The 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix (officially the Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2022) was the first race of the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship, held at the Bahrain International Circuit on the weekend of 18-20 March 2022. This race was the fourth time that a season started in Bahrain, which was also previously done so in 2006, 2010 and 2021.
With the introduction of new cars for the 2022 season, we will see new tyres as well. Pirelli will provide larger tyres to accommodate the new 18 inch larger wheel diameter of the new cars. They have chose to go with the naming conventions (C1 through C5) that was used previously. And similar to before, Pirelli will choose three of the most optimal slick tyre compounds (out of the five total) to supply the teams for the weekend.
Much of the pre-season topic centered on controversy that occurred during the previous season's ending race at Abu Dhabi, where Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to his inaugural drivers' championship title on the final lap after it appeared that race director Michael Masi did not apply the safety car procedures properly. Instead of allowing all lapped cars to unlap, Masi only allowed five drivers that were between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap (which was revealed to have been taking the advice of Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley), and then called in the safety car before the drivers caught up the leading pack, allowing Verstappen, who had pitted on new tires during the safety car period, to pass Hamilton on the final lap. Masi's action, coupled with his inconsistent decisions and penalties handed to the drivers throughout the season, triggered massive backlash online, with many calling for the FIA to have Masi removed from his position. Mercedes filed protests against the race result but were rejected by the stewards, before requesting and then withdrawing an appeal to the FIA Court of Appeal after the FIA pledged to conduct an investigation into the events.
Under the leadership of newly elected FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the investigation began mid-January, and on the week before the first pre-season testing, it was announced that Masi had been officially dropped as the race director, with his position replaced by WEC race director Eduardo Freitas and former DTM race director Niels Wittich in alternating roles, with backing from Herbie Blash, who was previously the deputy of the late Charlie Whiting. Additionally, a Remote Operations Centre, similar to the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in soccer would be established, and the unlapping procedure under safety cars will be reviewed.
The report into the investigation was released on March 19, before qualifying took place. The report detailed that Masi made the decisions on "good faith" and on "human error" while outlining what was revealed before, but frustratingly to some fans, the report stated that the results of the race were final and were not to be changed.
Change in Sporting Regulations
Other announcements made in the week include the announcement of the venues for sprint races (which had been introduced in the previous season) as well as the change in points system for the sprint races, new points rules for shortened races following controversy at the previous year's Belgian Grand Prix, and also the abolishment of team-to-race control radio calls. The calls will no longer be broadcasted on live television, however a less intrusive method for communication between teams and race control will still exist, in an effort to allow the race director to focus on his duties. A change to pre-race ceremonies is the "taking the knee" moment where drivers make a symbolic gesture to stand against racism, performed during the pre-race We Race As One initiative would be dropped. It was also confirmed that the rule requiring drivers who qualified in the top 10 to start races using the tire that they had set the fastest time in Q2 would also be dropped.
Team Leadership Changes
Several teams meanwhile underwent leadership changes in the build up to the season. These include:
- Otmar Szafnauer leaving Aston Martin as its team principal, with his position being filled by Mike Krack. Szafnauer would eventually take the place of Marcin Budkowski as Alpine's team principal.
- Four-time champion Alain Prost left Alpine as role of advisor, stating in an online post that there was lack of respect upon him from the team which he had previously raced (as Renault).
It was also announced that the Bahrain Grand Prix had its contract extended until the year 2036.
New Technical Regulations
2022 also saw new technical regulations implemented, with a new change in the cars. Various opinions were given regarding the resulting performance due to the new regulations, with George Russell suggesting that half of the teams could be in title contention. Mercedes technical director James Allison however expected a number of teams would get the new regulations wrong. Several drivers reported however that due to the now-wider 18-inch tires, these could pose visibility problems when cornering, more serious when at street courses.
Initial testing results from the two tests show that Ferrari are likely to be favorites for the title, given their consistent top-of-the-leaderboard performances. The first running of the new cars however also had issues of porpoising, making it a safety concern with teams coming up with solutions in rectifying it. Mercedes meanwhile turned heads over with a bold and extraordinary sidepod design in the Bahrain test, which according to simulations, could make them a second faster per lap.
Global Political Development
On February 24, Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion on Ukraine in an attempt to reclaim the former Soviet territory. The incident has led to sanctions upon Russia with sporting events canceled and relocated, with various Russian athletes in doubt, as many organizations and associations have banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from taking part in international events, including the Paralympics, with UEFA moving the Champions League Finals in June from St Petersburg to Paris.
The FIA and FOM, in response to the invasion, canceled the Russian Grand Prix originally scheduled on September 25, before ultimately terminating the contract altogether, meaning the planned move from Sochi Autodrom to Igora Drive in 2023 would not be materialized. On the final day of the Barcelona Test, Haas, in which their title sponsor was Uralkali, dropped their branding, with team principal Guenther Steiner admitting that driver Nikita Mazepin's future was in doubt following the invasion. On March 5, Haas announced that they have terminated their contract with Mazepin and Uralkali. Prior to the announcement, the FIA declared that Russian and Belarusian drivers may still compete with a neutral flag, while outlining a series of guidelines, but prohibiting Russian and Belarusian teams from taking part. Motorsport UK has also banned Russian and Belarusian drivers from racing in the British Grand Prix. On the eve of the Bahrain test, Haas announced that their former driver Kevin Magnussen would be replacing Mazepin's seat, hence marking the Dane's return to the sport.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to plague drivers and staff, as Daniel Ricciardo was tested positive during the Bahrain test, but was then cleared to race just before the weekend. On the eve of FP1, Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel was announced to have tested positive as well, hence reserve driver Nico Hülkenberg has been called in as his replacement for the weekend.
The full entry list for the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix is outlined below:
Topping the times were Pierre Gasly, who was ahead of the Ferrari duo, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. Bottas' Alfa Romeo C42 needed repairs that were ready for him in time for the first practice session. Alpine fitted new sidepod bodywork on Esteban Ocon's car that was ripped off by a gust of wind; the debris caused a red flag interruption, which hindered everyone's practice plans since the clock does not stop during practice sessions.
Max Verstappen went quickest in FP2. Once again, the Ferrari duo, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were second and third, respectively. Last session saw Bottas unable to set a time, but in FP2 he went 6th fastest ahead of the reigning World Champion's teammate, Sergio Pérez in seventh. Mick Schumacher, the son of seven-time World Champion, Michael Schumacher, was eighth ahead of another seven-time World Champion who was denied his record breaking eighth title in the last race of 2021, Lewis Hamilton.
Max Verstappen set the pace with a 1:32.544, ahead of Charles Leclerc who was only a tenth of a second slower. Leclerc lost control of his car and spun his car into the gravel trap, but he was able to get his car unbeached. Yuki Tsunoda had hydraulic problems as he was pulling out of his garage, which caused his session to come to an early end and wasn't able to put a time on the board.
The full practice results for the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:34.742||5||1:31.936||1||1:32.544||1|
|11||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull||1:35.050||10||1:32.958||7||1:32.791||3|
|18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||1:34.814||6||1:33.958||16||1:33.920||10|
|22||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri-RBPT||1:35.028||9||1:33.789||14||No Time||20|
|24||Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||1:35.053||11||1:33.953||15||1:33.880||9|
|27||Nico Hülkenberg||Aston Martin-Mercedes||1:35.815||14||1:34.061||17||1:33.971||12|
|55||Carlos Sainz, Jr.||Ferrari||1:34.611||3||1:32.520||3||1:33.053||5|
|77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||No Time||20||1:32.951||6||1:33.733||8|
Out in Q1 were Yuki Tsunoda, Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi. It was the first time Ricciardo was out qualified by his teammate in Bahrain. Tsunoda was knocked out of the bubble after an improvement from rookie Guanyu Zhou. Both Haases made it past Q1 for the first time since the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Out in Q2 were Esteban Ocon, Mick Schumacher, Lando Norris, Alex Albon and Guanyu Zhou. The first Chinese driver to drive full-time in Formula One, Zhou, had improved his time but was shuffled down to 15th after he had his lap time deleted for track limits violations.
Charles Leclerc took his 10th career pole narrowly ahead of Max Verstappen with Carlos Sainz in third, while Lewis Hamilton could only manage 5th with George Russell 9th after Mercedes struggled with fixing porpoising issues since Friday. There were two drivers who were new to their team for this season, Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen, that showed a strong performance for their respective teams, Alfa Romeo and Haas, when they slotted into sixth and seventh, ahead of Russell's Mercedes.
The full qualifying results for the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix are outlined below:
|2||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||3||1:31.785||1||1:30.757||2||1:30.681||2|
|4||11||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull||11||1:32.311||4||1:31.008||4||1:30.921||4|
|6||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||4||1:31.919||10||1:31.717||6||1:31.560||6|
|15||24||Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||14||1:32.493||15||1:33.543||15|
|17||27||Nico Hülkenberg||Aston Martin-Mercedes||17||1:32.777||17|
|19||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||19||1:33.032||19|
|107% Time: 1:37.874|
- Bold indicates the fastest driver's time in each session.
Leclerc and Verstappen both made good getaways at the start, while Pérez struggled and dropped to behind Hamilton and Magnussen in the opening corners. Another severe loser at the start was Bottas, who dropped outside the points, with McLaren and Aston Martin not faring the same as the Mercedes-powered teams would remain at the bottom for the entirety of the race. In the first lap chaos, Ocon tipped Schumacher into a spin, resulting in a five-second time penalty for Ocon. After getting his foot down properly, Pérez managed to regain back to his starting position, passing both Magnussen and Hamilton with the former locking up.
By Lap 10 Leclerc was 2.8 seconds ahead of Verstappen. Hamilton was the first of those to pit on Lap 12, switching into hard compound tires in an attempt to try running lesser stops than their rivals. Verstappen pitted on Lap 15 in an attempt to undercut Leclerc, but Ferrari responded and brought in Leclerc the following lap, alongside Pérez and Russell, who rose to behind Pérez in the opening stages and mirrored Hamilton's strategy, but it was clearly less fruitful, as they lapped slower than those on softer compounds.
Lap 17 would see a spectacular battle between the leaders, as Leclerc emerged just ahead of Verstappen. Verstappen managed to pass Leclerc on the start/finish straight, but Leclerc was having none of it, duly reclaiming the lead out of Turn 4. The pattern would repeat on the next lap, but on the third time doing so, Verstappen heavily locked up and started to fall behind Leclerc as he was told about his brake temperatures.
Hamilton changed to mediums on Lap 28, with Verstappen coming in four laps later attempting to undercut the leader. Leclerc responded the next lap, and emerged just ahead of the champion once again, who complained about not being allowed to push after his out-lap. The stops meant that Sainz now briefly led the race, before stopping on Lap 34 alongside Pérez, who went for softs opposed to mediums. As the third stops began a few more laps later, both Red Bulls, Hamilton and Sainz pitted, leaving Leclerc out with a 25-second lead, but by now Verstappen started to have issues in his steering.
Gasly became the first retirement of the season at Lap 46, when his engine went up in flames, first activating a VSC before being turned into a full SC. Leclerc and those yet to make a third stop, including Russell all pitted. The restart took place on Lap 51, after new race director Niels Wittich gave the go after directing the lapped cars to unlap. Leclerc held onto the lead on the restart, with Verstappen coming under attack from Sainz and Pérez trying to defend Hamilton. Further back, Schumacher, recovering from his incident with Ocon, struggled to stay in the last points-paying 10th place, but dropped back to behind Zhou.
Verstappen's problems continued to develop, and he was passed by Sainz on the backstraight with four laps remaining, the team confirming apparently that the issue was terminal, and he was forced to retire before the start of the third-to-last lap. Pérez soon also started to report engine issues, and despite his defenses from the Mercedes duo, Red Bull's day went from bad to worse as the failure caused Pérez' rear axles to seize on the first turn of the final lap, spinning around and allowing both Mercedes and the others to sail by him.
Leclerc thus took the first win of the season untroubled, his first since the 2019 Italian Grand Prix and bringing the Scuderia triumph for the first time in 46 races since the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix, with Sainz making it a Ferrari 1-2 for the first time since the said event. Hamilton meanwhile took an unlikely third for Mercedes with his new team-mate Russell finishing behind, the Silver Arrows having struggled with porpoising issues since the previous week's test. Magnussen came home in 5th to give Haas' first points since a point-less 2021, with Bottas in 6th scoring his first points in his first Alfa Romeo outing. The remaining points finishers were Ocon, Tsunoda, Alonso and Zhou, who delighted everyone by becoming the 66th driver to score a maiden point on debut and being the first Chinese driver to do so, as well as giving Alfa Romeo's first double points finish since the 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Surprisingly, the remaining Mercedes-powered teams filled up the bottom of the race results.
The full results for the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix are outlined below:
† Verstappen and Pérez were classified as completed more than 90% race distance.
- First race Max Verstappen used #1 as his car number.
- This marks the first race since the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that a driver with Number 1 as his car number has started a race.
- Debut race and maiden point for Guanyu Zhou.
- Zhou becomes the first Chinese driver to start an F1 race, the first Chinese driver to score a point and the 66th driver to score a point on debut.
- First race for these drivers in their respective teams:
- First race for RBPT as an engine supplier.
- First race for Niels Wittich.
- 121st race entry and 120th race start for Kevin Magnussen, his first race since the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
- 183rd race entry and 180th race start for Nico Hülkenberg, his first race since the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix.
- 10th pole position, 5th fastest lap, 3rd race win, first hat trick for Charles Leclerc.
- 239th win for Ferrari, their first win in 46 races and achieving their first 1-2 since the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix.
- 183rd podium for Lewis Hamilton.
- Hamilton broke Michael Schumacher's record of scoring at least a podium for the most consecutive seasons at 16.
Leclerc's win made him the first Monegasque to lead the championship standings, with Ferrari topping the constructors' for the first time since 2018. Hamilton and Russell's finishes contributed to Mercedes standing second in the constructors standings, where it should have been Red Bull's position, the team suffering their first double DNF since the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix. Magnussen's efforts put Haas third in the constructors' leaderboard, with Alfa Romeo and Alpine close behind.
Only point-scoring drivers and constructors are shown.
Images and Videos:
- Bahrain Grand Prix 2022 - F1 Race (formula1.com), accessed on 21 Dec 2021
- Latest - Bahrain International Circuit (bahraingp.com), accessed on 21 Dec 2021
- MotorSport: F1 regulations update confirms removal of Q2 tyre rule, accessed on 19 Feb 2022
- 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix - Entry List (PDF). Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile.
- "2022 Bahrain Grand Prix – Practice 1 Results". Formula1.com (Formula One Administration). 18 Mar 2022. https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2022/races/1124/bahrain/practice-1.html. Retrieved 18 Mar 2022.
- "2022 Bahrain Grand Prix – Practice 2 Results". Formula1.com (Formula One Administration). 18 Mar 2022. https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2022/races/1124/bahrain/practice-2.html. Retrieved 18 Mar 2022.
- "2022 Bahrain Grand Prix – Practice 3 Results". Formula1.com (Formula One Administration). 19 Mar 2022. https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2022/races/1124/bahrain/practice-3.html. Retrieved 19 Mar 2022.
- "2022 Bahrain Grand Prix - Qualifying Result" (Formula One World Championship Limited, 2022), accessed on 19 Mar 2022
- 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix - Race Result, https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2022/races/1124/bahrain/race-result.html, (Formula One World Championship Limited, 2022), accessed on 20 Mar 2022)
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