Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, Sunday, 04.02.2023
Sentences like Lewis Hamilton’s that he has never seen a car as fast as the RB19 hint at the direction this season could take.
With incredible dominance, Verstappen and Perez drove away from the competition from Maranello and Brixworth in the first two races.
With the exception of Aston Martin, who are currently second in line to challenge the Red Bulls, the other teams have more to do with themselves than compete for the world championship title.
Ferrari is struggling with reliability problems, as it did last season, and Mercedes has fumbled with the whole concept.
Unsurprisingly, Verstappen enters the race as favourite with odds of around 1.28 and a wide gap to the competition, and yet the QF held a few surprises.
The only component that Red Bull cannot influence is the weather. It would play into the hands of the competition if the Australian GP were to turn into a rain race.
The tarmac stayed dry in qualifying, Verstappen took his first pole in Australia and yet I’m predicting a very close race for the Australian Grand Prix.
It has been over 10 years since Red Bull last won the Australian Grand Prix.
In 2011, Sebastian Vettel was the last Red Bull driver to win at Albert Park. The Red Bulls were also world champions then.
So it’s a good omen for Max Verstappen, who has only finished on the podium once in Melbourne in recent years and therefore has a score to settle with the Albert Park circuit
With Sergio Perez, the world champion has his toughest rival in his own team. After a second place last year, the Mexican is just as keen as Verstappen to win the Australian GP.
However, the Mexican’s chances of taking the win are more than slim after his trip into the gravel. The brakes failed, so Perez had to shut down the engine in Q1 and will start the race from P20.
That could put the competition on the map on race day. First and foremost Aston Martin, who, it seems, along with Red Bull, probably understand their car best and have learned from last season’s mistakes.
Especially old star Fernando Alonso, who celebrated his 100th podium last weekend in Jeddah, seems to be coming up trumps once again with all his experience and skill.
In qualifying, both Aston Martins showed a very good performance and at least Alonso was on the first row of the grid at times.
Even though Mercedes performed surprisingly well, both Aston Martins can be expected to finish within the top six, which would be rewarded with odds of around 1.85 at Bwin Betting.
The Silver Arrows were probably the biggest surprise of the QF. The setup changes seem to be paying off, as with P2 and P3 and a very good driving performance, it probably won’t be a start-to-finish win for Verstapppen.
The Ferraris, on the other hand, fell off a bit in the third qualifying session of the year as well. P5 and P7 are definitely not the claim of the Scuderia, which will already make a comprehensive course change after the race.
Because the problems are the same as last year. Tyre management is not yet where it should be and the gap to the Red Bull is far too big.
Leclerc’s mediocre start to the season so far is also reflected in the now 38-point difference to Max Verstappen.
However, the very exciting QF gives hope for an equally exciting race. With Aston Martin, the surprisingly strong Mercedes and Verstappen, three teams are fighting for the win.
It’s also possible that Ferrari will have something to say about it. Either way, it will be an exciting battle for victory.
The difference to the last races is that Verstappen without Perez has to fight alone against two Mercedes already at the start.
Nevertheless, the bookmakers don’t really believe in a winner other than Verstappen. Russell has very high odds of around 9.00 on a win at the Australian GP, making him the closest competitor to Alonso according to the odds.
Of course, the track characteristics still suit Verstappen the most as the RB19 is the fastest car in the field.
The last 5 races at Albert Park Circuit:
The rebuilding of the Clark Chicane and the elimination of two corners has increased speeds here to as much as 330 km/h.
With four DRS zones and wider corners, there will be better opportunities for overtaking. In addition, a slight elevation has been built in some corners, so that several driving lines are possible here.
According to Hülkenberg, the track is therefore more fluid and allows more top speed. However, this also results in more braking, which was already evident for some teams in the practice sessions.
Even though the weather can change quickly down under, rain will not play a major role on race day, so I expect few retirements or crashes.
Still, for less than two retirements, Bet365 Betting offers odds of around 2.10.
Conclusion: Although Max Verstappen has never been able to win in Australia, I believe it will be this year.
The last Red Bull victory was more than 10 years ago, but Verstappen also proved his nerve in the QF and took first place.
However, the competition, especially the two Mercedes, whose performance was reminiscent of old times, will make Verstappen’s victory anything but easy.
Together with the Aston Martins and the Ferraris, I expect the first real four-way fight, because the Silver Arrows seem to be successful with their new concept.
For me, the victory in the Australian GP will not be so clear-cut and in the end it will be a contested race similar to qualifying.
My tip for the Australian GP: The fight for victory will be very close and the winner will finish with a lead of between 5-10 seconds.