Ferrari fans around the world will be celebrating well into Sunday night after Charles Leclerc delivered his team a brilliant win in the Formula 1® Heineken® Australian Grand Prix 2022.
The Monegasque driver was in untouchable form, making a great start from pole position and taking dominant victory, beating Sergio Perez to the line by 20 seconds.
It's the fourth victory of the 24-year-old's career and second this season - who set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap - further cementing his lead in the world championship.
“The first [race] where we controlled a little bit [of] the gap,” Leclerc said post-race.
"What a car today. I did a good job all weekend, but it was not possible without the car. In the race pace it was so strong, and we were managing the tyres so well.
"It was very difficult [at the restart]. I had a huge understeer into the last corner. We managed to do so and then the pace was back.
"It is incredible to win here.”
Red Bull Racing finished second, but it was not reigning world champion Max Verstappen. Perez drove an intelligent race, without the speed to challenge the Ferrari of Leclerc, but enough to move ahead of the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, who got ahead of him at the start of the 58-lap race.
“Lewis overtook me and he braked really late. After that it was about getting him,” Perez explained.
“My first stint was very poor, but with the safety car, we were unlucky. We lost two positions, but we got them back.
“With Lewis it is very entertaining, he is a very good racer, he is very fair.”
George Russell finished third ahead of seven-time world champion teammate, Lewis Hamilton. In Russell's fourth race for the Mercedes outfit, the young Briton used that first of three safety car periods to make a cheap pitstop. The 24-year-old took advantage of the yellow flag pace to move ahead of Hamilton and Perez after exiting the pit lane.
Hamilton closed on Russell in the final laps, but could not get close enough to challenge for the final podium position.
“We got a little bit lucky today but we will take it,” Russell said.
“There is so much hard work going on back at base, back at Brixworth [Mercedes’ F1 power unit base in the UK].
“We are never going to give up. This weekend we were a long way behind our rivals, but we will keep on fighting.”
There was an all-McLaren battle for fifth, but it did not finish the way that the local fans would have wanted. Lando Norris spend most of the race with Daniel Ricciardo in his mirrors, but the Western Australian could not find a way past. The pair finishing nose to tail.
Esteban Ocon finished seventh after nursing his Alpine’s car temperatures for the second half of the race. He crossed the line ahead of reigning Australian Grand Prix winner, Valtteri Bottas, Alpha Tauri's Pierre Gasly, and Alex Albon - who scored a valuable point for Williams after making his only pit stop on the penultimate lap of the race.
Reigning world champion, Max Verstappen had a bad day. In second place for most of the race, the closest the Dutchman could get to Leclerc was on lap 24 when, immediately after second safety car period, the Red Bull Racing driver got alongside the Ferrari.
But his hopes ended on lap 39 when a power unit failure forced him to park at the side of the road, causing a virtual safety car.
Leclerc rebuilt his lead on the final restart, re-established his gap, and managed to drive a steady second half of the race.
The other Ferrari of Carlos Sainz had a terrible day as well, spinning into retirement while fighting for places outside the top 10 on the lap two.
Despite being poised as the early favourite for the championship, Leclerc is not getting ahead of himself.
“We are only at the third race, so it is too early to think about the championship."
Leclerc now leads the championship by a whopping 34 points ahead of Russell on 37. Carlos Sainz sits in third with 33 after three races. Ricciardo scored his opening points of the season and now sits in 11th place on eight points.
The championship heads to Europe for round four at Imola, Italy on April 24.