Verstappen “surprised” Mercedes are closest threat to Red Bull in Melbourne

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In the round-up: Max Verstappen admitted he was “a little bit surprised” to see Mercedes qualify second and third behind him on the grid for the Australian Grand Prix.

In brief

Verstappen “surprised” to be joined by Mercedes on grid

George Russell secured Mercedes’ first front row start of the season in Melbourne with team mate Lewis Hamilton taking third.

After a disappointing start to 2023 for Mercedes, pole winner Verstappen said he had not expected to find them starting directly next to him on today’s grid.

“I’m a little bit surprised,” Verstappen said. “Maybe they are also a little bit surprised! But I guess it’s a good thing.”

He believes the changes in the competitive order in Melbourne is largely down to the performance of Pirelli’s rubber. “It’s all about just having the tyres in the right window and I guess they did a good job with that as well,” he said.

Tsunoda explains weighbridge frustration

AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda admitted he was frustrated that he was called to the weighbridge during qualifying due to time pressures.

All drivers can be randomly summoned to the weighbridge during qualifying when entering the pitlane to check their car meets minimum weight. Tsunoda was called to the weighbridge with just over five minutes remaining in Q2 while sitting in 11th place and appeared to gesticulate in frustration when an FIA official directed him to reposition his car.

“It’s really tight,” Tsunoda explained. “It was, without the weighbridge, already a really tight schedule. So it just really frustrated me. Try to at least a little bit show that we [need to] hurry! To be honest they don’t care much about that. But in the end I got a good lap, so I’m okay.”

Tsunoda eventually returned to the track with under four minutes left and completed a final flying lap, improving his time but being eliminated in 12th.

Cohen penalised for Barter clash

Ido Cohen has been given a five-place grid penalty for the Formula 3 feature race in Melbourne after colliding with Hugh Barter.

Cohen gave the Campos Racing driver a puncture after hitting his rear-right tyre while attempting to overtake into turn nine in Saturday’s sprint race. The Carlin driver then lost control and hit the barrier before skidding into the gravel.

Stewards deemed Cohen “wholly responsible for the incident” and because he retired from proceedings, the standard 10-second in-race time penalty was converted to a grid drop. Two penalty points have also been added to his licence.

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Comment of the day

After yet another miscommunication at Ferrari, MichaelN wonders how much patience Charles Leclerc will continue to display…

One shouldn’t read too much into a clip, but the exasperation of Leclerc in Saudi Arabia was pretty striking when he noted “Xavi!… awkward pause… You need to tell me that before!” To which he somewhat casually responds: “Copy.” and an increasingly agitated Leclerc says: “No, but come on!”

I’ve probably said this before, but if Leclerc isn’t going to stand up for himself then – at this level – nobody else is either. Can you imagine Schumacher, Hamilton or Verstappen putting up with this for years? Absolutely not. And Vettel’s increasingly strained radio discussions with Adami were pretty awkward, too. This is not a new problem for Ferrari.

I like Leclerc as a driver, and he seems a fine guy as well. But this is his fifth (!) year at Ferrari, and I’m not seeing a path that arcs towards championships here. It’s perhaps not fair on anyone to be compared to Schumacher, but it was definitely there then, and to a lesser extent with Vettel too. These guys were visibly pushing the team. Maybe it won’t work out, and that’s fine. There can only ever be one winner in sports. But right now I don’t get that sense from Ferrari, and unless Vasseur announces some big changes with the start of the European season – I’m not sure where that change is going to come from either.

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Majormilou, Nico Savidge, Ripping Silk, Christopher and Nic Morley!

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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2 comments on “Verstappen “surprised” Mercedes are closest threat to Red Bull in Melbourne”

  1. Tsunoda’s hurry-up gesturing was funny.

    1. So is your 3 hour delay to post…

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