MELBOURNE, Australia – Overjoyed after a decisive win for Ferrari at the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday, Charles Leclerc is growing increasingly confident of the team’s chances of success.
A Grand Prix announced as a confrontation between the Ferrari of Leclerc and the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez ended with the Monegasque driver in the role of clear winner.
Leclerc extended his lead in the Drivers’ Championship to 34 points while claiming his second win of the season following that obtained in the season-opening race in Bahrain.
A crowd of 128,294 in Melbourne witnessed the impressive triumph of Leclerc, who was able to hold off defending champion Max Verstappen (Red Bull) on the opening laps.
Perfect day for Charles Leclerc
The 24-year-old also defended his position well at the halfway mark, in the context of a race slowed down by the safety car, to claim a convincing victory, by 20.524 seconds.
“Honestly, what a car today. Of course, I did a good job all weekend, but it wasn’t possible without the car,” said the winner.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez overcame a slow start to claim second place, ahead of the Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.
Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, both on McLaren, took fifth and sixth, respectively.
As for Verstappen, he had another frustrating race when a mechanical breakdown ended his hopes as he took second place on the 39th of the event’s 58 laps.
However, Verstappen never really threatened Leclerc, whose Ferrari was clearly faster in race conditions.
Leclerc demonstrated this by setting a time of 20.260 minutes during his final lap on the Albert Park circuit.
For his part, the Quebecer Lance Stroll on Aston Martin finished in 12th place while his teammate Sebastian Vettel did not complete the race.
“We didn’t quite have the pace to go for points, although we were able to defend a position inside the top-10 for a while towards the end of the race. I think our strategy of riding most of the race on hard tires was the right one, but we will analyze the data to see what else we can learn,” Stroll noted.
Torontonian Nicholas Latifi (Williams) finished the race in 16th place.
A first in 12 years
Leclerc became the first Ferrari driver since Fernando Alonso in Singapore in 2010 to achieve the ‘grand slam’ of motor racing, which involves winning pole position, leading the race from start to finish and setting the fastest lap .
His teammate, Carlos Sainz, finished on the podium in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, but suffered several setbacks during a difficult weekend.
After a problem in qualifying that saw him start from ninth place, he fell even further down the field with a slow start. He then lost control on lap two which ended his race.
Nonetheless, Leclerc is optimistic about Ferrari’s prospects in the Constructors’ Championship this year.
“Obviously we’re only in the third race, so it’s hard to think about the championship,” he said.
“But to be honest, we have a very strong car, a very reliable car too, and so far we’ve always been there. I hope it will continue like this and if it does, we probably have a chance for the championship. »
For his part, Verstappen, despite winning in Saudi Arabia 15 days ago, was clearly disappointed with his performance in Melbourne and claimed the Red Bull was “already miles away” from Ferrari.
“I don’t even want to think about the championship right now,” he said. I think it’s more important to just finish the races, because today was, in general, just a bad day, again. It’s quite frustrating and unacceptable. »
“I knew there was a problem and it was always going to be a question mark to finish the race. However, such situations, if you want to fight for the title, cannot happen. »
The Mercedes team also faced problems to start the season and lag behind Ferrari and Red Bull.
Russell was able to clinch his first podium of the year when Verstappen was forced out of the race. Now he can only hope the team is able to close the gap later in the year.
“We had a bit of luck today…but we’ll take it. To be on the podium is special,” said Russell.
“We will never give up. We will continue to fight. We must continue like this while we are on the sidelines. I’m sure we’ll get there after a few more races. »