For the first time since 2019 Formula 1 returned to the Albert Park Circuit for the Australian Grand Prix this weekend, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc taking home the win.
Leclerc was dominant from start to finish leading for the entirety of the race to earn his second first place finish of the season and fourth career Grand Prix victory.
The Monacan was rarely tested throughout the 58 laps, despite Red Bull and Max Verstappen’s best efforts. Red Bull attempted to undercut Leclerc on lap 19, pitting Verstappen but was unsuccessful with the Ferrari driver pitting two laps later and still coming out in first place.
From there on Leclerc was able to hold onto first even with challenges from Verstappen at the resumption of normal racing after the safety cars ended. Once Verstappen was forced to retire with fuel leaking from his car, causing a fire Leclerc breezed to victory to win by over 20 seconds.
To cap off an incredible weekend for Leclerc he also earnt an extra point for having the fastest lap of the race.
The rest of the podium was made up of Sergio Perez in second place and George Russell in third who earnt his first podium finish of the season.
Leclerc now holds a significant lead at the top of the Driver Championship on 71 points, 34 points ahead of second placed George Russell on 37. The result also helps Ferrari extend their lead in the Constructors Championship with 104 points, 39 ahead of Mercedes on 65 points.
The day was not without some disappointment for Ferrari with Carlos Sainz being forced to retire on lap two after losing grip through turn nine and sliding into the gravel.
Ricciardo and McLaren get double point finish
After two disappointing races to start the Formula 1 season, Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren look to have turned a corner able to get both drivers into the points for the first time this season.
Ricciardo earnt his first point finish of the season in front of his home fans, finishing in sixth place showing strong pace throughout the race. Teammate Lando Norris finished one place better than Ricciardo in fifth, however had a disappointing start to the race falling to sixth on the opening lap after starting fourth.
Ricciardo remained in the middle of the top 10 for the first half of the race, until he pitted on lap 22. The Australian exited into traffic with Lance Stroll and Alex Albon right there, challenging Ricciardo to hold his place and remain in ninth.
On lap 36 Ricciardo started moving up the grid getting ahead of Kevin Magnussen going into turn one and soon after moving up to sixth with Fernando Alonso pitting and Verstappen’s retirement.
The weekend overall showed encouraging signs for McLaren, able to get their weekend off on the right foot with solid results in qualifying. Both Ricciardo and Norris had their best results so far this season starting in seventh and fourth place on the grid giving McLaren the opportunity to be able to secure some meaningful points.
McLaren entered the race sitting in eighth place in the Constructors Championship standings, with just six points, however leave Melbourne in fourth, with 24 points. Ricciardo finds himself in 11th with eight points.
Mixed day for Red Bull
Following a return to form in Saudi Arabia, Red Bull looked in a prime position to add some points to the board as Max Verstappen and his team looked to chase down Drivers and Constructors Championship leaders Charles Leclerc and Ferrari.
Having Verstappen and Perez starting the race in second and third it looked as though there was potential for another successful weekend for the team. This became even more apparent with Sainz crashing out early in the race, however was not to be.
Verstappen looked in a commanding position for most of the race following closely behind eventual winner Leclerc, but all that hard work came to an end on lap 39, when smoke and fire began coming out of his car forcing him to retire.
It was not all heartbreak for Red Bull with Perez having an outstanding Grand Prix, battling all day long to score a well deserved second place finish.
Perez’s race did not get off to an ideal start, falling to fourth on the opening lap with Lewis Hamilton getting ahead of him. The Mexican remained determined and on lap 10 it paid off able to get on the inside of Hamilton and regain third position through turns three and four.
Perez found himself behind Hamilton again later in the race when Mercedes was able to successfully undercut him through the pits. Yet again Perez showed plenty of fight to get back ahead of the Brit just before the second safety car was deployed.
On lap 37 Perez moved ahead of the other Mercedes driver, George Russell and then soon after moved in second where he remained following the retirement of Verstappen.
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Mercedes capitalises in Melbourne
Mercedes have quietly found themselves now ahead of rivals Red Bull in second place of the Constructors Championship following another good weekend. Despite Mercedes car being behind the pace of Ferrari and Red Bull this season, they have found a way to continuously perform at a consistent level to score points.
Mercedes found themselves starting the race with Lewis Hamilton in fifth position and George Russell in sixth. Hamilton appeared the more likely of the two to threaten for a podium finish after getting off to a blistering start, getting ahead of Norris and Perez to find himself in third after the first turn.
Unfortunately for Hamilton he was unable to fight off Perez who twice overtook him throughout the race with his pace superior. Hamilton was still able to secure 12 points for the team with a fourth place finish.
George Russell helped add to Mercedes’s point total with his first podium finish of 2022, coming in third. Russell’s result did come with some luck however, entering the pits at an opportune time, just as the safety car was deployed following Sebastian Vettel’s crash.
This essentially gave Russell a free pit stop, allowing him to come out in third place ahead of Hamilton, which he held until the checkered flag.
Vettel’s bittersweet return
After having missed the opening two races of the Formula 1 season, out with COVID, Sebastian Vettel made his return to the paddock in Australia. Unfortunately for the German his return ended abruptly on lap 24 when he crashed into the wall on turn four.
Prior to the crash, Vettel was having a less than stellar race weekend, having crashed early in the week in practice resulting in him only managing the one lap in to start in 17th. Things did not improve once the race began with Vettel almost beaching his car in the gravel on lap 11, however was able to remain in the race.
From there he struggled to move up the grid with his race ultimately ending a dozen laps later.
Aston Martin has struggled this season, having scored no points through the opening three races of the F1 calendar, with their other driver Lance Stroll finishing today in 12th.
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