6 Winners and 5 Losers from Australia – Who finished on a high Down Under?
An impressive 131,124 people packed into Albert Park to witness thrills and spills aplenty in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix. As is always the case in chaotic races, there are some who end up all smiles while others are left furious. Here are our picks for this week’s edition of Winners and Losers…
Winner: Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen was slow off the line when the lights went out, had an off at the final corner when out in front and saw his lead slashed multiple times when the race was neutralised – and yet the two-time world champion still won his first Australian Grand Prix at a canter.
This was his 80th career podium, tying with the great Ayrton Senna, with victory extending his championship lead over team mate Sergio Perez to 15 points after three races. The Verstappen steamroller continues its laser-guided trajectory towards a third successive title with aplomb.
Loser: Charles Leclerc
“It was the worst start to the season ever” said Charles Leclerc, after his Australian Grand Prix lasted less than a lap. His worst start was his debut season in 2018 with Sauber when he failed to score in the opening three races.
But he’s in a Ferrari now – so to retire on the first lap for the fifth time in his career, in what was his second retirement in three races (leaving him on a paltry six points, the same as Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg), it’s no wonder the Ferrari driver cut an irritated and disconsolate figure post-race.
Winner: Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton has got his mojo back. The Mercedes driver has struggled to adjust to life without a car capable of fighting towards the sharp end, but when it became clear his Silver Arrow was a contender in Melbourne – for reasons he and the team can’t quite explain – he made the most of it.
The seven-time world champion was just three-tenths off pole position – in normal conditions – and even briefly led (having not spent a lap inside the top four in either of the first two races). He finished second in the Grand Prix for his and the team’s first podium of the year. It seems there is hope after all.
Loser: George Russell
While his team mate Hamilton had one of his strongest weekends in months, George Russell was left to rue what might have been after he took the lead of the Grand Prix with a brilliant pass at the start.
The Mercedes driver pitted when Alex Albon crashed, a move which looked inspired until the red flag was thrown, meaning he lost significant track position. An engine issue then condemned him to his first retirement of the season.
Winners: Aston Martin
The final standing start of the Australian Grand Prix did not go well for Aston Martin, as Fernando Alonso was tipped into a spin by Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll turned lawnmower/rally driver as he cut across the gravel after locking up on cold tyres.
But as the result was taken from the lap before the chaos ensued, Alonso held onto third – his third successive finish in that position – while Lance Stroll was fourth, leaving Aston Martin with two cars in the top-four for the first time in their history.
Loser: Carlos Sainz
Never have I seen Carlos Sainz look so downbeat, the Ferrari driver at a complete loss to explain his five-second time penalty for hitting Alonso, which dropped him from fourth to out of the points.
It was a small error in an otherwise punchy drive from the Spaniard. It meant Ferrari failed to score with either car for the first time this year, and already trail Red Bull by nearly 100 points after just three races.
Winner: Nico Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg continues to repay the faith put in him by Guenther Steiner and Gene Haas – who brought him back to F1 this season – with another accomplished performance in Australia.
The German followed up a top-10 start with seventh in the Grand Prix, and while he and the team were disappointed the classification was rejigged following the final red flag, a move that dropped Hulkenberg from fourth to seventh, it was still a cracking result and his first points of the season. As an aside, it’s the fifth time in his last six appearances in Melbourne that Hulk has finished seventh.
At one stage, Alpine were set for one of their finest results, with Pierre Gasly spending much of the race in fifth and team mate Esteban Ocon fighting his way into the points.
But contact between the two shortly after the final standing start sent both of them into the wall, meaning they leave Albert Park with a hefty damage bill and no points to show for their impressive race pace.
McLaren rebounded from a miserable start to 2023 with a double-points finish in Melbourne, as Lando Norris finished an impressive sixth while Oscar Piastri scored his first F1 points in front of his home crowd.
The haul of 12 points lifts them off the bottom of the constructors’ championship into fifth, and with big upgrades coming next time out in Baku, we may ultimately look back at Melbourne as the start of the recovery.
Alex Albon raised hopes of a fruitful weekend in Melbourne when he secured his second Q3 appearance for Williams with a fine qualifying lap. An epic start lifted him to sixth and he was set for a comfortable top-10 finish when he hit a kerb, which led to a spike in tyre temperature and triggered a loss of control, which sent him spinning into the barriers.
The team’s decision to put Logan Sargeant on the medium didn’t work out when the early red flag was thrown, and that left the American out of position and unable to take advantage of a chaotic race that should have yielded something for the blue team.
Winner: Yuki Tsunoda
Yuki Tsunoda has been one of the stars of 2023 so far, the Japanese driver comfortably outperforming team mate Nyck de Vries as he gets the very best out of an AlphaTauri that is one of the weakest cars on the grid.
An error in practice meant he had to move to an older-spec floor, and yet he still showed great pace to start just outside the top 10 and then score – admittedly fortuitously courtesy of Sainz’s penalty – the final point. It was his first of the season and has been coming after two successive 11th place finishes.