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Formula One standings after season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix

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Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc won a thrilling Formula One season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday while reigning champion Max Verstappen was forced out with an electrical issue two laps before the finish.

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Carlos Sainz made it a Ferrari one-two while Lewis Hamilton snatched third place for Mercedes after Sergio Perez added to Red Bull’s disastrous day by spinning out of the race on the last lap.

George Russell, in his first race since replacing Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes, took fourth place to give Mercedes a score of 27 points that they could not have dreamed of in the middle of the race.

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There was also a remarkable outcome for the Haas team, which got no points last season, only to see Kevin Magnussen, who has replaced Russian driver Nikita Mazepin as a result of the invasion of Ukraine, finish fifth in his first race since 2020.

For Charles Leclerc, who started the race on pole and faced a battle for the lead with Verstappen in the opening laps, it was pure delight.

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The man from Monaco told his team over the radio: “That’s exactly how we should start the season. One-two baby, one-two. Mamma mia.”

Once the race trophy was in his hands, Leclerc said: “I’m so happy. We knew this was a big opportunity for the team and the guys have done an incredible job building into amazing car. 

“A one-two today with Carlos – we couldn’t hope for better. It’s incredible to be back at the top.”

Charles Leclerc started on pole

Leclerc had started on pole and in a furious early part of the race, he exchanged the lead with Verstappen several times under the floodlights in the Gulf.

By lap 37 of 57, Leclerc’s lead was 2.3 seconds and Verstappen was arguing with his own team over their instructions from the pit lane.

The race was disrupted when the safety car came out on the 51st lap after Pierre Gasly had to jump out of his Alpha Tauri before it burst into flames.

When racing resumed, Sainz attacked Verstappen for second place but the Dutchman’s race ended in bitter disappointment as he appeared to lose all power on the 55th lap and had to limp into the pits without a point.

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While Christian Horner and his Red Bull team were digesting the champion’s failure to finish, Perez suddenly spun and came to a halt, apparently due to a mechanical issue.

That allowed seven-time champion Hamilton to help himself to third place. 

“A big, big congratulations to Ferrari, it’s so good to see them doing well again,” said Hamilton.

“It was such a difficult race – we’ve struggled throughout practice and this was the best result we could hope for. We’re grateful for these points,” Hamilton said.

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Bahrain GP results on Sunday, the opening race of the 2022 season:

1. Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) 1hr 37:33.584, 2. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Ferrari) at 5.598sec, 3. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 9.675, 4. George Russell (GBR/Mercedes) 11.211, 5. Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas-Ferrari) 14.754, 6. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) 16.119, 7. Esteban Ocon (FRA/Alpine-Renault) 19.423, 8. Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/AlphaTauri-Red Bull) 20.386, 9. Fernando Alonso (ESP/Alpine-Renault) 22.390, 10. Zhou Guanyu (CHN/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) 23.064, 11. Mick Schumacher (GER/Haas-Ferrari) 32.574, 12. Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 45.873, 13. Alexander Albon (THA/Williams-Mercedes) 53.932, 14. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/McLaren-Mercedes) 54.975, 15. Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes) 56.335, 16. Nicholas Latifi (CAN/Williams-Mercedes) 1:01.795, 17. Nico Hulkenberg (GER/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1:03.829, 18. Sergio Perez (MEX/Red Bull) 1 lap, 19. Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull) 3 laps

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Fastest lap: Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) 1:34.570 on lap 51

Retirements:

Pierre Gasly (FRA/AlphaTauri-Red Bull, lap 45), Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull, lap 55), Sergio Perez (MEX/Red Bull, lap 57)

World championship standings (after 1 of 22 races):

Drivers

1. Charles Leclerc (MON) 26 points, 2. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) 18, 3. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) 15, 4. George Russell (GBR) 12, 5. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) 10, 6. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) 8, 7. Esteban Ocon (FRA) 6, 8. Yuki Tsunoda (JPN) 4, 9. Fernando Alonso (ESP) 2, 10. Zhou Guanyu (CHN) 1, 11. Mick Schumacher (GER) 0, 12. Lance Stroll (CAN) 0, 13. Alexander Albon (THA) 0, 14. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) 0, 15. Lando Norris (GBR) 0, 16. Nicholas Latifi (CAN) 0, 17. Nico Hulkenberg (GER) 0, 18. Sergio Perez (MEX) 0, 19. Max Verstappen (NED) 0, 20. Pierre Gasly (FRA) 0

Constructors

1. Ferrari 44 points, 2. Mercedes 27, 3. Haas-Ferrari 10, 4. Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 9, 5. Alpine-Renault 8, 6. AlphaTauri-Red Bull 4, 7. Aston Martin-Mercedes 0, 8. Williams-Mercedes 0, 9. McLaren-Mercedes 0, 10. Red Bull 0

By Garrin Lambley © Agence France-Presse

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