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Charles Leclerc in contention for podium in Bahrain dogged by engine failure

In the first Formula 1 championship race opening the season in Bahrain what would be in the omens for the whole of the rest of 2023?

There is always a chance with the cars newly engineered for a shake-up in the rankings. And of course Monegasques in particular are foaming at the mouth to see the Prancing Horse, Ferrari leap ahead of Red Bull.

The Qualifying round at least left the feeling that Charles Leclerc in his Ferrari was in contention. He secured a third place on the grid and saved his soft tyres for a charge on the leaders.

Ominously, Red Bull with lead driver Dutchman Max Verstappen and also Mexican team-mate Sergio Perez powered to a one-two on the starting grid in Qualifying.

Charles in his Ferrari remained unintimidated however and with the advantage of soft tyres soared past Perez at the start to chase after Verstappen. Was it going to be a thriller?

Ferrari fans did not get to see the contest they wanted. Worse, as soon as Leclerc was on hard tyres he slipped back into third place, overtaken by Perez.

And then last season’s pattern set in with Verstappen in his Red Bull out front driving brilliantly with his team-mate Perez in pursuit but hardly in contention for top place on the podium.

Barring a serious driving error or mechanical failure everything was lining up for a one-two for Red Bull and a third-place podium position for Charles and Ferrari.

But calamity struck on the 41st lap as the Ferrari’s engine suddenly lost power raising the spectre of the return of reliability issues. Leclerc had no choice but to surrender to his third place points and come to a halt on the edge of the track. That was the end of the race for him and the reality of zero points for the Monegasque, Vice Champion of the World.

Adding insult to injury for Ferrari, Fernando Alonso in his Aston Martin pipped Carlos Sainz, Leclerc’s teammate. So Sainz also missed the podium and had to settle for 4th place.

A rather surprising and brilliant debut by Aston Martin got them into podium points.

Monaco’s hope, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc retired from third on the 42nd of the 57 laps leaving the two-time world champion Max Verstappen to lead the Bahrain Grand Prix as good as from start to finish, outpacing his rivals lap by lap in full control of the race.

The drive is Verstappen’s 36th victory, all the sweeter as he did not win Bahrain last year. Surprisingly he has never won a season opener but he has now. Who would deny his status as favourite for a third consecutive world championship. Leclerc for one with 22 races to go!

Red Bull collect 43 points from their one-two victory, while Aston Martin claim second place in this very early phase of the constructors” championship with 23 points.

Mercedes are third with 16 points. The Prancing Horse is four points behind the Silver Arrows following Carlos Sainz’s fourth-placed finish.

There’s a long way to go in this 23 race Formula One Grand Prix season. In just two weeks’ time the drivers’ skills will be put to the test again at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, 17th -19th March.

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