Leclerc: Ferrari “could not hope for better” after two “difficult” F1 years

Charles Leclerc says leading a Ferrari 1-2 at the 2022 Formula 1 season opener in Bahrain is the perfect way to respond following two years that “have been incredibly difficult”.

Podium: race winner Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, second place Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari, third place Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Mattia Binotto, Team Principal, Ferrari

The Monegasque driver fended off multiple attacks from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, including a late safety car restart to recover Pierre Gasly's blazing AlphaTauri, to clinch victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix and the bonus point for fastest lap.

Following Red Bull’s double disaster late in the race, as both Verstappen and Sergio Perez failed to finish, Carlos Sainz Jr completed a Ferrari 1-2 - the Spaniard having overtaken Verstappen as his mechanical troubles began to hit with two laps to go.

The result marks a phenomenal turnaround from Ferrari following two barren seasons. It was the team's first win since Sebastian Vettel led home Leclerc in a 1-2 at the 2019 Singapore GP.

Leclerc praised Ferrari’s work in preparing for the new F1 technical regulations and the shift to ground effect cars.

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“So happy, I keep repeating myself, but the last two years have been incredibly difficult for the team and we knew this was going to be a big opportunity for the team,” Leclerc said.

“The guys have done such an incredible job getting us and building this amazing car, so for now it's starting in the best way possible: pole position victory, fastest lap, 1-2 today with Carlos.

“We could not hope for better, so yeah thank you to all of you guys that kept supporting us in the past two years. It hasn't been easy but it's incredible to be back at the top.”

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari F1-75

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari F1-75

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Sainz added: “Congratulations to Charles, congratulations to Ferrari,.

“Ferrari is back, and it is properly back with a 1-2, where the team should be the last two years. The hard work is paying off on and we are there.”

During the late safety car restart, Leclerc bolted away from Verstappen exiting the final corner, which at the time appeared to be key to securing a hard-fought victory following their frenetic earlier battle.

While it became academic given Verstappen’s late retirement, Leclerc still took great pride in fending off the Red Bull driver to keep his lead and seal the win.

“I didn't want it [the late safety car] now, but then I did a great restart and that gave me a little bit of margin to then manage my race until the end,” he said.

Sainz explained that he saw Verstappen struggling with a mechanical issue at the restart and knew he could take on the Red Bull driver to complete Ferrari's perfect start to the season.

“At the restart, I had a strong chance because I had a very clean restart behind Charles and Max,” the Spaniard said.

“He defended well, to be fair. And then suddenly I started seeing some flashing red lights on the back of his car. And I said, ‘OK, this is my chance,’ I went for it.

“He was unfortunate. I think today he was driving well enough to get P2, but I had a good run on him and then he had to retire. So it's what it is. And it's good for Ferrari.”

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