Friday, February 23, 2024

Formula 1: Charles Leclerc will start on top at the Bahrain Grand Prix, Lance Stroll at the back of the grid

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Virginia Whitehead
Virginia Whitehead
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SAKHIR, Bahrain – The wild horse is back: Monaco’s Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) snatched first place out of 23 this season in Formula 1 ahead of Dutch champion Max Verstappen (Red Bull) on Saturday in Bahrain.

The second row goes to fellow Spaniards Carlos Sainz Jr (Ferrari) and Mexican Sergio Perez (Red Bull), the top three standing at only 129/1000!

Seven-time British world champion Lewis Hamilton, who was struggling on a Mercedes in need of performance and jumping a lot on the straights, qualified just fifth, at 680/1000.

Ironically, he will start at Sakhir on Sunday, at nightfall, alongside former Finnish team-mate Valtteri Bottas, now with Alfa Romeo.

This will be followed by Denmark’s Kevin Magnussen (Haas), who admired his return to F1 after a year’s absence, Spain’s Fernando Alonso (Alpine), Mercedes’ British rookie George Russell and France’s Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri) for the top 10.

Overtaking is less difficult

At Aston Martin, German Nico Hulkenberg has just replaced his compatriot Sebastian Vettel, who tested positive for COVID-19. The one who hasn’t driven since October 2020 is 17 and is in a better position than fellow Canadian Lance Stroll, 19!

Australian Daniel Ricciardo, 18th, is back in difficulty for McLaren after he missed last week’s winter testing in Bahrain for the same reason.

The 2022 season should be revolutionary, with completely different individual seats, as its aerodynamic power is no longer created by highly elaborate fins and numerous attachments on the chassis, but by ground effect, comparable to that of an under-car suction cup.

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In light of these first qualifications, this change, which was intended to narrow the gaps between the teams, partially adjusted the balance of power.

It is also meant to allow individual riders to follow each other and thus easily overtake each other in the race. “I’ve seen some benefits during the (pre-season) testing but we’ll have to see in the race how close we get to that,” Leclerc said at a news conference on Friday.

Another peculiarity this year, eligible drivers in the top ten can now freely choose their starting tires, as those following them (this choice was previously restricted by those selected in qualifying). “It’s only fair that everyone starts the race with the same chances,” Sainz said.

Turn the page on Abu Dhabi

Off the track, the World Motorsport Council released the conclusions of its final laps report for the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP on Saturday, which capped Verstappen ahead of Hamilton in controversial circumstances.

Recalling the preference of all those involved in Formula 1 to see races finish naturally rather than behind the safety car, he concludes that Michael Massey, the race director since his dismissal, acted “in good faith” and “to the best of his knowledge in difficult conditions”, with little time decision-making and “tremendous pressure from the teams”.

However, a “human error” was identified in counting the cars behind the safety car. So the procedure was automated by software.

For Mercedes chief Toto Wolff, it’s time to “turn the page”. “After the meeting of the World Motorsport Council and the publication of the investigation, it is not in anyone’s interest and not ours,” he told reporters a few hours before this report was formalized.

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start grid

First line:

Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari)

Max Verstappen (NED / Red Bull)

The second line:

Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain / Ferrari)

Sergio Perez (Mexico / Red Bull)

Third line:

Lewis Hamilton (GB/Mercedes)

Valtteri Bottas (FIN / Alfa Romeo-Ferrari)

Fourth line:

Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas Ferrari)

Fernando Alonso (Spain / Alpine Renault)

Fifth line:

George Russell (GB/Mercedes)

Pierre Gasly (FRA/AlphaTauri-Red Bull)

Sixth line:

Esteban Ocon (FRA / Alpine-Renault)

Mick Schumacher (GER/Haas-Ferrari)

Seventh line:

Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes)

Alexander Albon (THA/Williams Mercedes)

Eighth line:

Zhou Guanyu (CHN / Alfa Romeo-Ferrari)

Yuki Tsunoda (Japan / AlphaTauri-Red Bull)

Ninth line:

Nico Hulkenberg (Germany / Aston Martin-Mercedes)

Daniel Ricciardo (Australia/McLaren-Mercedes)

Tenth line:

Lance Stroll (Canada / Aston Martin-Mercedes)

Nicholas Latifi (Canada / Williams Mercedes)

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