Superstars the same age as Charles Leclerc (24) and Max Verstappen (24) dueled round after lap in the first Formula 1 race of the year, but three laps before the end, the reigning world champion had to solve a technical problem.
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“There’s not much we can do,” Red Bull management told Max Verstappen on the radio during the 55th round of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Dutchman, who had fought fiercely with Charles Leclerc throughout the race, responded by driving straight to the depot, stopping the race.
Charles Leclerc appeared to have good control of the Bahrain Grand Prix from the start after being sacked by Max Verstappen from pole position, but a strategic choice by Red Bull Racing to replace an existing tire on lap 15 opened the race up completely.
When Ferrari responded with a tire change afterwards, the two 24-year-olds pulled out of the pit lane, and Leclerc on the cooler tires struggled to defend himself.
Verstappen and Leclerc took turns leading the race over the next few laps, but it was ultimately the Ferrari driver who was able to deliver the final blow that kept him in the lead.
– I try to be as smart as possible with DRS. “It worked twice, so I managed to get my first place back,” said Leclerc.
Verstappen and Red Bull tried the same after 32 laps, but then Ferrari broke the attack better.
– I’ll take it never calm in the out-round again, I could easily have taken the lead, Max Verstappen hit the radio at team management, and pointed out that he had clearly been told to save the tires from the pit stop.
Leclerc won two races in a row in 2019, in Belgium and Italy. He had a great chance of winning all three at home in Monaco last year when he secured pole position, but never started a race when the car wasn’t ready after a crash in qualifying.
On Sunday, he finally got his revenge, though they were reminiscing about last year’s Formula 1 final when it started to catch fire in Pierre Gasly’s car, the same spot where Romain Grosjean had a dramatic crash in 2020, ten laps from the end.
The safety car gave Verstappen the chance to regain the lead for Leclerc, but the Red Bull driver had major problems with the car towards the end of the race, and had no chance to attack Leclerc again after the restart.
– What happened to the battery?! shouted Verstappen to team management.
– Everything is fine with the battery, he got the answer.
But something clearly went wrong, as Verstappen had to stop the race. The same thing happened with another Red Bull car, when Sergio Perez’s engine died on the last lap, and he was out of any possible podium position.
As the checkered flag waved across the Arabian Peninsula, Leclerc had just over five seconds to spare for team-mate Sainz.
– I am very happy. The last two years have been very difficult for the team, and they have done a great job building this incredible car. We couldn’t have wished for a better start. “Thank you to everyone who has supported us through this difficult time,” said Leclerc in the winner’s official interview.
This is the first time that Ferrari has won the top two positions since Singapore in 2019.
– Ferrari’s back. And this is no coincidence, they will be fighting at the top this year, concluded Viaplay commentator Atle Gulbrandsen.
Formula 1’s all-time winner Lewis Hamilton struggled to get involved in the lead on Sunday.
“The car doesn’t feel good right now, but I know it will get better,” Lewis Hamilton said at Viaplay before the race.
But then the Red Bull cars came out one by one, and then still took 3rd place and the podium for Hamilton.
– This is the best result we could get. “Of course it’s a shame for the other two riders, but we’re happy now,” he said.
- Charles Leclerc
- Carlos Sainzo
- Lewis Hamilton
- George Russell
- Kevin Magnussen
- Valtteri Bottas
- Esteban Ocon
- Yuki Tsunoda
- Fernando Alonso
- Zhou Guanyu
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