If you look at the podium of the 2023 Australian Grand Prix, it might look like business as usual with Max Verstappen in first place, Lewis Hamilton in second, and Fernando Alonso in third place once again.
However, the race served up drama from the start right up to the finish line. There were so many twists and turns throughout the Grand Prix, and all of them had further repercussions outside of the Australian Grand Prix.
For the moment it looks like it’s going to be a season of Red Bull domination, but it might not be long before we see their rivals fighting back — let’s dive in.
Red Bull's Dominance Continues
If there’s one obvious takeaway from the Australian Grand, it’s that Red Bull remains the team to beat. The Albert Park Circuit has always been (and still is) one of Red Bull’s toughest race tracks to perform on. Before 2023, their only victory in Melbourne came from Sebastian Vettel in 2011.
That’s all changed now with Verstappen taking victory in 2023. The RB19 is the clear favorite on the grid, and Sergio Perez’s drive from the pitlane all the way up to fifth place proved that. The Mexican driver stormed his way through the field with the seemingly overpowered DRS on the Red Bull working overtime on the Albert Park Street Circuit.
Even though he was helped by DRS, it’s clear that the Red Bull still has a clear advantage over other cars once that rear wing flap opens up. Other cars like George Russell’s Mercedes struggled to overtake other cars with DRS where Perez was breezing past.
What’s the secret to their DRS trick? No one knows at the moment, but it’s only a matter of time before the other teams start to catch on!
Gripping Drama in Melbourne
The Australian Grand Prix is the first race in history to have three red flags. The first red flag was brought out on lap eight when Alex Albon lost control of his car and sent gravel onto the racing line.
On lap 55 another red flag was brought out when Kevin Magnussen hit the wall at turn two, causing his right rear tire and some additional debris to be scattered across the race track. The final red flag was triggered on lap 57, just after the race had been restarted — Alpine teammates Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon crashed into each other at turn two following chaos at turn one.
In the final restart of the race, Alonso, Sainz, Ocon, Gasly, Stroll, Sergeant, De Vries, and Perez were all involved in incidents, which caused the order of the race to be completely mixed up — Nico Hulkenberg was on the verge of scoring a podium for Haas!
Remember, the rule in Formula 1 is that when there’s a red flag, the race will restart with a standing start. After this weekend’s chaos, many teams might be asking for this rule to change back to its previous version where the race would be restarted under the safety car with a rolling start.
The incident between Ocon and Gasly is still under investigation. However, if Gasly is found guilty of causing the incident (which is highly likely), he could receive a race ban for the next round because of the number of penalty points on his Super License.
The FIA have been the focal point of criticism from teams, drivers, and fans once again this Sunday. For the most part, things went smoothly. However, most of the criticism comes from the final red flag restart.
There was a ton of confusion about the starting order for the final restart. The cars technically did not complete enough distance (passing the first sector line) to justify the grid order being reverted to what it was before the chaos at turn one. This meant that the chaotic lap where eight cars were involved in incidents and the order had been severely mixed up, technically did not count.
However, Carols Sainz was still given a 5 second time penalty for tagging the rear of Alonso’s car at turn one (on the lap that was deleted). There’s an outrage because Sainz is still being penalized for the incident even though Alonso was given his third place back, and the grid was returned to the order it was in before the race had restarted. Essentially, this takes Sainz from fourth place down to 12th (and dead last).
As a result of the chaos and confusion, Haas lodged a protest against the race result as Hulkenburg was running in fourth place thanks to all the chaos after the restart, but was dropped down to seventh following the grid being reverted to the red flag conditions. If Haas’ protest is successful, it means that Hulkenburg will claim third place at the Australian Grand Prix, giving Haas a podium, but it would also change the entire race classification — it’s unlikely that the Haas protest will be successful.
Ferrari in Trouble
Ferrari have been struggling this entire season. Not only are they struggling for pace, but they’re also having trouble with reliability. It’s caused a ton of frustration in the Ferrari camp and amongst the Tifosi.
However, some Ferrari insiders are reporting that the team have lined up some serious upgrades for Imola. If reports are correct, Ferrari could gain up to one second from these upgrades — we’ll have to wait and see how much of an advantage they can get from these new parts in reality.
Mercedes Bite Back
Mercedes have shown some serious pace at the Australian Grand Prix. They qualified in second and third with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton. This proves that their pace is getting better, and the race also solidified that. Both Mercs were running a solid race and keeping in touch with the Red Bull in the lead. While Verstappen did manage to pull out a 10 second gap at one point, it shows that Mercedes are on the right track.
Hamilton managed to hang on and take second place at the Australian Grand Prix. The Brit was extremely happy with his team’s performance over the weekend and had nothing but praise for everyone at the Mercedes camp. With that, Hamilton became the first driver to score podiums in 17 consecutive seasons — a truly incredible record!
With rumors of a brand new Mercedes B-spec car in the works, could the Brackley team become title contenders once again this season?
Baku Street Circuit up Next
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is one that never fails to disappoint! The Baku Street Circuit is fast and narrow, and it always throws up some serious drama when you put 20 Formula 1 cars around there. It’s also the first F1 Sprint of the season!
Red Bull will have the upper hand again because of Baku’s long straights and incredible top speeds, but with the unpredictable nature of the track, you never know what could happen!
Unfortunately, though, there is an entire month until the next race because of the cancellation of the Chinese Grand Prix. But, that should give the teams plenty of time to get themselves ready for a serious challenge!