By Robert Haile
It’s been a barren few years for Ferrari with Red Bull and Mercedes taking the drivers and constructors championships but they look to be back.
After taking pole position in yesterday’s qualifying session Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc held off the challenge of champion Max Verstappen to seal Ferrari’s first win since 2019.
That win in Singapore was a 1-2 with Sebastian Vettel and Leclerc and this one with Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
Opening race winner, Leclerc said: “Coming into this season, we knew we would be in a better position than we have been for the past two years, but we didn’t know exactly where we would stand.
“To be back on top with a car that is capable of winning feels incredible. A huge thank you to our whole team, you’ve done an amazing job and this victory is for all of you.
The race was tough and I gave it my all.
“Whenever I had a bit of margin behind me, I felt in control of the race and was managing the gap well. But after the first stop, things became more tricky.
“Max challenged me three times and I had to position myself in the right way to reclaim my position each time he passed me. Once the Safety Car came out, we lost the gap we had created and had to start again from zero.
“I knew I had to do the best restart possible and I am glad I got the job done well.
Car development will be more significant than in previous years and we have to stay on top of our game.
“As for this weekend, we did everything right. Pole, fastest lap, the victory and second place for our team. Forza Ferrari.”
In a shocking turn Verstappen starts his defence with no points after retiring in the final laps of the race and teammate Sergio Perez also did not finish.
At the race start it was Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas who lost out at the start losing eight places going from sixth to fourteenth.
Esteban Ocon was handed a five second penalty for spinning Haas’ Mick Schumacher.
Over the following laps Leclerc and Verstappen trade places with everything going the way of Ferrari until lap 46 when Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri came to a halt in flames bringing out the first safety car of the season.
When the safety car came in there was six laps left.
The challenge from Verstappen didn’t appear with the Dutchman complaining of power issues before crawling back to the pit on lap 54.
Perez was in third on the final laps when the same issue seemed to surface and at the start of the final lap the Mexican spun at the first corner finishing his race and giving Lewis Hamilton an unlikely third place on the podium.
So a Ferrari one-two and fastest lap, Mercedes three-four with Kevin Magnussen’s Haas in fifth.
Alfa Romeo, another team that struggled last season, had a double points finish with Bottas in sixth and Zhou Guanyu in tenth.
Ocon and Fernando Alonso were both in the points for Alpine in seventh and ninth with Yuki Tsunoda in eighth for AlphaTauri.
Schumacher picked up his highest F1 finish in eleventh with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll in twelfth and his teammate Hulkenberg in seventeenth.
Alex Albon’s return with Williams brought him a thirteenth with Nicholas Latifi in sixteenth while Daniel Ricciardo beat teammate Lando Norris as the pair finished fourteenth and fifteenth for McLaren.
The first race has answered some questions but asked many we didn’t even know about and the next round in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on 25-27 March could be even more fascinating.
- Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – 26
- Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) – 18
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 15
- George Russell (Mercedes) – 12
- Kevin Magnussen (Haas) – 10
- Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) – 8
- Esteban Ocon (Alpine) – 6
- Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) – 4
- Fernando Alonso (Alpine) – 2
- Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo) – 1
- Mick Schumacher (Haas) – 0
- Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) – 0
- Alexander Albon (Williams) – 0
- Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) – 0
- Lando Norris (McLaren) – 0
- Nicholas Latifi (Williams) – 0
- Nico Hulkenberg (Aston Martin) – 0
- Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 0
- Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 0
- Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) – 0
- Ferrari – 44
- Mercedes – 27
- Haas – 10
- Alfa Romeo – 9
- Alpine – 8
- AlphaTauri – 4
- Aston Martin – 0
- Williams – 0
- McLaren – 0
- Red Bull – 0