After scoring his second victory in the third race of 2022, Charles Leclerc says the championship fight is on.Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jnr, his closest rivals heading into the weekend, failed to score.
Following two Safety Car periods, Leclerc took the chequered flag a comfortable 20 seconds ahead of Sergio Perez and George Russell. The Mercedes driver is now second in the points standings.
He described the fourth victory of his career as “the first one where we controlled a little bit the gap.”
Leclerc raved about the performance of his Ferrari, which appeared to be managing its tyres better than Verstappen’s pursuing Red Bull, prior to his retirement.
“Honestly, what a car today,” said Leclerc. “I did a good job all weekend but it was not possible without the car. And this weekend especially in the race pace we were extremely strong.
“The tyres felt great from the first lap to the last lap we were managing the tyres extremely well and I’m just so happy.”
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However Leclerc came close to losing the lead at one restart where Verstappen put him under pressure. “It was very difficult especially the Safety Car restart,” he said. “I had a huge understeer into the last corner and [I thought] it was going to be very difficult to keep that first position.
“But then we managed to do so and after the first two or three corners I managed to regain the grip and then the pace was back.”
Verstappen’s retirement leaves Leclerc’s strongest opponent sixth in the standings, 46 points adrift. The Ferrari driver says the championship is now a realistic possibility.
“Obviously we are only at the third race so it’s difficult to think about the championship. But to be honest, we’ve got a very strong car, a very reliable car too and for now we’ve always been there so I hope it continues like this.
“If it does then we probably have chances for the championship which obviously makes me smile after last two years have been difficult for the team and also for myself. So it’s great to be back in this position.”
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2022 Australian Grand Prix
- Aston Martin’s porpoising “does not allow us to exploit the progress the guys have made”
- FIA responds to Verstappen’s criticism of Safety Car performance
- “So this is the end of our race, I guess?” How Alonso’s luckless Australian GP unfolded
- Two-degree temperature rise led to Hamilton’s “difficult position” radio message
- Matching Red Bull’s development rate will be “difficult”, warns Leclerc
36 comments on “Leclerc says title fight is on as Melbourne win hands him 34-point lead”
10th April 2022, 8:40
If RedBull want to compete against that rocket ship of a Ferrari they are going to have to start Perez on Hards.
10th April 2022, 12:07
I agree. RB really has a poor start to their season once again, strategy wise and reliability wise. Since they always seem to be in the top 2 or 3 it is hard to criticise them as it is an achievement in itself, but it must also be said the never really seem to be able to make that final step to really dominate. Last year they seemed to have taken that step but in reality they just had the best driver flattering their car. Perez didn’t take that car anywhere.
10th April 2022, 18:30
Rb is the rocket ship.
Looks like Ferrari’s traditionally solid start of a season is paying dividends of such a revolutionary season. Rb is missing out on points early on and that Mercedes looks promising. I think it is going to be between Leclerc and Lewis.
11th April 2022, 5:43
I don’t want to underestimate mercedes, but the fact perez overtook both merc drivers with a car that isn’t as fast over a lap as the ferrari and then pulled away… they have a lot of pace to find.
David BR (@david-br)
10th April 2022, 14:29
It’s looking good for Leclerc. Already almost two 25-pointers ahead of Verstappen, Sainz unable to pose any real challenge yet, and perhaps more ominous for Red Bull, even a coughing, spluttering, over-bouncy Mercedes was almost posing a threat in the race. The Red Bull looks fallible, pushing to and over the edge, while the Ferrari looks both comfortable and possessing more potential to develop.
Incidentally I don’t think Sainz’s comment about Ferrari not being honed for a title fight was either fair or diplomatic. Even at their peaks, Mercedes and Red Bull have also had gremlins. They look calm and professional this time round. Sainz enjoyed a better status while Ferrari were adrift last year, but now they’ve got a great car, Leclerc has shown how to maximize it, clearly putting CS under pressure. As a reactive driver always on the edge, rather than Leclerc’s smoother style, that means mistakes can seep in more easily as we saw in qualifying and the race.
10th April 2022, 17:49
That’s what I don’t like about Sainz. He’s always complaining and it’s always somebody else’s fault. He has had a full year to adapt and the new generations of cars are unknown to everyone. Pace wise he’s been lagging behind Leclerc and you can’t win championships by simply managing and being consistent unless you have a mediocre teammate and a dominant car.
The RBR and apart from its reliability issues seems harder to drive and the team was tweaking the set up here and there to close the gap to Ferrari. Mercedes and unfortunately for them they seem to have messed up the concept of their car.
As for Ferrari, the car seems to be instantly quick on every circuit, on every tyre and in every condition (still to be confirmed in wet weather conditions). This is also an indication that their new cutting edge simulator is working very well and their track-simulation and track-wind tunnel correlations are OK. It’s also rumoured that Ferrari are on a reliability program for their PU that will be completed by the Miami GP, after that they will unleash the beast and will start to use more aggressive PU modes when needed.
David BR (@david-br)
10th April 2022, 18:01
@tifoso1989 I agree about Ferrari and it will be good to see them develop the car even more this season. I’m not sure Mercedes have messed up the concept of their car, though. Since overheating doesn’t seem to be a problem, the super-slim sidepod seems to be working fine and the issue, if anything, seems to be that the design is too effective in producing downforce, exacerbating the porpoising also experienced by other teams. I just don’t imagine that it will take them an entire season to find a solution that allows them to make much fuller use of this downforce potential in their original design. I suspect that when (or if and when) it’s sorted it will be the design to beat.
10th April 2022, 18:24
I think the biggest problem is the engine. It seems to be OK in power but I suspect it uses more fuel than the rest to do so. Also Hamilton’s car was overheating and it wasn’t one of the hottest races.
I believe Steiner said that Haas also tried the sidepod-less design but decided against it. It could be that other teams did as well and decided that the downsides are too severe. My guess? Sidepod or not they don’t have a fast car this year. Yes it does happen to the best sometimes. They will probably win a race or two especially when Charles or Max hit misfortune but that’s it for them this year.
David BR (@david-br)
10th April 2022, 23:21
@afonic Hamilton and Russell were running different workaround solutions, which probably explains why Hamilton alone had the overheating issue (and why he complained about his race or racing being compromised). The consensus seems to be that they do have a fast car, only they’ve had to slow it down in diverse ways (lower engine modes, increased weight, increased ride height etc.) to reduce the bouncing. So if they can find an alternative solution to stabilize the car, then they should be a match to Ferrari and Red Bull. The fuel change may be a separate issue, I don’t know.
11th April 2022, 0:05
@david-br Fixing the bouncing isn’t going to make the car automatically a lot faster. Ferrari is also bouncing quite a lot (certainly more than Red Bull) and they are fast! Binotto has already stated that they will bring updates, especially to bring the weight down. So even if Mercedes improve so will the rest of the field. Plus, this is the first year we have the budget cap in place, and it will affect those who got it wrong more than those who hit the ground running.
Saying “they have a fast car” when they are about 1 second off the pace in both quali and race doesn’t change the fact that it is not a championship challenging car. My guess? They will be like 2017 Red Bull: comfortably P3 and improving throughout the season to get a couple of wins in the second half.
Funny thing that we got so used to them winning that we think that there must be something wrong. I think other teams just did a better job this year.
David BR (@david-br)
11th April 2022, 0:57
@afonic It’s always possible people are overestimating Mercedes’ capacity to produce a winning car or correct their issues, especially with the budget cap. The latter explains why they haven’t been hurling solutions at the car each race. I was replying to you saying that the biggest problem is the engine, when in fact Russell, for example, has said that 99% of the issue is the porpoising and that one of the temporary solutions has been to turn down the power to reduce the downforce (as well as adding weight). So these workarounds may account for some of the lower speed. Also the issue – aside from the discomfort to the drivers of being shaken around on the straights – is more to do with the bouncing carrying into the corners, which isn’t an issue for Ferrari. Anyhow Imola should give a better idea of whether Mercedes can conjure something up soon or whether they’re stuck with a lame car for the year as you’re suggesting.
Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
10th April 2022, 16:09
Wondering with whom Leclerc expects a fight. Red Bull binned it yet again with the car, so that’s not going to be any serious threat (other than the occasional race here and there) and Carlos hasn’t been up there on Leclercs level either. Mercedes isn’t going anywhere any time soon with that shed of a car and even if they fix their issues, Ferrari is also going to work on their car.
Might not be the most entertaining season when it comes to the title ‘fight’, but hey, Leclerc winning and Ferrari finally being on the top step, I’ll take it!
10th April 2022, 17:50
Sooner or later Red Bull will sort out their reliability and Max will give Charles a fight. The longer that takes though of more of a head start Leclerc gets in points.
10th April 2022, 18:33
@barryfromdownunder come Spain, mercedes is ahead.
10th April 2022, 16:21
Lec is the favorite for the title now. Sainz and Max can’t afford another weekend like this. Also Ferrari most likely will pick a clear number 1 very soon which will make it even tougher for Sainz to catch up.
Mercedes needs to get rid of porpoising in the fast corners. We have seen Ferrari was porpoising on the straights too but not in the fast corners so they are managing it well. Wheras Mercedes is experiencing porpoising on the straights as well as in the fast corners which is losing them a lot of laptime.
The domination of Lec at Melbourne reminded me of Kimi’s domination at Melbourne in 2007. Maybe this will be the long awaited Double Championship year for Ferrari after 2007.
11th April 2022, 10:52
I still expect Verstappen to be competing for wins every race weekend. Sooner or later, Leclerc will face his share of bad luck and Verstappen will be right in the fight.
Regarding Sainz.. I’ve always considered him as a great midfield driver, but not good enough to cut it at the sharp end of the grid. Even though the points table flattered him slightly last season, I never considered him better than Leclerc.. And the start to this season has proved that he’s not really #1 driver material for Ferrari. I expect them to start using team orders before the mid point of the season in favour of Leclerc. If they want to win, they’ll have to back one horse early on. Sainz is definitely not that horse.
10th April 2022, 16:42
As we don’t yet know how the season will pan out, I have created a moan template to save time:
Boo! [name 1] only wins because of best car! These guys must be cheating or something! Everyone knows he is just pay driver! He’s only leading because [name 2] has had a lot of bad luck / been victim of a conspiracy!
[team name] dominance is so boring!
10th April 2022, 16:47
Great race by leclerc. Of course the car was phenomenal but Sainz showed the difference a driver can make.
Redbull again a major reliability problem at the moment max would have settled for second place.
Mercedes again picking up the crumbs that dropped of the table.
Mclaren in a position that fitted and of course albon who outperformed the car.
11th April 2022, 5:49
Noteworthy is how mercedes ended up being the highest scoring team this race by having 2 drivers in the top 4, despite not having the pace, reminds me a bit of italy 2020, where mclaren, often competitive at that track, made the most points despite not winning.
10th April 2022, 16:48
Although Kimi didn’t get a Grand Chelem on that occasion, the two Macca boys lead six of the 58 laps
Kimi never had a Grand Chelem actually, just two hat-tricks 2007 Australia and 2008 Spain
10th April 2022, 16:56
Reply to AMG44 above
10th April 2022, 18:31
I mean getting the Kimi Australia 2007 vibes. Dominating the race and establishing himself as the early title favorite also bringing the glory back to Ferrari.
10th April 2022, 16:50
If Max has another DNF in the next few races then it starts becoming Leclerc’s to lose. Long long season ahead and anyone can have a good streak or a bad streak and even things up. Just look at how Hamilton came back last season.
I really hope for Ferrari that they keep this up. Amazing car and Leclerc would be a very likeable world champion. I’d sell a kidney at this point to go to Monza this year.
Nulla Pax (@nullapax)
10th April 2022, 17:13
I was one of those who were blown away with delight when Charles arrived on the scene.
He was so keen and fast that he represented a new hopeful in F1 for me.
Ferrari then hired him and let him down with a poor car.
Fingers crossed he is now being given the tools to do the job.
10th April 2022, 17:46
I think unless Red Bull and Ferrari can get 2 cars to routinely finish, Merc could sneak the constructors with solid rather than stellar finishes.
Whilst it’s good to see cars being able to follow more closely I’m not sure we’re seeing the show we were promised. Albert Park was a pretty dull affair.
11th April 2022, 5:51
True, russell seems to be at hamilton’s level as predicted and if hamilton didn’t also decline that makes it a formidable line-up, if you have 2 strong drivers that close in quali and race you pick a lot of points, this race they ended up the most scoring team.
11th April 2022, 17:44
How has Ferrari not routinely finished? Ferrari has finished 83.3% of the first three races (one car DNF’ed) that was entirely on Sainz. RBR however has finished only 50% of their races (3 DNF’ed) in three races.
10th April 2022, 17:47
Mercedes’ are too slow
Red Bull seems too fragile
Sainz has the same car but isn’t there
It truly seems to be Leclercs to lose
10th April 2022, 17:54
It’s looking like nobody wants to step up and challenge Leclerc at this point. Red Bull falling apart, Mercedes bouncing around and Sainz taking himself out. It’s Leclerc’s title to lose.
10th April 2022, 18:19
What title fight? His closest rival Max has a car which is a diva and can spontaneously explode if Max pushes it to the limit. Mercs are there to pick up the pieces if one of them managed to get their setup right. Carlos doesnt seem to be too interested in fighting for championship. Checo, I mean it s lottery of the cars survives or not.
If I'm not wery much mistaken (@ifiamnotwerymuchmistaken)
10th April 2022, 19:08
At the moment Ferrari is undoubtedly the car to beat, and Leclerc is using it splendidly. Minimising mistakes, driving agressively but at the same time very intelligently.
It’s going to be the longest season ever, so if Ferrari lags in developement I don’t think it’s impossible for RB or even Merc to catch up with the points.
I just hope we don’t have many races with this level of dominance, but if the rumors about the Ferrari engine still beeing in reliability mode are true, it looks highly unlikely.
In the race itself, I noticed that drivers were able to follow closely without any problems, but were reluctant to attack without DRS. I think it’s time to say goodbye to the entertainment value button, the drivers have become addicted to it, and seem to be unable to pass without it anymore. I’d much more appreciate 2 real overtakes per race than 10 DRS assisted ones.
10th April 2022, 20:08
Ironically, Lewis will need Max and Max will need Lewis in this season where Ferrari took off. Charles obviously no 1 driver at Ferrari, having a more then very decent car to drive. It’s quite difficult to catch him now and when you do he has an alright bodyguard (one who cannot totally control his nerves all the time, but we are not all champions..). Its better when Mercedes can win, and sometimes Red Bull.. As long as Ferrari doesn’t win all the gp’s when you don’t (and both Mercedes and Red Bull make too many mistakes now). It doesn’t really matter why you cannot win (reliability or performance), when you fall behind, you won’t be champion. George would say you cannot win points, when you don’t finish so I guess he is an happy boy. Lewis just wants to win, everything else is losing, just like Max. George is now on par with Lewis, only because Lewis and his car did not wake up yet.. Just look at the focus Max and Lewis had when they fought for the prizes last season, the focus Charles has (not Carlos I’m afraid) the moment he realises his car is performing well.. but it is too easy for him at the moment. Btw, special drivers these three.. Max seems to have the most problems with Charles, Charles would have difficulties racing Lewis and Lewis doesn’t like racing Max 😉 But they all terrific drivers with strong mentalities in my opinion
11th April 2022, 5:53
Absolutely, that’s what I was thinking too, drs is ruining things, making it impossible for example for hamilton and russell to defend from perez in the straight, and when the pass happens, even when then hamilton passed some minor car, there’s no challenge in it.
10th April 2022, 19:56
By the looks of it so far there is not even gonna be a fight.
10th April 2022, 20:44
The Leclerc / Ferrari package is clearly very strong at this point in the season. Max needs to finish races from now on if he wants to have a shot at the title. Look at Mercedes, they don’t have the speed but they get the points in. The only way I see Leclerc having a real fight is if the redbull gets more realible and maybe a little bit quicker / better on the tires or Mercedes getting a lot quicker.
I don’t consider Perez and Sainz in the mix
11th April 2022, 5:55
Verstappen is actually doing what he can to maximise points, he’d have got 2 2nd places and 1 1st, would’ve still been behind leclerc but not that much, if the car isn’t reliable not much he can do. True about perez\sainz.
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