The last time Ferrari claimed pole position and the race victory at a season opener was way back in 2007 with Kimi Raikkonen, who went on win that year’s title. Remarkably, the Finn remains Ferrari’s last world champion. But the team now appears to be competitive again following a turbulent few years. 

After failed back-to-back title bids in 2017 and 2018, Ferrari scored six poles and won three races on the bounce in the second half of 2019 before its power unit and straight line speed advantage was reined in by an FIA regulation clampdown and ‘secret’ settlement ahead of the 2020 season. 

F1’s most famous team went on to endure its worst season in 40 years as it slipped to sixth in the world constructors’ championship and failed to win a race that year. Ferrari then enjoyed something of a resurgence in 2021 as it clawed back a large chunk of its engine deficit and returned to the top three. 

Charles Leclerc’s convincing victory at the start of one of F1’s biggest ever rule changes - including a complete overhaul of the technical regulations - underlined that Ferrari finally looks to have a strong enough chassis and engine package to fight at the very front of the grid.

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“Coming into the season we surely knew that we were going to be in a better position compared to the past two years,” Leclerc said. “But we didn't really know where, and now we see that we are actually in the mix to fight for the title, so it's amazing!

“I think we are both very, very happy to have a car that is capable of winning. And yeah, we’ll fight for it [the title], for sure.”

Teammate Carlos Sainz, who overtook the ailing Verstappen to take second and complete Ferrari’s first 1-2 finish since the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix, declared: “Ferrari is back and it is properly back.

“A one-two and where the team should have been over the last two years. But the hard work is paying off and we are there.”

Even if Max Verstappen had not been forced into a late retirement due to engine trouble, Leclerc looked to have the measure of the Red Bull driver as the 24-year-old Monegasque converted his 10th pole position into his third grand prix win with his most complete performance in F1 to date. 

Leclerc had Verstappen covered during the crucial phases of the race, drove flawlessly throughout, and judged his thrilling wheel-to-wheel dice with the reigning world champion to perfection, while Ferrari aced its strategy. 

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Indeed, it is very early days in F1’s longest-ever season but Leclerc already finds himself in a strong position and holding the lead of the world championship for the first time, with one of his main challengers already 26 points down. 

“It's where Ferrari should be and it’s where Charles and I want to be in our lives, fighting for world championships,” Sainz added. 

“It’s still going to be a long year, we still need to make sure that we develop well this car, because at the moment it is a quick car, but it also needs to be quick the whole year, to keep us in the fight.” 

Despite Ferrari leading both world championships, the Italian outfit remains wary of the threat from Red Bull given that Verstappen was just 0.123s off pole and was a constant menace to Leclerc in the race. 

Mercedes may be on the back foot for now but the eight-time world champions are likely to still be a factor in the 2022 title race, providing it can address the aerodynamic issues that have so far hindered its performance. 

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There is a feeling in both the Mercedes camp and the wider paddock that the W13 has plenty of inherent potential to unlock. If the German manufacturer can get on top of the problems and finds a way to get the best out of its car, we could be treated to a three-way battle at the front of the grid. 

Improvements may come too late, while there is also the possibility that Mercedes has simply got its car design fundamentally wrong. If so, can Ferrari take advantage and end its 15-year wait to get its hands on F1’s biggest prize?

Asked if Ferrari is ready to fight for the world championship, team principal Mattia Binotto replied: “I think the others are very, very strong. They proved to be very strong in qualifying, it was really a matter of details. 

“I think today they could have been stronger, but maybe there are some reliability issues that are not perfect on their car from what we understand from the radio communications. But they would have been very fast otherwise. 

“If you look at the stint of Max, on used tyres, he was keeping up with the pace of Charles. We should not forget that they are the world champions. They are still the favourites. 

“What we can try to do is to do our best. Jeddah in a week’s time could be a completely different picture and I think we need to wait at least four or five races before we can assess in full. 

“To answer your question, I would wait four or five races.” 

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