After a promising qualifying session that showed much improved pace in the SF21 for the opening round of 2021, both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz secured a points finish in Bahrain.
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After a superb qualifying session to open the year with fourth for Leclerc and eighth on the grid for Sainz, a good getaway off the line allowed Leclerc to challenge the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas for third, getting ahead of the Finn through the opening few corners.
A Safety Car then neutralized the race thanks to a spin for the Haas of Nikita Mazepin, which ended in a collision with the barriers. The race restarted on lap four, which unfortunately saw Leclerc drop positions to Bottas and to the McLaren of Lando Norris, but he remained a steady fifth.
Meanwhile, Sainz had dropped two places at the start of the race, but fought well to keep himself well within the fight for a points finish, holding onto tenth position through the chaotic opening laps of the Grand Prix.
Throughout the middle of the race, Sainz was embroiled in multiple on-track duels against former Ferrari pilots Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, over eighth position. A collision between Vettel and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon as well as brake issues ending in retirement for Alonso, Sainz ultimately reclaimed his eighth position.
After losing fourth position to Norris on lap nine of the race, Leclerc pushed the SF21 hard to hold on to fifth and stay close to the McLaren behind. A rather uneventful middle of the race saw Leclerc follow Norris for the majority of the Grand Prix, but unfortunately the Monegasque driver had not enough pace to challenge for the position.
Within the closing laps of the race, Leclerc was relegated to sixth thanks to an overtake from the Red Bull of Sergio Perez, who was fighting back all race from an issue on the formation lap and a subsequent pit lane start.
Perez came in between the Ferrari and the McLaren of Norris, but was not able to progress any higher than fifth.
For Sainz, he was able to come home in eighth position, holding off a late-race charge from AlphaTauri rookie Yuki Tsunoda behind. Despite fighting with the second McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo for seventh place, Sainz was unable to move forward and had to settle for the position he had started the race from.
At the chequered flag, Lewis Hamilton took victory with Max Verstappen close behind, as Bottas rounded out the podium positions. Leclerc came home to take sixth, while Sainz finished the race two places behind in eighth.
A positive result for the team in the season’s opening race, one that definitely shows signs of improvements and developments with the new chassis.
Written by Cóilín Higgins.