One street course done and we are down to another! From the heat of the desert it’s now down to the nipping breeze of Down Under.
Sebastian Vettel won his first race for the Scuderia family here. Kimi Raikkonen won his twentieth Formula 1 victory here and his second for Lotus Renault in 2013.
The great legend Michael Schumacher still holds the record for the most Grands Prix victories here having no fewer than four to his name.
And now it seems that the blue boy of Red Bull Max Verstappen is all set to bring home his second victory of the season after acing a qualifying session where the flying speeds still belonged to the Christian Horner-led team.
Though, it wasn’t such a huge deficit between the frontrunner in Q3 and the Mercedes duo as the Silver Arrows newcomer George Russell trailed Verstappen by just over two hundredths of a
second in the end
Although, in the closing stages of the final quali run, Verstappen maintained a lead of about two tenths over the fast catching Silver Arrows drivers.
Meanwhile, seven time world champion Lewis Hamilton who last won an Australian GP back in 2015 picked up his qualifying pace just in time to recover to third in the end having seemed a touch lacklustre where his Q2 pace was concerned.
Together, Russell and Hamilton have ensured there’s a Mercedes car in good contention for the Grand Prix having locked out the front and the second row.
Though come Sunday, it may not be such an easy task out there for Hamilton who might be closely followed by former teammate and racing luminary Fernando Alonso; the Aston Martin newcomer having firmly positioned his car up into P4
But purely on qualifying pace, it wasn’t such a hugely productive day for the twin Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc; the Spaniard putting his SF-23 on fifth. In so doing the winner of the 2022 British Grand Prix was just
a thousandth of second behind his racing idol Fernando Alonso.
Lance Stroll meanwhile kept up the ante of Aston Martin’s attacking quali form as seen this year and packed a punch with an impressive P6.
How and why Leclerc struggled so much bagging no better than a seventh here at Albert Park showed just how strenuous a gap his Ferrari has to the frontrunners.
Are Ferrari sandbagging? Are they seriously down on the straight line pace? What is the reason for a team that was blitzing away the Grand Prix last year and had very nearly won it being so far down on qualifying pace?
We shall have to bide some time and wait for a specific answer.
That told, Alex Albon of Williams put up an impressive show by putting his car up into eighth, his best qualifying result thus far as Gasly outperformed Ocon at Alpine getting a ninth, which was just ahead of Nico Hulkenberg’s P10.
Albon’s result, it ought to be argued, wasn’t a sudden occurrence; the Thai British driver was in top form in the opening stages of the qualifying here and had looked in good contention for a promising result by clocking in very fast times in Q2 itself.
Nico Hulkenberg, it ought to be said, was the most undersung performer of what became a memorable qualifying session for the Haas team; the veteran German claiming his best quali result so far of 2023 in bagging a competitive P10.
Maybe he’s shown a K Mag the fact that the actual potential of the Haas machine is far reaching than what has been exploited thus far.
The other big headliners from a closely contested qualifying session in Australia were the likes of Oscar Piastri, the local hero doing not an entirely horrible P16 to pull in the interest of the closely following Australian crowd.
Maybe on race day, he can go a touch better. Although those who’ll feel they really have to include Lando Norris who bagged a thirteenth nearly matching the pace of Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda who went a touch faster on P12.
Purely on Saturday’s performance, it ought to be admitted that it’s going to be Red Bull all the way with Verstappen leading the charge.
Should he win, it will be Verstappen converting a pole into victory for the first time since 2013 for the Milton Keynes outfit.
But on a day where both Alfa Romeos seemed really off the pace, it ought to be asked as to what might the driver in the other Red Bull do on Sunday?
Perez hitting the brakes hard in the opening stages of Q1 and thus beaching that Bull not only red flagged the session but hurt his car so much so that the flying Mexican begins his Australia run from twentieth on the grid.
It’s all to play for come Sunday.