BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 12: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and McLaren F1 and Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren F1 look on from the grid during Day One of F1 Testing at Bahrain International Circuit on March 12, 2021 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Joe Portlock/Getty Images)

Formula 1 | F1 2022 | Australian Grand Prix preview | Ferrari eye advantage as F1 returns to Melbourne

By Neil Leverett

  • Round 3 of the 2022 Formula 1 season moves on to Melbourne for this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix
  • One race win apiece for Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc after competitive season opening
  • Mercedes still struggling with performance issues
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – As Formula 1 returns to Melbourne this weekend, will Ferrari regain the upper hand over Red Bull in the Australian Grand Prix?


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F1 returns to Melbourne

When the paddock left Melbourne back in March 2019, few had any notion it would be another month and three years before Formula 1 would return to Albert Park. Finally this weekend however, F1 is back in Victoria for the Australian Grand Prix.

Since the last trip to the Garden State, the landscape has of course changed but not only in the case of the pandemic.

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With Australian doors now open in larger numbers to the world, one of Mercedes’ favoured stamping grounds with four wins in the last six GPs could now become alien territory, with Melbourne now relieved of opening day duties.

Ferrari have taken the chequered flag in Australia with Sebastian Vettel in 2017 and 2018, and for now having taken the pedestal of Red Bull’s main challengers, The Prancing Horse are paced well to take a win four years later.

Of course, A certain Max Verstappen will have other ideas.


Honours even

After another cat-and-mouse duel at Jeddah Corniche Circuit last time out, Verstappen made it a win apiece between himself and Charles Leclerc, as their budding rivalry from karting looks set to be the defining narrative for the campaign.

Though Red Bull did haul their current main rivals back in Saudi Arabia, the early indications are again that it is Ferrari who may have the better pace at Albert Park, with Leclerc edging Verstappen in both FP1 and Fp2.

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The last time the two raced in Australia, Verstappen took P3 ahead of Leclerc in P5. But that was in 2019.

Red Bull have not won here since 2011 when Vettel  – rather ironically with Scuderia – and if the Austrian manufacturer are to close an already 40-point lead in the Constructors’ battle, Verstappen will have to be on his mettle to stop a relentless Leclerc.

And with 12 points parting the two in the title race already, the Dutchman cannot afford any slip ups.


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Mercedes poised for more frustration?

For Mercedes, a return to Australia would normally fill the Silver Arrows with expectation but for the moment the picture is very different.

Despite salvaging a P3-P4 finish on opening weekend in Bahrain, the results a fortnight ago would have left Toto Wolff with a sizeable reality check.

As Mercedes still struggle to get to grips with porpoising issues on the track, it is Lewis Hamilton labouring, whilst rather bafflingly George Russell has two top-five finishes under his belt in his first races for his new team.

In the gap since Saudi Arabia, the hopes were that a resolution could be found but after a difficult Friday practice, it could be another weekend of woe for the Brackley manufacturer.

Indeed, as Hamilton told, the seven-time world champion explained the problems Mercedes were having, adding the now troublesome W13 ‘doesn’t seem to want to improve’.

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“I feel OK, it was just a difficult session. It’s just nothing you change on the car makes a difference at the moment, so that’s the difficult thing. You get in very optimistic and then you make changes and then it doesn’t really seem to want to improve.

“We made some changes going into P2; P1 was better and then P2 ended up being a bit harder for me, so I don’t know. It’s a tricky car.”



Signs of hope for McLaren

Any Australian GP would be a special occasion for Daniel Ricciardo but given the troubles McLaren have endured to begin the season, the home crowd for the Perth driver will be a sight for sore eyes.

And it appears, Melbourne may yet see a reversal in fortunes for the Woking team.

It comes after McLaren have taken just six points from the opening two races, where in Sakhir, McLaren’s P14 and P15 finish was their worst joint result for some time.

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In Melbourne however, both Ricciardo and Lando Norris have stated the car feels better to drive, with the latter having taken P5 and P8 in practice.

Last season was seen as a watershed moment for McLaren, but the new regulations this season have rather seen the rug taken from under their feet. The good feeling from Friday will give hope for not only qualifying but for Sunday’s race itself.

For Ricciardo, simply finishing in Melbourne this weekend may feel like an achievement after a loss of drive in Jeddah forced his retirement, but though an Australian driver is yet to win or even podium a home GP, a points finish may feel like one.

It may be his teammate who holds the best hope of what would be successive top-ten results but Ricciardo is a motivated man this weekend.


The Formula 1 Heineken Australian Grand Prix 2022 takes place this weekend at Albert Park, Melbourne. 


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