb into the points:
"I’m very pleased with today and it’s a great start to the season with double points secured for the team. Our pace today was strong, there were some good overtakes and the team made the right calls on strategy. I’d like to say a special shoutout to the pit crew as well who were excellent with so many pit-stops today. Other than the incident with Mick, which I hold my hands up and apologise for, I was pretty pleased with my race. We will debrief with the team, we can take positives from today’s performance and we look ahead to next week. Onwards and upwards".
Alonso open suo the season with two points, despite the (predicted) high tyre degradation:
"I’m happy to score two points in today’s first race of the season. It was not easy out there with the high tyre degradation, which we were all expecting going into the race. We defended a lot during the first stint and pushed quite hard, so perhaps this was less than ideal. We have to keep learning about these new tyres and it’ll probably be a big topic throughout the season. Overall, I think overtaking is easier because the tyres are all at different levels and following the cars ahead is better. We go again next weekend in Saudi Arabia, where no doubt it’ll be a different set of challenges".
The CEO of Alpine, Laurent Rossi, is happy of this opening race. Both his drivers scored points. He thanks the team for the hard work done over the winter, so that now Alpine has the means to compete for points:
"What a fantastic way to start the season for the team with both Esteban and Fernando scoring deserved points today. This is certainly a great achievement, which, ultimately, is down to the three core pillars that construct our team from Enstone, Viry and the trackside team. This result is a credit to everyone’s hard work to prepare the A522-RE22 package over the winter and, indeed, ensure we had the means to compete for points. Thanks to everyone for their commitment and dedication over the past couple of months and now, we undoubtedly have the means to make our 2022 challenger even more competitive in the coming races. Esteban and Fernando drove great races today with overtaking aplenty throughout the field, which is especially exciting for the Formula 1 spectacle. It was a long and very tough race for them with strategy playing a key part. The pit-stop crew were also immense across all six stops during the race, so thanks to them for maintaining focus and precision when it mattered. We’ve had a taste for how thrilling the 2022 season could shape up to be. We now look forward to Saudi Arabia next weekend where, I’m sure, the racing will be as exciting. Our aim is to continue the hard work and pick up more points with both cars".
Pierre Gasly drove well, made up places at the start and was in the top 10 for much of the race. But then he suffered a issue, so he parked up and jumped out of the car as flames engulfed his rear wing, ending his race and his quest for points:
"This is not the start to the season I was hoping for, the whole car just switched off outside of turn one, and then I started to smell the burning. It’s such a shame as I had a really good start, I was able to pass Fernando, then Kevin when I got the chance, and we were running quite comfortably in P8. We lost some important points, but there’s still lots of positives to take from today. I was quite surprised with the pace and it’s looking pretty good for the next few races. We obviously need to understand the failure we had but I’m sure we’ll find a solution. I had some good battles, it was fun to be back racing and I’m looking forward to next week already".
Tsunoda, only Aplha Tauri driver left to race, managed to climb up to eighth at the flag. He was good in defence against Bottas in the middle part of the race, keeping Alfa behind for a lot of time:
"I’m quite happy with today, especially with the start as I was able to make up a few places. I had a little bit of luck near the end, as some cars had failures, but overall I’m pleased with how today went. We’ve still got a lot of work to do to be able to fight consistently at the top of the midfield, but we’re confident that we can develop the car to continue to improve our performance. We’ll go away and analyse the data from this whole weekend to try and find what our main limitations are ahead of the race next week".
AlphaTauri' technical Director Jody Egginton comments on today’s result saying this:
"Both cars have been quite competitive in the midfield tonight and were able to deliver strong performances, moving forward during the race, which is good to see so early in the season. Pierre was looking on course for a very strong race before his issue, which was instant and without any warning. Unfortunately, the safety car which followed Pierre's stoppage went against Yuki, who had just boxed. This provided some cars around him with an opportunity to stop for free, meaning he was a bit further back when the safety car came in. However, some strong laps in his last stint saw him come home in P8, which is a good result for him and the team considering the less than ideal weekend Yuki had here. The competition in the midfield is looking very tight, and with the first weekend under our belt we now have a clearer picture on where we need to focus our attention to improve the AT03 in the coming events. We are looking forward to the challenge".
The team principal of AlphaTauri, Franz Tost, analysis:
"Today’s exciting first race was a good start to the 2022 season. I think that the new regulations delivered what was expected, as we saw a lot of overtaking and the cars are much closer together, like it used to be in the past. Congratulations to Ferrari for this fantastic one-two. Unfortunately, Red Bull Racing, who were fighting for the win, could not finish the race, which was also the case on our side with Pierre. We still don’t know what the reason for his failure was, but the rear of the car caught fire. This was very disappointing, as he had just 12 laps to go and was sitting in eighth position at the time. Pierre started the race in P10 with a used set of soft tyres, he had his first pit stop on lap 13 for the Mediums, and then we decided to call him in once again on lap 32 for the Hards to go to the end. Pierre did a really good job today and had everything under control; he was very good at managing both the tyres and the fuel consumption and his car seemed to work very well. As for Yuki, he started from P16 but he was already P12 after the first lap, and thanks to several good overtakes he was soon P11. We called him in on lap 15 and changed to the Mediums. Yuki did a fantastic job defending his position and putting pressure on the cars ahead of him. We then decided to go for a three-stop strategy, so on lap 29 for his second stop we moved to the Softs. He was able to overtake Alonso and had a good fight with Ocon, and even if after the safety car he wasn’t able to overtake him, Yuki drove a really good race, without any mistakes. We struggled a little in Qualifying, but in the race the car showed quite a good performance, so I think we would have deserved to finish with both cars in the points today. Now we have to find out what the reason for Pierre’s retirement was and prepare everything in the best possible way for Saudi Arabia, which is already next weekend. We hope to finish with both cars in the points there".
Kevin Magnussen, on his return to Formula 1, was up to fifth on the first lap, before losing out to Perez. But he fought hard to hold onto seventh for a lot, before moving up to fifth at the flag:
"The craziness just continues. We had a really good race and the car was good all the way through. We had a little more degradation than we would’ve hoped for on the first set of tires, but I also got passed a few people that were faster than me on the first lap and I didn’t really know whether to keep them behind or let them go. I also locked up a little bit so maybe it wasn’t perfect, but even though we pitted earlier we then extended the second stint on the same tire to get back on plan. Then there was a safety car that put everyone on the same tire and then it was just a sprint race to the end, so it was just intense. Obviously, a bit of luck there with the two Red Bull’s but we’ll take that".
Unfortunately Schumacher was tipped into a spin at the start by Ocon. This costed him places, but he managed to finish tenth under the Safety Car. He opted not to pit, so he was the only one on old tyres at the restart and that cost him, although he ended in eleventh position:
"With all the circumstances that we had with the spin in Turn 6 after contact - I don’t know how much damage that would’ve brought to the car - it didn’t feel amazing to drive afterwards. I think that was also represented in the pace we had. Seeing Kevin in P5 means that we have the car to do this, and that I can do the same. That also means we’re close to podiums if there’s a crazy weekend, which there usually is in Formula 1, so we should be able to do that".
The team principal of Haas, Guenther Steiner, at the end of the race, is satisfied:
"A very good day for us today, it’s good to be back for the whole team. They’ve done a fantastic job, not just today but for the last two years. Everyone kept their head high and just got ready for the moment that we would have a good car. When that moment came, everyone did their part and I’m very proud of them, and they can be proud of themselves".
Valtteri Bottas, in his debut with Alfa Romeo, after a bad start slowly moved up into the top ten, taking advantage of the timing of the Safety Car to finish where he started:
"I am very happy about tonight’s result: for me, but most importantly for the team, with two cars in the points, and for Zhou who got points in his first race. The race went really well, with the exception of the start: I got a lot of wheelspin and was basically a sitting duck for the first lap, just trying to avoid contact. When that stabilised, however, we had really good pace: we didn’t give up, executed a really good strategy and, in the end, completed a good recovery. We took it lap by lap as we knew we had the car to get back in the top ten. It is a great way to start the season: there are still things to improve, of course, but we’re just at the first race of the year. Our priority was reliability and I am happy we could finish with both cars as the speed is there. Everyone did a good job and we are going in the right direction".
The Red Bull retirements also took Zhou into the points in his first race:
"I am so happy, I am speechless. There are so many emotions tonight but my first thought is for the team: seeing how everyone worked so hard to go from where we were at the end of last year to where we are today is so incredible. My biggest dream was to race in Formula 1, then to score points and tonight we did both: being on the grid before the race, with the other 19 drivers, was crazy enough, but the race itself was so intense. It wasn’t so physically, but rather mentally: I had an issue at the start, the car went into anti-stall at turn one and then I knew I would have to do something special to recover to the top 10. I pushed a lot, caught up with Valtteri and then lost track position again when the Safety Car came out, before climbing back to P10 - such a rollercoaster. I tried to give everything I had tonight as this meant so much to me and all those who supported me. The cool-down lap was quite emotional: I am so proud of my team and of my team-mate, for all the work we did together to bring home this reward. It is a day I will never forget and I will enjoy the moment for a while, but then it’s all attention to Jeddah: there is a lot more we want to achieve".
Team Pincipal Frédéric Vasseur declares:
"Coming home with two cars in the points in the first race is the perfect way to start the season. The team has demonstrated skill but also resilience as we came back from a poor start, but stuck to our plan and made a lot of progress through the field. In a sense, this is an even more promising sign as we were able to mount a comeback, which means our car is genuinely competitive. We are aware the season ahead is going to be a long one and that our rivals will challenge us already next week, but we have a very good result on day one and that’s a big boost for everyone at the team. In particular, I am very happy for both Valtteri and Zhou: to have such a result on their first race with the team is the best way to start our relationship. We will aim to build on this night as we keep developing our car and keep fighting at this level".
Mario Isola, Head of Formula 1 and Car Racing to Pirelli, affirmed:
"The championship debut of the new Formula 1 regulations with our latest 18-inch tyres delivered a race with plenty of excitement from start to finish and some great battles. We are satisfied with how the tyres performed. The soft and medium compounds were key here, while the hard represented an alternative and more consistent choice. The lower temperature of the tyre blankets this year also contributed to the challenge of putting the tyres in the correct window, making the undercut for the hard less powerful than usual, while the abrasive nature of the track ensured that it was going to be at least two stops for every driver. The strategy was also influenced by the late safety car, which finally led to three stops and set up a dramatic sprint finish to the race. Congratulations to Ferrari for their one-two".
What an incredible start for the Scuderia Ferrari. We haven't had such a good start in years. Very competitive, but less reliable, also the Red Bull of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, who will be able to make up for it in Jeddah, in seven days time. And also Lewis Hamilton, while taking advantage of the defaillance of his opponents, in the end managed to achieve an excellent third place. There is now wait for the second round of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship, which will be held on Sunday, March 27, in Saudi Arabia, on the circuit of Jeddah.