8 things to watch at the Australian Grand Prix

F1 is back this week and the grid heads to Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix. Like every week in the world of F1, there’s no shortage of stories to follow in the third race of the season.

From Red Bull’s early dominance to his struggles at McLaren to the return of two of his favorite sons to Australia, here are some highlights this week.

Can Red Bull continue to dominate?

Since preseason testing, the Bulls have been minutes ahead of their competitors, and now those minutes feel like miles. Both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were strong in testing in Bahrain, locking out the front row in both qualifying and the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

Despite Verstappen’s driveshaft failure during qualifying in Jeddah, he started the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in 15th place, while Red Bull finished 1-2 in the second race of the season, with Perez outscoring teammate I was right in front of you.

Will that dominance continue below, or can another team (or teams) fill the gap?

Or will internal competition be their downfall?

At this point in the season, that may be the bigger problem facing Red Bull.

Given that it could be a few races before other teams level the playing field with the Bulls, George Russell recently could be at Imola in May when Mercedes is ready to compete. I was teased that there was.

Currently, RB19 is the class of the field and not only is the team at the top of the Constructors’ Championship, but Verstappen and Perez are at the top of the drivers’ table, one point away. It’s a point. As discussed, Verstappen set the fastest lap of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on the final lap of the race, causing some confusion from Perez after the race, as the team told Verstappen to keep the pace instead of pushing. I thought I did. Finally.

To give you an overview of Verstappen’s final lap, here are his lap time data in Jeddah. Ergust API:

(Data visualization is obviously not my passion, but digression.)

The late dip is what we’re talking about.

On the final lap of the race, Verstappen posted a lap time of 1:31.906, securing both the fastest Grand Prix lap time and an extra point in the drivers’ standings. As you can see, it was an impressive lap and the only lap time he has recorded for the entire Grand Prix under his 1.32.

Team principal Christian Horner spoke last week about the maturity of both drivers and insisted they would not compromise the team’s success this season. “We have two very mature drivers who work well together. They have worked well together so far,” Horner said after the Saudi Grand Prix. “We talked about the race before the race and said, ‘Look, you are free to race today, but the rules of engagement are team first, respect each other, respect the car you are driving. said we [wanted] We were able to bring home the maximum points and we achieved it. ”

Still, Horner has a tremendous job ahead of him. He will have to balance the team’s interest in securing his second straight Constructors’ Championship between the interests of the two drivers. While Verstappen is chasing a third consecutive drivers’ title, Perez may think this is his best shot at a world title.

Heavy is the crowned head.

Can Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin play the ultimate spoiler?

F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia

Photo by Dan Istiten – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Without Red Bull, Aston Martin and veteran driver Fernando Alonso would be the biggest story in F1.

Thanks to Alonso’s back-to-back podiums at the start of the season, Aston Martin sits second in the Constructors’ Championship alongside Mercedes, while Alonso sits third in the Drivers’ Championship behind the Red Bull Duo.

Alonso is now chasing a third consecutive title, which he has not done since 2013, when he did so. 2nd place finish Belgium, Italy, Singapore.

That season, Alonso finished second in the drivers’ championship.

Behind Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.

There is something to keep in mind.

Is Mercedes’ comeback here?

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff called the Bahrain Grand Prix the team’s “worst day” in racing.

Grand Prix makes a difference.

There was a completely different mood around the Silver Arrows after the Saudi Grand Prix where Lewis Hamilton finished fifth and Russell took fourth. There was a moment when Russell was on the podium, but thanks to his 10 second penalty handed to Alonso, that penalty was later rescinded, leaving Alonso in his 3rd place and Russell in his 4th. it fell.

Still, the atmosphere in the team has changed. Wolff declared the team “on the right track” after Jeddah, and trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin spoke to the team at Mercedes’ Brackley factory, noting just what the team’s “motivation” was. We also talked about the idea that something special could still continue. It happens this season.

With development on the W14 on the horizon — Russell has indicated that May’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix is ​​the current target — perhaps Mercedes’ resurgence has begun?

what about ferrari?

F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia - Qualification

Photo by Dan Istiten – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

While Mercedes left Jeddah on a high note, things were much different around Ferrari.

It would be no exaggeration to say that the Scuderia’s 2023 season got off to a rocky start. Charles Leclerc posted his DNF in Bahrain after his SF-23’s control electronics failed and was demoted ten places on the grid when he used his third set of control electronics before the Saudi Arabian GP was forced to take a penalty of Race.

Leclerc set the second fastest qualifying time, but a penalty forced him to start 12th. Ferrari took his 6th and his 7th in the Grand Prix, with Carlos Sainz Jr. beating Leclerc for his 6th. Ferrari were certainly quicker in the short stint, but given Leclerc’s qualifying time and Sainz’s qualifying in his fourth position highlighted the SF-23’s ongoing problems.

“[I’m] After Friday, before the weekend, I thought we could be the second unit here in Jeddah, so I was a little surprised.” Sainz after the Grand Prix“But the final stint on hard is that we still have a lot of work to do, that we have a weak spot in the race, and that development is coming to see if we can improve on that weak spot. I think it proves that we have to wait.”

Ferrari looked to Jeddah as an opportunity to prove themselves as the second fastest team on the grid.

They left Jeddah wondering if they were actually in fourth place.

Will Alpine be able to move up the standings on their own this week?

If it weren’t for Esteban Ocon’s rough day in Bahrain, we would have seen the world where Alpine scored twice as many points in each of the first two races of the season.

However, they did double in Saudi Arabia, with Ocon in eighth and Pierre Gasly in ninth. Alpine now sits in her fifth position in the constructors’ rankings with her eight points, double her sixth-placed Alfa Romeo.

Even with Ocon’s weaknesses at the season opener, there is reason to believe that Alpine are looking to put together a strong season. Both drivers could qualify in the top 10 in Jeddah and Gasly could make up for a few spots on the track with a blistering run to score points after starting last in Bahrain. is shown.

Now one can wonder if they can do the same in the standings.

What’s Happening at McLaren?

F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia - Qualification

Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

This is probably not the homecoming Oscar Piastri envisioned.

The 2023 season has gotten off to a shaky start for Ferrari, but it’s close to being a fiasco for McLaren. The team struggled in his pre-season testing and team principal Andrea his Stella openly pondered whether to enter the third quarter next weekend.

Piastri suffered a DNF in Bahrain, forcing team-mate Lando Norris to pit every ten laps to manage a pressure leak in the car’s hydraulic system. Then, in Saudi Arabia, Piastri managed to reach his Q3 but on the opening lap of the race he made contact with Pierre Gasly at the front which damaged his wing and caused both Piastri and Norris to pit early. forced his stop. good.

When the race ended, the two drivers battled Williams’ Logan Sargent for 15th place instead of challenging for the front line.

Since Jeddah, things have changed for McLaren. The team announced last week the retirement of former Executive Technical Director James Key and the creation of his new Executive Technical Team. That team includes David Sanchez, who was head of vehicle concepts at Ferrari before departing earlier this season. Sanchez is expected to join McLaren at the beginning of the 2024 calendar year.

It’s been a tough start to the year for McLaren. Perhaps this is the week they start to turn things around.

Daniel Ricciardo’s return to Australia

Finally, we have one final story to watch this weekend.

Daniel Ricciardo has returned to Australia and is now Red Bull’s reserve driver.

Over the past few seasons, Ricciardo has become one of motorsport’s most recognizable figures.the success of netflix documentary drive to survive With F1’s supposedly growing popularity around the world, and especially in the United States, Ricciardo is perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the series’ success.

The first season focused on his decision to leave Red Bull first and sign with Renault for the 2019 season. But after just his two years with the French team, Ricciardo moved on again and made the shocking decision to sign for McLaren.

However, his time at McLaren came to an end last season as the team moved ahead with Oscar Piastri and parted ways with the fan favorite. Ricciardo has not found a full-time seat this season and has announced that he will return to Red Bull as the team’s reserve driver for the 2023 season.

In that role, Ricciardo will assist with simulator work and the team’s factory work, as well as assist with the myriad public relations campaigns the team faces as defending Constructors’ Champions.

Ricciardo announced on social media that he is heading to Melbourne for this week’s Grand Prix, and the team will feature drivers touring Australia on Monday morning in the RB7, the car Sebastian Vettel drove in the 2011 Drivers’ Race. Released the video “Riccardo’s Homecoming”. Championship:

It might be worth keeping an eye on Danny Rick this weekend.

Leave a Reply