The third round of the 2022 Formula 1 world championship is now in the books, and it was an interesting affair, multiple drivers having to retire from the race and an incredible drive from Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, who got his first grand slam in F1. Getting the pole, race win, fastest lap and led every lap of the grand prix.
With some drivers having to come from elsewhere on the grid to get to where they expected to be, gave the race some intrigue.
Come lights out, it was a clean start by all drivers. Carlos Sainz was bogged down on the start causing him to lose five places off the start. Lewis Hamilton had a good start and managed to get himself up into third getting past both Lando Norris and Sergio Perez.
Things went from bad to worse for Sainz as only a couple of laps later, when going for a move around the outside of turn 9, he went onto the grass and across the track sliding into the gravel trap. It spelt the end for Sainz as he could not get his Ferrari out of the gravel.
A safety car was brought out a couple of laps later following a virtual safety car. During which Lance Stroll swapped his hard tyres for medium tyres, then a lap later went back on the hard tyres, it therefore nullified the issue of having to use two compounds of tyres for the rest of the race.
As the laps went by after the safety car Max Verstappen revealed issues with graining tyres which caused him to drop back from Leclerc. In the pitstop phase Verstappen pitted before Leclerc in order to gain an advantage but could not as the Ferrari had the pace to cover the undercut.
When Daniel Ricciardo came out after a pitstop on lap twenty-two, he was met by Alex Albon and Stroll battling for position, which led to a close encounter int turn 1, and a chase down to turn 3 where Ricciardo eventually stayed ahead of both cars.
The following lap, from turn 8 to 9 is where Perez made his move on Hamilton to get past, and he did just before the entry to turn 9. His exit was not as good though which led to Hamilton almost coming back at him if it was not for another safety car.
Another safety car was brought out after Sebastian Vettel crashed on the exit of turn 4 and had o stop only a couple of hundred meters beyond that. Not only did the safety car help Perez stay ahead of Hamilton, it also brought Fernando Alonso into a position where he may have expected to be before his qualifying crash.
The safety car restart brought some drama to the lead of the grand prix as Leclerc, who led the field away after the safety car came back in, got a poor exit off the final corner which enabled Verstappen to go for a move to take the race lead. It did not eventuate, but even George Russell almost got a look in as they hammered down towards turn 3. But Leclerc stayed in the lead.
Lap thirty-six seen Perez take back third from Russell with a nice move into turn 11. Only three laps later it would be for Russell to go back into the podium places as Max Verstappen suffered a mechanical issue that forced him to retire from the Australian Grand Prix. With Verstappen having yet another issue, it gave Leclerc the opportunity to extend his championship lead even more.
Verstappen’s retirement called out a virtual safety car, both Alonso and Kevin Magnussen pitted onto medium tyres.
Lap forty-two seen Stroll and Valtteri Bottas collide into turn 3, with Stroll going in aggressively to get past the Finn. In the laps following this Alonso lost pace to Pierre Gasly and Stroll ahead of him due to graining medium tyres, the same issue Verstappen had suffered from earlier on. He quickly fell down the order, later pitting again to try a fastest lap attempt.
In the closing laps, Albon was in a good seventh place for Williams, however had not pitted yet in the race, he eventually pit with the final lap to go and came out just ahead of Zhou Guanyu, meaning Albon was in tenth and could grab a point for Williams.
Leclerc, who drove an excellent race came home to take the win, and his second win of the season. Also cementing Ferrari’s championship credentials. Perez took second ahead of Russell in third to round out the podium places.
In a good result for Mercedes, Hamilton came fourth, ahead of both McLaren drivers, Norris and Ricciardo in fifth and sixth respectively. Esteban Ocon seventh, followed by Bottas, Gasly and Albon to finish out the points positions.
In terms of what this does for the championship, it really extends Leclerc’s lead at the top to 34 points over Russell who is now in second in the championship, Sainz is still third and Verstappen is sixth with only 25 points so far.
As for the constructor’s championship, a good weekend for McLaren sees them rocket up to fourth, Alpine only 2 points behind them. Alfa Romeo, Haas and Alpha Tauri are sixth, seventh and eighth, with only three points separating them. With Williams getting a point, it leaves only Aston Martin without a point so far this season. A double points finish for Mercedes means they cut the gap to Ferrari only by a point but manage to increase their gap over Red Bull to 10 points.
With Imola up next and the first sprint race of the season upon us, McLaren will be looking to build on a successful weekend, as will Mercedes. While not getting more points, the performance by Williams will be something they can build off, and Red Bull will have to look at their engine problems and examine them as if they want to be in championship contention, they will need to be reliable.
How will Verstappen bounce back? Is Williams going to get back into the points again? Will McLaren continue their improvements? We will find out when F1 goes to Imola for round 4 of the Formula 1 world championship.
F1 Australian GP Results:
1 - Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
2 - Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
3 - George Russell (Mercedes)
4 - Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
5 - Lando Norris (McLaren)
6 - Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
7 - Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
8 - Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)
9 - Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri)
10 - Alex Albon (Williams)
11 - Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo)
12 - Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
13 - Mick Schumacher (Haas)
14 - Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
15 - Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri)
16 - Nicholas Latifi (Williams)
17 - Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
DNF - Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
DNF - Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
DNF - Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)