MELBOURNE — Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc clinched victory in the 2022 Formula One Australian Grand Prix on Sunday after a relatively processual race at the upgraded Albert Park circuit.
Defending champion Max Verstappen had to abandon his Red Bull car on lap 38 with engine smoke allowing Leclerc to reach the checkered flag.
Fans had high hopes that the Melbourne circuit, which returned to the calendar this year with several widened corners and a removed chicane, would offer more overtaking opportunities in the third round of the championship.
Rather, most of the overtaking took place due to Drag Reduction System (DRS) zones and the grid was reshuffled when Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel crashed on lap 23, triggering a virtual safety car.
Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez was second and Mercedes’ George Russell completed the podium with an impressive third place – his best result since joining the team this season.
He was less than three seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton in the other Silver Arrows, who appeared to criticize his team for putting him “in a really difficult position” in the final laps of the race.
Hamilton later clarified his radio message, telling reporters, “I couldn’t race for position because the engine was overheating, I had to back down.”
The seven-time world champion added: “George did a great job today. I saw a bit of the fight he fought Perez in, wish I could have been there.
McLaren’s Lando Norris and homeland hero Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth and sixth respectively – the best points tally of the season for the Papaya team, who struggled to get their car right in the first two races of the year.
Ricciardo crossed the finish line 0.4 seconds behind Norris and later confirmed he was ordered not to overtake his teammate in the closing stages of the race.
“It looked a bit like a photo finish, I’m told Lando had a few problems towards the end. Obviously he slowed down quite a bit, so the team said, uhh…be reasonable,” he said. “I had to control myself a bit, but of course fifth and sixth place so far this year is a great result for us.”
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Afla Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly and Williams’ Alex Albon rounded out the points finishes.
Leclerc now extends his championship lead to 71 points, ahead of Russell on 37 and his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz on 33.
“It feels incredible,” said the Monegasque rider of his overwhelming victory.
“Now I know that I have a winning car under me. Keeping up with Red Bull in terms of development will be difficult [but] I am confident. There’s no reason for us to be behind,” he continued, confirming that the Italian team “have some developments ahead of them”.
Formula 1 now travels to Italy for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on April 24th, followed by the inaugural Miami Grand Prix on May 8th.
https://nypost.com/2022/04/10/charles-leclerc-wins-f1-australian-gp-max-verstappen-forced-to-retire/ Charles Leclerc wins the Australian Formula 1 GP, Max Verstappen has to give up