Get ready for an adrenaline-fueled ride as the 2023 racing season heats up! The action-packed Melbourne event is just around the corner, promising to deliver high-octane thrills and intense competition.
Following the two Middle Eastern races that opened the 2023 season, the focus now shifts to one of the most significant events on the calendar as we head Down Under to Melbourne for the third round of the year. Here are some key topics likely to be discussed during the event.
Mercedes, which dominated F1 between 2014 and 2020, faces three main challenges to become a title contender again.
1. Perez vs Verstappen
The Red Bull team's dominance this F1 season continued in Jeddah, with Sergio Perez delivering an impressive performance that gave fans hope for a more competitive year. After Max Verstappen encountered a driveshaft issue during qualifying, Perez capitalized and secured pole position. He then maintained control of the race until a Safety Car period brought Verstappen back into contention.
With half the race remaining, Verstappen closed the gap on Perez, but the Mexican driver had an answer to everything his teammate offered. In the end, Perez secured his first win of the year, and while Verstappen remains the championship favorite, Perez's performance suggests that he could be a contender. Melbourne will be the first opportunity for Perez to prove himself, and fans eagerly anticipate the showdown between these two Red Bull drivers.
2. Can Alonso keep up his form?
Red Bull has been the dominant force in F1 this season, but the closest challenger so far has been Aston Martin, with Fernando Alonso leading the charge. Alonso's quick start in Saudi Arabia saw him take the lead, and he has already picked up two podiums in the first two races of the season. However, he faces stiff competition from Ferrari and Mercedes in the upcoming Australian Grand Prix.
The track in Melbourne would have favored Ferrari in the past, but the impressive showing from Mercedes in Saudi Arabia suggests they may be a threat. Meanwhile, Alpine cannot be ruled out either, as they were competitive here last year, and their car has already been on par with Aston, Mercedes, and Ferrari at times this season. It will be interesting to see if Alonso can maintain his form and hold off the challengers in what promises to be an exciting race in Australia.
3. Changes at McLaren
McLaren has announced a major restructuring of their technical department and the departure of their Executive Technical Director James Key. As Key leaves, McLaren are going to install three technical heads to oversee the division, with Peter Prodromou and Neil Houldey taking on new positions under Team Principal Andrea Stella. But the signing of David Sanchez from Ferrari – with the Frenchman starting work in 2024 – is a significant one.
Despite the changes, it hasn’t been a positive start to the year for McLaren, who are currently bottom of the constructors’ championship and yet to score. However, the team is confident that they have a better car than they’ve been able to show up to now, with misfortune costing them a chance of points in Saudi Arabia after getting one car into Q3.
It remains to be seen whether the restructuring will be enough to turn McLaren’s fortunes around. Still, fans will eagerly anticipate the next race in Australia to see if the team can finally start scoring points and moving up the standings.
4. A massive crowd with a new home hero
Australian rookie Oscar Piastri will be racing in his home Grand Prix for the first time after a strong start to his debut season with Alpine F1. Born and raised in Melbourne, Piastri will have the support of the local crowd as he takes on the challenge of the Albert Park circuit. Despite his team's lackluster performance in the opening races, Piastri has shown promise with a Q3 appearance in Saudi Arabia. He will be hoping to tick off many more milestones throughout the season.
While the pressure may be off in terms of race expectations, Piastri is sure to receive a huge boost from the support of the local fanbase. Last year's record attendance of nearly 420,000 over the four days of the event could potentially be exceeded this weekend, and Piastri will be eager to put on a show for his home crowd. As McLaren continues to work on improving their car, Piastri's focus will be on gaining experience and building on his impressive start to his F1 career.
5. Ricciardo returns
Ricciardo is attending the race in a new capacity as the third driver at Red Bull. Although he's not scheduled to drive, the eight-time Grand Prix winner will still make his presence known in the paddock. Who knows what kind of mischief he'll get up to?
Bahrain GP Race Results Sources: