The 2022 Formula 1 season is officially upon us and with it comes a new running order. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc will start from pole alongside 2021 champion Max Verstappen Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate, Carlos Sainz will start third with Mexican driver Sergio Perez starting fourth.
Saturday’s qualifying session threw up a host of surprises with Mercedes‘ pre-season struggles carrying on into the season with Lewis Hamilton only managing fifth overall seven-tenths down on Leclerc. His new teammate Geroge Russell fared worse and will start the race from ninth on the grid after making a mistake into turn one.
With the starting grid set for today’s race, the teams will be hoping to execute a perfect race strategy to maximize their results.
What are Pirelli Saying?
The Italian tire manufacturer are predicting a two-stop race given the abrasive track surface at the Bahrain International Circuit. Given the change in regulations that will now see all 20 drivers on the grid given a free choice on which tyre they opt to start the race on, it will be interesting to see what compound the front runners opt to start on.
Based on their data Pirelli believe the best strategy would be for the drivers to start on the Soft Compound tyre before switching to the Medium Compound on at their second pit stop.
“In qualifying we finally saw the true pace of all the teams. With cool temperatures that were similar to FP2 and the hardest tyres in the range selected this weekend, tyre warm up was marginal, especially with track temperatures dropping as the evening went on,” Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Mario Isola said.
“Another decisive factor in the qualifying strategy was the removal of the rule this year that obliged drivers to start the race on the tyres with which they set their best Q2 times. As a result, everyone begins the race tomorrow on an entirely level playing field and the focus tonight will shift towards the race strategy, and which tyres to start on.
“With a big performance gap between the compounds, this adds another level of complexity to what is already a tricky decision, as the new formula makes its race debut on Sunday. We’re expecting slightly warmer conditions compared to today and two pit stops; but there may be scope for some drivers to do something different.”
Developments to look for
With the dawn of a new era in F1, there were always going to be surprses going in the first round. That being said the two standout performances in the midfield came from Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.
Bottas will lineup alongside his former teammate Hamilton, while Magnussen will start seventh meaning that both drivers could walk away with a health haul of points. The other driver worth keeping an eye on is Alpine’s Fernando Alonso who will start eighth. The Spaniard comes alive on race day, and it will be interesting to see how he progresses given the cars in front of him.
Mercedes will be looking to engage in some damage limitation given that they are currently the third fastest team on the grid. However, with Russell starting ninth, it could prove to be a tough race for the reigning Constructors’ Champions.
The other team that faltered was McLaren. The Woking-based outfit have made steady progress over the past few years but are now faced with a situation that sees start as the eight fastest team on the grid based on qualifying pace. The Mercedes powered cars are clearly struggling with Williams currently pegged as the slowest team on the grid.
At the front it appears to be a clear fight between Ferrari and Red Bull, both teams seem to have nailed the rule changes and with Leclerc claiming the team’s first pole since the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix, the Monegasque driver is set to reignite his karting rivalry with Verstappen.