Race Report: Leclerc dominates at Australia GP

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The Australian Grand Prix has been a staple of the Formula 1 calendar for years and having not been ran for the last two years, it was great to finally be back to the Great Southern Land and the Australian fans clearly were ready to get out to a race and bring the energy only they can. 

From Friday onward, Ferrari looked very competitive while Red Bull looked thereabouts on lap times but there were clearly issues with the car balance and niggles with the systems that eventually manifest in a DNF on Sunday for Max Verstappen. This left Charles Leclerc firmly in control of the race while leading Sergio Perez and George Russell home to the podium. 

Win

A big win for Ferrari who have shown, despite their continued porpoising issues, their car is planted and capable of running well at different kinds of circuits—in short, it is the car to beat in 2022. Charles converted a very nice pole position into a win by controlling the race, the pace and his tire wear for a big win down under. 

You could certainly argue that Red Bull didn’t have a win weekend but Sergio Perez put in a very nice race having been caught out by the Safety Car and pit stops losing positions he had to reclaim to bring it home in second while his teammate, Max Verstappen, DNF’d. 

A win for Mercedes who, admittedly assisted by Verstappen DNF, brought their cars home in 3rd and 4th. The track seemed to flatter the Mercedes power, as evidenced by the resurgence of McLaren as well, but that’s not to take anything away from Mercedes as a team with George Russell scoring a podium finish. Lewis was less pleased radioing that the team had put him in a difficult position. 

A win for Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo who brought the McLaren’s home in 5th and 6th and that’s quite an improvement from the first race of the 2022 season. It seemed like a tale of two team on Saturday and you may have thought that McLaren had the upper hand over Mercedes but in the end, they trailed their engine maker home but still a terrific recovery and result. 

A win for Valtteri Bottas who was dropped down the order as both he and Pierre Gasly managed to clamor their way back into the points. Esteban Ocon also scored points for Alpine. 

A big win for Williams and Alex Albon who ran very long on his hard tires to the last lap but boxed for new shoes and put in a terrific in and out lap to secure a point for the team. It was a good strategy call and a good drive from Albon.

Fail

A big fail for Red Bull who had another fuel issue that stopped Max Verstappen. Defending his championship is going to be difficult if the team do not get on top of not only their pace deficit to Ferrari but their reliability issues with Max’s car. Max took it on the chin but he realizes that Ferrari aren’t showing DNF-producing reliability issues and the championship will be hard to win with two DNF’s in three races. 

A fail for Aston Martin the entire weekend. Sebastian’s crash on Saturday, Lance’s crash and then another crash from Seb on Sunday has left many scratching their heads as to if this weekend could have gotten any worse. 

A big fail for Carlos Sainz who got hobbled by the safety car during qualifying leaving him to start 9th but he had a bad start and then spun the car into the gravel and out of the race. If he was feeling pressure against his teammate to perform, he now may find himself in a wingman role if he can’t start winning races. Ferrari aren’t shy about “holding station” and it was my concern for Carlos when he joined Ferrari. 

WTH

I’m not quite sure what happened to Fernando Alonso’s weekend. He was putting in a fantastic qualifying run only to have the gearbox freak out and put him in the wall. Then on Sunday he looked competitive but got hung out by the safety car and then with new medium shoes, he dropped backwards with, presumably, bad graining. A shame because he should have been well into the points. 

I understand the CV19 positive issue for Vettel kept him out for two races but Sebastian Vettel looked very ragged all weekend. I’m starting to wonder if Helmet Marko was right about Seb’s motivation these days. 

I think it is a WTH for Nichola Latifi and Yuki Tsunoda who both had teammates well up the road. 

Not sure what the overall strategy was for Kevin Magnussen was but I think he swapped places with his teammate, Mick Schumacher, and both Haas F1 cars looked well off the pace from their previous two races. They were both caught out by the Safety Car. 

The Pirelli Tire story:

  • Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc converted his pole position into a win, using the one-stop strategy that was predicted as being fastest. He started the race on P Zero Yellow medium tyres and then swapped to the P Zero White hard on lap 22: completing a first stint that was four laps longer than that of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who started behind him on the grid.
  • One lap after Leclerc pitted, there was another safety car: this enabled the majority of the field to complete their stops with comparatively little time loss. All but six of the drivers started the race on the medium tyre, with the highest-placed of them being Williams driver Alex Albon. He finished 10th and scored a point, having started from last on the grid with the hard tyre and made his pit stop to P Zero Red soft on the penultimate lap.
  • ·Another unusual strategy was seen from Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll: he made three stops in total and re-used the hard tyres he had started the race on for his final stint. That set had only completed three laps before the first safety car, under which Stroll pitted for the medium before moving to the hard just one lap later. By doing this he put himself in a position to run to the end, but he swapped to his scrubbed set of starting tyres when the second safety car presented the opportunity for a ‘free’ pit stop.
  • Today was hotter and less windy than previous days in Melbourne, with the race getting underway in 27 degrees centigrade ambient and 38 degrees of track temperature.

Australian GP Results:

POSNODRIVERCARLAPSTIME/RETIREDPTS
116Charles LeclercFERRARI581:27:46.54826
211Sergio PerezRED BULL RACING RBPT58+20.524s18
363George RussellMERCEDES58+25.593s15
444Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES58+28.543s12
54Lando NorrisMCLAREN MERCEDES58+53.303s10
63Daniel RicciardoMCLAREN MERCEDES58+53.737s8
731Esteban OconALPINE RENAULT58+61.683s6
877Valtteri BottasALFA ROMEO FERRARI58+68.439s4
910Pierre GaslyALPHATAURI RBPT58+76.221s2
1023Alexander AlbonWILLIAMS MERCEDES58+79.382s1
1124Zhou GuanyuALFA ROMEO FERRARI58+81.695s0
1218Lance StrollASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES58+88.598s0
1347Mick SchumacherHAAS FERRARI57+1 lap0
1420Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI57+1 lap0
1522Yuki TsunodaALPHATAURI RBPT57+1 lap0
166Nicholas LatifiWILLIAMS MERCEDES57+1 lap0
1714Fernando AlonsoALPINE RENAULT57+1 lap0
NC1Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING RBPT38DNF0
NC5Sebastian VettelASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES22DNF0
NC55Carlos SainzFERRARI1DNF0

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charlie w

I would give a FAIL to the new track changes. While it made the racing faster, it did not nothing to make it better. Even without the added(later dropped) DRS zone, the race was much like past years: a processional affair.

Fabio

Certainly fun to be there, great atmosphere.

Leclerc is currently leading the WCC!

MIE

Ferrari confirming their ‘baked in’ advantage for the next four years.

Fabio

Wohoo!

Paul Kiefer

Regarding Vettel: I recall that Hamilton had a similar issue when he got COVID last year. In some of those races, even if he did win, he was looking like he had the wind knocked out of him when he took the podium. That COVID will affect your endurance because it affects your breathing. It takes a while to recover, so it’s not that unusual to see Vettel in this depressed state.

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Race Report: Leclerc dominates at Australia GPA good race and great to see Australia back on the calendar! The fans were terrific to see and the race was a good race to watch. Lots of midfield battles and improved TV production.
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