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Thursday, May 23, 2024

10 issues we realized from the 2023 Australian Grand Prix

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An incident-packed Australian Grand Prix was, for these encumbered by a European time zone, definitely price getting up for. Though one other Max Verstappen victory was unsurprising given his and Pink Bull’s benefit within the early a part of the 2023 Formulation 1 season, late chaos threatened to derail the in any other case settled pecking order.

In F1’s first triple red-flagged race (or quadruple, if one counts the late Nico Hulkenberg stoppage), the FIA as soon as once more obtained itself right into a pickle with its method to race path, and the choice to introduce a stoppage to proceedings after Kevin Magnussen’s wall-bang obtained criticism within the media – notably after it precipitated a deluge of chaos on the second restart.

There have been different secondary and tertiary storylines festering beneath the thunder Down Underneath too, with lots to chew over earlier than F1 takes an almost four-week hiatus earlier than the subsequent spherical in Baku. Right here’s our standard 10 factors of curiosity following the race at Albert Park.

1. The FIA nonetheless can’t resolve how you can deal with late-race incidents

The third begin in Melbourne prompted carnage, as many questioned why the race had been stopped following Magnussen’s prang

Picture by: Pink Bull Content material Pool

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When Magnussen splintered his right-rear wheel towards the Flip 2 exit kerb, the Dane was capable of limp so far as Flip 3 earlier than parking up off the monitor. With shards of particles littering the monitor and a automobile for the marshals to maneuver, it appeared as if the latter levels of the race could be destined to finish underneath the protection automobile. In spite of everything, that’s how proceedings led to final 12 months’s race at Monza, though this got here with pockets of outcry that the race was allowed to fizzle out.

Maybe that outcry was the rationale why FIA race director Niels Wittich as a substitute elected for the pink flag to be flown, successfully guaranteeing that the 16 drivers left within the race might battle till the tip. Nevertheless it didn’t fairly work out that means.

As an alternative, unbridled mayhem ensued. Carlos Sainz hit Fernando Alonso, Pierre Gasly put himself and Alpine team-mate Esteban Ocon into the wall, and the order was shuffled like a deck of playing cards earlier than one other pink flag enacted an additional halt. Thus started additional confusion with a lap left to run: would the FIA stick to the ensuing order, or revert to the preliminary beginning order sans these compelled into retirement?

It opted for the latter, prompting an official protest from Haas as Nico Hulkenberg obtained as much as fourth, however this was waved out by the stewards. There have been three current examples of late-race crashes and all have been dealt with otherwise: the protection automobile was known as off early in Abu Dhabi 2021 to impress a last-gasp title battle, the race ended behind the protection automobile in Monza final 12 months, and now there was a pink flag conferring a standing begin in Australia.

Thus, the FIA must resolve on what the official protocol is. Certain, it begs the existential query of ‘is F1 primarily a sporting pursuit, or leisure?’, however there should be consistency.

2. Mercedes is making progress with its troubled W14

Russell's race ended with an engine failure, but he followed up a strong qualifying by grabbing the lead from Verstappen at the original race start

Russell’s race ended with an engine failure, however he adopted up a powerful qualifying by grabbing the lead from Verstappen on the authentic race begin

Picture by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Having been eager to minimize its possibilities of troubling these on the sharp finish till it has settled on an agreeable automobile idea, Mercedes maybe overdelivered by itself expectations in Australia. George Russell was quickest off the draw initially and bolted into the lead, whereas Lewis Hamilton’s buccaneering into the third nook obtained him forward of Verstappen to make sure that it was Mercedes, not Pink Bull, who led the opening phases.

Russell was unlucky after the preliminary flurry of laps, together with his cease underneath the protection automobile proving to be a bet that didn’t repay as Mercedes’ strategists – together with everybody else – have been blindsided by the primary pink flag. His progress to make up for that all of the sudden evaporated with a powertrain hearth, leaving Mercedes’ hopes with Hamilton.

Regardless of the seven-time champion’s greatest efforts, the Pink Bull RB19 in Verstappen’s arms was an excessive amount of to withstand; the Dutchman cruised across the exterior earlier than Flip 9 on the twelfth lap to in the end accumulate the lead.

However Hamilton was nonetheless capable of keep on monitor for second, responding to the rising tempo from Alonso behind within the second half of the race to take care of his grip on the runner-up spot. The workforce appeared good all weekend, and the 2-3 in qualifying maybe ought to have been matched within the race with out Russell’s failure. There’s work to do with the W14, however the Brackley squad is just not in any temper to easily roll over.

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3. Verstappen nonetheless has exploitable weaknesses

Verstappen was victorious again, but wasn't without error on his way to collecting another helping of 25 points

Verstappen was victorious once more, however wasn’t with out error on his strategy to accumulating one other serving to of 25 factors

Picture by: Pink Bull Content material Pool

Amid the wild nature of this 12 months’s race in Melbourne, Verstappen picked up his first Australian GP win. However of his 37 victories in F1, it was one of many much less stellar examples of his oeuvre because the defending champion endured a scrappy race.

His begin was considerably leisurely in comparison with Russell’s and, having obtained slowed down on the exit kerb of Flip 1, was ripe for the choosing as Hamilton grabbed a tow into Flip 3 and compelled his means by way of into second. With out Sergio Perez to guard him because the Mexican began from the pitlane, Verstappen’s vulnerability turned considerably uncovered.

PLUS: The critical calls preceding Verstappen’s Melbourne march and F1’s red flag saga

When the two-time champion had later picked up the lead and was embarking on his path of stretching his benefit over Hamilton, he misplaced time working vast at Flip 13. It price him about three seconds, which he spent briefly mowing the turf earlier than rejoining the circuit. The error was fully unforced and, though Verstappen expressed his frustration with front-left locking, it was in the end his mistake.

As Verstappen has gone largely unchallenged over the previous 12 months, these small errors have gone largely unnoticed and unpunished. However, if any of the opposite groups can pressure their means into the image for wins and begin matching Pink Bull, Verstappen nonetheless has mushy spots on his underbelly that may be exploited. They’re solely small weaknesses, however their existence will likely be heartening to any future challengers he might have.

4. Ferrari finds new methods so as to add to 2023 comedy of errors

The ignominy of Alonso being re-inserted ahead of Sainz in the pitlane queue was amplified by the Spaniard getting a penalty which knocked him out of the points

The ignominy of Alonso being re-inserted forward of Sainz within the pitlane queue was amplified by the Spaniard getting a penalty which knocked him out of the factors

Picture by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Bahrain’s season opener proved tough for Ferrari, because the excessive tyre put on set the workforce again considerably, however a beforehand unexplored vein of unreliability was inexplicably tapped into. With that downside with the management unit presumably fastened, the SF-23 nonetheless tends to gorge upon its Pirelli rubber like medieval royalty at a banquet.

This wasn’t a priority at Albert Park because the circuit is significantly extra lenient on tyres, so Ferrari had an opportunity to make a great go of issues at a venue the place it has traditionally carried out effectively. At the least, till the drivers made a hash of issues…

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Charles Leclerc bumped himself out on lap one after discovering that Lance Stroll couldn’t merely squeeze his Aston Martin up like an accordion into Flip 3. The Monegasque touched wheels with Stroll, placing himself into the gravel with no technique of escape; it was particularly clumsy, and wasted Ferrari’s possibilities of accumulating an honest haul of factors.

PLUS: Australian Grand Prix Driver Ratings

Sainz then clattered into Alonso on the lap 57 restart, undoing his good work and copping a five-second penalty that price him a shot on the podium. Though the penalty has been seen as harsh, with Sainz especially aggrieved by it, the drivers’ collective consciousness of house was sorely missing in Australia. The workforce should regroup for Baku, as Ferrari has not but correctly delivered on the glimmers of tempo it has proven this season.

5. Alonso’s race consciousness stays unparalleled

Another determined drive secured Alonso his third consecutive podium for Aston Martin

One other decided drive secured Alonso his third consecutive podium for Aston Martin

Picture by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

If there’s anybody who retains a dog-eared copy of the F1 rulebook, it’s Fernando Alonso. The 2-time title winner seems to know each permutation set out by the sporting rules and, whereas making an attempt to get better from the Sainz conflict amid the lap 57 drama, implored his Aston Martin workforce to examine the pink flag protocol in a bid to save lots of his podium efforts. He gave the impression to be within the know lengthy earlier than the stewards had determined to reinstate the beginning order.

Now armed with a aggressive automobile, Alonso’s starvation – and consciousness of the automobiles round him – seems to have returned to the fore. In Bahrain, he tried to get Hamilton to answer his tempo in a bid to get his former McLaren team-mate to make use of up extra tyre life, displaying his tactical means of thought.

That wasn’t one thing he might lean on as a lot in Melbourne, so Alonso needed to take a bigger-picture method. As an alternative, he incrementally constructed up his tempo all through to make sure the chasing Sainz and Pierre Gasly wouldn’t be a risk, and begin to put stress on Hamilton forward. With tyre put on much less of a priority, Hamilton was in a position to answer guarantee Alonso couldn’t get to inside a second of him, however the Spanish driver’s continuous probing for factors of vulnerability will ultimately get some extent of pay-off this season.

It’s nice to see that, at 41, Alonso is as fast and as crafty as he’s ever been. F1 is healthier with him in it, and his penchant for technique is one thing that the youthful drivers could be clever to be taught from.

6. McLaren is missing aero effectivity, however its drivers are making the distinction

Norris made short work of passing Tsunoda, although Piastri took considerably longer to do so

Norris made brief work of passing Tsunoda, though Piastri took significantly longer to take action

Picture by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Briefly, aero effectivity is a measure of downforce towards drag. The likes of Pink Bull appear to have obtained the trade-off good, but it surely’s an space the place McLaren has appeared to wrestle within the opening section of 2023. The MCL60 doesn’t have the top-end velocity to match its fast rivals, and it has in the end resulted in former technical chief James Key receiving his P45.

However Lando Norris made a go of issues in Melbourne, and patiently labored his means into the highest 10. HIs defence towards Perez, who was piloting a a lot quicker automobile, was robust and Norris did his degree greatest to maintain the fast RB19 behind till the Saudi Arabian GP winner ultimately broke previous.

Then, the Briton put a stunning transfer on Hulkenberg after making the cut-back at Flip 11 work, drawing alongside and taking the within line for a lesser-spotted transfer on the following nook, and stored it clear on the chaotic second restart to line up sixth for the parade to the end.

Group-mate Oscar Piastri additionally managed to shrug off the stress of his first dwelling F1 race to get better from a lowly sixteenth on the grid, getting away from the decrease midfield battles as soon as he’d handed Yuki Tsunoda. This in the end yielded the Australian his first factors within the championship, matching the feat of countrymen Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo who additionally did so on dwelling turf.

McLaren has lots of work on its plate to hold out if it needs to be aggressive in 2023, but it surely now has factors on the board after a troubled begin to the 12 months.

7. Hulkenberg has nonetheless obtained it, together with his podium-based allergy

Hulkenberg's drive was rewarded with deserved points, although he missed out on the podium Haas's protest hoped to achieve

Hulkenberg’s drive was rewarded with deserved factors, though he missed out on the rostrum Haas’s protest hoped to realize

Picture by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Having outmatched Magnussen in qualifying thus far this season, Hulkenberg had not been capable of bother the scorers within the opening races of the 2023 season as Haas has struggled with race tempo. However the veteran German rolled again the years with a powerful drive within the decrease reaches of the factors, battling with drivers in quicker equipment.

Having needed to be content material with bit-part campaigns prior to now three years after departing Renault on the finish of 2019, performing as a fail-safe for Racing Level/Aston Martin as a reserve on the events that Perez, Stroll and Sebastian Vettel have been sidelined with COVID, Hulkenberg has relished being a full-time driver as soon as once more. His run to seventh place in Melbourne underlined why Haas had disposed of Mick Schumacher’s providers.

However, on one other day, it might have been extra. Had the race not been pink flagged for a 3rd time moments earlier than the sector moved by way of the primary sector, Hulkenberg might have inherited a podium as soon as Sainz’s penalty was utilized.

It was grounds for Haas to protest, arguing that there had been an order set by way of the second security automobile line – which was used as a marker at Silverstone’s paused race final season. It appears that evidently, it doesn’t matter what the scenario, an F1 podium nonetheless stays elusive for the 35-year-old Rhinelander.

8. Pirelli is underneath hearth as drivers cite tyre struggles

Drivers struggled with grip at the final restart, which proved especially costly for Alpine

Drivers struggled with grip on the remaining restart, which proved particularly expensive for Alpine

Picture by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

After the race, Norris sounded off in regards to the state of play with the present era of 18-inch Pirelli tyres. He levelled criticism on the Italian rubber-smiths, explaining that the tyres weren’t notably festooned with the grip that the drivers anticipated.

“We now have a mushy [tyre] on that is 65 levels C and I can not describe how little grip there’s on monitor,” he complained. “It’s not a nasty temperature. However the tyre does not work and on this floor with this tyre temperature, I can not describe how dangerous the grip is.

“If the tyres felt like they gave us some grip, I believe you’d be capable of see a great race with out chaos and a few clumsiness and issues like that. It is simply tough.

“We want a tyre that provides us some extra grip and truly a tyre that feels prefer it ought to be on a Formulation 1 automobile on the prime of motorsport and in the meanwhile, on a day like right this moment, it feels fairly horrible.”

Williams duo Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant agreed with Norris’ evaluation, each blaming their respective incidents on the dearth of traction that the Pirelli boots provided, and the inconsistency in tyre temperatures.

“I’ve had a have a look at the info and it was a little bit of a wierd one,” mentioned Albon. “I went by way of the nook slower than I did on the lap earlier than, it is simply I went by way of the earlier nook faster.

“I went by way of Flip 5 slightly bit faster and used slightly bit extra exit kerb. I believe it spiked the tyre temps slightly bit on the left-hand facet.”

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9. Gasly is fortunate to flee a ban after Ocon collision

Gasly faced the prospect of being banned from Baku if he was given penalty points for his clash with Ocon

Gasly confronted the prospect of being banned from Baku if he was given penalty factors for his conflict with Ocon

Picture by: Alpine

Amid the chaos of the second restart, Gasly managed to throw away a possible fifth-place end after veering into the trail of team-mate Ocon. This led each Alpines to crash on the Flip 2 exit wall, disposing of a doubtlessly neat haul of factors for the French producer.

Gasly, who was perilously near a race ban having accrued 10 of the 12 licence factors for quite a lot of misdemeanours final 12 months, may very well be forgiven for getting scorching underneath the collar because the stewards labored by way of its backlog of {cases} – notably as Sainz had copped a penalty for his personal incident on the identical stretch of monitor.

However the stewards showed Gasly leniency, remarking that “it was a first-lap racing incident” and electing to take no additional motion. Within the previous weeks, the FIA clarified its method to awarding drivers with penalty factors however, provided that the French driver was not hit with any punitive measures for his conflict with Ocon, this revised method didn’t should be examined.

Regardless, Gasly stays on 10 penalty factors till his two from final 12 months’s Spanish Grand Prix are scrubbed on 22 Might.

10. Melbourne continues to be a world-class circuit, however organisers have work to do

The event promoter was summoned to the stewards over fans getting access to Hulkenberg's stranded car after the race

The occasion promoter was summoned to the stewards over followers gaining access to Hulkenberg’s stranded automobile after the race

Picture by: Lionel Ng / Motorsport Images

The novelty of the F1 discipline returning in Australia after practically three years away due to the COVID pandemic has not fairly worn off. Though many (this author included) would favor Albert Park to host the season opener, relatively than occupy the third slot on the calendar because it has prior to now two seasons, Albert Park continues to ship within the on-track stakes.

Off-track, the Australian Grand Prix Company working the present has some work to do. It’s uncommon to see a race organiser summoned to the stewards, however the AGPC needed to ship a consultant following a monitor invasion after the chequered flag.

Hulkenberg’s Haas got here to a cease to provide a fourth pink flag on the cooldown lap, and followers working onto a reside circuit had managed to get in attain of the stranded VF-23 regardless of having a pink mild on to point a possible electrical hazard.

This was found to be a breach of Article 12.2.1.h of the International Sporting Code, which the AGPC admitted to in entrance of the stewards. It has agreed to submit a remediation plan to deal with how the monitor invasion occurred, and can seek the advice of with F1, the FIA, and the Victorian police to make sure there aren’t any additional repeats.

The FIA was not impressed with the AGPC over post-event scenes

The FIA was not impressed with the AGPC over post-event scenes

Picture by: Lionel Ng / Motorsport Images

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