After dominating the first two races of the year, Red Bull are seeking their first Australian Grand
Prix victory in over a decade. Will they succeed in doing so? Or will we see a major upset at
Albert Park? Here’s what to watch out for and who to back in the 2023 Australian Grand Prix.
Formula 1 is back Down Under for the 2023 Australian Grand Prix weekend. The Albert Park circuit in Melbourne has been on the calendar since 1996, having taken over hosting duties from Adelaide. Attracting a 400,000 sell-out crowd last year, the venue recently signed a long-term contract extension to keep F1 in Australia until at least 2037.
Last year, the revised layout of the Albert Park circuit made its debut. A new, faster layout – designed with improving overtaking opportunities in mind – will make its second appearance this weekend. The drivers will have no fewer than four DRS zones in which to overtake in the race – an F1 first – meaning we should see some enticing moves on Sunday.
This is the last slice of Formula 1 action for almost a month, with the cancelled Chinese Grand Prix leaving a four-week gap in the schedule. Can anyone get close to Red Bull at the last of the opening three rounds – or will the reigning champions extend their advantage even further?
Red Bull seeks first Australian win since 2011
At the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Red Bull made 2023 only the fourth year in which a team has opened a Formula 1 season with consecutive 1-2 finishes. Only Williams in 1992 and Mercedes in 2019 have taken 1-2 results at all of the first three races of the year – a feat which Red Bull will be hoping to replicate at the 2023 Australian Grand Prix.
Last time out, in Jeddah, it was Sergio Perez who finished ahead of Max Verstappen, following a driveshaft failure for Verstappen in qualifying which left him only 15th on the grid. Verstappen’s comeback through the order proved without doubt that Red Bull’s RB19 is the class of the field in 2023.
Another 1-2 does seem likely this weekend – despite the team’s recent form in Australia perhaps suggesting otherwise. Red Bull has claimed only one victory at the Australian Grand Prix and that was with Sebastian Vettel back in 2011. Only a handful of podiums have followed since then, including last year when Perez finished as runner-up.
While Perez stood on the podium, Verstappen retired from last year’s race with reliability issues. Verstappen’s best result to date at Albert Park is third, recorded in 2019. It’s his only top four finish from six previous appearances in Melbourne. Perez does not have the strongest of records here either, having picked up only a handful of points in Australia prior to last year’s podium finish.
Can Red Bull finally break their win-less streak at the Australian Grand Prix? It would be a major upset if they didn’t.
Alonso on a roll
While Red Bull have dominated the first two races of the year, their two drivers have been joined by the same face on the podium at both races. Fernando Alonso has had a seriously impressive start to 2023, scoring his first consecutive podium finishes in almost a decade.
Alonso joined Formula 1’s exclusive 100 podium club in Saudi Arabia and now seeks podium 101 at the Australian Grand Prix. Strangely, all five drivers before Alonso who’ve taken 101 podium finishes all won when standing on the podium for the 101st time. Perhaps it’s a good omen for the Spaniard’s chances this weekend.
Alonso showed a lot of promise in qualifying at Albert Park last year, setting fastest sector times in the final part of qualifying before crashing out in the final few corners. Expect him to be up at the sharp end of the grid once more this weekend.
Piastri’s first home race appearance
Oscar Piastri becomes the latest Australian F1 driver to race at home this weekend, following in the footsteps of Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo to become the third Australian to race at Albert Park. It’s a true home race for the young McLaren driver too, who hails from Melbourne.
The Australian Grand Prix hasn’t been particularly kind to its home drivers. No Australian driver has finished on the podium at their home event in Formula 1. Ricciardo finished second in 2014, before being disqualified due to a fuel infringement. Barring any unusual circumstances, that statistic won’t be changing this weekend.
The McLaren team are yet to score any points after a trying first two races in 2023. Piastri will take some confidence from the fact that he was able to out-qualify his team-mate in Saudi Arabia and even record the team’s first top ten qualification of the season.
Last year, Lando Norris finished fifth for McLaren, while Daniel Ricciardo finished sixth. It was one of only two double top-six results from the team in the entirety of 2022. The top six may be out of reach for McLaren this weekend but an Australian driver scoring a point or two on their Australian Grand Prix debut would be a great story.
One of the top six starters is likely to retire
A strange statistic surrounding the Australian Grand Prix is that in all but two of the 25 F1 races held so far at Albert Park, at least one of the top six starters has retired in all but two races at the circuit. 2005 and 2011 are the only years in which all top six starters have made the end of the race. Last year, the ‘honour’ of being the top six starter to retire befell Max Verstappen. The championship leader will be keen to avoid a repeat this year.
Can AlphaTauri return to the points?
Aside than McLaren, AlphaTauri are the only other team yet to score in 2023. Yuki Tsunoda has come agonisingly close to doing so in both of the first two races, however, finishing 11th both times. After finishing 1.096 seconds away from a point in Bahrain, the Japanese driver finished 2.668 seconds away from a points finish in Saudi Arabia.
While Tsunoda has finished 11th in both races, rookie Nyck de Vries has finished 14th both times. The Dutch driver is yet to replicate the points finish he scored on debut with Williams at last year’s Italian Grand Prix. AlphaTauri have not scored points yet this year, nor have they reached Q3 at any race since last year’s Singapore Grand Prix. Another non-Q3 appearance this week would be their longest such streak in over a decade.
With the Red Bull junior team having scored at all but one of the last seven Australian Grand Prix race weekends, perhaps Albert Park is where Tsunoda can finally climb one place higher than 11th.