Charles Leclerc admits he gave his Ferrari engineers a scare by joking he had an engine problem on the final lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix as he led home a 1-2.
In 2019, Leclerc was leading comfortably and looked set for his maiden victory in Formula 1 when a power unit issue dropped him to third place in the closing laps. There was to be no repeat of that heartache in the 2022 season opener though, as Leclerc held off a challenge from Max Verstappen before the defending champion retired, allowing Carlos Sainz to finish second.
“It feels amazing,” Leclerc said. “Obviously after yesterday it already felt great but we had to finish the business today and we did a 1-2! So it’s the perfect start to the season and I’m incredibly happy after the last two years that have been very difficult for the team, for myself, for Carlos also last year. We had to work extremely hard and we did work hard and well, and to finally prove that all the work we have done in the past two years is paying off feels amazing.
“I did a bit of a joke on the radio on the last lap saying there was something strange with the engine! Which gave a heart attack to some of the engineers I’m sure but everything was fine, so very happy that we brought it home.”
The middle of the race saw a thrilling battle between Leclerc and Verstappen as the Red Bull driver repeatedly attacked into Turn 1 and they’d regularly swap positions, in a fight that Leclerc says bodes well for F1’s new regulations.
“Well, I only followed into Turn 2 because I was always only behind for one corner and would overtake Max back into Turn 4, but it was tricky. It was nice though — it was on the limit, hard racing but we would always give each other space, which was nice.
“Following him into Turn 2 was actually more predictable than what I had last year, which was good. But it was always very close, I would always try and brake very early into Turn 1 to get the DRS for Turn 4 and it worked out three times in a row, so then I could keep my lead.
“It was also always very tricky because I was struggling quite a lot with my energy and had to manage that too, but then after the third lap I think I was in a better window with it and could push again and manage to have a bit of margin to manage my race.”