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Australian Grand Prix 2023

Winners and losers from Australian GP qualifying

With the grid settled for the 2023 Australian Grand Prix - here are the winners and losers from a busy Saturday in Melbourne.

Verstappen pit Australia
To news overview © XPBimages

The threat of rain might have properly materialised, but we certainly ended up with an intriguing Formula 1 grid for Melbourne's race.

Red Bull will simultaneously start from first and last after failing to convert their pace advantage into a front row lockout for the second race in a row.

There were plenty of surprises at the Albert Park Circuit, and we take a look and the winners and losers from Saturday's running, starting with F1's most recent Grand Prix winner...

Loser - Sergio Perez

The two sides of the Red Bull garage could not be more contrasting. It's been a nightmare Saturday for the Saudi Arabian GP winner.

During FP3 he encountered brake balance issues, which resulted in the Mexican feeling uncomfortable in the car and missing chunks of time in the final session before qualifying.

The mechanics were still working away at the RB19 car in the minutes leading up to qualifying, but were able to piece it back together in time.

Despite that, Perez locked up and ran wide on his first flying lap in Q1, beaching his car, and sending him to the back of the grid for the race.

He now faces the tall order of repeating some of Verstappen's recovery heroics from Jeddah at a track which is harder to execute an overtake.

What did Perez say?

"We had a technical issue from FP3, and we thought that we fixed it, but obviously we didn't.

"It was really difficult to do anything out there, I became a passenger as soon as I touched the brake.

"[The problem] is something moving the brake balance forwards on the brakes."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Winner - Max Verstappen

What a difference a couple of days make. From all the pre-Melbourne talk of having teammate Sergio Perez as a potential championship rival, to seeing his teammate qualify as low as physically possible for the race.

Despite the threat from his teammate no longer being there, the Dutchman was woken up by a renewed threat from Mercedes, along with the ever-persistent Fernando Alonso.

No matter, the reigning champion duly delivered a comprehensive lap to give himself the perfect opportunity to inflict maximum damage to Perez's early championship hopes.

What did Verstappen say?

"It’s been tough this weekend to get the tyres in a good window to push straight away, but it all worked out in Q3 and the last run was good. I’m very happy with the lap and to be on pole position here in Australia.

"We need a clean start, and after that, hopefully we can do a good job. I’ve been on the podium here before but this time I want to be on a different step.”

Winner - Mercedes

Mercedes were always going to be in the mix with the Aston Martins and Ferraris, but I don't think anybody quite expected them to put both cars in the top three.

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton had differences of opinions when it came to setups on Friday, but both seemed to settle on configurations good enough to beat the teams in green and red.

It's currently 3-0 to Russell in the qualifying contest at Mercedes, but Hamilton didn't seem too fazed, and both have talked up their desire to challenge for victory.

What did Toto Wolff say?

"We're happy with how today went. We needed a little bit of happiness and at least for Saturday, we've got some of that.

"We changed the plan from doing a third or fourth push lap, to only doing two and then down to one in Q3. Starting second and third is a good place to be. It's been a while since we've had no-one really in front of us by starting P2.

"We'll try to make the best out of it tomorrow. Verstappen is clearly in a league of his own but hopefully we can slot in behind."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Loser - Ferrari

On the face of it, one would assume that Ferrari simply didn't have the pace to challenge the top three in Australia, but it appears communication issues might have affected them once again.

Fifth-placed Carlos Sainz believed that he had the pace to beat one or two Mercedes today, and that his tyre preparation wasn't helped by needlessly having to get out of the way of traffic that was slowing down regardless.

Charles Leclerc (P7) had similar logistical issues, albeit he felt he was stuck behind Sainz on his final run, but also blamed himself for not extracting more performance from the SF-23.

What did they say?

Sainz: "We let by two or three cars because the [team] told me they were on a push lap and I had to slow down a lot to get them past.

"Then they slowed me down because they were not [on flying laps] and I lost two three tenths in sector one for tyre prep."

Leclerc: "Q1 and Q2, clearly I wasn't on it. I wasn't driving well, I wasn't putting everything together. So that was my fault.

"Unfortunately, I don't know what happened in the second run of Q3, whether it was a miscommunication with Carlos or whatever, but I found myself behind him for the whole first sector, which wasn't great."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Winner - Alex Albon

The meteoric rise of Aston Martin has definitely overshadowed the improvements made by Williams in 2023. The iconic championship-winning team looked like a regular Q3 competitor in the hands of Alex Albon, who was seen pestering the likes of Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso in the early part of qualifying.

The car was particularly mighty in the second sector - setting the fastest sector two time in Q3 - which utilises the low-drag qualities of the FW45.

Effectively finishing at the front of Formula 1's 'midfield' (behind Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari and now Aston Martin), Williams couldn't have asked for anything more.

Can they beat last season's impressive Melbourne result of P10?

What did Albon say?

"Today is pretty special; we optimised everything we had with a very good car, so I’m feeling really happy. We were struggling in the practice sessions to get the tyres to work but we went into qualifying and executed our plan which paid off, the tyres worked, and everything else fell into place.

"We have a job to do tomorrow but we’re in the fight."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Loser - Alfa Romeo

The Hinwil-based team were the ones to earn the double-Q1 elimination accolade in Australia, and will already be hoping that this qualifying performance isn't an indicator of the team falling down the pecking order.

They struggled for race pace in Saudi Arabia, which Valtteri Bottas attributed to unseen car damage, but both he and Zhou Guanyu struggled to challenge for Q2 in Melbourne.

What's more surprising is that Alfa Romeo were one of the few 'midfield' teams to bring upgrades, and everybody seemed at a loss to explain where their performance disappeared to in qualifying.

Bottas might have blamed traffic but, prior to the final Q1 runs, he wasn't exactly looking a certainty for a Q2 appearance.

What did Bottas say?

“The upgrades we brought to Melbourne seem to be working as we expected, so there’s no denying we expected more from qualifying.

"We seemed to lack pace, and on top of that, I also encountered a bit of traffic on the final lap, when I felt the best grip from the tyres, so there wasn’t much more we could do.

"At least, starting from the back opens some more opportunities with the strategy, so let’s see what we can achieve during the race."

F1 2023 Australian Grand Prix RN365 News dossier


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