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Wayne Lumbasi

Charles Leclerc claimed a brilliant win for Ferrari at the season-opening Bahrain GP while Red Bull suffered two late podium-costing retirements as a new era of Formula 1 got off to a pulsating start in the desert.

Leclerc and Max Verstappen went toe to toe for much of the first race of the year, and had multiple thrilling wheel-to-wheel battles, before a Safety Car preceded last-gasp drama.

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz /Courtesy/

Verstappen, the reigning world champion who was running second, saw his race ended with a reliability failure with just three laps remaining, opening the door for Carlos Sainz to seal a Ferrari one-two.

The closing laps were packed with drama, with a safety car period and then reliability problems forcing Verstappen’s retirement promoting Carlos Sainz to second.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in a celebration mood after winning the competition /Courtesy/

For Leclerc, who started the race on pole and faced a battle for the lead with Verstappen in the opening laps, it was pure delight.

The man from Monaco told his team over the radio: “That’s exactly how we should start the season. One-two baby, one-two. Mamma mia.”

Once the race trophy was in his hands, Leclerc said: “I’m so happy. We knew this was a big opportunity for the team and the guys have done an incredible job building into an amazing car. “A one-two today with Carlos – we couldn’t hope for better. It’s incredible to be back at the top.”

Charles Leclerc

In pace terms Ferrari and Red Bull were the class of the field under F1’s new regulations but, where Ferrari had the perfect start, Red Bull were left pointless and facing a difficult inquiry into what happened.

Verstappen’s duel with Leclerc had been an enthralling, joyous affair but his car’s demise was a moment of bitter disappointment for driver and team, when he retired having lost power with three laps to go.

Scenes at the Bahrain GP /Courtesy/

For Ferrari, their car is, on the form of this opening weekend, one of the best they have produced since they last won the drivers’ title with Kimi Räikkönen in 2007.

This is the first win for the team since Sebastian Vettel claimed victory at Singapore in 2019 – an age in the storied history of the Scuderia – and their first one-two at the opening meeting since Bahrain in 2010.

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Wayne Lumbasi