Albon's masterpiece and Bottas' terrifying helmet: Goin' up and down in Australia


Beach huts, kangaroos, conked-out Red Bulls, very long stints and a happy Binotto – is a pattern emerging amongst the chaos in F1 2022?


Jean-Éric Vergne has fallen a long way

Grand Prix Photo

A familiar pattern seems to be emerging in 2022 – Sainz and Verstappen square up, then the former messes up, the latter breaks down and Leclerc just wins anyway.

A sold-out Australian GP saw a ‘fair to dinkum’ race which was just about exciting enough to stop people dozing off in this hemisphere, but can anyone really stop the march of the Monegasque?

Here’s what was going up and down under at the 2022 Australian Grand Prix.

Going down

Unreliable Red Bulls

Max Verstappen attempts to stop broken-down Red Bull from burning after retiring from 2022 Australian GP

A fast car going nowhere


“I’d rather fix a fast car, than make a slow car fast,” said an indignated Christian Horner after a third retirement in three races for Red Bull.

George Russell is second in the championship, Christian. So is his Mercedes team in the constructors’, one that’s apparently going through a bit of a disaster.


Wrong lid

Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Australian GP 2022


Grand Prix Photo

Bottas needs to get someone else to design his crash helmets, which featured this race illustrations of beaches, huts and kangaroos.

You hardly feel the colours are going to strike fear into the heart of competitors a la Earnhardt and Senna – ‘Oh no, it’s Skippy’.


Fernando outfoxes himself

Fernando Alonso Alpine 2022 Australian GP

Things didn’t exactly go to El Plan

Alpine / James Moy Photography / XPB Images

Wily old ‘Nando managed to get the third DRS zone on the run down from Turn 7 through 8 to 9/10 removed, apparently to benefit the the Alpine’s superior straightline va-va-voom with the go-faster flap closed.

It all went wrong from qualifying onwards though as dud hydraulics pitched the Spaniard out. An alternate tyre strategy to make up for a lowly starting spot went wrong when he pitted and came back out in a midfield melee outside the points.

The Alpine driver just needed an ideal place to use his new tyres and breeze past the opposition. It wasn’t there though – he’d lobbied to have it removed.


Sainz shocker

Carlos Sainz Ferrari Australian GP 2022

Watching the title slip away


Gets done by the late stoppage in qualifying meaning he began the race in ninth, then in a moment of sheer desperation in the early exchanges runs wide on cold tyres at the chicane and dumps himself in the gravel.

Meanwhile Sainz’s team-mate romps away with the win and has everyone tell him how great he is. Can’t have been an easy ride home for an operator who was all but smooth his weekend.


Turtle disaster

Safety car during the Formula 1 Heineken Australian Grand Prix 2022, 3rd round of the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship, on the Albert Park Circuit, from April 8 to 10, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia - Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI

Turtle as seen in wild

Florent Gooden / DPPI

Both Aston Martins crashed out in FP3, its mechanics having to do a rapid repair job to make qualifying. Vettel’s just squeaked out in time to go 18th (a few 0.1secs faster than his fastest time set on the scooter back to the garage post practice), but Stroll didn’t make it.

Then the German crashed his car in the race also, with Stroll picking up a penalty for weaving on his way to a pointless finish.

Post-race Verstappen compared the speed of Aston Martin safety car, which F1 never seems to stop banging on about, to the animal kingdom’s famously pacey “turtle”. Not a PR masterclass this weekend for Aston.


Going Up

In the Grove

Nicolas Latifi in front of Williams-Mercedes teammate Alexander Albon in the 2022 Australian Grand Prix in Albert Park, Melbourne. Photo: Grand Prix Photo

Albon managed roughy three times longer on one set of tyres than Latifi’s done entire race laps all season

Grand Prix Photo

The Williams number crunchers made James Vowles look amateur as Alex Albon managed to pull off one of the all-time great strategy wheezes, driving just slow (and when I say slow I mean fast) enough to preserve his Pirellis till the year 2100, only changing them because F1 rules state so.

The Thai driver pitted from 7th and came out 10th, securing a sweet, sweet point for Grove and lifting it off the foot of the constructors’ table.


Scuderia masterclass

Mattia Binotto Ferrari team boss Australian GP 2022

Binotto: he loves to see it


Ferrari’s none-more-Italian approach, which many said was rubbish and meant it was stuffed pimento-style, has left everyone else standing in 2022.

Mattia Binotto has now reached chilling-on-the-Amalfi-coast-with-Aperol-Spritz-in-hand-level of relaxed, so much so that he’ll even let his young stars spar on track.

“They are free to fight and that’s important for us,” he purred after Melbourne. “I will enjoy their battle for a good position.”

You almost felt the eyes behind those spectacles were saying: ‘Enjoy those third, fourths, fifths and sixths Brackley and Milton Keynes, you’ve earned it.’


Fair dinkum’ Melbourne changes

14 ALONSO Fernando (spa), Alpine F1 Team A522, 10 GASLY Pierre (fra), Scuderia AlphaTauri AT03, 01 VERSTAPPEN Max (nld), Red Bull Racing RB18, action during the Formula 1 Heineken Australian Grand Prix 2022, 3rd round of the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship, on the Albert Park Circuit, from April 8 to 10, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia - Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI

Australia saw some decent scraps – room for improvement though?


The racing in Australia certainly was an improvement after the numerous changes to track layout made by organisers. However, it could have been even better.

As mentioned above, Fernando Alonso angled to get the third of four DRS zones removed on “safety” grounds, meaning cars couldn’t fight back after being passed as we saw in the previous two rounds.