Verstappen wins dramatic Australian Grand Prix

Verstappen wins despite three red-flag race stoppages in Melbourne

It’s been 12 years since Red Bull’s previous victory in Melbourne, back in 2011 with Sebastian Vettel, though few doubted Max Verstappen’s ability to break the team’s poor run of form this weekend.

Although Verstappen ultimately appeared to dominate proceedings, there was nothing easy about it. His qualifying margin to George Russell and Lewis Hamilton was less than expected, and losing out at the race start to the Mercedes duo wasn’t something anyone could’ve predicted after Red Bull’s domination so far this season. 

In what became a complex race, Verstappen kept a cool head. His only mistake, which could have been catastrophic, was an off-track moment following a front lock-up, possibly caused by a loss of concentration or focus.

Winners of this race include Haas, who are delighted with Nico Hulkenberg’s seventh, and McLaren with both cars scoring points – much to the team’s relief – including points for Oscar Piastri who became the third Australian driver (alongside Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo) to score his first Formula 1 points during his first home race. 

Losers most definitely include Williams and Alpine – the former when Alex Albon crashed while running strongly, and the latter when both drivers collided. If there was one thing Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly needed to focus on this year, it was avoiding each other.

It was also another tough weekend for Ferrari who were, once again, outperformed by three teams in qualifying and then left to reflect on a retirement for Charles Leclerc and a stiff penalty for Carlos Sainz during the second restart. After a difficult start to the season for the Italian team, surely things can only get better, can’t they?

While there was much controversy about the restarts, particularly the way in which the race ended, Race Control applied the rules regarding stoppages and restarts in accordance with the rule book. 

The problem F1 continually comes up against is that the media and fans speculate while Race Control is making decisions, allowing for a frenzy of opinion, speculation, and armchair expertise across social and mainstream media. In my opinion, F1 and the FIA would benefit from a channel explaining rules about incidents in real time to clarify F1’s rule book; without such a channel, the absence of information is filled with the white noise of opinion.

A final thought goes to Russell who drove superbly all weekend, qualifying second and taking first place on the opening lap. It was sheer bad luck that his pit stop was followed by a red flag. The power unit failure later in the race is a rare occurrence for Mercedes which will no doubt be investigated thoroughly and urgently. 

The good news is that the W14 appears to be improving, even if Hamilton said he felt disconnected from the car. On the basis of what we have seen, Mercedes may be out of contention for winning titles, but the race for the runner up slot is firmly on.

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