F1 in Australia: mayhem in Melbourne
For the third race of the championship, Formula 1 traveled to Australia. The event took place from Friday, March 31 to Sunday, April 2, 2023. The weekend started somewhat messy, due to heavy rain and temperature differences on Friday.
Max Verstappen claimed pole position in qualifying, with Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton completing the top three. Verstappen's teammate Sergio Pérez ended up in the gravel during qualifying, which meant he started the Grand Prix from the pitlane.
British party at the start, Verstappen conservative
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell had a very good start to the race. The pair got away well - unlike Verstappen - and overtook the Dutchman before the third corner of the Albert Park Street Circuit. Russell grabbed the lead, teammate Hamilton closed in on spot two.
Leclerc fails to turn the tide
For Charles Leclerc, it was another weekend to quickly forget. The Monegasque was tapped by Lance Stroll in turn two, which caused his car to spin. Leclerc's Ferrari slid into the gravel, from which it then had no way out. That meant the end of the race for Leclerc.
Albon causes red flag
Still in the early stages of the race, Alexander Albon lost his car entering sector two. The Thai driver went hard into the wall and was only just avoided by his fellow drivers. However, the crash caused a lot of debris to be left on the track and damaged the wall. For race control, there were enough reasons to stop the race.
Verstappen leads, Russell unlucky
George Russell made a pit stop just before the red flag situation, dropping back to midfield. This left Lewis Hamilton starting from first place on the restart. Verstappen (re)started from second. Verstappen quickly closed the gap with his rival and overtook him fairly easily on lap twelve. Russell drove good lap times and cut through the field, but had to abandon the race on lap eighteen due to a broken engine.
Another red flag
After a chaotic opening phase, calm returned to Melbourne. That changed about ten laps before the end, when Kevin Magnussen hit the wall in turn two. Once again, a lot of debris landed on and around the track, causing another red flag.
Complete chaos at restart
On the second restart, things went completely wrong for a number of drivers. Max Verstappen got away well and immediately took the lead. Lewis Hamilton also got through turn one unscathed. Fernando Alonso was tapped off by Carlos Sainz, causing the Aston Martin driver to spin. Alpine drivers Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon hit each other and both went into the wall in turn two, and Nyck de Vries also had to abandon the race after contact with Logan Sargeant. All these factors caused yet another red flag.
Anticlimax during final phase of the race
With one lap to go, race control decided to end the race behind the safety car. The starting order of the last restart was maintained. Lucky for some, unlucky for others. For Fernando Alonso it was favorable: he was allowed to resume the race from position three, the position he was in before Carlos Sainz tapped him off the track. It was less pleasant for Nico Hülkenberg: he finished in seventh place, while he was in fourth after the last restart.
All in all, it was a chaotic day in Australia. Max Verstappen won the race, giving Red Bull its first victory in "down under" since 2011. Lewis Hamilton finished second and Fernando Alonso completed the podium.