Martin Brundle has predicted a "punch and counter-punch" Australian Grand Prix with yet more Drag Reduction System (DRS) drama between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen. F1 is back in Melbourne for the first time since 2020's cancelled race, and the venue will play host to the third event of the 2022 campaign, with Ferrari and Red Bull sharing one win apiece so far this season. Leclerc leads the Drivers' Championship standings, but Verstappen has been fighting him hard during the opening two rounds, as evidenced by the pair trading places multiple times on track. The Albert Park Circuit has undergone plenty of changes while the sport has been away, with the Australian Grand Prix now returning to race on a layout faster than ever and with a record four DRS zones.
DRS battles the story of the F1 season so far
DRS has been central to the on-track battles at the front in 2022. In Bahrain, Leclerc allowed Verstappen to overtake him three times so as to ensure he was behind his rival for the following DRS detection line, enabling him to open his rear wing and breeze back past into the lead almost immediately. But one week later, in Saudi Arabia, Verstappen grew wise to Leclerc's tricks, with the pair playing DRS tug-of-war before the Dutch driver won out. The Australian Grand Prix will feature four DRS zones, but only two detection points, meaning those within one second of the car ahead will be handed a straight-line speed advantage for two successive DRS zones, as opposed to just one.
Brundle: We're going to see a lot of punch and counter-punch
Brundle is expecting much of the same cat-and-mouse action at Albert Park, with the importance of DRS having been heightened. "These cars are better at overtaking; we've seen that in the first two races. The track has also been opened up a lot and then [there are] four Drag Reduction System zones, and two detection points for those," he explained, speaking to Sky Sports F1 . "We are going to see a lot of punch and counter-punch action, I think, as we've seen with Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen in the first couple of races. "This [race] is going to be a long way north of an average 150 miles per hour around the walls, around the lake here. There won't be too many small accidents at those speeds."
Leclerc vs Verstappen tipped to get serious soon
For now, Verstappen's battle with former karting rival Leclerc has remained without any major controversy. But, much like a number of title duels in the past, Brundle is expecting the fight to soon turn serious. "I love it because there is a lot of respect between the two of them; I don't know how long that can last," said Brundle. "When they're giving it 'high-five' and 'well done' and 'what a great race' together, it's really lovely to see, actually. I really enjoyed that in Saudi. "It will get serious as the championship moves along, with these two young drivers." Leclerc and Verstappen finished P1 and P2 respectively in the second Free Practice session on Friday at Albert Park.