Charles Leclerc made another statement in his bid to win the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship after grabbing a dominant victory in the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park Circuit on Sunday, April 10, from pole position.
The 24-year-old Monegasque dominated from pole position despite being pressured by Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen from the start. When Verstappen fell out of the event due to a late mechanical issue, the race was all but wrapped up for Leclerc, who proceeded, defended his top spot through a number of safety car periods and cruised to the win over his rivals while also establishing the fastest lap of the event, thus claiming a single bonus point with the victory.
The Australia victory marked Leclerc’s fourth Grand Prix career win in his 83rd F1 start and the second of the season as he extended his championship lead in the drivers’ standings from 12 to 34.
“In Formula One, it’s the first [race] where we control a little bit the gap,” Leclerc said. “What a car today. I did a great job all weekend, but it was not possible without the car. This weekend, especially the race pace, we were extremely strong. The tyres felt great from the first lap to the last lap. We were managing the tyre really well. I’m just so happy. Incredible to win here. We are only at the third race, so it is difficult to think about the championship but we have a very strong car, a reliable car too. For now, we’ve always been there. Hopefully, it continues like this. If it does, we probably have chances for the championship. It’s great to be back in this position.
Finishing in second place and more than 20 seconds behind Leclerc was Sergio “Checo” Perez, who notched his maiden podium result of the season after having potential podium results in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia evaporated.
“[The start] was a bit tricky,” Perez said. “Getting my position, Lewis overtook me on the inside, he braked really late and had a really good Turn 1. My first stint was very poor in terms of degradation. We struggled quite a lot, but the hard, the Safety Car – we were unlucky where he lost two positions, which we recovered late there. It was a great result…Looking forward, we’ve been a bit unlucky the first two races.”
Settling in the third and final podium spot was George Russell, who fended off teammate Sir Lewis Hamilton to claim his second career podium result and first while driving for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team.
“We got to be in it to win it,” Russell said. “[We] Capitalized from other’s misfortunes. We got a little bit lucky today twice, but we’ll take it. There’s so much hard work going on to get us back to the front. To be standing on the podium, it’s special. We are never going to give up. We got to keep on fighting. We were a long way behind and yet here we are, on the podium. I think it’s gonna take some time until we can fight with these boys in red [Ferrari] and blue [Red Bull]. They look pretty exceptional at the moment, but it anyone can [fight them], Mercedes can.”
McLaren’s Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo came home in fifth and sixth followed by Alpine’s Esteban Ocon. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly settled in eighth place followed by Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and William Racing’s Alexander Albon, who pitted for fresh tyres on the final lap to retain 10th place for a full circuit and record the first point of the season for himself and for Williams Racing.
The first competitor to finish outside of the points was rookie Guanyu Zhou followed by Lance Stroll, who received a five-second time penalty for weaving earlier on the track to remain ahead of Bottas. Haas teammates Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen finished 13th and 14th, leaving Haas with no recorded points for the day, followed by AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda. Nicholas Latifi, the second driver for Williams Racing, finished 16th followed by Fernando Alonso, whose opportunity to finish in the points evaporated late after he pitted for fresh tyres while being shuffled towards the rear of the field, an issue that also affected Magnussen’s run in the top 10.
Following a dramatic victory in Saudi Arabia in late March, Max Verstappen suffered his second DNF through the first three scheduled events of 2022 after retiring on Lap 39 due to the engine on his RB18 catching on fire, where he was forced to park in Turn 2.
Sebastian Vettel, who was making his first start of the 2022 season after being sidelined for the first two events due to COVID-19, retired on Lap 24 after he got loose and spun in Turn 4 before making contact with the wall and ripping off the front wing of his Aston Martin AMR22
Coming off back-to-back podiums, Carlos Sainz Jr. retired in 20th place, dead last, after he lost his Ferrari F1-75 in Turn 9 on the second lap, where he then cut across the grass, slid off into the gravel and got stuck in the gravel as he was unable to continue despite being dodged by the field.
1. Charles Leclerc, 26 points
2. Sergio Perez, 18 points
3. George Russell, 15 points
4. Lewis Hamilton, 12 points
5. Lando Norris, 10 points
6. Daniel Ricciardo, eight points
7. Esteban Ocon, six points
8. Valtteri Bottas, four points
9. Pierre Gasly, two points
10. Alexander Albon, one point
11. Guanyu Zhou
12. Lance Stroll
13. Mick Schumacher, +1
14. Kevin Magnussen, +1
15. Yuki Tsunoda, +1
16. Nicholas Latifi, +1
17. Fernando Alonso, +1
18. Max Verstappen – Retired
19. Sebastian Vettel – Retired
20. Carlos Sainz – Retired
Following the third event of the 2022 F1 season, Charles Leclerc continues to lead the drivers’ standings by 34 points over George Russell, 38 over Carlos Sainz Jr., 41 over Sergio Perez, 43 over Lewis Hamilton and 46 points over Max Verstappen.
In addition, Ferrari continues to lead the constructors’ standings by 39 points over Mercedes, 49 over Red Bull Racing RBPT, 80 over McLaren Mercedes and 82 over Alpine Renault.
Next on the 2022 Formula One schedule is Imola Circuit for the third annual Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, which will occur on April 24.