Charles Leclerc won the Australian Grand Prix in absolute dominating fashion, starting from Pole, getting fastest lap, taking the win as well as leading every lap of the race. He was followed by Sergio Perez in P2 and then very strong showing of George Russell with his teammate Lewis Hamilton in P4 and Lando Norris rounding up the top 5. He was followed by Daniel Ricciardo, who scored his first points of 2022 in front of his home crowd. Esteban Ocon crossed the line 7th followed by Bottas. Gasly saw the chequered at 9th and a very improved Williams of Alex Albon rounded up the top 10.
Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz both notably suffered DNFs, and so did Sebastian Vettel.
As It happened....
Charles Leclerc got a good start from pole with Max right up on his tail, and such was the start for Sergio Perez, but going right into the first corner it was the two Mercedes that stole the limelight of the start. Lewis Hamilton immediately took over the two McLarens and capitalised on the inside line of Sergio Perez to get himself all the way up to 3rd, having the best of starts he could hope for.
George Russell also had a good first lap, getting himself up into the top 5 by the 4th corner. Apart from a few skirmishes between the McLarens and the Mercedes, the first lap went rather clean enough. Carlos Sainz had a fairly decent start from P9 after not getting g chance to improve on his Q3 time last day owing to Alonso’s crash. Having started on hard tires and suffering from a disastrous lack of grip, his euphoria was very short lived as on lap 2, Sainz lost almost entirety of his grip, ran off onto the grass and beached the number 55 Ferrari into the gravel, spelling an end to his campaign.
A fair other number of drivers even had take to the greens as grip in the last sector was far from certain. A handy few laps later, the next incident of the race was noted with Sebastian Vettel losing it and damaging his front wing. The damage being extensive enough that he had to retire the car immediately. The Australian GP weekend for Seb was perhaps one of his worsts ever, crashing out of all the practice sessions and then even retiring from the race.
The fans were served with a good taste of on track action between Daniel Ricciardo, Alex Albon and Lance Stroll, the fight for the last point’s place being waged quite a bit. We even got a bit more of the Hamilton vs Perez action, where it was rather easy on the part of the latter owning to the sheer pace of that Red Bull engine.
Now, something that played right into Mercedes’ hands, is that Russell had just come to pit when the safety car was called out for Sebastian Vettel. This resulted in the usual “cheap pit stop” for the 63 Merc, thereby in fact inheriting P3!
At the safety car restart, it was once again neck and neck between Leclerc and Verstappen, yet it was the Monegasque who came out on top going into the first corner in the racing lap. To spice things up even more, it was George Russell who had in fact put pressure on the reigning world champion, followed by a very sprity Fernando Alonso in P4.
The leading Ferrari didn’t take much time to regain the sizeable gap it had already established from the rest of the grid a few laps prior.
Soon after that, it was the Red Bull of Perez once again duking it out with the Mercedes as he had then started to take the fight up to George Russell to P3 after making a comfortable move over Alonso’s Alpine. Russell did put up a fight but it was to absolutely no avail, once again succumbing to the Red Bull power.
Speaking of Red bull power, it was around lap 39 that Max Verstappen was struck with another blow to his title defence: the no. 1 car stopped on track because of what seemed like an engine failure at that moment. It was audible even from the onboard footage how the engine of his car had just cut off.
Verstappen was just complaining about something “smelly” from the engine and was immediately asked to turn the power plant off. This marks yet another year of Max not finishing above 4th in Melbourne, a recent record especially dotted with DNFs.
In the closing stages of the race there was in fact some moves being done here and there, with Lance Stroll coming way too close to comfort against Valtteri Bottas, the former pushing him wide and then getting a 5 second time penalty for “weaving on the straight” for defence.
Another heartbreak was suffered on part of Alonso: the two time world champ had the upper hand over his teammate the whole weekend, but because of a fatal tire strategy call by the team, he ended up finishing outside the points after losing a tremendous amount of pace in the later stages; on a weekend where some even touted him to be even a podium contender.
A remarkable point to be noted from the race was Alex Albon, who of course scored a point for Williams after starting dead last, but also, he was the only driver who had not even pitted once! He ran the entire stint in 58lap old hard compound tires, but since Grand Prix ruling mandates at least one pit stop, he lost out on a few of points after dropping to 10th from 7th due to the last lap pit stop.
Post Race Analysis
As for the winners and losers of the Australian Grand Prix, the L takers were of course once again Red Bull. Max might not have had the pace to challenge for the win this weekend, but a functional engine would have meant he at least could have had cut down on points losses considerably.
The other side would be Carlos Sainz, who was just not on his teammate’s level the entire weekend. As well as to make matters worse, his race got over in the 2 laps.
Then, Aston Martin: can’t even say anything for them….
And for the W’s, it has to be Mercedes, who capitalised on the given scenario, maximised their own potential and even hauled more points than Ferrari and Red Bull this weekend.
Not to forget, McLaren made amazing strides in improving their car from what was just a garbage can in Bahrain.
F1 will be returning very soon to Imola, for the weekend of 22-24th!