F1 Race Report: Leclerc — Ferrari Dominate Down Under
10 April 2022
Bob Francis, Managing Editor
Go Full Throttle Racing News
ALBERT PARK, MELBOURNE — A capacity crowd (estimated at over 400,000 for the weekend) jammed Albert Park in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix. After action-packed practice and qualifying sessions, the fans watched Charles Leclerc drive virtually unchallenged to win the 2022 Australian GP and consolidate his and Ferrari’s championship lead. The only serious threat to Leclerc was Red Bull Racing’s and current F1 Champion Max Verstappen, but “Super Max” suffered a second mechanical failure and DNF in three races as his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez raced to P2 and Mercedes’ George Russell P3 completing the podium.
As the race unfolded, Leclerc kept Verstappen in check through two Safety Cars — the first when teammate Carlos Sainz spun out from P14 on Lap 2 and was stuck in the gravel trap, and the second on Lap 23 when Sebastian Vettel crashed and ended what was a terrible weekend for the former champion. Everything changed for Leclerc on Lap 39 when Verstappen pulled his Red Bull № 1 off the circuit with his engine on fire, allowing the Ferrari driver to cruise to victory over Perez, and collect the fastest lap point.
Russell took P3 by gaining track position via pitting during the caution for Vettel’s crash. Hamilton lost out on the podium by two seconds finishing P4. There was some interesting audio over the Mercedes team radio when Hamilton asked: “What does that mean, I’ve lost position?” This message was followed by Hamilton saying: “You guys put me in a really difficult position.”
While some interpreted the message as a criticism of the team, because Russell had got ahead of him at the stops, Hamilton clarified his remarks later to say it was actually nothing to do with the position changes. Instead, he explained that the comment was in reference to him having to back off the pace to be in clear air, because his engine was overheating. “Basically, I couldn’t race for position because the car was overheating,” he explained after finishing fourth. “So I had to back off.”
However, if you listen to the entire series of transmissions in sequence, it is a stretch to dismiss the Hamilton comments without some concern.
Leclerc now has a substantial lead in the Drivers’ Standings with 71 points after 3 races. Zero F1 analysts predicted in the preseason that Leclerc and Russell would be at the top of the points and Hamilton and defending champion Max Verstappen down in P5 and P6.
Leclerc Comments Post Race:
“Honestly, what a car today. Of course, I did [well] all weekend but it was not possible without the car. And this weekend especially in the race pace we were extremely strong. Tyres felt great from the first lap to the last lap, we were managing the tires extremely well and I am just so happy,” said winner Leclerc.
“Obviously we are only at the third race, so difficult to think about the championship, but to be honest we have a very strong car and a very reliable car too… so I hope it continues and if it does we probably have chances for the championship.”