There were some superb performances at the Australian Grand Prix, but also plenty of drivers who had absolute disasters – and many of those were self-inflicted.
That means a plethora of low scores in Edd Straw’s assessment of the Formula 1 field this week.
Started: 2nd Finished: DNF
Verstappen admitted to frustrations with the Red Bull RB18’s capriciousness in qualifying trim, struggling to be comfortable in a car he found not just unbalanced, but also prone to sudden balance shifts.
Even so, he came close to pole position and was actually fractionally quicker than Charles Leclerc approaching the penultimate corner, only to lose time from there to the end of the lap.
Strong pace was expected in the race, but proved elusive as Verstappen struggled with front-left graining in the first stint and never had the pace to threaten Leclerc.
Save for a moment at the second safety-car restart when he got close, he never looked like finishing anywhere other than second – until he retired as the result of a fuel leak.
Verstappen largely drove to his usual high standard, but despite outpacing Sergio Perez in qualifying he does seem to be struggling a little more with the lack of balance of the car.
Started: 3rd Finished: 2nd
Perez lapped just a tenth off team-mate Verstappen, but struggled to zero in on the ideal tyre strategy.
The Q3 red flag denied him a second push lap on his first set of softs, so he repeated the strategy for the second run, only to discover that it wasn’t the right way to go and meaning he was carrying excess fuel for his third-place lap – costing him a tenth or so.
In the race, he made a better start than Verstappen but had to take a conservative approach on the outside line in Turn 1, slipping behind Lewis Hamilton. He later repassed Hamilton, having to do the same to George Russell in the second stint having lost the place thanks to the timing of the safety car.
His race pace was decent, if fractionally off Verstappen’s, and he picked up third when his team-mate retired.
Started: 5th Finished: 4th
The Mercedes wasn’t working well at Albert Park, particularly on the first day of running, but Hamilton secured fifth in qualifying thanks to a combination of a good lap and Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso hitting trouble when both should have been ahead.
Hamilton got ahead of Perez into third through Turn 1/2 to run third but putted just before Sebastian Vettel crashed and triggered the safety car.
That allowed Russell, who Hamilton had outqualified by a tenth of a second, to stop a lap later and get ahead.
And that was about it for Hamilton, who said after the race that he had to manage overheating troubles and couldn’t attack Russell ahead.
He did what he could with the machinery as part of the Mercedes damage limitation exercise .
Started: 6th Finished: 3rd
Russell’s first podium for Mercedes, and his second in F1, was assisted by Verstappen’s retirement and the luck of the safety-car draw.
He ran fifth initially but jumped his team-mate thanks to being able to stop under the safety car. That also put him ahead of Perez, but he was powerless to keep the Red Bull behind and dropped to what was then fourth before picking up the podium pieces after Verstappen’s retirement.
Just as for Hamilton, this was a straightforward weekend during which he did what he could with the car, although his rating is slightly lower despite finishing ahead given the role luck played in getting ahead.
Started: 1st Finished: 1st
Leclerc felt he was a little untidy through much of qualifying, but then “took quite a bit of risk” on his final Q3 lap to improve by almost four-tenths of a second and secure a second pole position of 2022.
He pointed to Turn 6 as the key to the improvement, a corner where he felt he was being too conservative prior to that.
In the race, he simply dominated. The only nervous moment was at the second safety-car restart , where he was over-eager on the throttle and understeered wide after a snap into the last corner – blaming it on picking up old rubber. While he weathered the storm, that makes a small dent in his rating given it could have cost him the race lead.
Started: 9th Finished: DNF
How you evaluated Sainz’s Australian Grand Prix weekend depends on how you balance up his appalling, and brief, race and the factors that conspired to put him in that position. Underpinning all that was good pace that he thought gave him a shot at pole position.
Things started to unravel in Q3, with the red flag ruining his first run moments before he completed his lap then struggles getting the car started denying him the necessary extra tyre-preparation lap and meaning he struggled for grip. That left him down in ninth.
He started on hard rubber, but a change of steering wheel before the formation lap to a spare with the wrong settings led to him going into anti-stall at the start and dropping to 13th. Those were the external factors.
His impatience to pass Yuki Tsunoda on lap one led to him being hung out to dry and dropping to 14th and it was from there that he blasted past Mick Schumacher’s Haas just before Turn 9. But with Valtteri Bottas just ahead, he understeered onto the grass and then spun, ending up in the Turn 10 gravel trap.
In the final reckoning, Sainz had huge amounts of bad luck, but in his own words he “didn’t react accordingly”. Drivers get credit for responding well to such situations, just as his rating takes a big dive for failing to do so.
Started: 7th Finished: 6th
Ricciardo was three-tenths off Lando Norris in qualifying but to all intents and purposes had much the same race as Norris given he spent most of it sat behind him.
Despite pretentions of being able to take on Mercedes early on, the McLaren didn’t have the pace so it was all about holding position, with Ricciardo running seventh early on behind Norris. That became sixth for Ricciardo at the finish after a fault-free race as Verstappen had disappeared.
Given their races were much of a muchness, the difference in rating between the McLaren drivers is explained by qualifying. There, Ricciardo was slower, citing Turn 2 and 3 as a consistent problem, showing he still has some work to do if he’s to close the gap on pure pace.
Started: 4th Finished: 5th
Norris had a margin of three-tenths over Ricciardo in qualifying and did a superb job to put the McLaren fourth on the grid.
Unfortunately, that didn’t last long as the two Mercedes drivers swarmed round him at Turn 1, dropping him to sixth.
From there it was basically a question of driving around with Ricciardo in tow, finishing fifth thanks to the place gained when Verstappen retired.
Crucially, the strong qualifying performance ensured that both McLarens were clear of the midfield melee, allowing Norris a relatively straightforward race.
Certainly the quicker McLaren driver on single-lap pace, he made the most of the machinery under him.
Started: 8th Finished: 7th
Ocon was very much the second-best Alpine driver in Australia and simply didn’t have the pace that Alonso showed. But he was quick enough to make Q3 and hold eighth place in the first stint.
He was among the earlier drivers to stop to take hards, holding onto de facto eighth place given the three drivers running long ahead of him.
But he ended up behind Alex Albon under the second safety car and stayed there almost to the end and it was not until the last lap that he was released to take what Verstappen’s retirement had turned into seventh place.
A workmanlike weekend’s work for Ocon, but lacked the spark of Alonso.
Started: 10th Finished: 17th
Alonso was on stunning form on what he described after qualifying as “the best weekend for years” – yet it was all for nothing as he ended up last in Q3 after crashing and last in the race.
Aided by lobbying for the DRS zone on the run to Turn 9 being removed for safety reasons, which just happened to aid the pace of the Alpine, Alonso likely had the pace to qualify on the second row. But a hydraulic problem meant he couldn’t downshift to third at Turn 11 and hit the wall.
From 10th on the grid, he opted to start on hards and held position at the start. He ran long and was fifth when he made his stop under the final VSC.
That dropped him to 13th and stuck in the train behind Lance Stroll. That led to overworking his mediums and, having got ahead of Schumacher, then slipping behind Zhou Guanyu and Kevin Magnussen before opting for a second stop and an unsuccessful tilt at fastest lap.
Fast and unlucky, even if he couldn’t make the most of an admittedly difficult situation in the second stint – but by that time his points hopes had taken a big hit anyway.
Started: 11th Finished: 9th
Gasly missed out on Q3 largely through bad luck, with his second run in Q2 disrupted by confusion with Russell in the final corner and team-mate Tsunoda going off in front of him at Turn 11. He probably did have the pace to make it into the top 10.
But the AlphaTauri didn’t have much more than that in it. Gasly immediately jumped the slow-starting Sainz and passed Alonso on the run to Turn 1 to run ninth. He effectively held that position ‘virtually’ after his pitstop, crucially managing to get past the Stroll roadblock to ensure he wasn’t in danger of finishing behind Albon.
That should have added up to eighth place, but he struggled with a long brake pedal as the race progressed. That potentially contributed to his off at the penultimate corner that allowed Bottas to pass him, leaving him ninth.
That error costs him when it comes to his rating on what was otherwise a good weekend considering the difficulties the team had extracting performance from the car.
Started: 13th Finished: 15th
Although he was only a tenth-and-a-half behind Gasly in qualifying, it was a difficult weekend for Tsunoda.
He struggled in qualifying, briefly visiting the Turn 11 gravel in Q2, and then was baffled by his lack of pace on both the medium and hard Pirellis in the race.
Tsunoda did at least make some gains on the first lap to run 11th, although later in the stint he lost out to Bottas.
The lack of pace counted against him as having made a pitstop before the second safety car, he took the restart behind Gasly. While Gasly moved forward from there, Tsunoda dropped back and was passed by Schumacher and Zhou. He finished ahead only of Nicholas Latifi and the late-stopping Alonso.
Ultimately, Tsunoda wasn’t at Gasly’s level and that showed in the race.
Started: 17th Finished: DNF
Vettel returned to action after two races out with COVID-19 and probably wished he hadn’t bothered given an engine failure after 18 laps in FP1 ended his Friday before a crash at Turn 10 in FP3 ensured he could play little part in qualifying thanks to the need for a gearbox change.
He at least got a single flying lap in qualifying after a rush-job to repair his car, but Vettel’s race didn’t go as hoped either.
He had an off at Turn 11 early on, running through the gravel having potentially been caught out by a tailwind. Then, he went wide out of Turn 4 and lost it on the exit kerb, firing the car nose-first into the inside wall.
The weekend couldn’t have gone much worse and despite the mitigating factor of missing the opening two rounds and few practice laps, the two crashes and a trip through the gravel trap, combined with so-so pace, can only result in a poor rating.
Started: 19th Finished: 12th
Stroll crunched the front-left corner when he went off at Turn 11 in FP3, which meant a delayed start to qualifying.
He then showed, as the FIA stewards put it, “a lack of situational awareness” when he turned into Latifi’s Williams, which he had just passed, and caused a collision. That prevented him setting a time in qualifying and earned him a three-place grid penalty.
Stroll took every opportunity to make pitstops under the first two safety cars, which ultimately put him into ninth after the final VSC.
He defended stoically and held up a queue of cars, which was of great assistance to Albon’s hopes for a point, but eventually slipped back – picking up a five-second penalty at the end of the race for weaving along the way that didn’t cost him a position.
It wasn’t a weekend without redeeming features, as Stroll for the most part raced well, but the unnecessary accident with Latifi, the weaving penalty and the FP3 crash torpedo his rating.
Started: 18th Finished: 16th
Latifi was having a messy qualifying session even before he was hit by Stroll, bringing it to a premature end. The timesheets deficit to Albon wasn’t representative, but he certainly didn’t have his team-mate’s pace and struggled to get the tyres right during Q1.
Starting 18th, he held position initially but struggled badly with front-left graining and was soon passed by Albon and Stroll. That triggered his first pitstop.
The graining struck again on the hards and Latifi opted for a second stop under the second safety car, dropping to the back.
And there he stayed never showing the pace to do anything more than that.
Ultimately, Latifi lacked both the pace and the tyre management skills of Albon, adding up to another disappointing weekend.
Started: 20th Finished: 10th
The Q1 red flag cost Albon his shot at making Q2, but 16th place turned to nothing when he was excluded for not being able to supply the mandated 1-litre fuel sample after the session. That meant he started at the back, on hard rubber, with a plan to run long.
What followed was a combination of a superbly-executed race on a Williams that worked well on the hards, with Albon also able to make them last, a gamble to run as long as possible in the hope of a red flag and some assistance from Stroll holding up a bunch of drivers who had made their stops.
This allowed Albon to build an advantage over his rivals for 10th place and stop at the end of the penultimate lap. He emerged just ahead of Zhou despite a slow front-left change, with the Alfa Romeo driver’s rear-snap in Turn 1 ensuring Albon stayed ahead.
It was a hard-fought point and a deserved reward for Albon, who has made a strong start to his Williams career.
Started: 14th Finished: 11th
Zhou struggled in qualifying with the balance and ended up well off Bottas’s pace, but made it through to Q2. He then avoided triggering the anti-stall at the first corner, which was an improvement on his first two F1 starts.
He spent a big part of the first stint chasing Magnussen, eventually getting past him to run 13th. He then stopped before the safety car, meaning he took the restart ahead of only Latifi.
From there he drove a decent race, passing Tsunoda, Schumacher, Magnussen, Alonso and Stroll but falling just short of passing Albon after the Williams driver made his last stop.
He looked set to do so, but the rear tyres were overheating so just as he was working his way round Albon coming into Turn 2, he had a big moment. The result was, for the second consecutive race, 11th.
Zhou’s qualifying pace needs to show signs of improvement, but his race was reasonably well-executed even though he really should have got a point.
Started: 12th Finished: 8th
Bottas was disappointed to miss Q3 for the first time since Abu Dhabi 2016 and perhaps didn’t get the final couple of tenths out of the car on Saturday.
He ran 12th early on before overtaking Tsunoda for 11th then stopped under the safety car. That allowed him to restart behind Ocon, but twice being passed by Stroll meant that he was destined not to be able to fight the Alpine driver for what was ultimately seventh place.
Stroll’s second pass, which happened coming out of the VSC period on lap 40 at Turn 3, crowded Bottas off the track, also allowed Gasly to get past.
Fortunately for Bottas, he did eventually get back ahead of Stroll, then Gasly when the AlphaTauri went off at Turn 13.
A slightly uneven weekend from Bottas, but he emerged from it with a solid result.
Started: 16th Finished: 14th
Magnussen’s weekend didn’t start well with nausea on Thursday night into Friday morning. He was able to run on Friday, but perhaps wasn’t at his best.
On top of that, Haas struggled with the set-up, as well as the track surface, meaning its pace of the first two weekends wasn’t evident.
Magnussen wasn’t helped by the red flag in Q1, but ended up slower than Schumacher and didn’t make it to Q2. From there, starting on hards was logical but the early safety cars frustrated him – as did his brief off at Turn 9.
He ran long but eventually stopped under the final VSC, joining the queue behind Stroll. That was his race effectively over, although late on he lost a place to Schumacher as he struggled on the mediums.
An under-par weekend for Magnussen, who wasn’t at his best, albeit on a weekend when the Haas VF-22 wasn’t either.
Started: 15th Finished: 13th
Schumacher outqualified Magnussen for the first time, and passed him late on in the race to beat him on Sunday too.
It represented a decent recovery from his Saudi Arabia shunt, but it was on a weekend when Haas wasn’t a serious points threat.
Schumacher ran 13th early on, but dropped behind Magnussen and Zhou when he ran wide out of Turn 10. That led to an early stop to switch to hards, which proved ill-timed given the subsequent safety car.
Schumacher ended up 13th, the first of the drivers still behind Stroll, after a fraught second stint, although he did make the most of the durable hard tyres to prevail in his battle with Magnussen.