Did we stay up way past our bedtime to watch Max Verstappen win the third F1 race of the season after 74 restarts? You bet your asphalt we did! The 2023 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne went deep into the witching hour here on the West Coast but we're still breaking down the five biggest takeaways from the red thunder down under.
Last race we called the Constructors' Championship for Red Bull as they landed a second straight 1-2 finish. This week our projections show that the season opening betting favorite and defending champion has made it a three-peat and will win the 2023 Drivers' Championship. Not even a suspicious Lap 56 red flag can deter the champ.
Max and his Red Bull racer are leagues above the competition. With a 1-2-1 finish in the first three races of the season it seems the only one that can stop Max is Max. We don't see that happening.
In the race buildup, Ted Kravitz compared George Russell's starting position to the famous legend of Saint George facing the dragon. George sat P2 after a wonderful qualifying session and was surrounded by former multi-time champions in Fernando Alonso (P4), Lewis Hamilton (P3) and Max Verstappen (P1). GR63 had three dragons to face and, it seemed, he had slain them all.
The start saw Russell zoom past Verstappen and take an early lead in Melbourne. He continued to set the pace for the race until Alexander Albon lost the rear of his car and crashed into the wall spraying gravel all over the track. Russell pitted during the safety car and then saw a dreaded red flag which suddenly placed him 7th in the field. As he tore through the cars in front of him on the restart, valiantly fighting his way back to the dragons, his car caught on fire. How fitting.
Dragons 1 George 0
At this time last year, Charles Leclerc was on top of the world. He was nabbing poles, winning races, and the main challenger to Max Verstappen's title hopes. 2023 has been a much different beast for the Ferrari frontman. Australia marked his second DNF in three tries as a collision with Lance Stroll caused him to retire on the first lap.
While I'm fighting with every being in my body to not blame Stroll for Leclerc's failure it does seem that luck is not on the side of the Monégasque. What makes the retirement hurt worse was the success seen by his teammate Carlos Sainz who was running fourth until a devastating five second penalty. Oh, what could have been.
It was a terrible qualifying session for Checo as he crashed in Q1 in the same spot he kept crashing in practice. He started the race at the back of the field and in the pit lane, tasked with fighting through the rest of the cars and seeing how many points he could gain. Fight he did. Overtake after overtake, Perez moved through every Haas and McLaren in his way and ended up fifth. What a race for Sergio.
What the heck happened at the end? Crashes absolutely everywhere on a terrible restart on lap 56. Forcing the race to end under a formation lap. Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso collided and it created a domino effect that saw multiple drivers run into each other and take each other out. Both Alpine drivers crashed into each other and lost out on the points, which I'm sure will help their loving relationship. In the end, it was ruled that the finishing order would be how the drivers lined up before the restart, minus those who couldn't finish the final formation lap. The pink ladies get the shaft.
Wait. You're telling me I have to be without F1 for almost an entire month?!? The 4th race of the season is the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on April 30th and it's set to kick off at... checks notes... 4:00 AM PT. Who needs a consistent sleep schedule?
Will Max continue to dominate? (yes, yes he will). Will another red flag tarnish the early pit strategies and send the end of the race into chaos? Will we see more cutaways to Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull garage?!? Who knows, I'm going to bed.
Head on over to FanDuel Sportsbook to make your predictions for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as well as who you think is going to finish the season at the top of the leaderboard.