The floodlights were on. The sun was setting as we got closer and closer to 6 PM. The grid was bustling with mechanics, drivers, Team Principals, VIPs and the media. The fans in the grandstands got tenser as they eagerly awaited that clock to strike 6. Because that’s the time when the Bahrain GP would begin. The 2022 Bahrain GP would actually begin a couple of minutes later because 6 PM (local time) would be when the drivers would start the formation lap. But as that formation lap came to an end, the first red light turned on, and all of the fans rose to their feet. For the first time in 2022, the 5 red lights went out, and the 2022 Bahrain GP commenced.
The setting was perfect for this race. It was the opening race of a new sub-era of F1. It’s a sub-era because the engines are still almost completely the same. The major regulation changes are in the aerodynamics of the cars. On top of that, the top teams had to work with a budget cap and less time in the wind tunnel to test their cars. The FIA designed these rules to make the field closer together. But of course, with a major regulation change, the grid is often shaken up. Some teams move forward, and some teams move back. We saw that in action at qualifying. Teams like Haas and Ferrari improved, while teams like McLaren and Mercedes fell back. The regular excitement that a season opener brings was amplified when combined with the beginning of the new era.
That’s why thousands of people attended the 2022 Bahrain GP. The attendance was at an all-time high for Bahrain, with 35,000 people attending the race! The only grandstand that wasn’t sold out was the Victory Grandstand, and less than 1000 tickets remained. The race had the highest international fan attendance and a total attendance of 98,000 across the weekend. I was one of them! I watched qualifying and the race from the T1 Grandstand, which is my favourite spot to see overtaking action.
It was a wonderful experience watching the action at Turn 1 because some mad moves were made there during the race. After watching that race, in my opinion, this race lived up to the hype. This race was the best experience I’ve ever had watching an F1 race. I got to see such an exciting race LIVE from the grandstands, and it made me so excited for the Saudi Arabian GP. We’ve seen so many things in F1 fall short of the hype, such as Season 4 of Netflix’s Drive To Survive. But the 2022 Bahrain GP didn’t fail to impress fans. It was an exhilarating race that will keep F1 fans hooked to see how the season plays out. This is, of course, mainly because Ferrari FINALLY made their return to the top step of the podium.
Ferrari Is Back With A Bang!
As a Ferrari fan, this is one of the reasons I was so excited for the 2022 Bahrain GP. I knew that Ferrari could potentially be a competitor for the top spot after their performances in pre-season testing. But I didn’t expect Ferrari to be as exceptionally fast as they were. I definitely didn’t expect pole position and a Ferrari 1-2. The last time Ferrari had a 1-2 finish was at the 2019 Singapore GP! Because of sandbagging in pre-season testing, I simply didn’t believe that Ferrari would be fast enough to beat the likes of Mercedes and Red Bull.
During F1 pre-season testing, top teams often sandbag, which is to have poor performances to trick their rivals into thinking they’re slow. For example, in 2019, the Ferrari cars had blistering pace in testing. When the races came around, Mercedes unleashed the true speed of their car and dominated the championship.
By now, F1 fans are expecting sandbagging from top teams, especially Mercedes. And at testing this year, Mercedes and Red Bull definitely sandbagged. However, Ferrari didn’t. From past experience, even I thought that Ferrari might have a chance at winning races. But after qualifying and the race at the 2022 Bahrain GP, it was more than a small chance. It showed that Ferrari had a genuine shot at returning to World Championship glory. The last time a Ferrari driver won a WDC was in 2007, and the last time Ferrari won the WCC was in 2008. That was also the year when Lewis Hamilton won his first WDC, beating Massa by 1 point in a blockbuster season finale.
Since then, Ferrari hasn’t been able to win a championship. From 2010 to 2013, Red Bull dominated. From 2014 until last year, Mercedes have dominated. Ferrari came close in years like 2010, 2012, 2017 and 2018. But they just weren’t fast enough, and they couldn’t maintain form for the entire season to win the championship. In 2020, Ferrari had the worst season of F1 in decades. Their engine was painfully slow, and it saw Ferrari fall all the way to the back of the midfield.
2021 was a much better year for the Scuderia. They made a huge leap in terms of aerodynamic and engine performance. They came through to beat McLaren to 3rd in the constructors’ championship. Only a team with the resources, spirit and innovation like Ferrari would be able to leap the entire midfield in one year. And we all know what the next step is after that. Going back to winning races and fighting for championships. And after Ferrari had a 1-2 in Bahrain, Ferrari was well and truly back. But what exactly did Ferrari do that put them in a position to take away maximum points from the very first race of the season? That’s what we’re going to look at now.
First of all, the aero on the Ferrari seems competitive. Ferrari were running more downforce on their cars as compared to Red Bull, which explains how Leclerc could be so brave on the brakes at corners like Turn 4 and Turn 10. But with extra downforce, Ferrari would be slower than Red Bull on the straights, which could’ve had a negative effect on Ferrari. Here’s where Ferrari really pulled off an act of genius. The Ferrari engine has gone from being the most underwhelming engine to being the strongest engine on the grid. The months leading up to the 2022 F1 season were crucial for engine manufacturers in F1 because of the development freeze. The engines that the engine suppliers had produced ahead of the first race are the engines that the suppliers and their customers will use until the end of 2025.
Ferrari pushed to develop a powerful engine because it will power their cars and their customers’ cars for 4 seasons. Haas and Alfa Romeo are Ferrari’s customer teams, meaning they had Ferrari engines in their cars. Both teams had strong performances at the 2022 Bahrain GP, which shows that the Ferrari Power Unit is one of the main reasons behind Ferrari’s success. Ferrari took a gamble and made major changes to their power unit. And it’s clear that the gamble paid off.
With the new E10 fuel for this year’s car, the fuel is now made of 10% ethanol rather than 5.7% ethanol. The new fuel comes with 20 horsepower loss in the engines. This means that there are changes in the combustion of the engine. Ferrari took this opportunity and tried to capitalise on the new fuel and new combustion to try and get the jump on their rivals. Firstly, Ferrari improved their intercooler technology. Intercoolers in F1 cars cool inlet gas. That increases the density of the air, which is better for combustion.
On top of that, Ferrari’s engines have “Superfast” ignition, which is a self-explanatory name. And finally, Ferrari’s air intake mixture is more turbulent. This means that the air that is fed into the Internal Combustion Engine is more turbulent and allows the fire to spread to the edges of the combustion chamber, maximising the output from the combustion chamber. Despite the horsepower loss from the new fuel, Ferrari’s 2022 Power Unit is still faster than their 2021 PU, meaning they’ve made significant gains. However, Ferrari’s engine gains don’t stop there.
Lastly, Ferrari had an acceleration advantage that Red Bull couldn’t cope with. Their gear ratios were lower, which means the drivers would upshift through the gears more times and faster than the Red Bull drivers did. That would give them more traction and more acceleration. It could also be that Ferrari’s engine was so powerful that with regular gearing the drivers could still upshift more. I think that the first scenario is more likely, but a combination of both is also possible. Ferrari had a really strong showing in Bahrain, but they have more to show. They were running lower horsepower in Bahrain to test the reliability of their cars. They didn’t want to push the engines too hard. That means in future races, the Ferrari engine could be even more powerful. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for the Saudi Arabian GP!
Magnussen’s Viking Comeback and Zhou’s Debut Points
Ferrari’s engine gains brought joy and glory to their customer teams as well. In F1, customer teams are teams that buy engines from an engine supplier. Ferrari’s customer teams are Haas and Alfa Romeo. These two teams buy and use Ferrari engines in their cars, and have been doing so for years. Alfa Romeo started using Ferrari engines in 2010, back when they were under the Sauber name. Haas have been using Ferrari engines since they first entered Formula 1 in 2016. You can see when Ferrari had strong engines, Alfa Romeo and Haas still scored some points. For example, in 2018, when Ferrari had a rapid car, Haas finished 5th in the constructors’ championship.
And when Ferrari had a poor engine, their customer teams struggled as well. In 2020, Haas and Alfa Romeo were both in the bottom 3, while Ferrari finished 7th in the constructors’. But 2021 broke this trend. With the coming of the new era, teams changed their tactics. Haas is being mentioned a lot nowadays in the F1 world, because they have a lot at stake this year. Last year, they sacrificed their entire season and didn’t develop their car throughout the season in order to shift their focus to their 2022 season. Haas wanted to get a jump on their rivals, including Alfa Romeo.
In pre-season testing in Barcelona, Haas struggled with pace and reliability. Many were worried that their 2021 struggles were for nothing. In testing in Bahrain, Haas put in a really strong performance, which gave many F1 fans some hope that Haas would perform at the Bahrain GP. For Alfa Romeo, they struggled in both pre-season tests. In Barcelona, they barely got any running because of poor reliability. Their test in Bahrain was better, because they proved to have a quick car, albeit still being a fragile one. At the 2022 Bahrain GP, both Haas and Alfa Romeo came with cars that were faster than most of the midfield, and that were also reliable.
With the development focus that both teams have put in, it’s clear that their success in Bahrain was not just because of their Ferrari Power Unit. A Power Unit can only do so much to make the car faster. As teams like Williams and Haas themselves have proven, a car needs strong aerodynamics to work in tandem with a powerful engine. And Haas and Alfa Romeo have both achieved this. They have good aerodynamics and downforce, otherwise their drivers wouldn’t be able to push and perform.
Speaking of drivers, with a good car, a team needs good drivers to push those cars. Mick Schumacher and Guanyu Zhou are the youth in Haas and Alfa respectively, and both teams have experienced veterans in Kevin Magnussen and Valtteri Bottas. The veterans had great performances in qualifying. Magnussen qualified in P7, with Bottas qualifying in P6. Bottas started the race alongside a Mercedes despite being in an Alfa Romeo, which is unbelievable considering how Alfa used to struggle to get into Q2 sometimes. And Kevin Magnussen pushed his Haas so hard that it broke down after the end of qualifying!
Both Mick Schumacher and Guanyu Zhou made it to Q2, but couldn’t make Q3. Qualifying was proof that Haas and Alfa’s potential weren’t just hype and that both these teams truly had strong pace. The 2022 Bahrain GP was a difficult race for both teams, as they pushed to convert their quali performances into points. The Alfa Romeo drivers both had terrible starts. Guanyu Zhou went from P15 to last place, and Valtteri Bottas fell from P6 to P14. It was a better start for Haas. Kevin Magnussen capitalised on Perez and Bottas having poor starts to get into P5. However, my worries became reality when Magnussen started falling down the order. You could see him trying to push hard, because he locked up heavily into Turn 1 when under pressure. I think that’s because he hasn’t had any wheel-to-wheel racing in F1 for well over a year.
A few laps later, he locked up heavily into Turn 1 again, which allowed Russell to go past. Magnussen ran in P7. From there he didn’t lose any more positions, which was very positive because it meant that he was the best in the midfield. The Alfa Romeos were gaining positions in the lower midfield, But late in the race, they used a great strategy that capitalised on the Safety Car to bring Bottas to P6 and Zhou to P10 by the end of the race.
Because of the RB retirements, Magnussen finished in a spectacular P5 on his return to Formula 1. Mick Schumacher just lost out on points and finished in P11. He drove a great race, and finished in P11 despite having to spend the last 20 laps of the race on soft tires. He was in P10 during the Safety Car period, since he didn’t pit at that time. But because of tire wear, Tsunoda, Alonso, and Zhou could overtake him. All 3 of those drivers scored points because of the Red Bulls retiring.
Overall 2022 Bahrain GP was a great race for Haas and Alfa Romeo. Haas scored more points with this one P5 finish than they did in the last two seasons combined. Alfa Romeo had both drivers scoring points. Guanyu Zhou was quite emotional about scoring points on his debut in F1. His racecraft was wonderful for a debutant, and he fully deserved the points finish. I think there’s plenty of points to come for Haas and Alfa Romeo. However, Jeddah is a tough circuit, and there’s no guarantee that Zhou, Magnussen and Schumacher might struggle there. I think given his skill and experience, Bottas will fare well in Jeddah.
Red Bull’s Ruined Race
Red Bull’s hopes dilapidated faster than their engines did! For the first time since the 2018 Azerbaijan GP, Red Bull Racing had a double-DNF. Interestingly, the last time Red Bull had a double-DNF because of mechanical issues for both drivers was at the 2018 Bahrain GP! But this double-DNF came in a completely different fashion. It was far more dramatic because rather than happening in the early stages of the race, the drama came at the very end! Red Bull made some major mistakes that led to the team leaving Bahrain with 0 points to their name.
First of all, the incident that really kicked off the exciting parts of the race was when Pierre Gasly retired with an engine failure. A raging fire billowed out of the exhaust of the AlphaTauri, which triggered a Safety Car that lasted 5 laps. Thankfully, they cleared the car and there were 6 more racing laps. The final lap was under yellow flag conditions thanks to Sergio Perez’s spin at Turn 1. Gasly’s engine fire was unrelated to the Red Bull Racing DNFs. It was a suspected battery issue because Gasly’s car just lost power and shut off. But the battery problem is less severe compared to the fire, which had more knock-on effects.
The energy store can’t be reused, which is a huge issue because the teams can only use two energy stores per car over the year. One is already gone, so Gasly will have to use a 3rd energy store later in the season and suffer a grid penalty. On top of the energy store, there could be other parts of the Power Unit that the fire damaged. While this issue was a big one for Gasly, Yuki Tsunoda still had a better race and finished P8 after starting P16.
Red Bull’s double-DNF is more than just a random engine failure. The Red Bull engines had some genuine issues that Red Bull should’ve ironed out, but they made mistakes during testing that haunted them and ruined their race. As I mentioned earlier, the engines this year the teams are using a new E10 fuel. This E10 fuel reacts differently to the engine as compared to the fuel the teams were using earlier. So, the teams carried out tests and race simulations during pre-season testing so that the engine suppliers could fix any issues.
Teams carried out test runs with different fuel levels in the car. Red Bull, however, made a blunder mistake, because they didn’t do any full race simulations, and they didn’t do any runs on low fuel. That means they didn’t test how the engine would work with low fuel in the car. And that’s where Red Bull faced issues. But what exactly happened to the drivers? Why did they both have to retire? Here’s what happened in the race.
In the race, on Lap 55, with 3 laps to go, Verstappen had to retire the car, since his engine lost power. It was a shocking problem that put an end to a disappointing race for Verstappen. Then, on the final lap, it got even worse for Red Bull. Verstappen’s retirement promoted Sergio Perez to 3rd place. It would still be 15 points for the Red Bull team. But on the penultimate lap of the race, Perez reported that he was losing power. In the grandstands, everyone got on their feet as soon as they heard the radio message being played on the speakers. Could this day get even worse for Red Bull?? The answer, unfortunately, is yes.
The drivers entered the final lap of the 2022 Bahrain GP. Perez was going slow as his engine kept losing power. Hamilton was closing in on him using DRS. Down into Turn 1, Hamilton managed to really close up to Perez. But as he got on the throttle, Perez suddenly spun, with Hamilton having to use his reflexes to avoid hitting the stricken Red Bull. It was a shocking spin, and people initially thought that Perez just got too eager on the throttle. However, I realised that that simply couldn’t be the reason for the spin. There are multiple reasons for this.
Firstly, the spin happened just after the apex of Turn 1. At that point, an F1 driver would never stamp their foot on the throttle. Secondly, it was a quiet spin. In F1, when a spin happens because of a driver getting on the throttle too aggressively, you can hear the engine revs going up. When Perez spun, I heard nothing of the sort while sitting in the Turn 1 grandstand. I didn’t hear a sudden, loud rev from Perez’s engine. That’s when I realised Perez experienced something that Leclerc experienced back in 2020.
At the 2020 Spanish Grand Prix, Leclerc had a surprise spin when going through the chicane in the final sector. I researched the cause of the spin, and it was because Leclerc’s engine shut off. In an F1 car, when the engine suddenly loses power and shuts off the rear axle locks. That means the rear wheels lock up completely, which spins the car around. That’s the exact same thing that happened to Perez. His car just shut off mid-corner, which spun his car around. Thankfully, both in Bahrain this year and in Spain in 2020, these issues happened to these drivers at slow corners. Otherwise, it could be very dangerous. So that’s what caused Perez’s spin. But now let’s take a look at what caused the engine failures that resulted in Perez and Verstappen retiring.
The new E10 fuel runs at a different temperature in the engine. But this causes issues for the fuel systems in the Power Unit when the fuel level is low. Red Bull didn’t know about this, because of their lack of data gathered. So in both Red Bull cars, the fuel systems didn’t work properly, and they weren’t feeding fuel to the engine. And with no fuel, the engine can’t run. While it may seem that this is the only issue that Red Bull will have to fix, Verstappen had stiff steering and overheating brakes during the race, meaning Red Bull have a lot of work to do. With the number of points they’ve lost from the opening race, they can’t afford any more issues if they want to win the constructors’ or the drivers’ championship.
That’s it for the 2022 Bahrain GP Race Review. It was a fantastic race and a crazy season opener, with plenty to analyse. I can’t wait for the 2022 Saudi Arabian GP after this race! There’s a lot at stake for the teams after the Bahrain GP. Red Bull need to recover points, teams like McLaren and Aston Martin need to sort out their issues, and Ferrari need to keep their momentum going.