Charles Leclerc protected his pole position to lead a Ferrari one-two at the Bahrain Grand Prix as late Red Bull woe allowed an uncompetitive Lewis Hamilton to make the podium in the 2022 Formula 1® season opener.
For Leclerc, besides a three-lap battle with Max Verstappen, this was a relatively straightforward victory after making good use of Ferrari's pace again.
But there was chaos behind him in the closing stages when Verstappen reported an issue with his handling after pitting a third time.
A late safety car had appeared to give the defending champion the chance to challenge Leclerc, but it vitally also attached the rest of the field to his tail, meaning Carlos Sainz was able to capitalise on a mechanical failure.
Sergio Perez could not cling on to third as his Red Bull also ground to a halt on the final lap, remarkably clearing a path for Hamilton.
Verstappen's first pit had been more successful in worrying Leclerc, undercutting the leader and wiping out a three-second gap to move comfortably within DRS range.
In three consecutive laps, Verstappen made late moves on the straight into Turn 1 to get ahead, only for Leclerc to swiftly respond each time – the last such scrap seeing the Red Bull lock up, seemingly damaging both brakes and tyres before falling back.
Verstappen's team sought to bring him back into the picture with another undercut but advised the driver to protect his tyres on the out lap, much to his frustration as Leclerc maintained his lead.
A fire onboard Pierre Gasly's AlphaTauri brought out the safety car, yet that ultimately worked in favour of Ferrari and Mercedes when the cars of Verstappen and Perez both bowed under the pressure and failed to finish.
Ferrari first from start to finish
Pre-season belonged to Ferrari, as did Bahrain qualifying. Perhaps it should have been no surprise the Scuderia were on top again on Sunday, claiming their first win since the 2019 season.
Their outstanding new power unit aided all teams running a Ferrari engine – including four of the top six drivers – but none more so than the factory team, who now have a record seven wins at the Bahrain GP.
Bahrain pain again for Verstappen
This was already Verstappen's least favourite stop on the calendar. His three Bahrain GP retirements were a personal record before a fourth followed on Sunday; he also retired in the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix at the same track.
Verstappen has entered the Bahrain GP eight times without winning, his worst such drought.
1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
2. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +5.598secs
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +9.675s
4. George Russell (Mercedes) +11.211s
5. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +14.754s
6. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) +16.119s
7. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +19.423s
8. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +20.386s
9. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +22.390s
10. Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo) +23.064s
1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 26
2. Carlos Saintz (Ferrari) 18
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 15
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 12
5. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) 10
1. Ferrari 44
2. Mercedes 27
3. Haas 10
4. Alfa Romeo 9
5. Alpine 8
Red Bull will get an opportunity to respond next week in Saudi Arabia, where Ferrari can look to continue a strong start.