TeamTalk: Job well done, new rules work, PU convergence, Karma etc etc

bahrain f1 leclerc ferrari

After an epic 2022 Formula 1 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix our think-tank have gathered their thoughts on a dramatic evening, which has kick-started one of the most anticipated years for our sport.

The new rules appear to have delivered on what they set out to do. These cars are easier to race closely, the aero wake problem seems to have been resolved and as a result we witnessed a superb tussle between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen.

A classic case of brains versus brawn, with the clever guy – Charles – triumphing on a famous day for Ferrari at Sakhir. The Reds are back!

Without further ado this is what our TeamTalk panel have to say after Sunday in Bahrain:

David Terrien: Hats off to all concerned, job well done!

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 20: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB18 overtakes Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving (16) the Ferrari F1-75 into turn one during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 20, 2022 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

First of all, we need to agree on the great job done by the governing bodies of F1 on the commercial and technical side.

People like it or not, but Drive to Survive has attracted a wide and new audience to F1. Let’s hope the new crowd gets to understand the sport and like it for what it is without Netflix over-dramatising to spice up the series. Its success is undeniable.

On the technical side, this is also a success, cars look good and changes in the rules seem to achieve what they were made for. Cars can follow each other, and overtaking is possible which is what we all wanted but the gap between the good and worst teams is also reduced. Hats off to all concerned, job well done!

In terms of teams, what strikes me is Ferrari’s performance as a whole. Not only was it a one-two but they had four of their engines in the top six, which is amazing considering where they all were last year!

New rules always came with eras of dominance by a team or engine manufacturer but even if the Ferrari results show dominance, the reality on-track is quite different as the gaps were small; Red bull Should fight back once they sort their reliability issues and Mercedes are not so far behind.

But Red Bull should be concerned as three of the four power units gave up and forced the retirement of their cars, this is a real problem we hope they can fix quickly in the interest of the championship.

The hierarchy seems quite clear so far with Ferrari and Red Bull being very close, then some margin on Mercedes while Hass, Toro Rosso, Alfa and Alpine are all in for the fight for the fourth-best team.

The real disappointment was McLaren who seem to have a lot of work to do to get back where they were in 2021.

Williams and Aston Martin were massive disappointments so far, but their performance combined with McLaren’s poor form also reflect on the bad start for Mercedes, not only as a team but as a power unit supplier.

Overall, it was a great start to the season, and it is very refreshing to see Ferrari back at the front with a great lineup of drivers where we hope to see Sainz challenging Leclerc very soon.

Next weekend in Jeddah, it will be very different with a completely different track, but we will for sure see some close racing again and most probably a different winner. Can’t wait for it.

Mark Kay: PU performance has converged, no supplier appears to have a game-changing advantage

bahrain grand prix start 2022 f1

I find it frustrating when TV commentators oversimplify their explanations of what the intent of the 2022 F1 regulative framework was. Of course, an important aspect of the objective was to make closer proximity racing and overtaking easier and more common.

Whilst that certainly appears to be the case, we will need to experience more races at circuits with different characteristics, and different climatic circumstances before we can be more definitive about this.

However, more broadly the intent of the 2022 technical, sporting, and financial regime was to create a more diverse competitive spread, and I think the results in Bahrain and its pre-season lead up are enough to confirm that this is the case.

As I understand it, except for FIA approved reliability upgrades, all power unit specifications are now frozen until 2025, although I do believe that the specification of the energy store, control electronics, and MGU-K is not homologated in its final form until September.

However, it does appear that PU performance has converged to such a point that no supplier appears to have a game-changing advantage.

Also, chassis performance across the field seems to be at a reasonably consistent level, and whilst some teams do have improvements to find, I cannot envisage anyone being able to further develop the types of distinct performance advantages we have seen in recent seasons, given the new financial and resource capping.

I am looking forward to 2022 being a F1 season defined by reliability and driver skill, with no team having championship defining competitive advantages. Bring it on!

Damien Reid: My biggest takeaway is that the new rules work

ferrari 2022 bahrain grand prix winners celebrate sainz leclerc

Hello F1 2022. Who needs Netflix – or DRS – with excitement delivered organically thanks largely to the new rules. Forget for a moment the result, my biggest takeaway is that the new rules work.

Dirty air has gone and those laps of dicing between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc should put the biggest smile on Ross Brawn’s face. His team has nailed it, so much so, that you could almost argue the case for getting rid of DRS now.

It’s done its job and it’s no longer needed. Matteo Binotto’s decision to split his time between the track and Maranello last year is paying off, as did Haas’ plan to not touch last year’s car and focus fully on this year.

During all the pre-season hype, however, we’ve kinda overlooked Pirelli who had a similar mountain to climb to develop the new 18-inch tyres and I reckon Mario Isola and Zak Brown are both dwelling on the same thoughts; where did it go wrong? It’s clear these Pirellis are a handful and take a long time to generate heat.

For Sainz to consider a three-stopper just to avoid the hards tells you everything as they made a seven-time World Champion look a fool almost losing it, first with understeer then oversteer on the out lap, forcing everyone to reconsider strategies. Hamilton’s early stop made him the guinea pig and they zagged after Lewis zigged.

The race confirmed three things:

  1. Ferrari is the real deal for the Constructor’s Title so long as they stay focused;
  2. Red Bull’s Achilles heel could be its decision to go it alone as an engine manufacturer. Yes, the cause of both cars was a suspected Magneti Marelli fuel pump that everyone uses, but they didn’t change it (so I’m told) because they were under pressure working on other mechanical bits and the results show that three of the four Red Bull cars DNF’ed.
  3. Despite the bottom six finishing cars all being Mercedes-powered, never rule them out out of scooping up points for the main boys. After last year, we know how valuable every point is and Merc is now 24 points clear of Red Bull who are already 44 points behind Ferrari after just one race.

Sean Stevens: To finish first, you first have to finish. Ouch!

Red Bull issue for Max Verstappen retires bahrain dnf

Whoop whoop Ferrari. I will be very interested to see what happens to the team dynamic here going forward. Sainz was outperforming Leclerc at the end of last season but he seemed to be in wingman man mode for Charles throughout the race.

Either way, Ferrari appear to have the chassis and also it would seem, the engine!

The repeated re-pass by Leclerc on Verstappen between T3 and T4 was more than just DRS for sure. Every time Verstappen went by at Turn 1, Leclerc seemed to breeze back past him like Max was looking for a parking space.

No one else’s overtakes between Turn 3 and 4 came close in relation. I must say Leclerc’s subtle invitation to Verstappen to “ have a go” again at Turn 1 on the third occasion was a great piece of racecraft. A deft but significant move to the left at entry was like a red rag to a bull!

And Max obliged. Sacrificing his tires on the altar of a move that he should already have understood was never going to stick.

Charles deserved the win but I’m sorry, not the Driver of the Day as voted by fans. For me, that was the exclusive preserve of Kevin Magnussen.

Fifth place in a HAAS and out of the game for year. Come on people. Meanwhile, Mercedes must have enjoyed a wry smile. Struggling as they were, a podium was for all intents and purposes a “win” especially with it coming at the expense of their arch-rivals!

I feel sorry for the Red Bull drivers but as the old adage goes: To finish first, you first have to finish. Ouch.

Jad Mallak: Have Mercedes dropped the ball? And if so can they recover?

#44 Lewis Hamilton (GBR, Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team), F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 20, 2022 in Sakhir, Bahrain. (Photo by HIGH TWO)

You don’t realize how much you missed F1 until you watch the first race of the season – Bahrain in this instance – and how unbearable those winter months devoid of F1 were.

The race was great no doubt, fighting throughout the field, but especially that fantastic battle between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.

To those who thought Max vs Lewis was volatile, wait and see what the Dutchman and Monegasque have to offer. Both are as stubborn and ruthless as they come which will make things even more explosive.

And it will even get better once Mercedes recovers and it becomes a three-way fight with Hamilton, while we cannot discount George Russell having a chance to join the party. So exciting times ahead.

On another note, the new cars looked fantastic out there on the track and seem to be able to follow so that’s another positive from the new regulations.

But I am really mystified by Mercedes, as despite their lucky result in Bahrain, they are struggling no doubt, and not only on the chassis side, but also the power unit. Hence the question: Could they have dropped the ball? And if so can they recover?

The chassis is not a worry as much as the power unit with the development freeze looming, and they need to sort whatever problems they have with theirs soon, as they cannot be stuck with an underpowered unit until 2026. It will be fascinating to see how their situation develops.

Paul Velasco: Karma is a a Bitch but sometimes it has a Beautiful side

10 things we learned from the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix

Being the one who compiles this report, I have the liberty of reading what my colleagues have to say and on this occasion agree with all the sentiments observed during the weekend in Bahrain. So I thought I would go holistic on the opener. Karma!

How Karmic was it that ten laps from the end of an enthralling Grand Prix that Red Bull suffered the nightmare they did at Sakhir? Come on!

A quick reminder: the race before Bahrain… Yes, Abu Dhabi 2021. The night, Karma had a dabble with F1 flung some horrific luck the way of Mercedes thrusting the entire load of the good stuff over to Red Bull. And launched an eternal shitstorm of dissent. No matter what, Max Verstappen is and will always be 2021 F1 World Champion.

But Karma, perhaps guilt-ridden by the manner it handled the 2021 finale decided to make amends at the 2022 opener in Bahrain. And being the bitch that it is, the Red Bulls were the target as the two main ones broke shortly after its little sister cried enough and caught fire with ten laps to go.

It was Abu Dhabi all over again. The difference? ALL the cars got by not ANY! And of course no Max on the podium.

Instead, Karma took kindly to the man it so cruelly denied last year and gave Lewis Hamilton a podium spot even with the W13 shitbox that Mercedes thought would be enough this year. Shitbox vis-a-vis those mighty all conquering W12, W11, W10, W09 etc. And, also, compared to its rivals the Ferrari F1-75 and the Red Bull RB18.

So Karma sort of made amends on Sunday at Sakhir for the shenanigans of 12 December at Yas Marina.

After years of making Haas pay for previous sins (that’s what Karma is all about) it decided to smile brightly on Gene Haas’ team. Somehow yanking open his wallet to replace a pay-driver with a paid driver in the form of non-stop smiling Kevin Magnussen.

Indeed since his so unexpected comeback K-Mag has stolen Daniel Ricciardo’s smile. Try finding a photo of Kev Reloaded V2022 without a fat grin on his face. Fifth place! The Dane clearly did something very good to have Karma so generous.

No longer anyone’s wingman, Valtteri is liberated as an Alfa Romeo driver, after five years of Silver Arrows confinement, and despite Karma being unkind to the team ahead of the season with niggles (perhaps punishment for keeping Kimi and Gio so long) it eased up on race day, but only after the start.

BOT eventually got going after slithering nearly to the back of the field after qualifying sixth, working his way back to sixth-place finish in his first race for the Ferrari-powered Swiss team. With history-making Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu claiming a point, after a very mature race for the only rookie this year.

Clearly Karma has a thing for Ferrari-power this year.

Okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Lewis, Kev, Valtteri and even Carlos were very lucky that Karma pulled the Red Bulls because they might have all been two places lower. But again that’s Karma for you.

So Alpine’s double points finish was highly fortuitous because that is not a very good package that Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon were sent to pedal so far. They were looking like no pointers at one stage.

I don’t understand Karma. I just report on it. This confused me: while dishing out the good stuff to Lewis, and George, for that matter (because they were probably going to be lapped on Sunday night or close) why did it abandon Aston Martin, Williams and McLaren in such a big way?

  • Aston Martin may be paying the price of too many Tommy Hilfiger t-shirts shrinking after the first wash? Karma does not like cheap shit pedaled-as-good stuff. Maybe that?
  • McLaren, who looked set for an exciting double-pronged Indycar and F1 campaign this year, were dreadful on both fronts. Paying the price for snubbing their driver Pato in favour of Andretti’s flavour of the month Colton?
  • Williams? They will probably always have bad Karma and dropping that S-sticker just made it a lot worse. Maybe Karma is a Senna fan?

So there you have it, the serious observations of a mighty fine Bahrain Grand Prix from our learned mates with an injection of the more, albeit oft-neglected, ‘spiritual elements’ of our sport. As much as Karma can be a bitch, it can be beautiful too as it proved.

Bring on the next one, but less Karma please!