Verstappen Stands Out, Rivals Shine
This here is Formula 1. The 2023 Australian Grand Prix, which was merely Stage 3 of the prevailing year, brought a lot of lively driving that we had not witnessed since the commencement of the aerodynamic era in the preceding year due to three red flags and four starts/restarts. Ultimately, it was Max Verstappen who triumphed over Sir Lewis Hamilton as second and third respectively, Fernando Alonso taking the remaining spot on the podium – a total of 11 Drivers’ Championships altogether between the three drivers!
At the commencement of lap one, Max Verstappen failed to make it up to the front with George Russell and Sir Lewis Hamilton in their Mercedes soaring ahead. Nonetheless, who endured the greatest misfortune was Charles Leclerc from Ferrari as he got hit by Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin with results seeing him effectively ending up in the sand for an instant retirement.
After fending off a series of skirmishes across the track, disaster struck Alex Albon in his Williams car, which had been running strong inside the top 10. This caused the red flag to be shown, restarting the race after some drivers already stopped for pit-lane repairs under the Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series safety car, which made more appearances than most of the F1 drivers. Consequently, this exiled Russell from the top position and demoted Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. down the standings, providing Verstappen the luxury of a tire switch for the redo. Unfortunately, Russell would later suffer a power unit failure which generated a blazing inferno that put a swift end to what seemed to be promising performance from the British upstart.
Nevertheless, Hamilton capitalised on the restart and bounded into first place, where he remained for several laps before the overwhelming performance of Verstappen took control. Apart from a shaky episode which occurred in the second-last turn with 15 rotations left to go, it seemed as though Max was heading for a straightforward victory.
A dramatic moment occured in the waning hours of the day with four laps remaining. Kevin Magnussen of Team Haas experienced a heavy impact as he came out of Turn 2 that removed his right-rear wheel, sparking another red flag just three laps from finishing. Because the formation lap will take away one lap, this would leave only two to race without DRS.
Verstappen magnificently impeded Hamilton into the first corner, however as Alonso sliced through from his third place on the grid, he was suddenly sideswiped by Carlos Sainz and spun out. The two drivers for Alpine (Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly) made a disastrous mistake while racing vigorously, prompting another interruption of play due to the red flag.
The drivers did not all make it through the initial sector of the track, prompting the FIA to reset the event for another start with the same racers on the grid as was previously done at the 2022 Silverstone Grand Prix, which ended up being a huge help for Fernando Alonso. This time, the cars went behind the safety car for a formation lap before racing resumed, finishing only 15 laps later with Verstappen winning over Hamilton, followed by Alonso, Stroll, Perez, Norris, Hulkenberg, Piastri, Zhou and Tsunoda in the remaining point placings. Sadly, just 12 competitors managed to complete the race since Bottas in 11th and Sainz in 12th were given a final minute penalty.
The eventual outcome however does not provide a complete account of the race, and several stories could be derived from the Australian Formula One Grand Prix. No matter where drivers found themselves in the pecking order, all managed to garner useful experiences from the event.
After a woefully inadequate start to the year, with McLaren mired down in last place in the Constructors’ standings, suffering from dependability problems, and quite frankly, sorely lacking speed, Australia proffered massive upgrades. Lando Norris maintained comfortably inside the top 10 and showed terrific potential defeating a rampant Sergio Perez, who had taken off from the pits plying up from last. Furthermore, he was running times as quick as the front-runners, even if he remained mostly unacknowledged during the broadcast, he exceeded expectations of what his car could do to arrive 6th.
Compatriot Oscar Piastri could not match the rhythm at his initial home F1 event and was barely outside of the top ten during much of the affair. The end-of-race disharmony and ensuing retirements, though, saw him climbing to eighth place and receiving points on native soil in the Grand Prix. With these results, McLaren is presently placed 5th in the Constructors’ standings.
For once, Ferrari wasn’t its biggest liability. Lance Stroll ended Charles Leclerc’s participation on Lap 1 of the race, but when it resumed, Sainz was issued with a five-second penalty for his crash into Alonso on the previous race restart. In place of taking 4th position behind the safety car, the other participants pooled backwards once they noticed his punishment, causing him to finish 12th and without any points. One might state that the incident with Alonso was an unavoidable circumstance instead of something deliberate, however the principal concern with the ruling was Race Control declaring the penalty prior to the race recommencing, enabling those trailing Sainz at the start to group up strategizingly to advance higher placements.
We anticipate that Ferrari will submit a formal request for appeal.
Kevin Magnussen may not have been able to compete in the end, however Nico Hulkenberg delivered a remarkable race, fighting for his place in the standings from beginning to end and having a great time. Sadly, due to the chaotic restart at the conclusion of the event, Hulkenberg might have achieved a 4th position if not for it. He finally placed 7th, falling silent after crossing the line but earning critical points nevertheless.
It was a regretful result for the Alpine drivers that they couldn’t complete the event, both of whom had prospects of gaining a substantial number of points throughout the entirety of the race. Unfortunately, while at the start of the chaotic last standing begin, the two subsequently crashed into each other, ending up firmly in the walls with nobody accountable for the wild disarray that took out an entire quarter of the field. Last year their performance, albeit sitting in the bottom end of the midfield, boded well, and with two aggressive racers having a car full of potential to draw on, things seem optimistically bright.
After missing out on qualifying and then commencing at the back after mechanic changes not in compliance with parc ferme rules, Checo mounted a strong comeback to eventually end 5th, amassing an extra point for clocking the swiftest lap of the race. Perez excels when confronted with such issues, and had it not been for Norris obstructing him for numerous laps, he may have even succeeded in catching the podium spots. The rivalry between Red Bull drivers is heating up this year and although there are still 20 races to go in the 2023 campaign, we might be looking at some major competition by its conclusion, if Checo manages to maintain his initial performance.
In his path lies not only championship top dog Verstappen (currently ahead by 15 points), but also Fernando Alonso. The veteran racer secured an impressive 101st podium today and has already achieved 3 third-place finishes. Demonstrating that age is merely a number, he’s managed to relive the glory days and show brilliant track savvy. Throughout this season, he’s made marvelous strides with the Aston Martin auto that appears as if it could be a real player in the competition. If there’s one driver to pay attention to for the continuation of the year, Alonso will hang on the sidelines to take advantage of any scraps between Verstappen and Perez.