Three F1 Champions Podium in Australia!

This race weekend was full of drama.  It was our first wet weekend of the year, though race day was a wonderful sunny day.  The wet weather and cool temperatures affected tire usage and team strategy during the practice sessions.  It is difficult to determine what your car can do if the weather suddenly changes on race day.  Next, Sergio Perez experienced significant issues during FP3 that carried over into qualification.  His passenger side tire locked up heading into turn three and he beached his car in the sand with 11 minutes left in Q1.  He started the race from pit lane.  Finally, the race itself was a story.  There were eight DNF’s and two red flags by the time the race ended.  Lap one started with a yellow flag because Charles Leclerc went off track into the gravel between turns two and three, ending his race before he really started.  The last lap of the race was a rolling restart with no passing allowed.

Red Bull driver Sergio Perez of Mexico is on the first lap of qualifying ahead of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne, Saturday, April 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

The Melbourne Grand Prix circuit features 14 turns, four DRS zones on 3.2 miles of paved streets.  58 laps must be run to complete the race.  During the practice sessions, the Red Bull’s and Aston Martin’s were performing well.  Mercedes was surging and Alpine was surprising the field.  Practice and qualification keyed us to who looked competitive.


At the end of qualification, seven teams had a car in the top ten.  Both drivers from Ferrari, Aston Martin and Mercedes made it into the top 10 for qualification.  Max Verstappen was the loan Red Bull driver, followed by Alex Albon from Williams, Pierre Gasly from Alpine and Nico Hulkenberg from Haas.  The die was cast for race day.

Cars turn through the first corner during the start of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne, Sunday, April 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

Lap one was chaotic.  As the grid took off, George Russell overtook Verstappen heading into turn one.  Coming out of turn two Lewis Hamilton overtook Verstappen as well.  As the grid sped towards turn 3. Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and Leclerc’s Ferrari collided, sending Leclerc into the gravel and ending his race.  Green Flag racing resumed on lap three.

The car of Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc of Monaco is lifter from a gravel trap after he went off in the first lap during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne, Sunday, April 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Scott Barbour)

Red Flags waved during lap eight because Albon’s Williams rear end got loose sending him into the wall on a turn.  The impact knocked the front and rear spoiler off the Williams.  The race was red flagged due to all the damage and debris on track.  Most of the teams took the opportunity to do their one required tire change believing they should be able to make it to the end of the race.


When the race resumed, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso were the top three drivers.  During lap 12, Verstappen overtook Hamilton on the long straight and never looked back.  Unfortunately, during lap 18, the yellow flags waved again because the power unit in Russell’s Mercedes caught fire just as he was passing the entry to pit lane.  His promising day was done.  One of the most impressive feats to watch was Sergio Perez working his way thru the field of drivers.  By lap 21, Checo had broken into the top ten.  Gasly turned heads due to how fast he was running in his Alpine.  He spent most of his day somewhere between fourth and sixth place.

Mercedes driver George Russell of Britain, left, watches as course marshals extinguish an engine fire in his car during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne, Sunday, April 2, 2023. (Simon Baker/Pool via AP)

Lap 32 featured five different teams in the top five and seven different teams in the top eight.  Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari, and Alpine all had at least one car in the top eight, with only Aston Martin featuring both of the drivers in the top eight.  For much of the race about one second separated Hamilton from Alonso and Alonso from Carlos Sainz.  By lap 44, Sergio Perez had worked his way to seventh.  With ten laps to go, all three world champions occupied the top three spots.  All they needed to do is ride the race out.


The race was reflagged once again.  This time, during lap 54, Kevin Magnussen lost control of his car and hit the wall hard at the exit of turn 2 causing him to lose his passenger side rear tire.  Some debris scattered on the road as the tire bounced its way down the track.  Most of the drivers were surprised that the race was red-flagged because Magnussen’s Haas was driven off the track and the debris appeared to be minimal.  In fact, it took race control another lap to red flag the race.  They could have ended the race and finished the laps on a yellow flag.  Race control decided to red flag the race to clean up the track and give the fans two more laps of racing.  Still, with only two laps to go, stopping and restarting the race at this juncture was aggravating at best, and a total loss for some teams at worst.


At the restart, the top ten line up was Verstappen, Hamilton, Alonso, Sainz, Gasly, Lance Stroll, Perez, Lando Norris, Hulkenberg and Esteban Ocon.  At this point in the race only four drivers were out of the race.  On the restart, all the drivers new that there would be no DRS.  At least two laps have to be driven before DRS will be turned on after a re-start.


Verstappen had an excellent restart, getting ahead of Hamilton and cutting him off as they sped towards turn one.  Verstappen was well away heading towards turn two.  Behind him, Alonso was following Hamilton closely at the immediate exit of turn one.  Unfortunately, Carlos Sainz failed to give Alonso any room at the turn and his front driver side wheel made contact with Alonso’s rear passenger side wheel spinning Alonso out and seemingly caused chaos to the cars clustered behind the front runners.

Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso of Spain races through a corner during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne, Sunday, April 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

However not all the chaos that occurred was specifically caused by this dust up.  Perez and Gasly locked up their brakes at turn one, sending Perez into the grass but Gasly was able to press on back on the track.  Further back in the field, Logan Sargeant was running two fast into turn one and as he locked up his brakes he rear ended Nyck De Vries’s AlphaTauri spinning him out of the race and sending Sargeant into the gravel.


As Gasly was merging back on the track, Alonso was still spinning on the far right of the track at the top of turn two causing Norris to pinch the middle of the track to avoid the spinning Aston Martin.  Hulkenberg’s Haas was being squeezed by the McLaren and Gasly’s Alpine.  However, the Haas and the McLaren were able to get away cleanly.  As Gasly was speeding towards turn three he squeezed his teammate on the right of the track, they collided and both Alpines ended up into the wall in a massive wreck.  There was no on Gasly’s left, unfortunately he just made an error taking him and his teammate completely out of the points.


The flag was red-flagged and there was some debate on how to end the race.  Fortunately, there was precedent from Silverstone last year.  Because the drivers had not made it thru the first sector, the finishing order is the last known quantifiable order.  The last known quantifiable order was the order of the grid at the restart.  The race was restarted under yellow flag, and no passing was allowed.  Carlos Sainz was assessed a 5 second penalty knocking him from fourth to twelfth.   The rules also state that you must finish the race under your own power. Due to the two Alpines knocking each other out, the grid adjusted up to fill their lost spaces.


This is one of the few times in Formula 1 history that we have seen three formula 1 world champions on the podium together.  Verstappen, Hamilton and Alonso are all great drivers with historic careers.  Though the race was chaotic, it was awesome to witness this great moment in history.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain, left, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of Netherlands, and Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso of Spain, right, attend a post-race press conference after the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne, Sunday, April 2, 2023. Verstappen won the race while Hamilton came 2nd and Alonso took 3rd. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

McLaren finally scored some points today, thanks to eight DNF’s.  They still have a lot of work to do.  Mercedes is really making strides.  It will be interesting to see what their car looks like and how it performs in four weeks at Azerbijan.  Though it was a rough start, Red Bull continued their dominate performance and Aston Martin is showing that they are here to stay in the fight for second place.  Alpine cars have been running strong and it looked like Gasly was going to score some significant points for the team until wreck at the end of the race.  Alpine will look to make up for this massive loss of points and position.


We are three races in, and there are five drivers from four teams occupying the top five slots in the driver’s championship.  Red Bull, Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari.  Charles Leclerc needs to put together a good race to get Ferrari back in the hunt for second or third.  It’s been an exciting season thus far.  We must wait four weeks for more racing.  On to Azerbijan!








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