Formula One driver Charles Leclerc secures second win at Australian Grand Prix
Leclerc extended his lead by 34 points in the race for world champion, while rival Max Verstappen retired due to engine issues, crushing hopes of finishing.
On April 10, the third race of the Formula One season was underway in Melbourne, Australia. As the lights went out and the race began, Carlos Sainz experienced issues within the first lap. Starting ninth, Sainz had a lot of work to do if he was going to catch up to his teammate who was sitting in pole position. As Sainz was reaching the end of his second lap, his tires lost grip and he ended up in the gravel forcing him to retire. Due to Sainz spinning out, a safety car was released. By lap 7, the cars were racing full speed again. Verstappen, the Red Bull favorite, tried to make a quick move on race leader Charles Leclerc, but was unsuccessful. By lap 10, Leclerc was able to build the gap up to 1.5 seconds making sure to keep the defending world champion at bay. On lap 12, Max Verstappen complained about the poor state of his tires, causing the team to consider pitting him earlier rather than later. Considering the Australian Grand Prix is 58 laps long, the well being of the tires is of highest concern for the engineers. As Leclerc continued to lead the pack, the gap between him and his Red Bull rival grew to just over six seconds.
This weekend proved very rewarding for Mercedes fans. Previously underperforming, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell brought their A game to the track on Sunday. Finishing on the podium by chance in the first race of the season, Lewis Hamilton had a point to prove. By lap 17, the English driver was sitting comfortably in fourth followed closely by teammate Russell. Behind the two Mercedes, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo followed in sixth and seventh. McLaren fans rejoice as the team were not performing in the first two races of the season.
On Lap 19, Verstappen pit before rival Ferrari driver Leclerc. Finally getting rid of the medium tires, settling instead for hard compound tires for longevity purposes. Unfortunately, he rejoined the race in seventh place. Although others in front of him had yet to pit, traffic of any kind would just grow the gap between him and Leclerc. Sergio Perez pitted on lap 21 due to intense slipping and sliding experienced during lap 20. Other teams began to pit which caused Ferrari to call in their race leader Leclerc. Somehow, the team was able to pull off a quick 2.7 second pit stop, and Charles Leclerc came out of the pit lane in first place. During this time, Lewis Hamilton had leap frogged Sergio Perez during pit stops and found himself in front of the Mexican driver. Due to simple superiority of the car, Perez’s Red Bull quickly overtook the Mercedes driver on turn nine.
The safety car was once again deployed on lap 24 because Sebastian Vettel had crashed his Aston Martin coming out of turn four. The sizable lead that Leclerc had grown between him and his rival Verstappen was now reduced to under a second. The track was quickly cleared and the cars were racing once again by lap 27. Verstappen made a bold move on Leclerc, but the speedy Ferrari retained the lead. The dance began again, Leclerc leading and Verstappen chasing. Perez began his move on Fernando Alonso in the pink Alpine and was able to pass him on the straight due to the Drag Reduction System.
Perez then encountered Russell, who put up a good fight against the Mexican driver. Russells engineers then proceed to advise him to allow Perez to pass in order to preserve the tires to which he responded “I don’t want to hear that,” and rightfully so.
A huge upset rippled through the crowd, as Verstappen was out of the race on lap 39. Hydraulic issues coupled with engine overheating had caused the driver to pull off the track and retire his vehicle. He had smelled a weird fluid leaking from his car before his engineers were able to determine the issue. Another safety car, the third of this race, was deployed as the Dutchmans car was rolled off the track.
By lap 56, all attention was on Alex Albon, who had yet to pit his Williams. It is against the rules to go pitless during an entire race and there would be major repercussions if he finished without stopping. He ended up pitting at the beginning of the final lap taking him out of seventh place and into 10th. His efforts should be commended because he was able to keep up with the pack on old tires while everyone else had tires that were 20-30 laps younger than his.
Leclerc passed the checkered flag and secured the win at the Australian Grand Prix. This is his fourth career win and second in the 2022 season. This race win was a grand slam for the Monégasque driver because he started on pole position, retained the lead for all 58 laps of the race, and set the fastest lap. Ferrari has proven to be a real contender for the world championship, with Leclerc expanding his lead by 34 points. The next race will be on April 24 in Italy at the Autoduormo Enzo e Dino Ferrari.