AUSTRALIAN GP – Charles Leclerc dominates down under with first grand slam as Max Verstappen retires

Testing & Race Reports

Charles Leclerc took a dominant victory to move almost two wins ahead of his early championship rival in the Australian Grand Prix. The Ferrari driver held the lead at the start and went on to win the race by twenty seconds, ahead of the Mercedes of George Russell and his first career grand slam.

It was a perfect race, holding on to the lead at the start and then maintaining it following an early safety car caused by teammate Carlos Sainz. Leclerc on the opening lap before the safety car had opened up a six-second lead over Verstappen, with it looking to be another close race.

The Spaniard made a poot start and tried to overtake at Clark, after making a bad start he dropped to ninth in the first sector while trying to make up positions he broke too late running off and beaching his Ferrari in the gravel. Leclerc in the opening stint clearly showed the Ferrari had the pace, with Verstappen struggling on the tyres.

However, the battle between Leclerc-Verstappen was brought to a premature end when the Red Bull driver was forced to retire during the second stint on lap thirty-nine. The team once again suspected a fuel pick up issue was the cause of his retirement.

Leclerc had still been in control with the gap being five seconds, before Verstappen suffered what looked to be a power unit failure, suddenly stopping at Jones on lap thirty-nine bringing out the VSC. Verstappen said he detected a “weird smell” before being told to pull over.

He said, “We’re already miles behind, so I don’t even want to think about the championship fight at the moment. Today was in generally just a bad day and not really having the pace. But we didn’t even finish the race, which is pretty frustrating and unacceptable.”

Ferrari looking to be the team to beat this season they now hold a thirty-nine point lead in the constructors, while Leclerc has a thirty-four point lead in the drivers.

Mercedes George Russell finished third, taking advantage of the VSC allowed him to make a free stop maintaining track position ahead of Fernando Alonso. Russell taking his first podium for Mercedes, one which was on merit following the fiasco at Spa last August.

He added, “We got a bit lucky twice, but we’ll take it and there is so much work going on to try to get us back to the front. To be standing on the podium is special.”

The Alpine driver had been hunted down by both Sergio Perez and Russell, before becoming easy pickings on old tyres allowing both to pass.

McLaren secured their first double points finish of the season, Lando Norris finishing four-tenths ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo. It has been a stronger weekend for McLaren at the slower speed street circuit in Albert Park, there will be hopes that this could be the start of better performance for the team to maintain their position as best of the midfield, ahead of Esteban Ocon.

Valtteri Bottas snatched eighth from Pierre Gasly after the Alpha Tauri locked up and went wide at Ascari, this followed a thrilling multi-car scrap including Alonso and Lance Stroll. Alonso had tried an alternate strategy which backfired and dropped him to seventeenth. Pierre Gasly was ninth ahead of the Williams of Alex  Albon rounding out the points.

Guanyu Zhou finished seven seconds ahead of Lance Stroll, the Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin being the final cars on the lead lap. Haas’s early promise appears to have disappeared, although it could be circuit dependent, Mick Schumacher finishing ahead of teammate Kevin Magnussen.

 

Jack

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