Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2022

Leclerc beats Verstappen to pole for season-opener as Ferrari start 2022 in front

2022 Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying

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Charles Leclerc put Ferrari on pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix by beating Max Verstappen by a tenth of a second.

In a close fought battle throughout the qualifying hour, Leclerc’s final effort was good enough to see him take pole, 0.123s ahead of world champion Verstappen.

Carlos Sainz Jnr backed up Ferrari’s impressive pace with third on the grid, ahead of Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull in fourth. Lewis Hamilton will start fifth on the grid, ahead of former team mate Valtteri Borras in sixth and Kevin Magnussen seventh for Haas.


The first phase of qualifying was also the first time all year that teams were all running at full performance as they looked to avoid an early exit from qualifying and a start from the back of the grid.

Max Verstappen set the early pace in the Red Bull, but then the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr went three tenths faster than the world champion to go quickest

Mercedes’ first efforts were considerably slower than their rivals, with Lewis Hamilton eight tenths off Leclerc’s best lap.

As time wound down, Daniel Ricciardo needed to improve to avoid the drop zone and jumped from 18th up to 15th, but was eliminated after team mate Lando Norris improved to eighth, ultimately finishing the session in 18th.

Zhou Guanyu saved himself from a Q1 exit on debut by jumping to 14th place, while Alex Albon narrowly avoided being knocked out in 15th.

That left Yuki Tsunoda as the first driver eliminated in the AlphaTauri, after he missed the entire third practice session. Nico Hulkenberg was knocked out in 17th on his return to Formula 1 standing in for Sebastian Vettel, with Daniel Ricciardo audibly disappointed to have his qualifying session ended in 18th place in the McLaren.

Lance Stroll was eliminated in 19th to cap a frustrating start to the season for Aston Martin and Nicholas Latifi was the slowest driver and will start tomorrow’s race from the very back of the grid.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Red Bull 1’32.750
17 Nico Hulkenberg Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’32.777
18 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1’32.945
19 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’33.032
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1’33.634

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With the rule requiring drivers who qualify in the top ten to use the tyres with which they set their fastest time in Q2 having been dropped, the second qualifying session would be a straight shoot-out to see who would reach the third and final phase.

Verstappen wasted no time in taking to the circuit and posting a 1’30.757 – the fastest time of the weekend and six tenths of a second faster than team mate Sergio Perez.

Leclerc’s first effort of the session was good enough for seconds, but almost sixth tenths from Verstappen’s best. Kevin Magnussen put his Haas up to fourth place, but was prevented from going back out to the circuit after the team informed him of a hydraulic issue on his car.

Albon took advantage of a clear track to put in his one and only flying lap of the session, going 14th fastest and deciding to retire from the rest of the session.

Leclerc improved on his second effort, before team mate Sainz went even faster, but was still three-hundredths of a second slower than Verstappen.

As the chequered flag flew, Lando Norris was unable to improve enough to reach the top ten and was forced to settle for 13th. Both Mercedes improved, but only to fifth for Hamilton and sixth for Russell, respectively.

Esteban Ocon sat on the bubble in tenth place and Pierre Gasly duly improved his time to get through into the top ten and eliminate the Alpine in the process. Ocon was joined by Mick Schumacher in 12th, who abandoned his final flying lap after a mistake through turn 11.

Norris was out in 13th, with Albon 14th. Zhou was the final driver eliminated and will start his grand prix debut from 15th position.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1’31.782
12 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1’31.998
13 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1’32.008
14 Alexander Albon Williams-Mercedes 1’32.664
15 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’33.543

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The battle for the first pole position of the season looked like it was shaping up to be a fight between Verstappen and the two Ferraris.

As the session began, the Mercedes of Russell and Hamilton were the first onto the circuit, ahead of the Ferraris and then the two Red Bulls.

With the Mercedes both on used tyres, Hamilton went fastest of the two, but they were both immediately beaten by the Ferraris with Sainz less than half a tenth ahead of Leclerc. Verstappen was unable to match the Ferraris and went provisionally third, while Perez beat both Mercedes to go fourth.

For their second and final run, the Mercedes took to the track with a brand new set of soft tyres. Both Russell and Hamilton improved, but a mistake for Russell in the first corner saw him a second slower than his team mate at the line.

Leclerc improved to go ahead of Sainz and take provisional pole, leaving Verstappen the only driver with a likely chance to deny Ferrari the first pole of the year. Verstappen set a personal best, but it was not enough to replace Leclerc at the top of the times and secured pole position for Ferrari.

Sainz will line up on the second row behind Verstappen, with Perez alongside in fourth. Hamilton will start fifth with Bottas securing Alfa Romeo’s best grid position since the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix.

Magnussen will start seventh for Haas on his return to Formula 1, with Fernando Alonso alongside. Russell will start ninth, with Gasly rounding out the top ten.

Top ten in Q3

1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1’30.558
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1’30.681
3 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 1’30.687
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1’30.921
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’31.238
6 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’31.560
7 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1’31.808
8 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1’32.195
9 George Russell Mercedes 1’32.216
10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Red Bull 1’32.338

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2022 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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164 comments on “Leclerc beats Verstappen to pole for season-opener as Ferrari start 2022 in front”

  1. And Sainz

    1. Stroll was outqualified by a journeyman who until last week was sitting on the sofa watching TV and eating crisps…

      1. Careful, there are some here who think that STR is the next big thing (results not withstanding!).

        1. it’s actually called Alpha Tauri now…

          1. The stupidity in you makes me giggle :)

          2. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
            20th March 2022, 11:13


        2. To be fair he is still better than the other drivers that daddy got into F1 recently. Schumacher and Mazepin.

          1. Exactly

      2. @mrboerns the journeyman I meant here is Hulkenberg, nothing to do with alpha Tauri!

  2. Excellent from Leclerc. Scruffy from Verstappen. Russell…
    Looking forward to the race. If race pace is something to go by, should be fun.

    1. I think in quali atm ferrari and red bull might be similar, leclerc is traditionally good in qualifying and verstappen a little less so, so 1 tenth in favour of leclerc is not that much of a surprise imo. Russell was on it all time btw, similar to hamilton, except q3, and it’s only his 2nd mercedes weekend.

  3. Enjoyable session and great to see two different sets of rivals battle it out. Looks nicely set up for tomorrow. Well done Leclerc.

  4. Yes come on Ferrari!
    Ps. Lol at Russell being outqualified by Bottas.
    PS2. Great job by KMag

    1. If Mick gets Covid this year (hopefully not), Haas can replace him with Romain.

      1. @macaque Unlikely, as Romain’s said he would’ve declined an F1 return even if he got called.

        1. Well, talk is cheap. I think (not too sure) that K-Mag said something similar. There’s quite nothing like an F1 drive as Alonso has surely shown us.

          1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
            20th March 2022, 14:12

            @sebsronnie you are correct. Specifically, KMAG said he’s never take another drive that had no chance of winning. He obviously missed the sport despite wins and podiums in IMSA (I think it’s IMSA)

            The difference between him and Romain was he was driving sports cars and Romain is in open wheel like F1, with a paddock that is much friendlier than F1. He genuinely prefers it to F1.

        2. Would he still feel/say the same now that he’s seen how much Haas has improved? Never say never.

          1. Indeed, judging by magnussen’s quick change of mind, he’s come too.

  5. That’s very encouraging for the season! I thought we were heading for a Red Bull domination but it looks close! Mercedes needs quite a lot of work to close that gap but I full expect them to do so and then have a three way fight!

    1. @afonic Oops I think I hit report comment by accident. Was just going to say let’s see about race pace but otherwise yeah, I’m not sure about a domination (remains to be seen) but I do wonder if Ferrari might end up splitting points while Max gets the lion’s share at RBR. Of course it is such early days and we’ll know more tomorrow and then that ‘info’ might become redundant soon too. As they’ve been saying, it’s going to be a development race, and what effect Merc has when they get better will depend on what the points situation is like while they catch up to a moving and presumably advancing target at Ferrari and RBR.

      First of all, let’s see what the racing is like tomorrow. So so exciting.

      1. It amazes me the Report Comment function remains this easy to mistakenly report comments. How hard could it be to add a confirmation?

        1. Same thing for the edit button.

      2. On topic, I would rule out domination by any team for this year, if mercedes as it looks like (but indeed we have to see race pace, in 2021 merc was stronger in races than in qualis) is a bit behind, then I doubt any other team will run away.

  6. Mr. Saturday? Don’t think so.

    1. It’s early days, personally don’t think it’s fair to judge his performance from just one competitive session.

      1. @jazz For sure. @huhhii Not sure why you’d even go there given their current state and such such early days. Would you already say Max? WDC? Don’t think so?

        Don’t think so.

        1. @robbie max did win his first race for rb though. And yes from his first race we are calling him to be WDC.

          1. Max first race win was because 2 Mercedes crashed into each other. Maybe in today’s race Leclerc and Verstappen will crash and Russel wins. Really useless comments going on, so I’m adding useless commentary for fun

  7. Let’s see who has the better race car. Bahrain has a reputation of crazy races. If these cars can follow closely… 57 laps is a lot.

    1. There is also the chance of unreliability with everyone’s engines turned up. I wouldn’t bet on anyone that’s for sure. Red Bull look to have the better race pace but then we thought they would get pole easily too so who knows?
      They are close, that’s all that matters and with the engine freeze we hopefully won’t see anyone too far ahead for 4 years.

  8. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    19th March 2022, 16:18

    Nice to see there’s going to be a good fight between two teams and 4 likable drivers. Sure, Perez has some work to do, but at least he’s got the 4th position covered better than before.

    Racepace for tomorrow seems like a slight edge for Red Bull, but Leclerc has enough experience in the top of the field to give Verstappen a good fight for his money.

    1. @barryfromdownunder:
      If we survive the first lap I still worry for the Ferrari pit wall though…

    2. Well, the Verstappens do love a fight! Hopefully he can keep it clean for a change, but I doubt it. It’ll be fun to see him take his terrible driving to someone other than Hamilton so other fans can see just how bad he is in wheel to wheel racing.

      1. Jan-Marten Spit
        19th March 2022, 17:56

        The facts say that Hamilton is #1 at driving into other cars and costing those drivers points. That Hamilton and his some if his groupies claim the opposite is also a fact.

      2. ah, max tinfoiler in action. max is nothing without Adrian/Adrian’s design! We will believe max when he drives a donkey to the finish line… sounds familiar? that has been thing the max tinfoilers were chanting all these years. now it must def be the car no talent involved. even with a rocket ship, he came up second wah wah wah…

        1. You guys are ridiculous. HAM and VER are both amazing drivers. Cut the crap.

    3. Not really sure what that implication is meant to mean about likable drivers. Sound like a typical racist cheap shot at a legend of the sport who has also proven himself to be a legend of a man and done more than anyone else on the grid/in most sport anywhere to be a genuine sustainable force for good for all of humanity.

      Especially when the ‘likable’ four you’re referring to includes a champion who, though I don’t fundamentally dislike him, is a pampered all-racing no-personality from birth typical ‘racing brat’, son of an abuser raised on (and at times quotably reflecting) similar values, and consistent with all that, a long term demonstrated dirty driver (Sainz is also a bit questionable too but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s not his father). But yes the four of them all seem like rather pleasant young men generally speaking…as do all other 16 on the grid…including Lewis lol. Strange statement.

      But yes because the same people forever is also boring I’m also pumped from a sporting context to see Mercedes struggle! So keen to see Ferrari in the fight.

      1. his profile pic tells everything one needs to know, in my opinion

      2. all this drivel would not be worth dignifying with a reply, but I am genuinely surprised at the suggestion that Carlos Sainz Sr. the rally legend is a dirty driver.

      3. The old your racist for calling someone else a racist never flies. Hamilton has the biggest fanbase of any F1 driver, but the post was an obvious dig at Hamilton, the commentator doesn’t like him.

    4. Likable? What does that even mean?

      1. I would not want to be likeable to Barry. Kinda scares me…

    5. Haven’t seen anyone refer to Max as likable, but ok.

      1. I personally never said anything against the likeability of drivers, when I consider a quali like this preferable it’s cause I’ve never seen mercedes in a chasing position ever since hamilton joined, always the best or joint best car, so for me it’s interesting to see what he can do with a slower car, so far so good, although russell seems to have lost it in q3, was matching him before, and if the mercedes isn’t a rocket ship in the race, I think it could be interesting to see where hamilton can get, considering he’s usually good at tyre management.

        As for verstappen and leclerc, we know it’s not just the car, because both of them already showed what they can do with a bad car, like the last 2 years’ ferrari or verstappen’s first year in toro rosso.

        1. So I am sure you were here in 2017 and 18 and 19?

          We’re you just not watching the races?

          Mercedes we’re still behind at the half way mark in 17/18 – and clearly chasing in 19.

          The revisionist history on this site amazes me frankly.

  9. So does everyone believe Lewis now…? Cracking job by Charlie. So very close for Carlos to lock out the front row. It’s just so good to have Ferrari back! Disappointing for Russell but I did find it a bit amusing to see Bottas ahead.

    1. Naughty Neutral
      19th March 2022, 16:35

      Actually, no. They’re not that far down, still in the top 6. They might not complete for a win in this race, but I think they’re not as bad as they are trying to make us believe.

      Lessee how things look like in four or five races…

      1. “We think we’re 0.6 to 0.8 down from the other teams”.

        Hamilton finishes 0.7 seconds behind LeClerc in qualifying.

        Fans: Nope, they’re not as bad as they say they are.

        Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?!?

        1. +1
          He predicted the gap very accurately.

          1. Lol no, He was faster in Q2 if you guys paid attention.

      2. So Ham predicted the gap, which you seem to want to ignore; so I expect you to ignore Ham’s ‘The car has plenty of potential but we dont know if its one, two or more races before we unlock it’ when they finally do.

        1. It’s already solved. They forgot to remove the sandbags before Q3.
          It’s al that low hanging fruit that makes it harder…

          1. Silly child

          2. @ian dearing
            will you hear anything different from a max tinfoiler? now we can say it is not max, it is his car safely to mirror their annoying chants all these years…

      3. Yeah cos who needs every point going? It’s not like F1 championships are ever that close anyway.

    2. If anything it proves that they were moaning again. They are within the top 3 at the first quali. Tweak some more and they’re back.

    3. I’m one of the those who believe the least what wolff and such say, but I can at least believe they had some issues, which impacts at least quali, let’s see the race pace too though, since in 2021 they were much better in race than quali and keep in mind they have a history of coming back from issues quickly, 2021 being an example.

      1. You can see the issues!

        Until the car stops jumping down the straight and round the corners it will remain uncompetitive. It’s that simple.

        For all those that suggested Bottas was crap and LH will now be exposed?

        That got old really quickly did it not?

  10. Great to see it close but of course my money is on RBR’s race pace and Max for the win.

    1. Max has the pace to win GP. Though Perez must up his game and stay in touch with the front runners to close Ferrari strategic options.

      1. @tifoso1989 Yeah for sure, and I’d like to think he will.

      2. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
        20th March 2022, 11:14

        @tifoso1989 you put way too much faith in Ferrari’s strategy ability

        1. @fullcoursecaution
          I’ve already mentioned in a previous comment that Mercedes and especially RBR are light years ahead of Ferrari in track operations : strategy, pitstops, reactivity with regard to unpredictable issues (Leclerc’s gearbox issue in Monaco last year for example) and if they want seriously to challenge them over a season they need to march them in that specific area.
          Now, we’re sure the designers, aerodynamicists and the PU guys have made a good job. Ferrari must be sharp in track operations as well otherwise the hard work made in the factory in the last couple of years can be thrown on track in a blink of an eye.