Can Charles Leclerc And Ferrari Maintain Their Bahrain Brilliance?

Ferrari
Ferrari

Charles Leclerc and Ferrari enjoyed the perfect start to the 2022 campaign by winning the Bahrain Grand Prix to kick off the new season on a high note. The Monegasque had endured three underwhelming years to date with the team and the pressure was on him to attempt to find his form amid his and Ferrari’s struggles on the track.

Expectations were high for Leclerc following his move to the Italian outfit in 2019 and his debut campaign displayed a great deal of promise with victories at the Belgian and Italian Grand Prix. He was never able to sustain a run over the course of the campaign to challenge Lewis Hamilton, but there was a strong belief that he could kick on 2020 to move into contention for the Drivers’ Championship.

However, over the last two seasons, Leclerc and Ferrari have fallen from grace, with the 2020 term being one of their worst in their prestigious history. Ferrari recorded their worst season in the Constructors’ Championship since 1980 by finishing sixth, which ramped up the pressure on both drivers and the team to improve in 2021.

Carlos Sainz Jr’s arrival did allow the Italian outfit to make a slight improvement on their performance from 2020, regaining third spot behind Mercedes and Red Bull. The Spaniard outperformed his team-mate on the track, notching fifth place in the Drivers’ Championship standings with four podium finishes. Leclerc mustered only one in 22 races, placing second at the British Grand Prix and finished in eighth place overall.

However, his victory in Bahrain to start the 2022 season has quickly changed the outlook of the 2022 season. The Monegasque is backed at 7/4 in the sports betting odds to win the Drivers’ Championship in 2022, placing him ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen in the minds of the oddsmakers. There were encouraging reports from Ferrari that their vehicle for the 2022 season is a step up from the past three iterations, and the first race of the season has backed up those claims. 

Red Bull seemingly had the best car on the grid but their retirements in Bahrain have put their perceived dominance into question. The fact that the Italian outfit has made a statement at the start of the season to match their rivals is a good sign for the competition, and their hopes of making an impact over the duration of the term. An improved car does come with a burden, although Leclerc made it known that he could ill afford another season like his last.

The 24-year-old had flown under the radar due to the struggles of Ferrari over the last decade, but being outperformed by his teammate certainly put the spotlight on the driver. The quality of his performance alongside Sainz Jr in Bahrain has set the standard for the campaign, however, the two drivers must sustain their displays over the course of the season. There have been false dawns in the past for the Italian outfit, and the onus will also be on the team to ensure they continue to provide quality service for their drivers from now until December.

Ferrari were at least reliable for the majority of last season, allowing Leclerc to complete 20 out of his 22 races. The only blemish was partly due to a fault of the driver when he crashed after securing pole position at the Monaco Grand Prix. The damage was left overnight, but it was evident that the Monegasque would not be able to compete in his home race. The other came in the Hungarian Grand Prix when Lance Stroll collided with him on the first lap.

These are mostly unavoidable issues that crop up during the season, and if those misfortunes can be eradicated and there the car continues to excel ahead of its rivals, then Leclerc should be able to make a charge for the Drivers’ Championship. On the other hand, another false dawn would be crushing for the development of Leclerc and the Italian outfit. They have to make the most out of their brilliant start.

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ZANDVOORT, NETHERLANDS - SEPTEMBER 05: Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing fans show their support ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of The Netherlands at Circuit Zandvoort on September 05, 2021 in Zandvoort, Netherlands. (Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202109051556 // Usage for editorial use only //

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