The F1 Australian GP Saturday saw quite an up and down session with everyone facing some problem or the other.
The Saturday on F1 Australian GP was a messy one as drivers struggled to get a clean lap throughout the session with most praising the challenge of the Albert Park circuit. Bringing the tyres into the window was difficult along with the added sunset problem.
Among the Top 3 drivers, only Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc could show significant improvement on his final attempt, while both the Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez showed improvements, but it wasn’t enough to topple the Monegasque.
For Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz, the red flag came at the wrong time as his initial lap was not counted. In the subsequent runs, he made a mistake which left him in ninth. His bad run helped the likes of McLaren and Mercedes to get ahead in the order.
Leclerc: “It was a good lap. This time I took quite a bit of risk, especially in Turn 6, which was quite tricky. I wasn’t really on it during qualifying on this corner, just doing some mistakes, and then in the last Q3 laps, I managed to make it right. And I think I gained quite a bit on myself compared to the other laps. But yeah, I’m very happy with the lap and especially on a track like this, where I’ve always struggled in the past and also free practice for me, even though we were competitive, it was very difficult to put a lap together and I was just doing quite a bit of mistakes.
“So I was working on consistency and managed to put that lap together in Q3. So very, very happy. Looking back, honestly, in Q2, my first lap in Q2, it’s… I took a lot of risk there because I had no idea where was the limit of the track. You are just guessing a little bit, and it’s just with the rhythm of the weekend, you know more-or-less that you need to turn here. But I really had zero idea where was the limit of the track, and it was very tricky. So, then we went for a darker visor, I think the first run in Q3, there was some clouds around, so that was perfect.
“And then for the last run in Q3, braking for Turn One was still very, very bad. But I don’t think we can do anything. Even with the darkest visor, it’s still not enough. And it will be too dark for the rest of the track where there are the clouds. So, it’s just a compromise that we had to find – but it’s the same for everyone in the end, but it was definitely extremely tricky. And the last sector also on Q3 lap, on the last Q3 lap, I lost a little bit, but just because it was very difficult to see where I was.”
Verstappen: “I don’t know if three-tenths is close, but nah, it’s been terrible for me the whole weekend so far. Just not a good balance, all the time chasing something, and I never felt comfortable for one lap – except the long runs. But yeah, it’s just been a big struggle and clearly, we didn’t really seem to fix it, even in qualifying. I just struggled a lot with the balance of the car, and it just doesn’t give you confidence to push. My first run in Q3 started to feel a bit better and I was actually hooking it up, but then I lock up again in one corner, just because of a random balance shift.
“So, it’s not been great, to be honest. Regarding the DRS, there was only one team who complained about it and it got removed this morning so I don’t really understand because for me, it was way easier than doing it in, for example, in Jeddah because there was way more corners. For me there was never any issue with driving there with the DRS open. So yeah, you have to ask I guess, the FIA, why they took it away. It’s a shame because it would have helped, you know, the racing.”
Perez: “It was tricky. I think the whole Qualifying was like… I never really felt that I was knowing which strategy was the best in terms of the tyres. I think the tyres have been very sensitive to the asphalt. It is the first time we run the C5 compound, so that was a little bit hard. I think Q2 went well – but then into Q3, with the red flag, we were not able to do our third lap. So we went again for the same strategy, but unfortunately, we carried the extra fuel that we really didn’t need, just to find out that the third lap was not any better.”
Sainz: “I was in the fight for pole the whole weekend I think and then in Q3 we had the red flag when I was on a good lap, we couldn’t put a banker in and then for the second Q3 lap we are investigating what happened because the engine didn’t start, so I went out three minutes late in a run plan. We need two laps to get the tyres to work and I couldn’t do the two laps so I started the lap with freezing cold tyres and from there on the lap on cold tyres is just crappy, you can put a – I nearly crashed twice and you cannot put a lap together. Tremendously unfortunate having to have these two issues in the two Q3 laps when I was in the fight for pole since FP1.
“You can imagine the anger I have inside me right now. So, I don’t need to describe it to you because I think you can imagine. Especially because I didn’t qualify high up, I qualified P9, it should have been at least first row and a good fight for the win. We’ll stay aggressive, tomorrow is a day to try and go forward for sure. But at the same time, the midfield is tighter this weekend, the midfield is closer to everyone else and we don’t have the pace advantage that we had in Bahrain or in other places so it’s going to be a tough race moving forward also because they removed the fourth DRS zone so it means overtaking now will go back to being extremely difficult, it’s the worst possible scenario for me.”
Outside the Top 3, McLaren’s Lando Norris was a happy bunny to end up fourth in a much better show from the team where Daniel Ricciardo was seventh in their first double Q3 of 2022. Sandwiched between them were the Mercedes duo where Lewis Hamilton managed to get the better of George Russell while being on different set-ups.
At the same time, Alpine lost out after the crash for Fernando Alonso who looked good to be in the Top 5. His teammate Esteban Ocon tried a different route on his side which didn’t work and he was left chasing performance all-weekend long.
Hamilton: “Compared to yesterday yes and also compared to the last race, it is nice to be back in Q3 after Jeddah which was really, really tough to be so far back and not be able to make that much progress. Yesterday was a difficult day, we had a bigger deficit, and we worked hard through the night and everyone back at the factory was working hard to try to find where we can go with the set up and I think we extract the most from the car today. I feel like my lap there was a little bit more in the car so that is a positive but naturally also gutted that I wasn’t able to extract that little bit. But the problem is when you push the car a little bit more she is quite spiteful. She is like a viper or like a rattlesnake, you never know.
“Basically we just have to try to find a level of the bouncing as hardcore as we can go without rattling our brains out of our skulls. That is what we try to do. Russell and I have slightly different cars, because we are trying all the different things. I’ve got something on my car which makes the car a little bit heavier but it is not a huge, huge step. Hopefully it’ll enable the team to gain more information from the race tomorrow. So I hope from that we can start to make some progress.”
Norris: “It was a very good result for us. It feels like a pole position in some ways from where we’ve been the last few weekends! To just scrap into Q2 in Bahrain and to miss out in Q3 in Saudi, then to be almost all the way up there [today] – I guess still a long way off the pace, but position-wise to be a lot way further up is nice to see. A good reward for myself and a good result for the team. Whether or not the car has made much progress or not is hard to say. I think we’ve been working well as a team to still try and find as much as possible and I think the hard work part of it has moved us ahead of Mercedes this weekend.
“The rest of it is the track and the car just suiting it again a little bit more than what it did in Saudi simply. So whatever the reason is, I’m just happier to be much further up and have a car that is a bit quicker. I am still confident. We can still have some good results. I have one red car behind me which I am not expecting to be fighting too much, but I think a fight with the Mercedes and also the Alpines – the Alpines have probably looked a little bit quicker than us this weekend, especially with Fernando but he ended up in the wall – [is possible]. I am expecting still a fight from them and the Mercedes, so it’s not going to be an easy race but it’s part of it, it’s a good challenge so I look forward to it.”
Alonso: “We lost the hydraulics on the car, so we lost the gear change and also the power steering and everything, so yes, I think we could [have fought] for pole position today, “We fought for many years for that possibility and it’s amazing that we’ve been so unlucky in these first three races of the Championship, but I was doing, I think, probably one of the best weekends in years and it is frustrating now. We will try to fight for some points, but I think a podium was there for us this weekend other and we missed another opportunity.”
Outside the Top 10, both AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo missed out on a Q3 run. While the former didn’t look to have the pace to be in the top half, the latter had the pace but a different wing set-up chosen by Valtteri Bottas didn’t work and his reign of Q3 run of more than 100 grand prix ended which started in 2016.
On Haas side, Kevin Magnussen noted that the team did not go for the right set-up. They went ahead with basing on the old layout, but the new layout needed different set-up. For Aston Martin and Williams, it wasn’t the day they had hoped for with Alexander Albon ending up disqualified due to not enough fuel sample, while Nicholas Latifi had an incident with Lance Stroll with Sebastian Vettel getting only one lap.
Bottas: “I had two good laps in Q2. Okay, the first run. And then second one was okay, but just not quick enough, just missing a few tenths, I guess. And it was a bit surprising because I really thought we should be in Q3, but the only reason what I can think of now is we opted for smaller wing on my car since they changed the DRS zone. So especially it’s better for the race. But for quali maybe I paid a small price for it.
We tried it just based on lap times in FP3 and where we were, I think it was okay. So that’s why we didn’t want to change. As for the race, the starts have been better. Again, they’ve made good progress. And at least practice starts have been much better again than in the last event. So we’re making good progress on that.”
Magnussen: “We didn’t nail the start set-up for this track. It was a bit different to what we expected. I guess we expected it to be kind of similar to the old track, but it’s actually fairly different. I just think we missed the starting set-up and then had a pretty long way to go to get to a good spot with the car. I think we found it, sort of. We got close to it in qualifying but then qualifying was a mess with the red flag and I was out in Q1.”
Stroll: Latifi tried to come back past and it was just a really awkward incident. Latifi accelerated all of a sudden, but where he accelerated that part of the track gets quite narrow to the right and it kind of falls away to the right as there is a lot of camber there. Where Lance Stroll accelerated I was just following that path of the circuit and I warped towards the inside of the track as he was trying to accelerate at that last second and that is what made the contact, so it was a really awkward.”
Latifi: For me, it’s quite clear, I’ve just seen the video. I just tried to go off-line to prepare my out-lap and it seemed like he just turned into me once I was alongside him. I let him through because he was pushing to open a lap, or so I was told, then I saw he aborted the lap, so I wanted to get carried on with my own preparation lap, so I went back by him. Obviously it was a big gap and once I kind of got past him, for whatever reason he decided to turn. It’s clear for me from the video – there’s not much more to say.”
Vettel: “Today is about the team: the boys and girls did an amazing job to get both cars out on track for qualifying. They did so well to get Lance’s car ready and it was great to see the team spirit when both sides of the garage came together to help finish getting my car ready. Just getting out to set a lap was a huge achievement. P18 may not look great on paper, but today it was the result of a little bit of magic. Things are not easy at the moment, but we know that the car has more potential and we are working very hard as a team to make progress. I have not had much running this weekend so hopefully we can have a clean race tomorrow and learn more about the car.”
Here’s how F1 Australian GP qualifying panned out