Verstappen wins eventful Australian Grand Prix

Verstappen wins eventful Australian Grand Prix

April 2, 2023

Hamilton finishes second ahead of Alonso.

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen once again was in a league of his own as the Red Bull driver took his second win of the season, winning the Australian Grand Prix. Verstappen, who started on pole but lost the position at the start of the race, finished comfortably ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso finishing third, with the Spaniard scoring his third podium place in as many races with his new team. The other Aston Martin of Lance Stroll was fourth ahead of Sergio Pérez, who ended fifth after starting last. McLaren’s Lando Norris was sixth ahead of Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg, with the German driving a stellar race for the American team. Home-boy Oscar Piastri scored his first-ever points in his first ever home-race, finishing eighth ahead of Alfa Romeos’ Zhou Guanyu and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda rounding out the points places.  The race though had plenty of action, with the race seeing three Red Flags with only 12 cars finishing in an eventful race from start to finish. The lone-remaining Ferrari of Carlos Sainz was handed a five second penalty for his clash with Alonso at the penultimate restart, while both Alpine’s of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly were summoned to the Stewards post race for their coming together which ended both their races during the penultimate restart. 

The troubles seemed to continue for Ferrari as they left Melbourne without points and kept falling off in the Constructor’s battle while it was reverse fortunes in the Mercedes garage as Lewis Hamilton scored his first podium of the 2023 season and became the first ever driver to score podiums in 17 consecutive seasons. While Red Bull continue to speed away in both standings, Aston Martin and Mercedes look like they will be involved in a closely fought second place Constructor’s standings. The midfield battle amongst Alpine, AlphaTauri, Haas and Alfa Romeo also seems to be picking up, with all teams having got on the board with points, following the Australian race.

Max Verstappen led from the line as the lights went out but it was Mercedes’ George Russell who got the better start on the inside line, starting P2. Russell overtook Verstappen for the race lead going into the first turn while Russell’s teammate Lewis Hamilton attacked Verstappen on turn three to put the Dutchman into third position. While Verstappen lost a couple of places in the opening few corners, it was worse for Ferrari as Charles Leclerc went onto the gravel and beached himself to end his race early. Leclerc’s retirement saw an early Safety Car being deployed. Racing resumed on lap 4 with Russell leading Hamilton from Verstappen and Sainz with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso having dropped to fifth after starting fourth. 

The Safety Car was deployed once again on lap 7, as Williams’ Alex Albon went into the barriers at turn 7 after losing his rear wing. The crash into the barriers broke Albon’s front wing. The Safety Car saw race leader George Russell come in for an early pit and so did the lone Ferrari of Carlos Sainz. The race was Red Flagged on lap 8, as Albon’s car had to be removed from the track along with the debris from the crash and with the barriers having to be fixed. Racing resumed after 16 mins with Lewis Hamilton leading Verstappen with Alonso in third. Hamilton managed to keep his lead while Verstappen had to get his elbows out to keep Alonso behind him going into turn one. Verstappen retook the lead of the race on lap 12 as he breezed past Hamilton just before turn 9 and inside a lap of overtaking Hamilton, Verstappen was more than two seconds clear of Hamilton. While one Mercedes was passed by Verstappen, the other Mercedes of George Russell, who was leading the race at one point, overtook Alpine’s Pierre Gasly for fourth place on lap 14. Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Pérez who started the race from last place was up to 13th by the 16th lap as the Mexican was looking for a strong points finish after a disappointing qualifying that saw Pérez get knocked out in Q1.

George Russell’s power unit blew up as his car caught fire on lap 18, which ended the Brit’s race and brought out the Virtual Safety Car. The VSC ended on lap 19 and Verstappen got racing underway while Hamilton and Alonso were battling it out behind the race leader. Sergio Pérez was up into the points positions by lap 23, as the Red Bull driver was on a tremendous charge through the field. Carlos Sainz meanwhile got past Pierre Gasly for fourth position at turn three, going on the inside of the Alpine in a bold move which paid off for the Ferrari driver. By lap 40, Verstappen was over 9 seconds clear from Hamilton, who had Fernando Alosno just a second behind him. Behind the Aston Martin in third place, there was a long DRS train consisting of Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, Lance Stroll and Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg, who was having a stellar race in the points. 

Pérez got past McLaren’s Lando Norris at turn 8 on lap 44, to take the eighth place from the Brit, after having spent quite a while to get past the McLaren. Norris meanwhile retook eighth place from Nico Hülkenberg following a strong tussle with the German driver, on lap 53. Nico Hülkenberg’s teammate Kevin Magnussen’s race ended on lap 54 as his rear tyre came off after hitting the barriers on turn two and also broke his rear suspension. With a tyre loose on the track, the Safety Car was out once again. With the amount of debris on the track, the race was Red Flagged once again with two laps of racing remaining in the race. 

The race got underway for the final time following a standing restart. With no DRS available for the cars, it was all on pure pace for the teams on the restart. Verstappen got off the line the best but it was Carlos Sainz who rammed into Fernando Alonso to drop the Aston Martin to 14th, while Esteban Ocon, Logan Sargeant and Lance Stroll all ended up in the gravel or the wall following a clash between the two Alpines. The race was immediately red flagged, for a third time with Hamilton in second place behind Verstappen with Carlos Sainz in third. The race restarted for a third time, with the final one getting underway with a rolling start and it was Verstappen who took the chequered flag from Hamilton with Alonso in third after the race restarted in the order of the previous restart. Carlos Sainz was given a five second penalty for crashing into Alonso and his penalty dropped him to 12th place from fourth. In his first ever home race, Oscar Piastri scored points finishing eighth in front of his home crowd. Verstappen meanwhile scored his first ever Australian Grand Prix win and gave Red Bull their first Australian Grand Prix win since Sebastian Vettel won in 2011.

For Red Bull, it was another stellar weekend and the team now have won all three of the opening three races and Verstappen has opened up a nice gap to Pérez in the Driver’s Standing while Red Bull and Aston Martin continue to hold one and two in the Constructor’s Standings. It was a strong weekend for Haas as well with Hülkenberg finishing sixth, while McLaren got off the mark, scoring their first points of the season with a double points finish. Yuki Tsunoda’s point got AlphaTauri their first points of the season as well, with all teams having scored points at the completion of the third round of the Formula One calendar. Red Bull now are 65 points clear of Aston Martin in second place while Mercedes are 9 adrift of Aston Martin. McLaren jump to fifth with 12 points from the Australian race while Haas are seventh with seven points, just one point ahead of Alfa Romeo in eighth. 

With no races until April 30, Formula One takes an unprecedentedly long break and it just might be the exact thing that some of the teams need before we hit the ground running in three weeks time in Baku, Azerbaijan. 

Aditya Chaudhuri

Hailing from the City of Joy, the things that bring me joy are cricket, a good non-tilt CS:GO session, F1 and movies.

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