In a race that was expected to be a showdown between Red Bulls Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, it was Leclerc who took the one-sided win at Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.
The win at Melbourne was good news for Leclerc as it extended his lead in the drivers’ championship by 34 points. The win was also good news for Ferrari, as it increased their prospects of winning the manufacturers’ championship this season.
The crowds in Melbourne were witness to a spectacular start to the race as Charles LeClerc, who was in the pole position, held off Verstappen and defended his position mid-race after the safety car was deployed.
Verstappen, who retired from the race shortly after the mid-race restart, and his Mercedes continue to struggle with power unit issues. However, Sergio Perez managed to save the day for Red Bull with a second place finish, while George Russel and Lewis Hamilton respectively placed third and fourth.
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The day was also productive for McLaren’s Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, with both racking up points for their fifth and sixth place finishes. Meanwhile, Canada’s Lance Stroll, who started the race with a face second penalty for crashing into Latifi during the first qualifying session, ended his day in 12th position, while Montreal’s Nicholas Latifi finished in 16th.
The win for Leclerc also saw him becoming the first Ferrari driver to score an F1 “grand slam” that consists of winning the pole position, leading the race from start to finish and posting the fasted lap time. Leclerc posted the fastest lap time of 1 minute, 20.260 seconds during the final lap, a feat he said was a pleasing surprise.
“Honestly, what a car today. Of course, I did a good job all weekend, but it was not possible without the car.”
Leclerc’s teammate, Carlos Sainz, who scored podium finishes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, had a number of setbacks during testing on the weekend. After having troubles during qualifying, Sainz was dropped to ninth on the grid and had a slow start before losing control on lap 2 and bringing an end to his day. While the setback cost Ferrari points in the manufacturers’ championship, LeClerc remains positive about Ferrari’s chances this year.
“Obviously, we are only in the third race, so it is difficult to think about the championship. But to be honest, we have a very strong car, a very reliable car too, and for now we have always been there. I hope it continues like this and if it does, we probably have chances for the championship.”
Verstappen, who is the defending world champion, seemed unable to challenge LeClerc beyond the start and restart at the mid-way point. Despite the champion winning the Saudi Arabia GP, he was clearly disappointed by the car’s performance and went as far as to say Red Bull is “already miles behind” Ferrari.
“I don’t even want to think about the championship at the moment. I think it is more important just to finish races, because today was, in general, just a bad day again. It is pretty frustrating and unacceptable. “I knew there was a problem and it was always going to be a question mark for finishing the race, but these kind of things, if you want to fight for the title, cannot happen.”
Mercedes have also dealt with their own problems this season and are miles off the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari. After Verstappen retired from the race on lap 38, George Russel was able to give Mercedes a boost with his first podium finish this year.
“We got a little bit lucky today … but we will take it. To be standing on the podium is special. We are never going to give up. We are going to keep on fighting. We have to keep this up while we are on the back foot, I’m sure we will get there after a few more races.”
Closing out the top ten was Alpine Renault’s Esteban Ocon in seventh, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas in eighth, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in ninth and Williams Mercedes Alexander Albon in tenth. The next stop in the Formula One schedule will certainly be an eventful weekend for Ferrari fans.; For bettors, it will be a good opportunity to hedge your bets on whether Ferrari will continue their dominance or whether Red Bull will overcome their power unit issues before heading to Portugal.