Charles Leclerc parlayed a long winter workload by the Ferrari team into securing pole position at the Bahrain International Circuit, the first weekend of F1 racing in 2022.
Defending champion Max Verstappen came up just 0.123 of a second off the pole, and will start the race besides Leclerc in second. Ferrari’s other driver, Carlos Sainz, qualified third and Sergio Perez rounded out the first two rows in fourth.
“It feels good, the last two years have been incredibly difficult for the team,” Leclerc told interviewer David Coulthard in parc fermé immediately following the session. “We were quite hopeful this new opportunity for us was an opportunity to be back at the front. We have worked extremely well to find ourselves in a better position to fight for better places.”
Still, Leclerc still did not seem fully satisfied, especially with himself.
“From the driving point, it’s completely different from last year. Testing was very useful for this. I have tried many different driving styles and need to find a perfect one. There’s still definitely much more to come for us.”
It is the 10th pole for Leclerc in his F1 career and the 231st for the prancing horse.
The first truly consequential on-track session of the season, qualifying was incident free and largely seemed to confirm the takeaways of most who have followed pre-season testing and practice this weekend: Ferrari and Red Bull are the top two constructors, Haas has made a jump, and Mercedes has stumbled out of the starting gate.
Kevin Magnussen enjoyed a very strong day in his first weekend back with Haas, qualifying seventh after overcoming a hydraulics issue in Q2. Fernando Alonso will begin his 19th Formula 1 season in eighth, just ahead of new Mercedes driver George Russell, who qualified ninth after missing the apex of turn one on his final hot lap. Pierre Gasly rounded out Q3 in 10th.
Verstappen was fastest in this session, while Sainz was second and Leclerc third. Perez was between the top three and the two Mercedes drivers of Hamilton (fifth) and Russell (sixth). Zhou Guanyu qualified 15th after having his final time in this session disallowed due to a track limit violation. Alex Albon went out early for both of his hot laps and ended up 14th. Lando Norris ended up 13th and Mick Schumacher was 12th. Esteben Ocon was knocked out of Q1 at the last second by Gasly, and will start 11tth tomorrow.
Leclerc was the fastest, followed by Sainz and Verstappen. Nicholas Latifi (20th), Lance Stroll (19th), Ricciardo (18th), super sub Nico Hulkenburg (17th) and Yuki Tsunoda (16th) were the five drivers eliminated in this session.
The Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2022 will be broadcast on Sunday, March 20 at 11 a.m. EST on ESPN.
About the author
Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021. He moved on to Formula 1, IndyCar, and SRX coverage for the site, while still putting a toe in the water from time-to-time back into the NASCAR pool.
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