Red Flags and Chaos lead to a Verstappen Victory
Fans had no idea what the 2023 Australian Grand Prix would have no idea about the madness that was about to take place on the track. Leading into the race Red Bull remained a strong favourite with Aston Martin and a resurgent Mercedes hoping to make Verstappen break a sweat for the first time this season. From begginig to end the Australian Grand Prix was a thrilling race with accidents and red flags adding to the drama.
Sergio Pérez experienced a technical issue during the first segment of the session, causing him to lock up and get stuck in a gravel trap. As a result, he was unable to set a time and was knocked out of the first qualifying session along with Oscar Piastri, Zhou Guanyu, Logan Sargeant, and Valtteri Bottas.
Lando Norris, who qualified thirteenth, went into the gravel during the second session but was able to rejoin the track. However, he, along with Esteban Ocon, Yuki Tsunoda, Kevin Magnussen, and Nyck de Vries were knocked out in the second segment. In the third and final session, Max Verstappen reported minor issues with his car but still managed to take pole position. George Russell qualified second, with Lewis Hamilton, his teammate, taking third. Charles Leclerc qualified seventh but was critical of his own driving, admitting that he “wasn’t on it” and “wasn’t putting everything together,” ultimately taking responsibility for his performance.
The 2023 Australian Grand Prix proved to be an action-packed and dramatic race, with multiple incidents and three red flags. The race started with George Russell taking the lead after pole-sitter Max Verstappen suffered wheelspin, but Lewis Hamilton soon overtook Russell. The safety car was called out on lap three after Charles Leclerc spun into the gravel following a collision with Lance Stroll.
The race restarted on lap four, but three laps later, Alexander Albon lost control of his car and crashed heavily at turn seven, causing another safety car period. Russell changed his tyres during this period, allowing Hamilton to take the lead. However, the race was red-flagged after debris was left on the track. Russell and Carlos Sainz Jr. lost out, as rivals were able to change their tyres during the stoppage.
Verstappen took the lead from Hamilton after the second restart, and Russell overtook Pierre Gasly for fourth on lap 14. Sainz overtook Stroll on the following lap. However, Russell’s car caught fire on lap 18, causing Mercedes’s first mechanical retirement of the season.
Verstappen maintained his lead despite a brief moment on lap 46 where he understeered into the final corners. By the closing stages of the race, Verstappen led over ten seconds over Hamilton. The race was red-flagged once again on lap 55 after Kevin Magnussen’s right-rear wheel made contact with the wall at turn two, causing his tyre to detach.
The race was restarted again, but chaos ensued, with Sainz pushing Fernando Alonso into a spin in turn one, and several cars ending their races in the wall or gravel. The race was red-flagged for a third time.
Verstappen is victorious once again
The race ended behind the safety car, with Verstappen winning his first Australian Grand Prix ahead of Hamilton and Alonso. Sergio Pérez finished fifth after starting from the pit lane. Oscar Piastri finished in eighth place, marking McLaren’s first points finish of the season. Yuki Tsunoda scored Alpha Tauri’s first points of the season with a tenth-place finish.
After the race, Sainz was handed a five-second penalty for his collision with Alonso on the second restart, dropping him from fourth place to twelfth. Haas lodged a protest regarding its provisional classification, but it was rejected by the stewards. The FIA came under scrutiny from several drivers for its handling of the red flags and restarts, which affected the strategies of several drivers.
The Grand Prix of Azerbaijan is up next on the schedule during the final weekend of April. Teams and drivers will have ample time to regroup and prepare for the ever dangerous and challenging Baku City Street Circuit.