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Ferrari ready for F1 title fight as Red Bull crumble at Bahrain GP, Mercedes admit 'very long shot'

"We see that we are actually in the mix to fight for the title so it's amazing," says Bahrain GP winner Charles Leclerc; Red Bull, meanwhile, have diagnosed their double DNF - and Mercedes say a title big is a "very long shot"

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Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto says their one-two finish was a significant confidence boost for the team.

Ferrari are optimistic they can fight for this season's Formula 1 titles after a perfect start to the season at the Bahrain GP, where the sport's most famous team out-paced Mercedes and out-lasted Red Bull.

The Scuderia ended a 45-race win drought - the second-longest in their illustrious history - through Charles Leclerdc's pole-to-lights triumph on Sunday, and better yet it was a one-two with Carlos Sainz in second place.

F1 has only had a two-team fight for the championship in recent seasons but it now appears that Ferrari, having taken advantage of the major 2022 rule changes after two years languishing in the midfield, are ready to battle at the front once again.

"Coming into the season we surely knew that we were going to be in a better position compared to the past two years but we didn't really know where," said Leclerc.

"And now we see that we are actually in the mix to fight for the title so it's amazing! We'll fight for it, for sure."

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Charles Leclerc says he was always confident of coming out on top in his battle with Max Verstappen, even before the Red Bull was forced to retire.

Ferrari, with 31 titles and over 1000 race starts, are the most successful and historic F1 team, although they are without a title Kimi Raikkonen's drivers' crown in 2008. Their Bahrain GP victory, comfortable yet emphatic, points to a welcome return to contention.

"It's just great news for Ferrari and for us because it's where Ferrari should be, and it's where Charles and I want to be in our lives, fighting for World Championships," explained Sainz.

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Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc have been delighting the crowd with their feisty battle for the lead of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

"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."

Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto told reporters on Sunday night that he would "wait at least four or five races" before being sure of their title hopes, although Sky Sports F1's Karun Chandhok commented: "They've done a fantastic job.

"They were out of the championship fight last year, they had a terrible season in 2020, but they bounced back.

"It's clear that the battle isn't just between Mercedes and Red Bull this year."

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A look at how defending champion Max Verstappen's race played out over the Red Bull team radio.

What happened to Red Bull?

Red Bull entered the season-opener as favourites but while they were close to Ferrari's pace in the race, Max Verstappen could not find a way past the immaculate Leclerc. Then, in an agonising conclusion, both Verstappen and Sergio Perez's cars suffered reliability failures and exited the race in the closing laps, leaving Red Bull point-less.

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Red Bull's Sergio Perez spins off on the final lap to gift Lewis Hamilton a spot on the podium!

Verstappen and Perez were running second and third at the time of their failures, which Red Bull said were identical.

Red Bull called the double DNF "brutal" and diagnosed their cars with fuel pump issues, and team advisor Helmut Marko confirmed to Sky Sports Germany that the problem was not getting enough fuel to the engine.

Mercedes: Title 'a very long shot'

Red Bull's double retirement opened the door for Mercedes, who were half a minute off the pace before the late Safety Car, to capitalise and finish an unlikely third and fourth with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

The sport's eight-time world champions have struggled for speed at the start of F1's new era and called the result "remarkable" and "great". But they still admit they have plenty of work to do to even think about the title.

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Defending champion Max Verstappen explains the problems that led to his retirement in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

"It's too early to really look at the championship," conceded team boss Toto Wolff. "As it stands if you look at the pecking order today it seems a very long shot to even think about being in contention for any of the championships.

"But if I look at it as a single race weekend, we probably scored the maximum of points that we could have.

"We need to take it from there and every weekend counts. At the moment, it's singular events because realistically when you're third on the road you can't think about winning it."

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Lewis Hamilton says it was 'remarkable' to finish on the podium, given the problems the Mercedes team encountered over the weekend.

A more positive Hamilton was thinking of the long game with his damage limitation.

"Every point can make a difference," said the seven-time world champion. "I've lost world titles with just one point.

"Whilst we're currently not necessarily performance-wise fighting with these guys, this is a really, really great result.

"But it is such a long season. It's going to be such a hard battle but we love a challenge. I really do enjoy a challenge.

"And it is a privilege to work with.. for all of us to be able to work with large teams of people who are hungry, who are focused on a common goal.

"There's no greater feeling when you all come together and you get a result like this."

Follow the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sky Sports

Sky Sports F1 is your home for every race this season, and it continues with the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix next weekend.

We will have build-up right through the week before covering all the action live from Friday's first practice at 2pm with the second practice session following at 5pm.

Saturday's practice is at 2pm with qualifying at 5pm before Sunday's race starts at 6pm in the UK. Sky Sports F1 will be on air from 4.30pm to build up to the action.

As always, you can also follow the action online on the Sky Sports App.

The Formula 1 season continues on Friday on Sky Sports F1 with the Saudi Arabian GP. Sunday's race starts at 6pm. Find out more & subscribe.

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