Starting in a leading position at the wheel of his Ferrari, Charles Leclerc was not really worried today at the Australian Grand Prix, a race he led from start to finish to claim his second victory in three starts since the start of the Formula 1 season.
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His main rival for the title race, Max Verstappen, was heading for a deserved second place when he was forced to retire with engine problems.
The reliability of the Red Bull is thus called into question once again, even if the teammate of the reigning world champion, Sergio Pérez, saved the day by reaching the second step of the podium.
Briton George Russell finished third ahead of Mercedes partner and compatriot Lewis Hamilton.
On the Albert Park route, where just over 400,000 spectators turned out over the weekend, the Monegasque not only scored the fourth win of his career, but he also managed to achieve the fastest lap during the race, to get the maximum of 26 points.
An impressive harvest that he had also obtained during the opening round, in Bahrain, on March 20th.
Aston Martin lagging behind
On the side of Aston Martin, the return of Sebastian Vettel did not have the desired effect for the team led by Lawrence Stroll. The German veteran, absent from the first two races of the season due to COVID-19, was rough from the start of the weekend and his journey ended prematurely, after a collision with a protective wall.
His teammate Lance Stroll was content with a modest 12e place and he is still looking for a first point in 2022.
A comfortable lead
“What an exceptional car we had! spoke the winner. We were extremely strong all weekend. It’s amazing to win here.
“We are only in the third race, he continued. It is therefore difficult to think about the championship, but we have a competitive and reliable car. It’s great to be back in this position. »
In the world championship, Leclerc now has 71 points and is ahead of Russell (37), his Spanish teammate Carlos Sainz (33) and Pérez (30).
Betrayed by the mechanics, Verstappen fell to sixth place in the table, with a thin record of 25 points behind Hamilton (28).
“We have to finish the races, said the Dutch driver, who did not hide his frustration. We had a bad day. I couldn’t fight Charles, but second place was accessible. We lost valuable points in the championship. »
Starting second, a position he kept until his retirement, Verstappen judged that “this kind of thing, if you want to fight for the title, is unacceptable”.
In Bahrain, mid-March, he had already had to give up due to a breakdown, three laps from the finish, then he won the next round, in Saudi Arabia, ahead of this same Leclerc.
Another notable retirement was that of Leclerc’s teammate, Carlos Sainz, second in the drivers’ standings on arriving in Australia. The Spaniard had a disastrous weekend: disappointing ninth in qualifying, he lost control of his car on the second lap, after having completely missed his start. He finished his race bogged down in a gravel trap.
Nicholas Latifi, he was once again limited to an extra role with a 16th place finish, one lap behind the winner. The Canadian looked rather bad, while his teammate, Alex Albon, provided a first point for the Williams team in favor of an unexpected 10th position, he who made his only save at 57e and penultimate lap of the race.
– With AFP
3e F1 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STAGE
- Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Ferrari): head to tail 2e round
- Sebastian Vettel (GER / Aston Martin-Mercedes): spin 23e round
- Max Verstappen (PB / Red Bull-Honda): mechanical problem 39e round
Fastest lap in the race: Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) 1:20.260 at 58e lap (average: 236.740 km/h)