The Roar
The Roar

Advertisement

Opinion

Australian Grand Prix talking points: Leclerc victorious and are there structural problems at Red Bull?

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Replay
Cancel
Next
Roar Rookie
11th April, 2022
3

Round 3 of the 2022 Formula 1 season is done and dusted, with Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc extending his championship lead and taking his first ever Grand Slam of race win, fastest lap and driver of the day.

The championship battle seems to still be between Ferrari and Red Bull, but there were more interesting things happening further down the grid. Here are five talking points from the Australian Grand Prix.

Carlos Sainz DNF
While Charles Leclerc continues to look dominant this year, the same cannot be said for his teammate Carlos Sainz.

The Spaniard was on a flyer before a red flag interrupted Q3 on Saturday – and could not replicate the pace when qualifying restarted, only managing P9.

The race itself was even worse for the Ferrari driver, falling down to 14th in the opening lap before spinning out and recording a DNF – the first race in 17 that he hasn’t picked up points.

Advertisement

With his closest rival Leclerc having such a brilliant weekend, Sainz is in danger of being labelled as Ferrari’s number 2 driver. The team has a long history of favouring drivers, most famously the “Fernando is faster than you” radio message to Felipe Massa during their time with the Scuderia.

Though team orders usually don’t come into effect until later in the season, it is concerning due to the 38 point difference splitting the two teammates.

Many commentators were predicting another solid year for Sainz – after he came 5th in the Championship and was the “best of the rest” driver behind the two Mercedes and Red Bull drivers last year.

His first two drives of this season weren’t terrible – finishing 1 place behind Leclerc both times – but he has been highly critical of his performance in comparison to the Monegasque driver, and that likely lead to his clumsy spin into the gravel trap on Sunday.

Advertisement

He has two weeks until the next race in Imola to sort out his issues, or risk being pushed down the order even further.

Carlos Sainz
Carlos Sainz (William West/AFP via Getty Images)

Aston Martin, where?

Four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel finally returned to the grid after contracting Covid-19 ahead of the season opener in Bahrain – and many fans had high hopes.

Advertisement

His Aston Martin team were not looking great to start the year, but Vettel brings with him years of experience and knowledge that would help develop the car and bring in some much needed points. However, his trip to Melbourne will not be one he will be keen to remember.

Only managing a short stint in FP1 before an issue with the car withdrew him from the next session, Vettel’s best appearance on the Albert Park circuit was on a scooter back to the pits (which he duly paid five thousand euros in fines for).

A crash took him out of FP3, with a well-timed crash from his teammate Lance Stroll giving his engineers the opportunity to fix his car for the dying minutes of Q1.

Fans around the circuit were absolutely delighted to see the former World Champion fighting for a place in the second stage of qualifying – but he could only manage 18th and headed back to the pits just minutes after making his shock appearance.

Advertisement

Media speculated that despite Aston Martin’s woeful start to the weekend, they may be able to pick up their first points of the season in Melbourne.

Unfortunately, their weekend went from bad to worse. Vettel crashed out again early in the race, and Stroll couldn’t fight his way into the points.

The team are now sitting in last place in the constructor’s championship after three races with zero points.

So where can they go from here? They need to bring in some massive changes when they arrive in Imola to have any chance of improving their standings, and with the Stroll money behind them, surely they can do something?

Advertisement

Alex Albon points!

Who would have thought a Williams driver would be one of the highlights of a race weekend? Alex Albon picked up his first point for his new team – managing 10th at the checkered flag and moving Williams above Aston Martin in the standings. However, the way he got the point was one of the most bizarre, yet ingenious things Formula 1 fans have seen in a long time.

The Thai driver started on hard tires, as did most of the back-markers, in an effort to gain some places when those in front pitted. Many decided to box during the 2 safety cars early in the race, but Albon did not.

Once lap 50 came around, Albon was sitting in 7th position but was yet to enter pit lane. Fans were increasingly confused, as every driver must pit at least once during the race to change tires. The laps kept ticking, and Albon stayed on track. Had Alex already pitted and the timekeepers didn’t notice?

Nope, Albon duly came into the pits on the penultimate lap, changed his tires, and went to the checkered flag in P10. The most fantastical strategy in modern Formula 1, but made sense after Albon was forced to start at the back of the grid due to his disqualification from qualifying.

The former Red Bull driver later said on social media that finishing 10th was as good as a win to him due to his unfortunate fuel mishap in qualifying – and he did astronomically better than his teammate Nicholas Latifi who finished plum last once again, well off the pace of every other driver.

Can Alex Albon continue the success of his predecessor George Russel and bring Williams up the Championship order?

Haas strategy fail
Following the frankly shocking success of Haas during the first 2 races of the season, there was high hopes the American outfit could produce another points finish – preferably in young driver Mick Schumacher who was forced to sit out of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix due to a massive shunt in qualifying.

However, the infamous poor strategy from Haas showed its hand again, with Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen P13 and P14 respectively.

The team took the same gamble as Williams, starting on the hard tire in the hopes of gaining positions during the pit stops, however they didn’t capitalise on the safety car periods and dropped back after their stops.

Magnussen took to social media after the race to acknowledge his and the team’s disappointment in how the race panned out saying “… we made a small gamble on the hard tire as we felt we were faster than our position, which we were, but the safety car came and ruined the strategy.”

The Dane is hopeful for another points haul in Italy, but the team will definitely need to step up and work with the conditions to change their strategy when necessary.

Sports opinion delivered daily 

   

More Red Bull heartache

Reigning World Champion Max Verstappen picked up his 2nd DNF of the season after another issue with the car forced his retirement. The Dutchman says this issue was different from the one in Bahrain, but it begs the question: what is wrong with the Red Bull?

Sergio Perez was told during the race that the issue with Verstappen’s car wouldn’t repeat itself for him, and he managed to fight for 2nd place to keep his team in the fight for the Constructor’s Championship. Its highly unlikely Verstappen would have been fighting Leclerc for the win, but a P2 finish would have placed him nicely in 2nd for the Driver’s title.

However, he finished the race with no points once again.

The Red Bull powertrains (Honda engine) seems to have a systemic problem, which the team absolutely must address before they take to the track in Imola. Another DNF for the World Champion would be catastrophic – and would leave him with a massive uphill battle to retain his title.

And at what point do Red Bull change their tune and put their eggs in the Sergio Perez basket? The Mexican leads Verstappen by 5 points, which to be fair isn’t much especially after only 3 of the 23 races this season, but if consistent power failures plague the Dutchman and Perez pulls out even further ahead, do they back Perez as their number 1 driver? Highly unlikely, especially with team principal Christian Horner’s known love of Verstappen, but if he isn’t taking the fight to Leclerc and Perez is, will they continue to throw their resources behind him?

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
close