Second retirement in the third race. Anyone who saw Max Verstappen in his passionate fight with Lewis Hamilton last year has an idea of what that has to do with the Dutchman. He didn’t even stand a chance against Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari when everything was normal in his Red Bull racer. Whereby: Even before the start, the hydraulics were screwed around. The fact that after the 39th lap fuel ran into the engine and ignited could still have dramatic consequences. A deficit of 46 World Championship points on Leclerc, which corresponds to two wins, is not that easy to make up for, although the season is still long.
It would take him more like 45 races, the world champion later remarked sarcastically. The initial anger in which he refused to accept the increasing number of technical shortcomings had already subsided: “That’s unbelievable! If you want to fight for the title, you can’t afford it.” At Red Bull, it’s not just the racing cars that have to be brought back into balance as quickly as possible.
Monegasse has now four Grand Prix victories in a Ferrari – one has to say: only four victories. Which shows how the last two years at Maranello have gone for Charles Leclerc. persevere, get through. This has now turned into a breakthrough. Two victories in three races, the youngest was even completely untouched. “I had a good weekend, but it wouldn’t have been possible without this car,” said the world championship leader modestly after he had also secured pole position and the fastest lap of the race.
He can easily explain what makes this win so special: “It was the first win where we were able to control the distance.” A new sovereignty from Ferrari. In view of this starting position, not even the obligatory and perhaps too early question about his chances for the World Championship can make the boyish smile fade: “It’s only the third race, so it’s difficult to talk about the title now. But if it goes on like this, we have a chance.” It’s the humility he had to learn the hard way.
Writes so quickly and so easily: horror weekend. Doesn’t sound nearly as bad as the experiences Sebastian Vettel had in his first race of the season after surviving the Covid 19 infection. The fact that, contrary to custom, he has not yet given the new company car a name, was a bad sign. Then an engine failure right on the first day of practice, plus a penalty because he – still happy – had driven a marshal’s moped back over the track to the pits. Followed by a crash on Saturday, which is why he only had one qualifying lap and 17th place on the grid after a long repair.
In the middle of the race he finally crashed the green car into the crash barriers after a driving error, he still lacks a lot of experience with the Aston Martin. The man from Heppenheim was uninjured, but had to be checked out at the track hospital. But the mood is gone for now. It’s not easy to get motivation from a false start. But then it went, so halfway: “It can’t get any worse.”
For three years the Melbournenians have waited for the moment when the engines roar again in Albert Park. In fact, in the city with the largest tram network in the world, the people are real petrol heads. They simply turned the wonderful autumn weekend into a catch-up garden party. 420,000 spectators found their way to Albert Park over four days, which is the largest backdrop in Australian sports history. With a passion that is otherwise only found in Monza, the fans then stormed the piste after the checkered flag, tens of thousands lined up to celebrate Charles Leclerc and a little bit of themselves. The proportion of women is now approaching 40 percent, and the organizers would like to thank them Netflix epic Drive to survive.
The local fans were also able to celebrate Daniel Ricciardo’s best performance of the season. The Australian with the – likeable – permanent grin started with the recently weak McLaren in seventh place and made it a sixth place in the race: “These are the first points for me this year, so I’m leaving my homeland with a good feeling .”
What an embarrassment: rolling out in qualifying with no fuel in the tank. What a punishment: disqualification. The Brit with the Thai license, who was given a second career opportunity with the Williams racing team, had to start from the back. The tacticians of the traditional team led by German Jost Capito countered the setback with an extremely daring strategy: they let the 26-year-old drive with the hard compound until two laps before the end and only then brought him in for the mandatory pit stop. It actually seemed clear that Albon would slip out of the top ten in which he had been for so long.
But when everyone was flagged down, the underdog found himself in tenth place, which means more than an honor point for him. “When I got to the track in the morning we were all very depressed. Then we took all the risks and at some point in the race it just got better and better. I felt like I was doing one qualifying lap after the other.” Capo Capito danced through the pit lane: “This point is enormously important for team spirit.”
Third in the race, second overall. Wait a minute, are we talking about Mercedes newcomer Russell or Lewis Hamilton? Why is Mercedes so far ahead at all, the champions team had to exchange the title subscription for the crisis mode this year. With a Silver Arrow bouncing and moody with the hoops that lost its thunder power in qualifying. But in the race they are there, more consistent than Red Bull Racing, which is why the racing team is also in second place in the constructors’ classification. It will be exciting to see whether record world champion Hamilton can drive at the level of George Russell, who is very relaxed about the bitchy company car. This is how he got his first podium finish for Mercedes.
Hamilton would probably have finished third in Melbourne if a safety car phase had not turned his pit stop advantage into a disadvantage. That annoyed him, of course, but he didn’t want to interpret it against his compatriot: “Honestly, that’s a great result,” said Hamilton. Team boss Toto Wolff didn’t expect third and fourth place either. You leave Melbourne in better shape than when you arrived: “We’ve learned more lessons and got more points.”
Mick with crocodiles. Mike surfing. Mick with Lewis Hamilton. In Melbourne they love Michael Schumacher, the record winner in Albert Park – and they are happy to be able to see their son in Formula 1 for the first time. After things had gone so well for teammate Kevin Magnussen in the first two races, the young German Ferrari driver also dreamed of his first World Championship points. From position 15 on the grid they were definitely in it. But in midfield it has become damn tight after the rule changes, the battles for positions are at least as tough as at the front. Every mistake will be punished. Which is why the 13th place is very decent in the end, especially since Schumi junior was able to stay ahead of the Dane Magnussen for the first time in both qualifying and the race. A few hairy situations with Carlos Sainz and Yuki Tsunoda made the third World Championship round a “very eventful” race for him and the very positive conclusion: “We weren’t that far away.”