It was a race that many said reignited the debate surrounding whether F1 is about show business over racing, but yesterday’s Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne was a mesmerising couple of hours of chaos, class and kerfuffle. Here are five things we learned as Max Verstappen drove to a second win of the 2023 F1 season.
In his first ever win Down Under, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen extended his lead at the top of the 2023 driver standings but it was not a win in the same fashion as his red carpet parade in Saudi Arabia.
Overtaken by both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes on the first lap, Verstappen looked as if he was on the back foot – and soon blamed others for losing places. But three red flags later the Grand Prix finished with the cars rolling over the line under safety car flags with Verstappen in the lead.
It wasn’t a classic and it was not pretty but Verstappen got the job done, a key attribute of any aspiring three-time world champion.
Teammate Sergio Perez joined Verstappen in showing how incredible the Red Bull pace is at the moment, breezing past every other team in the process on his way to fifth having started last.
Arrows finding target
It may have taken three races but Hamilton’s second place was his, and Mercedes’, first podium of the season.
Everybody knew the Silver Arrows would be taking upgrades to Melbourne and other drivers – including Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz – had suggested their rivals had been underplaying the improvements.
But it is a welcome return for Mercedes to the podium and there are hopes old rivalries could reignite for the rest of the season.
Astonishing F1 start
It’s three races and three podiums for Alonso and Aston Martin. And though the second red flag restart saw the Spaniard hit by Sainz and plummet down the rankings, due to the time in the race his third place was reinstated for the rolling finish – which caused some controversy.
Anyhow, it is good to see the 41-year-old back in the mix after a number of years without success in Formula 1.
Moreover, it is promising to see another constructor fighting for points at the top end of the championship – where Aston Martin are now second.
Le F1 Flop
His DNF in Bahrain was looked on as misfortune, but a seventh placed-finish in Saudi Arabia followed by another DNF in Melbourne seems to suggest that Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc might just be on a bad run of luck.
Last season’s failure to challenge throughout the year was put down to Ferrari’s tactical choices but it’s the luck of the Prancing Horses this season that’s ruining any charge on the title.
In Australia Leclerc was hit on the first lap and became beached in the gravel on turn four, a rotten string of luck continuing for the Monégasque driver.
Orange is the new scorer
It may only be six points for Lando Norris and four for Oscar Piastri but it represents the first points for McLaren this season.
The Woking-based outfit have been dogged with issues in this campaign amid reports of issues with their car dating back months.
It’s a small step forward for the Papaya team but in this sport, a single point can be the difference between a good and a monster payout at the end of the season.
We’re stuck without a Grand Prix until the final day of this month so just revel in the utter madness that unfolded yesterday morning in Melbourne.