Australian GP: Max Verstappen vs Charles Leclerc continues as Mercedes seek improvement at returning race

Will Max Verstappen or Charles Leclerc claim their second win of the season, or can Mercedes get back in the fight with some car upgrades? Watch the Australian GP live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend, with the race at 6am on Sunday

Last Updated: 04/04/22 5:13 pm


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Anthony Davidson is at the SkyPad to analyze the sensational battle between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Anthony Davidson is at the SkyPad to analyze the sensational battle between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

After a pulsating double header to start the new season, F1 speeds onto the Australian GP this weekend as Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc renew their thrilling rivalry while Mercedes look for an upturn in form.

Returning to the calendar for the first time since 2019, the Australian GP from Melbourne’s Albert Park is always a much-loved event and all the action from Round Three is live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend.

A trip Down Under means earlier starts, with qualifying live on Saturday from 7am and the race live on Sunday from 6am.

The weekend represents another test for the drivers in these all-new cars, and there are certainly storylines aplenty.

Verstappen and Leclerc: A changing of the guard F1 rivalry

Two races into the 2022 campaign and a new era of Formula 1 and it is already abundantly clear; it is Ferrari and Red Bull who have started with the fastest cars and their star drivers Leclerc and Verstappen appear primed to enjoy a fascinating season-long battle.

It’s one race apiece for Leclerc and Verstappen so far, with each 24-year-old driver having outduelled the other for their well-earned victories in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

“We saw a fantastic battle in Bahrain and then Saudi Arabia took it to a whole new level,” said Sky Sports F1’s Karun Chandhok, with world champion Verstappen having passed Leclerc with four laps remaining.

A young Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc argue during their karting days, with the pair now forming one of the biggest rivalries during the current F1 season.

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A young Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc argue during their karting days, with the pair now forming one of the biggest rivalries during the current F1 season.

A young Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc argue during their karting days, with the pair now forming one of the biggest rivalries during the current F1 season.

“They’re young drivers who have been rivals since go-kart days a decade ago, so it’s fantastic to see them now at the top of Formula 1 fighting for the biggest crown.”

The battles between Leclerc and Verstappen have been fierce, yet respectful – with both drivers giving the other space on the track and plenty of credit off it, a far cry from the intensity of Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton last year.

“They’ve clearly got a lot of respect for each other,” Chandhok added. “They have both said that the fact they’ve been racing so long means that they’re able to compete wheel to wheel and still give each other the room and the space.

“Both cars seem very evenly matched. Both teams will be pushing hard with developments throughout the season so this could go all the way down to Abu Dhabi at the end of the year.”

Max Verstappen says there is mutual respect between himself and Charles Leclerc, following their epic on-track battle in Saudi Arabia.

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Max Verstappen says there is mutual respect between himself and Charles Leclerc, following their epic on-track battle in Saudi Arabia.

Max Verstappen says there is mutual respect between himself and Charles Leclerc, following their epic on-track battle in Saudi Arabia.

Indeed, a Resurgent Ferrari already have more than double the points of any other team while Red Bull would be right up the front with them if not for a late double DNF in Bahrain.

The obvious absentee from that fight, are the certain reigning world champions.

Mercedes planning ‘phased upgrades’ in bid to bounce back

Mercedes have endured a difficult start to the new year, claiming third and fourth thanks to Red Bull’s issues at the opener and fifth and a measly 10th in Saudi Arabia, where again they were well off the top two.

A less-than-impressed Hamilton said in Jeddah that the team were lacking speed and downforce, a concerning combination for any team let alone one bidding to maintain a historic championship streak.

“We’re so far off the guys ahead,” added Hamilton. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. It feels like a long way away.”

Former F1 driver Anthony Davidson shares his thoughts on Lewis Hamilton's performance so far this season, hailing that 'if anyone can bounce back, it's Lewis'.

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Former F1 driver Anthony Davidson shares his thoughts on Lewis Hamilton’s performance so far this season, hailing that ‘if anyone can bounce back, it’s Lewis’.

Former F1 driver Anthony Davidson shares his thoughts on Lewis Hamilton’s performance so far this season, hailing that ‘if anyone can bounce back, it’s Lewis’.

Indeed, Mercedes are around a second off the cars ahead. The team believe their biggest issue right now is the ‘porpoising’ bouncing effect along the straight. Put more downforce on the car and run it lower, the W13 is more likely to bounce. Try to increase straight-line speed, and the car goes faster but bounces even more. Tricks.

“If we solve the porpoising, that would cure I would say 99% of our issues,” insisted George Russell, who like his team insist there is plenty of potential in their car which we are just not seeing at the moment.

“I think we are not running the car where we are wanting to run it, and therefore it is very difficult to really assess what the lap time deficit is if we were able to run a car lower,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

So when will Mercedes get their act together? Well, the team say this isn’t a quick fix but they are planning step upgrades over the next few rounds, and the rumors are that they’re bringing their first update to Melbourne.

“We’ve got quite a lot to find both in qualifying and on the long run if we want to challenge the Ferrari and the Red Bull cars. However, behind us it looks like we have a bit of a margin to that midfield,” he said. Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton finished the Saudi Arabian GP in tenth position and queried if he'd even get a point with race engineer Peter Bonnington.

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Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton finished the Saudi Arabian GP in tenth position and queried if he’d even get a point with race engineer Peter Bonnington.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton finished the Saudi Arabian GP in tenth position and queried if he’d even get a point with race engineer Peter Bonnington.

“We need to do a good job to be ahead of them, but we have a bit of margin and that buys us a bit of breathing space to allow us to experiment on the weekends, to try and bring solutions to lift the level of performance. of the car.

“Ultimately though, this is a problem that is going to be fixed back at the factors both in Brackley and Brixworth. Everyone is working very hard to try and understand the issue and bring solutions and we are going to be doing that in a phased way over the next few races.

“At the track we are going to be doing as much as we can to minimize damage, to score as many points as possible.

“So, really there are two elements to this: maximizing the performance in a given weekend but then the bigger part of this is trying to get back to a level where we can compete for pole positions and for race wins.”

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