F1 – Australian GP – Race
G’day, MiniFans! Yesterday, qualifying left a few surprises, with both Spaniards on the grid getting caught by Alonso’s crash due to a failure of his hydraulics system, two red flags and Haas not performing the way they had in the first two races of the season, while McLaren seemed to be back in form. Nevertheless, we’re back in Australia after last racing here in 2019, so let’s see what Albert Park has in store for us!
The start was clean, but Sainz’s choice of hard tyres weighted him down and he dropped a few places, eventually needing to retire as he lost control of his car in the second lap. The Ferrari ended up stuck in the gravel after a trip over grass rendered him unable to tell his car where to go. A safety car was deployed and the race was slowed down for a few laps. Meanwhile, Hamilton, at the front, had managed to climb up to third, overtaking Pérez and settling behind Verstappen. Aston Martin tried something with Stroll as they waited for the safety car period to end: they pitted him twice, to get rid of the compulsory two compounds rule and get him back to hards to try and last to the end of the race.
The race was restarted after Sainz’s car was removed from the gravel and all eyes turned to Hamilton, who was losing time to Leclerc and Verstappen. Pérez soon overtook him, regaining third place, and quickly pulled away from the British driver. A group of four Mercedes-powered cars was formed behind Hamilton, but he managed to pull away slightly from his teammate and the McLarens.
The first proper stops started to come around lap 18, and Verstappen getting out of the pits helped Alonso to overtake Gasly, as the Spaniard’s experience took over while the Red Bull slowed them down a bit due to cold tyres. Then, we saw something we don’t see very often: an overcut from Hamilton to Pérez, but the Mexican driver did not back down and used his warmed up tyres to get his position back from the Mercedes.
Not even halfway through the race, a second safety car came out, this time courtesy of Vettel, who lost control of his car and crashed into the wall. Russell could take advantage of it, as he had yet to pit, and thus came out in third place, while Alonso’s hard tyres had made it so he was in fourth, but he didn’t box, as mediums wouldn’t last to the end of the race. This restart prompted a small fight for first, but Leclerc stuck his elbows out and Verstappen was soon dropping back once again.
With 20 laps to go, a clearly upset Russell didn’t put up too much opposition to Pérez overtaking him, after his pit wall made it clear that he wouldn’t make it to the end on his tyres if he kept the battle going. Yet another safety car, this time only a virtual one due to how easy it was to get the car out, came out as Verstappen was asked to stop his Red Bull, having smelled something weird and making him score the second zero in three races. Alonso took advantage of it and finally pitted, fitting mediums while almost everyone else had used hards on.
The last ten laps of the race weren’t like Jeddah when it came to the race win, but third place presented an interesting battle, with Russell and Hamilton being the only two candidates for the last step of the podium. The seven-time world champion complained that his team had put him in a bad position, but it had actually been the safety car that had placed Russell in front of him. There wasn’t a real battle anyway, allowing Russell to score his first podium with Mercedes, as Leclerc cruised to the finish line in first place and Pérez in second.
Today was one of those races where “nothing is set in stone until the checkered flag is waved” came to life. Red Bull’s reliability problems came to the surface, as Verstappen was forced to retire yet again, as was Sainz, but the Ferrari not finishing was due to a driving mistake. Mercedes finished in third and fourth, not due to them fixing their car, but rather other cars messing up, and Russell could finally enjoy his first real podium in F1.