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Formula 1

Edd Straw’s 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix F1 driver ratings

by Edd Straw
14 min read

A thrilling Bahrain Grand Prix finally properly kicked off Formula 1’s long-anticipated new era in style.

Charles Leclerc was the victor, leading home a Ferrari 1-2 after Red Bull’s race imploded in the final four laps with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez both losing podium positions. That mix of heartbreak and triumph could also be found further down the field.

But which of the 20 drivers can be proudest of their first 2022 race weekend, and who already has a point to prove? Edd Straw gives his verdict on the performances of all of them across the weekend in his first driver ratings of the season.

2022 Site Ver Bahrain

Started: 2nd Finished: 19th

Verstappen went into the weekend as the favourite to take pole position and win but ended up retiring from second place late on with the fuel problem. While there wasn’t anything he could have done about the retirement, the key factor in the weekend not living up to expectations was missing out on pole position by 0.123s.

That followed what he described as a “hit and miss” session where a combination of a front-wing tweak for Q3 combined with his final prep-lap being compromised by traffic meant he couldn’t live with the Ferrari pace.

Verstappen did what he could to try to gain track position after failing to do so at the start thanks to bogging down slightly off the line, twice launching undercut attempts that frustrated him because he couldn’t attack on the out-lap as hard as he wanted to.

He then couldn’t make any of his three attempts to take the lead on-track stick as Leclerc played the DRS zones to his advantage, with the final attempt resulting in a lock-up and leading to him dropping back.

Verstappen played no part in the late series of problems, starting with the trackrod being bent at his final stop, and was quick all weekend. But ultimately it was the Q3 performance where he just lost out to an admittedly very quick Ferrari that put him on the back foot.

2022 Site Per Bahrain

Started: 4th Finished: 18th

Perez never looked to have the edge of pace that Verstappen did but ending up 0.363s off in qualifying – a deficit slightly stretched by time lost in the final corner – and fourth on the grid was a solid enough performance.

The same could be said about his race. He lost places to Hamilton and Magnussen at the start, but soon recovered them and was fourth again on lap 10. But by then, he’d dropped to just over three seconds behind Sainz.

There were periods in every stint where he started chipping away at the gap, but this was never sustained and he was on course for fourth, which briefly became third only for the rears to lock at Turn 1 thanks to the fuel problem and pitch him into a spin and out of the race.

That brought to an end a solid, but unspectacular, weekend’s work for Perez.

2022 Site Ham Bahrain

Started: 5th Finished: 3rd

Fifth place was as good as it was going to get for Mercedes in qualifying, with Hamilton executing well enough and doing a better job with his one set of fresh softs in Q3 than team-mate Russell did.

The race was all about damage limitation and Hamilton executed it well, repassing Magnussen after losing a position after his first pitstop. He also avoided going too quickly, too early on the hards and accelerating the degradation as Russell had.

There was a chance he could have nicked third from Perez on the last lap, but the Red Bull’s fuel problem gave him the position anyway.

While fortune handed him two places and a podium slot, it was a good weekend from Hamilton who ensured the Mercedes damage limitation was maximised – albeit on a weekend where it was clear enough of the midfield to be relatively comfortable.

2022 Site Rus Bahrain

Started: 9th Finished: 4th

Russell’s pace relative to Hamilton was good, but he couldn’t execute Q3 as effectively and overdid it on the tyres on the prep lap on his one set of fresh softs. The upshot was a poor lap a second off his Q2 time and ninth place.

A good start and first corner gained him two places and he then picked off Magnussen, although after switching to hards he pushed too hard early on and lost a little ground – albeit not enough to drop him into the clutches of the midfield pack behind.

The demise of the Red Bulls promoted him to fourth place after what was a solid enough start to his full-time Mercedes career, with the main difference to Hamilton the fact he didn’t always get the tyre use right.

2022 Site Lec Bahrain

Started: 1st Finished: 1st

A commanding weekend from Leclerc, who took a little time to get on top of the Ferrari before it all clicked in the nick of time for him in Q3.

His pole position lap was a study not only in car control and traction sensitivity but also very precise dynamic control, which his team-mate couldn’t match.

Leclerc controlled the race beautifully, racing intelligently when Verstappen attacked during the second stint and showing the savvy to accept briefly losing the lead in order to retake it.

Pole position, fastest lap and an imperious win a just reward for Leclerc who made the most of a genuinely quick car, but crucially contributed to it being so quick with his own virtuosity.

2022 Site Sai Bahrain

Started: 3rd Finished: 2nd

Sainz was very frank about the fact he simply could not live with Leclerc, describing this as one of his worst Ferrari weekends in terms of the continual deficit to his team-mate.

As he put it “let the bad weekends be a P2” having run third for most of the race before picking up the position when Verstappen retired.

It wasn’t that Sainz was driving badly, simply that the car wasn’t to his liking and he was having to be so conscious and deliberate about everything that he was never driving naturally. But despite that, he was still a genuine pole threat and set the pace on the first Q3 run, and was able to keep Perez’s Red Bull covered while holding third for much of the race.

The upshot is, this was an effective and workmanlike weekend from Sainz but he lacked this team-mate’s brilliance.

2022 Site Ric Bahrain

Started: 18th Finished: 14th

Ricciardo returned after a bout of COVID-19 and missing the Bahrain test. His weekend, therefore, has to be evaluated in that context, especially as after the race it was clear that he had struggled with what might be called a COVID hangover. Although it should be said that he was quick to say after qualifying that he didn’t attribute his results to that.

He found it tougher than expected to adapt to the car for the different challenges of the Bahrain track and was well off Norris in qualifying, being eliminated in Q1.

The car wasn’t quick enough to achieve much in the race, especially as Ricciardo’s attempts to be attacking on the first lap came to nought and he dropped to the back having had to take to the runoff in the sweepers in avoidance of the spinning Schumacher.

His pace wasn’t as good as his team-mate in the race either but he got ahead thanks to Norris’s high-risk strategy and little progress was made.

2022 Site Nor Bahrain

Started: 13th Finished: 15th

Norris was actually happy with his qualifying lap, which he suggested in a car that was working well would be a top-10 or even pole position lap! But his mid-Q2 place was clearly about as good as it was going to get for McLaren.

He didn’t make a great start, but also lost out thanks to the Ocon/Schumacher clash just ahead of him in the sweepers that left him to settle into 18th place once Stroll and Zhou had passed him.

With little to play for, he ran the longest first stint of anyone after starting on mediums, then switched to the hards. But as the C1 was not a quick tyre, that didn’t work for him and he ended up stopping again after a further 16 laps for softs.

That left him 17th at the restart and he couldn’t pick off any more positions, except for the two Red Bull offered up.

In the circumstances, this was a good weekend’s work from Norris who simply didn’t have a quick car under him.

2022 Site Oco Bahrain

Started: 11th Finished: 7th

Ocon wasn’t quite as comfortable with the Alpine as Alonso in qualifying trim, falling in Q2 and losing much of his time through the Turn 10 hairpin. But in race conditions, he proved to be the faster of the team’s pair, overcoming a five-second penalty served at his first pitstop to finish seventh ahead of Tsunoda and Alonso.

Unfortunately, the first-lap clash with Schumacher in the sweepers does blot his copybook. Ocon was apologetic, realising his error, but although it cost him in terms of race time – albeit with Alonso helping him out by letting him past in that stint – it’s unlikely it cost him a better result.

Ocon later passed Alonso for real, capitalising on having a five-lap tyre age advantage, to round out what was a strong first race of the season.

2022 Site Alo Bahrain

Started: 8th Finished: 9th

Alonso probably put the Alpine about as far up the field as it could be in qualifying, given the clear edge that Haas and Alfa Romeo appeared to have on pace.

He settled into ninth on the first lap and was still there at the end, although it was a tricky evening of battling tyre management during which he wasn’t able to extract the same performance level as Ocon. But he did also play the team game by letting Ocon, who had a five-second penalty hanging over him, past in the first stint.

He lost a place to Tsunoda shortly before the safety car, and was under pressure from Zhou at the end of the race. But thanks to the double Red Bull retirement, Alonso picked up a couple of points.

2022 Site Gas Bahrain

Started: 10th Finished: DNF

Gasly went into qualifying concerned about making it into Q2, hence committing three sets of tyres to the first part of qualifying. That was understandable given the struggles he and the team had getting the front tyres working under the floodlights on Friday.

In the end, he did an excellent job to make it to the final stage of qualifying after a superb Q2 lap, although his one Q3 attempt perhaps wasn’t as good as it could have been.

Gasly climbed to eighth early on and, despite briefly undercutting his way past Magnussen mid-race then losing the position, was still there when an MGU-K problem forced him to retire, costing him a hard-earned points finish.

2022 Site Tsu Bahrain

Started: 16th Finished: 8th

Losing all of FP3 to a hydraulics leak had a big say in Tsunoda’s Q1 elimination, with struggles in Turn 4 and 11 meaning he was almost four-tenths slower than Gasly. But even with that FP3 setback, he probably should have been able to make Q2.

Tsunoda made good progress in the first stint, crucially passing Albon, who was creating a split in the field owning to his struggle for pace. That meant Tsunoda was in the mix for the minor points positions – taking the late-race restart in 11th place and quickly picking off Schumacher, which resulted in him climbing to eighth at the finish.

This weekend wasn’t the best measure of his pace relative to Gasly, but despite a well-executed race, it’s clear there’s still a bit more time for him to find.

2022 Site Str Bahrain

Started: 19th Finished: 12th

Being eliminated in Q1 wasn’t a problem in itself given Aston Martin’s pace was severely limited by having to contain its porpoising problems, but being outpaced in qualifying by stand-in team-mate Hulkenberg wasn’t good enough.

Considering the pace of the car and the management demands, Stroll did a decent job to prevail in his battle with Albon after overcutting him at the first round of stops, but realistically he didn’t have the potential to go much further. He also beat both McLaren drivers, which was a reasonable result.

2022 Site Hulk Bahrain

Started: 17th Finished: 17th

Hulkenberg’s weekend has to be assessed within the context of the fact he had never driven a 2022-spec car before, had a single simulator session of fewer than 100 laps under his belt earlier in the year and last raced 18 months ago. So to outqualify Stroll was a remarkable achievement.

The race was always going to be a struggle given the unfamiliar management demands of these new cars, with Hulkenberg describing the race as a “big learning experience”. A lock-up in battle made things more difficult and put him into blue flag territory earlier than he expected, adding up to finishing last on the road.

All things considered, including the pace of the car, it was a good effort from Hulkenberg after his late call-up even though Stroll was able to do a better job in the race.

2022 Site Lat Bahrain

Started: 20th Finished: 16th

Through practice, Latifi’s pace relative to Albon seemed decent enough, but he couldn’t match his team-mate’s step after set-up changes for qualifying. That left Latifi struggling to get the tyres working and down on grip both for Saturday and Sunday.

He spent the race battling with stragglers at the back, notably Ricciardo in the early stages of the race, but wasn’t able to make any meaningful progress, although he did at least beat Aston Martin driver Hulkenberg.

The bottom line is he was never able to get as comfortable with the car as Albon managed to and that showed in his pace disadvantage.

2022 Site Alb Bahrain

Started: 14th Finished: 13th

Albon picked up where Russell left off last year with an unexpected Q2 appearance. This was the consequence of a car he said felt “great” after changes following FP3 and others underperforming.

He got up to 11th at the start, but it was quickly clear the car’s lack of pace made him something of a rolling roadblock and it was inevitable that he gradually slipped backwards. But he produced respectable pace on an orthodox strategy and was rewarded with a 13th-place finish.

Both driver and team felt that it was a good performance relative to the pace of the car, which it was, but it says much about the speed of the car that even a good performance by Albon across qualifying and the race couldn’t make it a points threat.

2022 Site Zhou Bahrain

Started: 15th Finished: 10th

Zhou came into the weekend with sensible objectives, the first of which was to get to Q2. He achieved that, although ended up 15th after his final lap was deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 4. While he was nowhere near Bottas’s pace, for a first attempt it was solid enough.

But in the race, he showed he’s in no way overawed by F1, although a poor start thanks to the Alfa clutch vibration problem put him on the backfoot in Turn 1. That led to him letting the revs drop too low and a brief anti-stall moment that resulted in him briefly dropping to last.

As the race progressed, Zhou became more attacking and showed a decent level of pace. He took the late-race restart 13th and quickly picked off Schumacher. Ultimately, it was the retirement of both Red Bulls that handed him 10th place, although he was planning to attempt to dive past Alonso’s Alpine at Turn 1 on the last lap before Perez’s spin brought out the yellow flags.

He has pace to find, but the intelligent and controlled approach to his rookie weekend was impressive.

2022 Site Bot Bahrain

Started: 6th Finished: 6th

Losing FP1 to a misfire originating in the control electronics, forcing a change, didn’t set him back as he showed good single-lap and long-run pace in FP2 then, after flirting with elimination in Q2, grabbing sixth on the grid.

Started sixth, finished sixth sounds simple enough but Bottas had to work hard thanks to a combination of a bad start caused by a recurring clutch vibration problem Alfa Romeo is battling to solve and also losing ground when Ocon and Schumacher clashed in front of him later in the first lap.

That left him 14th, but a combination of good pace and tyre management allowed him to make good progress. The late safety-car was helpful, allowing him to make a free stop for tyres and take the restart in eighth, which became sixth when the two Red Bulls vanished.

An excellent start to his post-Mercedes career.

2022 Site Mag Bahrain

Started: 7th Finished: 5th

Showed few signs of rust after a year out of F1 despite missing the first pre-season test and slotted back in to do an excellent job for Haas. His qualifying performance was doubly impressive given the hydraulic problem he picked up, which restricted him to a single run in both Q2 and Q3.

In the race, he admitted to getting a little over-excited at being able to battle with Hamilton and Perez early on and used the tyres a little bit too hard, but he then settled into a well-executed race drive. Even when he briefly lost the advantage in the battle for seventh to Gasly’s undercut, he quickly reclaimed the position.

A fine performance from a driver whose F1 career looked done and dusted just a few weeks ago.

2022 Site Msc Bahrain

Started: 12th Finished: 11th

Given Magnussen’s superb performance, the lazy conclusion would be to assume Schumacher simply wasn’t at the same level and couldn’t put his first points-scoring F1 car to good use. There was an element of truth to that, and he’s certainly facing a tough challenge to take on a team-mate at a higher level than Nikita Mazepin, but it wasn’t quite as straightforward as that.

Failing to make Q3 on the first time he had the car to make it was a disappointment, with his final Q2 lap abandoned after the rear stepped out and spat him wide at Turn 11. Even then, he was on a lap that would have been marginal at best.

His hopes in the race took a literal hit when Ocon left his nose in through the sweepers and tipped Schumacher into a spin, although the Haas driver recovered quickly and finished the lap 13th.

But he suspected there was a little damage from this and he couldn’t threaten the points positions until he became the only driver not to pit either immediately before or during the late-race safety car.

That gave him 10th place, but he was a sitting duck at the start and shuffled back to 13th, which became a career-best 11th when the Red Bulls hit trouble.

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