Ferrari Wins to Open the ’22 Formula 1 Season!

Ferrari Wins to Open the '22 Formula 1 Season!

A new era in Formula 1 has begun. The FIA has worked hard to make Formula 1 more competitive. Last year was a test run. This year the new rules are in full effect. Two of the biggest changes center around performance and resources. First, there will be an engine development freeze starting this year. Engines developed for 2022 racing will be frozen in time until 2026 when the teams are allowed to develop new engines for Formula 1. Second, each racing team has only 140 million dollars to spend a year on their team. These two changes will help even the playing field for all involved. A third change was implemented this year that centers around safety and competitiveness. In the past, Formula 1 cars have not been able to follow each other closely due to the dirty air coming off the first car. When the trail car hits the dirty air, it causes the car to lose grip on turns allowing for less overtaking. Past aero packages have focused on down force from the body and front spoiler. Now, changes to the aero packages center around ground effects creating cleaner air over the trail car. The ground effects however cause problems as well. As the cars head down long straights, there is an intense amount of bouncing that is generated underneath the cars. This phenomenon is colloquially known as “porpiosing”. It makes for an uncomfortable ride, especially as the driver brakes into its turn off the straight. It also makes things difficult on turns off a long straight.

Sunday’s race shows that the new changes are having immediate effects.

Ferrari started their Bahrain weekend at the top of the pyramid. It became apparent during practice one, two and three that they had a strong engine. Every team, including Ferrari were working out kinks with their new cars during the practice runs. However, Ferrari showed that they had the pace and potential to have a great opening weekend. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz qualified first and third on Saturday, while Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez qualified second and fourth respectfully. Mercedes has some catching up to do and qualified fifth and ninth respectfully. The surprise team of the year is Haas. Kevin Magnussen is back in a Haas seat, and he qualified seventh. It is worth noting that Haas is powered by Ferrari. In fact, four Ferrari powered cars qualified in the top seven. Valtteri Bottas qualified sixth in his Ferrari powered Alpha Romeo. McLaren disappointed in qualification and on race day. They were simply not a factor this weekend. They have a long way to go to become competitive this year.

Formula 1 race fans waited 98 days to start the new season. We were not disappointed. The race started with an immediate reshuffling of the line up as the grid sped down the long straight into turn one. Heading into turn one Bottas was shuffled from sixth to eighth. As the field came out of turn three into the second long straight, Hamilton and Magnusson passed Perez putting him in sixth. Bottas was shuffled all the way to fourteenth place. The three front runners remained in place.

The race started to get interesting after the three front runners all pitted in laps fourteen and sixteen. Leclerc pitted last and came out of pit lane right in front of Verstappen with little room to spare. They raced neck and neck laps 16, 17 and 18. As they would head down the long straight into turn one, Verstappen would brake late and pass Leclerc on the inside on turns two and three, but as they headed into turn four Leclerc would take back the lead. This back and forth went on for three laps until Verstappen’s brakes became overheated due to his late braking maneuvers. On lap 19 he locked up his front right tire creating a flat spot as well. He was able to maintain second place, but his time steadily fell off. By lap 22, he was 2.4 seconds behind Leclerc.

The remainder of the race was pedestrian until lap 47. There was a fair amount of jockeying between the middle of the field, but the top seven cars remained the same as qualifying most of the race. A harbinger of things to come occurred a few laps earlier in lap 44 when Verstappen pitted for a second time. As he was making his way around the track during lap 45, he began to complain about a loss of power. His race engineer could not detect a problem, but Verstappen clearly knew something was off. Then, in lap 47, Pierre Gasely’s Alpha Tauri overheated and caught fire at the same turn Roman Grojean’s horrific crash occurred two years ago. Gasely was able to safely get away. A safety car led the field around the track until lap 51 when the race stewards were finally able to remove the smoking Alpha Tauri from the track. During the safety car, Leclerc took advantage of the situation and pitted to obtain fresh tires. Of note, Mick Schumacher had only pitted once the whole race and due to this strategy, he had driven his Haas from the bottom of the field to tenth. Sadly, he was unable to finish in the points coming in at 11th.

After the safety car drove off, the race restarted at lap 51. Verstappen continued to complain that there was an issue with the car, even though he set a race best time speeding around the track. Verstappen’s warnings and observations were ignored. During lap 55, running in second place with just two laps to go, Verstappen’s Red Bull lost power and he had to limp to pit lane. During the next lap, Perez’s Red Bull also lost power causing him to limp to pit lane as well. Three Red Bull owned cars were out of the race in the span of eight laps, all at the end of the race.

Charles Leclerc led every lap of Sunday’s race. He took pole. He finished first. His teammate, Carlos Sainz, finished second, in large part because Perez’s engine failure. However, Sainz kept his car in position to be competitive. Though Mercedes was considerably off the pace on Sunday, Hamilton was able to obtain his 183rd podium in his career. Toto Wolf, Mercedes Race Principal, said it best; “we were punching above our weight class today”. Wolf acknowledges that Mercedes has some work to do to catch up with Ferrari and Red Bull. Or does he? Maybe it’s just Ferrari that he must catch up with…

Red Bull is not partnered with a manufacturer for engines this year. They opted to implement the things they learned from Honda and build their own factory. At the outset it appeared that they had plenty of power and speed. However, Bahrain has shown that these newly constructed Red Bull engines lack endurance. Only one Red Bull owned car finished the race. Another melted down on the track. Finally, the main two car engines shut down on the track in the wanning laps of the race. It is unclear if Red Bull will be able to solve this issue without the expertise of Honda guiding their hands.

Leclerc was voted best driver of the day. However, I believe Kevin Magnusson was the best driver on Sunday. The war in the Ukraine has caused Haas to part ways with Nikita Mazepin in the weeks leading up to the first race of the season. Magnusson was seemingly called off his couch in Denmark to rejoin the team. He put his car in 7th place to start the race. He positioned his car to finish 5th once both Red Bull’s fell out of the race. Haas and Magnusson are the “Cinderella” stories of the weekend. Yet, I think this is only the beginning for them. Their longstanding relationship with Ferrari may finally pay off with a highly competitive team this year, and the years to come. All in all, this is a great start to the 2022 Formula 1 Season!

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