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  • Writer's pictureDrew Bentham

F1 Australian 2024 GP Review

The perfect 1-2 victory for Ferrari

A pretty perfect weekend unfolded for the Scuderia Team last time out in Melbourne for the F1 Australian GP. Breaking Red Bull's bid for 10 consecutive victories, the Ferraris scored a perfect 1-2 finish at Albert Park, they're 86th. Even before Max's shock brake failure saw him out of the race early doors, winner Sainz looked racey and with intent to his driving. It is, of course impossible to say how much the brake problems were hampering the car at the point in which Sainz passed him, but he still had to make the move stick, and stick it did. From there he never looked back, maintaining the lead throughout the race and in the process sending a very clear message to the paddock for next year, the Spaniard still not having secured a contract going forwards.



Ferrari


Sainz will no doubt remember his third Formula 1 win, all claimed with Ferrari and on the Scuderia’s all-time winners list it puts him equal with four world champions, Juan Manuel Fangio, Mike Hawthorn, Phil Hill and Jody Scheckter. Unbelievably, the Spaniard seemed to shake off any effects of his appendectomy 16 days prior and immediately put Verstappen under pressure. On lap 2, when the Dutchman was in difficulty, Carlos made the most of it to get ahead and then mustered all his physical and mental strength to keep focussed, running at an incredibly consistent pace. As the icing on the cake, Carlos won the fan vote for “Driver of the Day.”


Charles also produced a very strong drive, to take a well-deserved second place, which is very important in terms of the championship. Having started fourth, he pulled off the undercut on lap 9 to get ahead of Lando Norris. Then in the final stint, he finished the job, fending off the Englishman who was on tyres that were six laps newer than his own. In the end, he also ensured he picked up another valuable point by setting the fastest race lap.


Team Principal, Fred Vasseur had this to say after the race.


Today, I want to congratulate the whole team, because everyone did a perfect job and this one-two is the reward for the amazing work which began last season and is now ongoing both at the track and back in Maranello. Of course, Carlos deserves a special mention because a little over two weeks ago he was undergoing surgery. Now it’s as if that never happened and he managed to stay focussed throughout, to round off a sensational weekend.
Charles also produced a solid performance because, after a less than perfect qualifying, he had to manage the tyres, but he was able to fight back thanks to the performance he got from the car. He did really well in the first and last stints and the fastest race lap he picked up right at the end confirms the progress we have made in terms of tyre management.
We have been quick all weekend right from the first free practice and I think we have made a good step forward compared to where we were one year ago, when we left Melbourne having failed to score points. We were not disappointed with our results in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, nor are we getting carried away because of this one-two finish. We must continue with this approach in the coming races because that’s the only way we are going to get the results we want.


McLaren on track

McLaren


Further down the field, the McLarens too had a good race, both Lando and Oscar held onto their positions at the start of the race, before benefitting from Max Verstappen’s retirement when they were promoted to second and fourth. Although Lando lost a place to Charles Leclerc in the pits, both drivers were able to keep up with the Ferrari’s at the front of the field, whilst comfortably holding off those behind.


Earning their first Australian Grand Prix podium since 2014, Norris claimed a maiden podium of the season at the Albert Park Circuit, and his 14th overall, whilst levelling with Alain Prost for Formula 1 Grand Prix starts at McLaren. Finishing third, directly ahead of his teammate Oscar, both drivers had believed their pace was better than they’d been anticipating going into the weekend.


Lando commented after the race,

Our first podium of the season! It was a very good day for us. P3, P4 and lots of points in the championship. I think our pace was strong today, but Ferrari and Carlos did a very good job, so hats off to them. They’ve been fast all weekend. The car felt good, and I could manage the tyres very well today, and that was a good step.  
It’s clear that this circuit suits us a little bit more, so we’ve been able to push and unlock a little bit of speed. But Ferrari and Red Bull are still one or two steps ahead of us, so we need to catch up. A big thanks to everyone in McLaren, they’ve been working incredibly hard. We’re getting closer to our target. I wasn’t expecting to be on the podium but it’s nice to be back, I’m very happy and proud of our team. Hopefully, we can have many more.


Mercedes


For Toto and the rest of the team, things seem to be going from dire to disastrous. The failed to perform once again in Quali but this turned out to be the best of the weekend. Hamilton, who is enduring possibly the worse season of his career to date, was well off the pace. Lewis had started on the Soft tyre, with the aim of making up some early ground and both he and George made up a place off the line. With Verstappen's early exit, George was up to P5, and after the first round of stops put both drivers on the Hard tyre, Lewis had gained a place against Tsunoda before the engine finally let go on lap 15.


The resulting Virtual Safety Car period put George behind Alonso in the Aston Martin, but a strong run on the Hard tyres allowed George to extend his second stint. He emerged in P7, but just three seconds behind the Spaniard, and began the chase. It was a chase that ended with George beached in the middle of the racetrack just a lap from the flag. Russell immediately and repeatedly called for a red flag on the team radio. The race was instead nullified with a VSC, bringing the race to a close.


He added post-race

He [Alonso] braked earlier than on the previous lap. I wasn't expecting it. I hit the wall and had a dramatic few seconds after that.

The Spaniard's was subsequently given a 20-second penalty post race for action that contributed to the accident. The no score also signalled the first pointless weekend for the team in 63 races, since the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.



P8 for Alonso after 20s penalty

Aston Martin


The team achieved a second double points finish of the season with Lance classified in P6, and Fernando in P8. Both sides of the garage started on different tyre strategies to complete two-stop races at Albert Park. Lance starting on the Medium whilst Fernando began the race on the Hard tyre. Taking advantage of the VSC period following Lewis Hamilton’s retirement, Fernando was able to gain time and track position as he pitted whilst the race was neutralised. 


Fernando crossed the line in P6 but received a post-race drive-through penalty after an incident involving George Russell that saw the Mercedes driver crash. This was converted to 20 seconds added to his race time, which demoted him to eighth in the final standings.


During the post-race media debrief he said,


We were a little lucky with the timing of the Virtual Safety Car when Lewis [Hamilton] retired. Then I was pretty happy sat behind Checo [Perez] because I could use the DRS to pull a gap. I lost a lot of time when Charles [Leclerc] came out from the pits – but those seconds we gained proved to be gold dust at the end.
In the closing laps, George caught me quickly. I knew that he was coming, then he was in DRS range for five or six laps, so I was just doing qualifying laps to stay ahead. I wanted to maximise my exit speed from Turn Six to defend against him. That's what any racing driver would do, and I didn't feel it was dangerous. It's disappointing to get a penalty from the stewards for what was hard but fair racing. Still, I'm glad that George is okay. It was not nice to see his car in the middle of the track.
This wasn’t the best weekend for us in terms of pace, but our race was well executed: good strategy, incredible pit-stops, great reliability. I think we probably scored more points today than our pace merited – but we'll take that.



Williams


After destroying his car in FP1 and inheriting his team-mates car, Albon eventually qualified in P12. In the race, Albon was beaten into turn 1 by Valtteri Bottas, before Kevin Magnussen got past him at Turn 10 during the opening lap. Alex regained a place thanks to an undercut during a pit stop on Lap 7 which allowed him to leapfrog the Haas and had enough in hand to ensure that he maintained the undercut on Pierre Gasly and Nico Hulkenberg after the VSC for Hamilton's retirement.


A brief run in 10th ended when Alex made his second stop. He couldn’t quite find the pace to break back into the top 10 after that and he finished under the VSC, in P11.


After the race he said,


The early pit stops were disguising our lack of race pace today; we tried to stay in the race by pitting early and getting back track position but ultimately the pace of our competitors was too strong.
Every time I tried to match the pace with the cars around me, I would grain, and when I could do my own race, I was three and a half tenths off the pace.
We had a lot of graining and were fighting the car everywhere, so we need to have a good look at why. With three of the top teams retiring, it’s frustrating that we couldn’t capitalise on this and our rivals did, but it shows our pace wasn’t quick enough to still be sitting outside the points.
It’s been a tough weekend for us at Williams but we’ve pulled through quite well and really come together as a team. Everyone at the track has really dug deep so I can only thank them for their hard work and dedication and of course to Logan for being a true team player.
Truthfully, I’m quite happy with my performance considering the circumstances but we’re going to continue to rally as a team and hopefully come back fighting in Japan.

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