A recap of the start of the Formula 1 season

Jose Tovar

More stories from Jose Tovar

Sparks+fly+as+Max+Verstappen+attempts+to+overtake+Charles+Leclerc.+The+race+took+place+on+Sunday%2C+March+20+in+Bahrain.

Sparks fly as Max Verstappen attempts to overtake Charles Leclerc. The race took place on Sunday, March 20 in Bahrain.

The Formula 1 2022 season opener featured 1 million US viewers for the Bahrain Grand Prix, making it the most-viewed F1 race on ESPN since 1995.

Scuderia Ferrari and Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc won the Grand Prix, which earned Leclerc 26 points to start the season. Leclerc beat Spanish teammate Carlos Sainz, who finished second and earned 18 points for a team total of 44 points in the first weekend. Mercedes driver and Britain native Lewis Hamilton finished third and claimed 15 points.

Italian-based team Scuderia Ferrari had a near-perfect weekend when Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc won the Grand Prix and earned the fastest lap. Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton were promoted to the final steps on the podium in the final laps when the Red Bull cars of reigning champion Max Verstappen and his teammate Sergio Perez faced engine problems.

Since the debut of the Netflix series “Drive to Survive” in March 2019, F1’s popularity has risen dramatically as the behind-the-scenes coverage has attracted much higher viewership. The series’ fourth season, recapping the 2021 season, became available to stream on Netflix on March 11.

The racing company set a new viewership record last season when it averaged 934,000 viewers per event on ESPN channels and the ABC network — up 54% compared with F1’s 2020 races. F1’s 2021 viewership included an average of 1.2 million viewers for the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, which aired on both ESPN and ABC.

The second race of the season was even more heavily anticipated with the prospect of a good fight for the lead of the race between Red Bull and Ferrari. The race in question was the highly controversial Saudi Arabia Grand Prix in Jeddah.

Prior to the race, an oil refinery 15 minutes from the track was attacked by Yemeni rebels. Smoke from the explosions could be seen from the track and decisions over the safety of the event had to be made. Drivers and team principals held a three-hour meeting until early on Sunday morning to determine if they would be willing to race under the circumstances.

These events added to the already larger controversy of having a race in Saudi Arabia. Drivers had previously spoken out about the danger of the high-speed circuit which was rushed during construction.

“F1 should make changes to the track in order to improve the safety and prevent another crash like the one that Mick Schumacher had,” freshman Riley Berkowitz said.

The fight for the race lead went down to the last laps when Verstappen overtook Leclerc for first place. Leclerc’s teammate Sainz managed to fill up the final podium position as the controversial event came to an end.

There were good battles throughout, which proved that the new regulations are working well to entertain viewers.”

— Berkowitz

The third race of the season highlighted a return to Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.

The race was won by Charles Leclerc with Sergio Perez and George Russell finishing second and third respectively. Max Verstappen suffered a second engine failure in three races which ended his race prematurely and robbed him of a podium opportunity.

Up next was the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola, Italy. The 10 teams filled up the paddock at the Enzo e Dino Ferrari track to compete in the 2022 season’s first sprint weekend.

The sprint weekend format is a concept that was introduced in the 2021 season. It changes the weekend format from a three practice, one qualifying and one race setup to one that has only two practice sessions and an additional “sprint qualifying” on Saturdays.

Drivers qualified in a regular qualifying session for the order of the sprint qualifying. The sprint is a 100-kilometer (Approximately 20-25 lap) race to determine the starting order for the full-length race on Sunday.

Reigning champion Max Verstappen won the sprint race after overtaking Leclerc in the penultimate lap.

“The sprint was very exciting, there was so much action in a small time frame and it was very entertaining,” freshman Kasper Taraska said.

The main event on Sunday was led by Verstappen from the first lap to the end and Leclerc was held back from any push for the lead by Sergio Perez. The intense defending from Perez eventually pushed Leclerc into a mistake as he spun his Ferrari into the barrier and damaged his front wing.

His consequential pit stop dropped him to 8th in the grid as British driver Lando Norris occupied the final podium position.

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