F1: Absolute Chaos in Australia


Over the weekend, Formula 1 continued its 2023 season in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix. Heading into the weekend, Red Bull was on a mission to continue its run of form after winning the first two races of the season. Another team that wanted to continue their form was Aston Martin with Fernando Alonso finishing third in the previous two races.

In qualifying, the big shock was that the Red Bull of Sergio Perez crashed out, putting him dead last in P20. Meanwhile, his teammate, Max Verstappen, was able to put his car on pole ahead of the Mercedes duo of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton in second and third, respectively, and Alonso in fourth. The Ferrari cars of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc were in fifth and seventh. Due to his early exit, Perez changed various parts of the engine. These parts exceeded his allocation for the season, so Perez was forced to start from the pit lane. Normally it brings a grid penalty but since he was last, it was a good time to add more components to his seasonal allocation to avoid taking more penalties in future races. When the lights went out on Sunday, Verstappen had a poor start compared to the Mercedes pair and fell down to third. A little bit further back, Leclerc went off the track after colliding with Alonso’s teammate Lance Stroll and got stuck in the gravel trap, forcing him out of the race to make it two DNF’s in three races so far. This brought out the safety car to remove the stricken Ferrari. On lap four, the safety car was called back in and the green flag was shown with Verstappen trying to get past both Hamilton and then Russell. However, on lap seven, another safety car was brought out due to the Williams of Alex Albon crashing out of the race. Russell and Sainz used this safety car period to pit and effectively get a “cheaper” pit stop. Unfortunately, the red flag was then shown due to the amount of gravel that got onto the track from the Albon crash. Under a red flag, drivers can switch tires, effectively giving them a free pit stop. This put Russell in seventh and Sainz down to 11th. Nearly everyone put on the hard tires so that they could go to the end of the race without pitting again. Hamilton now was leading from Verstappen and then Alonso who was in third.

Once the track was cleared, the cars lined up on the grid for the restart. When the lights went out for a second time, everyone got away cleanly with Hamilton staying ahead of Verstappen and then Alonso. On lap 12, Verstappen took the lead and didn’t look back, building a gap to Hamilton. Alonso was just out of Drag Reduction System (DRS) range from Hamilton as both drivers were managing their tires to make it to the end of the race while at the same time Verstappen was building a gap. On lap 18, the Virtual Safety Car was brought out as Russell retired due to an engine failure, but it only lasted a lap before the green flag was shown. Meanwhile as the race continued, Perez was slowly picking off drivers one by one as he continued his recovery drive.

However on lap 54, the Haas of Kevin Magnussen crashed out by hitting the barrier with his rear right wheel, causing the tire to fall off and debris to get onto the track. This brought out a safety car which was then changed to a red flag on lap 55, giving us a sprint to the finish. The top seven at this point was Verstappen, Hamilton, Alonso, Sainz, the Alpine of Pierre Gasly, Stroll and then Perez. On lap 57, when the lights went out for a third time, Verstappen got away cleanly and held the lead from Hamilton into turn one. Right behind them, Gasly locked up, forcing Perez to take evasive action and drive through the gravel. At the same time, Sainz tagged Alonso in the back, spinning his compatriot out of the final podium place. There was also a massive crash between Gasly and his teammate Esteban Ocon with both cars retiring, causing debris to go all over the place. This brought out another red flag. With the drivers going into the pits, it meant that if the race resumed, the formation lap would be the final lap. In addition to that, since a full sector wasn’t completed before the red flag, the race reverted back to the order at the restart which would promote Alonso back into third and Perez back into seventh. It was also announced that Sainz was given a five-second penalty for the incident with Alonso. When the cars went back onto the track, Verstappen crossed the line to win a hectic Australian Grand Prix with Hamilton in second and Alonso in third. Sainz crossed the line fourth but because of his penalty he was demoted to 12th, the last of the race finishers and taking him out of the points. This promoted Perez to fifth, a wonderful recovery drive from starting in the pit lane. This was a weekend to forget for Ferrari with neither car scoring a single point.Verstappen leads the championship, 15 points ahead of Perez. Red Bull also lead the constructors championship with 123 points, 58 points ahead of Aston Martin in second. Meanwhile, Ferrari is fourth with a lowly 26 points with Leclerc 10th in the drivers standings with only six points after three races. The next race is in four weeks for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. One thing to note is that Baku will have a sprint race, which will change the race weekend. Baku has had its fair share of chaos, so expect the unexpected in a race that is sure to excite.