As if the 2021 F1 season was not exciting enough, the first qualifying session of 2022 is out to prove that this year will be filled with a lot of even more shocking surprises. After Saturday qualifying at the Bahrain Grand Prix, it became clear that Mercedes were not sandbagging during testing as Lewis Hamilton only managed to qualify in fifth place. Meanwhile, Ferrari's true pace was revealed as Charles Leclerc claimed the first pole position of the season.

Mercedes fans are suddenly facing a ton of disappointment after high expectations of a revenge season against Max Verstappen. Hamilton lost out on the title in final lap of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and everyone was expecting him to arrive with all guns blazing in Bahrain.

However, despite a controversial innovative new car design, Hamilton only managed to bring his Mercedes up to fifth in the grid, with his new teammate George Russell further back in a more disappointing ninth place.

Leclerc is on pole just slightly ahead of reigning world champion Max Verstappen. Second Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz is in third, separating Verstappen from the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez. The first two rows have been locked out by the Ferraris and the Red Bulls, with Hamilton taking up the rear of the top five.

Incidentally, former Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas is just behind the Briton, but this time in an Alfa Romeo. Even more surprising is returning Haas driver Kevin Magnusson, who managed to qualify in 7th. His teammate Mick Schumacher is further back in 12th place, but even that shows that they have improved by leaps and bounds after bringing up the rear throughout all of 2021.

Fernando Alonso is the best of the Alpine drivers in 8th in front of the disappointed Russell. Pierre Gasly rounds out the top ten in his AlphaTauri,

There are a lot of other shocking results all the way to the end of the grid, but Hamilton being 0.7 seconds off the pole sitter's pace is the most talked about. Mercedes were believed to be whining unnecessarily during earlier testing, and everyone expected them to drop the sandbags during qualifying. However, is seems that the reigning constructors' champions have a lot of catching up to do. Not only do they have to worry about Red Bull, it seems that the Ferraris and Ferrari powered teams all have a significant pace advantage.

Nevertheless, Hamilton remains optimistic, telling his engineers to continue to push over the team radio. Leclerc meanwhile, is ecstatic to rediscover the form that he enjoyed during the 2019 season.
"We were quite hopeful that this new opportunity for us was an opportunity to be back in the front and I think we have worked extremely well as a team to find ourself [sic] again in a position to fight for better places," he said.

Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc will start the Bahrain Grand Prix at the front of the grid POOL via AFP / Giuseppe CACACE