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Leclerc sets fastest time but Verstappen looks ominously quick

Hello and welcome to the second Grand Prix of the 2022 season in Saudi Arabia.

In 2021, the track was the penultimate race in the dramatic title battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

This year, it appears the latter faces an uphill task to have a competitive car with Mercedes on the backfoot.

Last week in Bahrain saw a resurgent Ferrari to sweep to their first season-opening one-two finish since 2010 while Red Bull suffered their “worst nightmare” as a fuel system problem in the closing stages meant a double retirement for Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

But Perez believes the team have fixed the issue for this weekend.

“The team knows exactly what happened,” he told Reuters.

“We are pretty confident that we fixed the issue. It was a standard part but I think our system basically didn’t work as expected. That’s what caused the issue.

“We had a bit of bad luck, but it’s okay. It’s a long season ahead. As long as we keep progressing and we keep improving the car, then we are in a good shape.”

One of the surprise results in Bahrain was a fifth-place finish for the returning Kevin Magnussen in the Haas.

The result gave the team, which finished 2021 at the bottom of the overall standings without scoring a point, their highest finish since the Austrian Grand Prix in 2018 and a much-needed boost.

“I don’t see us driving onto the podium on pace any time soon but I could kind of expect us to be in the position we were in Bahrain, leading the midfield…,” Magnussen told reporters.

“If you’re there, you’re the first one to receive that podium if you have that lucky day where a lot of people have problems… or there’s a red flag at the right time on a track that’s hard to overtake, or something like that.

“That’s something I’m dreaming about.”

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