If the battle between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen is any measure of the season to come in Formula 1, it is going to be quite a year.
Major rule changes for 2022 have taken Lewis Hamilton out of the title race for now.
But Leclerc and Verstappen staged a gripping contest at the Bahrain Grand Prix. They raced for two rounds, swapped the lead five times, before the Ferrari driver came out on top. The perfect Leclerc a drive that has pace, control, maturity, coolness and aggression puts him in a strong position.
A revival in Maranello. It’s been a long journey back to this point for the most famous team in F1. They were last truly competitive in 2017 and 2018, but let the titles slip from their hands with mistakes from the team and their lead driver at the time, Sebastian Vettel.
The following year was in the spotlight - Leclerc scored more pole positions than anyone and won two races, but it was shrounded in controversy over their engine.
They lost performance during the race after clarifying the rules regarding the use of the hybrid system and the following winter it was revealed that they had reached a first agreement with the FIA's governing body, which said they had always doubted the engine legally.
In 2020, their engine suffered a major setback in terms of power.
They made progress in 2021. But the lack of competitiveness in those seasons ensured they always saw the 2022 rule reset as an opportunity to bounce back forward. Proof from Bahrain, work and focus has paid off.
The Ferrari - at least in the hands of Leclerc - is the fastest car in Bahrain. But only. He beat Verstappen to take pole by just 0.1 seconds and had a small but ultimately decisive lead in the race.
Leclerc was able to answer everything Verstappen threw at him. He was eliminated on the first assignment. He was able to fight Red Bull twice after Verstappen closed with his first pit stop earlier -
It had been clear for a long time that Leclerc was a potential world champion if only he could get the right car.
The man was very fast, and he was racing hard. It was a brilliant drive, and he was miles away from team-mate Carlos Sainz for much of the weekend, the Spaniard admitting he will need to work hard to understand where his deficit is coming from.
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