The 2022 Formula 1 season began by demolishing all preconceived notions that only the F1 giants can be fast, as a Haas was in the top five! And it only gets better from here…
Sunsets are pleasing, as they prove that endings can be quite beautiful too. As cliche as that may sound, this piece is as special to me as Hamilton’s record-breaking 8th world championship would've been – precisely because both of us may not get to try our hands on it again. For I, write my last piece for the magazine and Hamilton gets overshadowed by the kids.
The Formula 1 calendar for 2022 began in Bahrain, with a thrilling end to the season opener that had everyone at the edge of their seats. And just a week in, we had the second race of the season, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, but we will come to that later.
In Bahrain, Pierre Gasly had to jump out of his Alpha Tauri after it burst into flames. The safety car came out on the 51st lap. But that wasn’t all that was on fire in Bahrain – both Red Bulls failed, Sergio Perez lost his engine in the final stages and reigning champion Max Verstappen was left fuming as he retired 3 laps away from the finish line. He held the second position for the majority of the race but eventually couldn’t finish due to what he assumes to be some battery issue. Being the world champion hasn’t quenched Verstappen’s thirst!
Charles Leclerc made it a Ferrari one-two, giving the team its first Grand Prix win in Formula 1 since the Singapore GP in 2019 – 910 days earlier. Leclerc led the pack for most of the race, displaying his skills and the prowess of the new Ferraris. Mercedes was plagued by porpoising issues in the final practice, and even though they managed to iron them out to a certain extent, it hampered their performance during the main race. In the end, the team simply got lucky and managed a position on the podium, thanks to the two Red Bulls limping out of the race due to technical issues. The new regulations seem to be rather challenging for many teams. Even getting the tyres to grip the tarmac was another challenge faced by the teams. It was only McLaren that went with medium compound tyres, while the rest of the teams on the grid went with soft tyres, to begin with.
It was not a great start for Daniel Ricciardo and Perez, as the latter lost two positions right after the first few corners, and the Aussie eventually slipped to the bottom of the chart, finishing 14th and 15th respectively.
Everyone loves a good comeback story. It was great to see Kevin Magnussen, who replaced Russian driver Nikita Mazepin as a result of the Ukraine invasion, finish fifth in his first race since 2020. It was a remarkable outcome for the Haas team. It went from scoring no points last season to being one of the top three constructor teams in the race!
Coming to the Saudi Arabian GP, it didn’t take long for Verstappen to clinch his first win of the season at Jeddah – the fastest street circuit on the calendar. Charles Leclerc lost to Max Verstappen after a very intense battle. Due to collisions or technical issues, five of the nineteen cars couldn’t finish the race, but it was far from the only dramatic flashpoint in the race. Perez pitted right before the inopportune safety car came in after Nicholas Latifi's crash on lap 16. Perez held the pole position but finished fourth as his rivals gained the opportunity to pit on lap 16 and emerge ahead.
It was also a rather special race for Lewis Hamilton, as it marked his 180th start with Mercedes. It is the most number of races a driver has started with the same team – a record previously held by Michael Schumacher with Ferrari.
Well, you win some, you lose some, but it's never a dull day at the Grand Prix!
P.S. As this goes to print, we have the results for the latest Australian Grand Prix and Leclerc has blown away his rivals by taking the chequered flag with a lead of more than 20 seconds ahead of Red Bull's Sergio Perez. He now sits with 71 points in the driver’s championship with Mercedes's George Russell chasing him, 34 points behind!