Charles Leclerc put in a statement performance to dominate the Australian Grand Prix, as Max Verstappen suffered his second DNF in two races when his Red Bull broke down in a race with several safety car periods.
His team-mate Sergio Perez claimed the runner-up spot with an improved Mercedes showing meaning George Russell came in third and Lewis Hamilton fourth.
The same could be said for McLaren, whose Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo claimed fifth and sixth.
Carlos Sainz span off early on, meaning those lower down benefitted from two frontrunners retiring, one of these being Alex Albon who ran an incredible 57 laps on the hard tyre before switching to the soft at the death, helping him claim a point for Williams.
Here is the 2022 Australian GP as it happened.
Lap 1 and a solid start for Leclerc saw him maintain the lead, whilst Lando Norris struggled, falling to sixth. The biggest benefactor was Lewis Hamilton, who leapt to third by displacing Sergio Perez.
Further down the field, Carlos Sainz’s weekend was going from bad to worse. The Ferrari bogged down as he dropped from his already-lowly starting position of ninth to thirteenth.
Trying to make amends, the Ferrari ran deep at Turn 10, skating across the track and spinning into gravel – the Spaniard was out.
The safety car took to the track, closing the pack up once more.
Stroll came in to first put on medium tyres, then on the next lap changed back to the hard as Aston Martin team looked to go long.
Once the race restarted on lap 8 Leclerc maintained his lead, Verstappen unable to harry along side after the change of rules on terms of engagement.
The Red Bull appeared the fastest race car, Leclerc bouncing as his porpoising Scuderia car looked less well adjusted than its rival.
Meanwhile Hamilton was backing up Sergio Perez, the Mexican searching for a way past at Turn 11 but to no avail. However, the Red Bull managed it on Lap 10 Turn 3, diving down the inside and taking third.
Lap 11 and Sebastian Vettel had an off, running into the gravel at Turn 11.
“Mate, my left front is completely grained,” said Verstappen on lap 12, his gap to Leclerc now approaching 4sec.
Behind a DRS train had formed of Hamilton, Russell, Norris and Ricciardo, the second Mercedes acting as a buffer and protecting the seven-time champion.
Lap 13 and Mick Schumacher had an off at Turn 10, meaning he dropped to 15th.
“And we are going Plan A +5,” Leclerc was told – the Monegasque was enjoying a lead of 6.5sec out in front.
Valtteri Bottas, having locked up into Turn 3 when trying to pass Tsunoda on the previous lap, managed to overtake the Japanese driver into Turn 1.
Kevin Magnussen fancied a look into Turn 9 on the AlphaTauri, but ran too deep and fell to 14th.
Verstappen was told to come in on lap 19, as Red Bull put hard tyres on his car. The Dutchman emerged in seventh, with Gasly and Alonso close behind the Spaniard
Lap 20 and Hamilton had pulled right up to Perez, the Red Bull unable to make its tyres work in race conditions. The Mexican decided to take himself out of the heat and pitted at the end of the tour.
Both McLarens also pitted within two laps of each other from lap 21, Norris and Ricciardo coming out in ninth and tenth respectively.
Leclerc came in at the end of lap 23, managing to maintain his lead as he rejoined the track. So did Hamilton, but Perez managed to pass him on the chute from Turns 7 and 8.
Hamilton looked like he was about to take the place back into Turn 11, but he was stopped as the safety car came out – Vettel dropped his Aston coming out of the fourth turn, ramming the wall and forcing him to stop on track and retire.
Russell was able to dive into the pits and leap up the order, coming out in third.
Mick Schumacher, warming up his tyres, almost ran into the back of Tsunoda on the start-finish straight after the AlphaTauri braked hard, missing him by centimetres.
When the race restarted on lap 26 and Verstappen looked to get past Leclerc on on the outside after the Ferrari ran wide on the final turn after getting back up to speed.
The Dutchman was unsuccessful, as Alonso pressured Russell. Behind the Alpine was Perez and Hamilton, as each car looked to overtake the other.
Alonso then got out of position when defending on lap 30, and Perez was able to overtake heading into Turn 3 – Hamilton did the same into the first corner on the next tour.
Leclerc set the fastest lao of 1min 22.394sec as Perez pressured Russell in Turn 1. Further back, Norris was trying to get past Magnussen.
The Dane locked up on the final turn of lap 33, allowing the McLaren to pass him on the straight. Ricciardo then did the same on the next lap.
Mercedes told Russell he could let Perez by if it was hurting his tyres, the Englishman replying “Not what I want to hear”. As it turned out, Perez made it past on the run into Turn 11.
Verstappen started to come back into the race pace-wise on lap 38, clocking a 1min 21.677sec, but Leclerc immediately replied with a 1min 21.291sec.
That would be the Red Bull drivers’ lot though – the Dutchman pulled over to the side of the track coming out of the first corner and retiring with an issue. “It smells of weird fluid,” he said as the safety car came out.
The green flag fell again on lap 40, as Leclerc led from Perez, Russell, Hamilton and Norris.
Stroll was then hit with a 5sec penalty for weaving on the straight, a lap after forcing Bottas off the track at Turn 3 to take ninth.
The Canadian was then cautioned on lap 45 to not weave again as he struggled to hold off Gasly, but there no forward movement for the Frenchman, as the those two plus Bottas, Alonso and Schumacher put on a great show of battling for the fans.
“Let’s go for fastest lap at the end,” said Leclerc, whose lead of 15sec meant he had the luxury of ruminating on such matters on lap 48.
“Everything, everything you’ve got,” Stroll was told on lap 50 as he gamely defended from Gasly still. The Canadian couldn’t off the AlphaTauri though, Gasly DRS-ing his way past on the start-finish straight on lap 51.
Hamilton had quietly closed up to Russell, and by lap 52 was almost within a second of his team-mate.
It became apparent by lap 53 that Alonso had no tyres left, as Zhou Guanyu and Kevin Magnussen both got past within the first three corners.
“You guys put me in a really difficult position,” Hamilton told his Mercedes team as he appeared to be weighing up the chance of a move on Russell.
Alex Albon came in for a late, late pit stop on the penultimate lap, putting on soft tyres and taking a canny ninth place after running almost the entire race on half tyres.
At the sharp end though it was all about Leclerc – the Ferrari driver took an emphatic victory ahead of Perez and Hamilton to further extend his championship lead.
2022 Australian Grand Prix results
|1||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||58 laps||26*|
|2||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||+20.524sec||18|
|7||Esteban Ocon||Alpine||+1min 01.683sec||6|
|8||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||+1min 08.439sec||4|
|9||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||+1min 16.221sec||2|
|10||Alex Albon||Williams||+1min 19.382sec||1|
|11||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo||+1min 21.695sec|
|12||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||+1min 28.598sec|
|13||Mick Schumacher||Haas||+1 lap|
|14||Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+1 lap|
|15||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||+1 lap|
|16||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||+1 lap|
|17||Fernando Alonso||Alpine||+1 lap|
*Includes additional point for fastest lap