The single lap when Verstappen revealed some of Red Bull’s true pace in Melbourne

2023 Australian Grand Prix interactive data

Posted on

| Written by

In Jeddah, once Max Verstappen broke out of the midfield and had a clear run at his team mate, the potential of the Red Bull was there for all to see.

For lap after lap, the Red Bull pair produced lap times in the order of a second or more quicker than their rivals. Race leader Sergio Perez put 19 seconds on the team’s closest pursuer, Fernando Alonso, in 18 laps. Where was that performance advantage during yesterday’s Australian Grand Prix?

No doubt the scale of Red Bull’s superiority will vary to some degree from track to track. Nonetheless on outright one-lap pace in qualifying the story was little changed. Red Bull were quickest by 0.292s in Bahrain, 0.155s in Saudi Arabia (where Verstappen did not take part in Q3 due to a technical fault) and 0.236s in Australia.

Verstappen was certainly confident in the performance of his car, so much so that he admitted he didn’t feel the need to fight the Mercedes too hard when they came past him at the start. George Russell passed the pole-winner at turn one, then Lewis Hamilton demoted Verstappen at turn three.

“I was quite careful,” Verstappen admitted afterwards. “I could have been a little bit more aggressive. But on the other hand, I didn’t want to have any damage on my car, because I knew that we had a quick car, right? So even losing one or two spots was not the end of the world.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2023
Verstappen turned the wick up to get past Hamilton
It speaks volumes that Verstappen was so unbothered about being passed by two rivals at the start. The way the race unfolded, he seldom had to tap into the full potential of the Red Bull. Russell and Hamilton didn’t pull away from him: Indeed, the contest was warming up nicely when Alexander Albon crashed at turn six and caused the day’s first red flag.

That moved Russell out of the way. He liked Mercedes’ aggressive call to pit him under the resulting Safety Car, and it would have been fascinating to see how successful his bid to reach the end of the race on a set of hard tyres would have been. But the red flag took his advantage away and left Verstappen only needing to deal with one of the Mercedes.

He did so with ridiculous ease in the new, fourth DRS zone added for this year’s race as soon as drivers were allowed to open their rear wings. On that 12th lap he went over one-and-a-half seconds quicker than he did the previous time around. After that he was back into managing his pace:

2023 Australian Grand Prix lap times

All the lap times by the drivers (in seconds, very slow laps excluded). Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and toggle drivers using the control below:

On lap 12, Verstappen went 1.175s quicker than every other driver on the track. Was this a glimpse of Red Bull’s real, Jeddah-scale advantage? Not entirely.

The radio exchanges between him and race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase, and Hamilton’s discussion with Peter Bonnington, shows how they were preoccupied with managing their tyres at this stage of the race:

Lap: 10/58 VER: 1’27.827
Bonnington So Verstappen at 0.7.
Lap: 11/58 VER: 1’23.460
Lambiase Gap behind 1.9. Bonnington Verstappen at 0.9.
Lambiase Think about the combination, nine-10. Bonnington So Verstappen into management.
Bonnington Gap at 0.8.
Hamilton [Unclear] vibration.
Bonnington Okay. I’ll have a look.
Lap: 12/58 VER: 1’21.994
Lambiase DRS enabled. Gap behind 2.4, just be patient Max, look after the tyres. Bonnington So Verstappen at 0.6. There.
Lambiase Gap 1.4. Bonnington DRS has been enabled, others doing more management.
Hamilton [Unclear]
Bonnington Yeah so need a bit more management turn five, turn 10.
Hamilton He’s going to be by already.
Bonnington Yeah copy. If we can’t hold it back, then we’re just going to have to make sure we get onto the tyres.
Bonnington So Alonso next car at 2.7, he’s been doing a lot more management.
Lap: 13/58 VER: 1’23.286
Lambiase Gap behind two seconds. Into management, Max. It’s a long way from here. And think about that combo at nine and 10.

After all, using DRS will have gained him a few tenths of a second. Moreover, almost all the drivers were running longer stints than planned at this stage in the race, so they needed to manage their tyres especially carefully. Verstappen briefly put that to one side to gain track position over Hamilton.

That said, he was by the Mercedes at turn nine and wasn’t necessarily going hell for leather all the way until the end of the lap, even though Lambiase didn’t advise him to back off until the 13th tour.

Even while looking after his tyres, Verstappen was able to build a lead as he needed to, and was 11 seconds up the road by lap 46. On the following lap around he ran wide at turn 13 and lost over a quarter of that – perhaps he’ll feel the need to keep a bit more in hand next time.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2023 Australian Grand Prix lap chart

The positions of each driver on every lap. Click name to highlight, right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2023 Australian Grand Prix race chart

The gaps between each driver on every lap compared to the leader’s average lap time. Very large gaps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2023 Australian Grand Prix fastest laps

Each driver’s fastest lap:

Rank No. Driver Car Lap time Gap Average speed (kph) Lap no.
1 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1’20.235 236.81 53
2 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1’20.342 0.107 236.5 49
3 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 1’20.467 0.232 236.13 53
4 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’20.476 0.241 236.11 53
5 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’20.613 0.378 235.7 49
6 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’20.934 0.699 234.77 50
7 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault 1’20.995 0.760 234.59 47
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas-Ferrari 1’21.124 0.889 234.22 46
9 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1’21.173 0.938 234.08 46
10 21 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri-Red Bull 1’21.183 0.948 234.05 50
11 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1’21.203 0.968 233.99 44
12 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes 1’21.335 1.100 233.61 53
13 2 Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes 1’21.456 1.221 233.26 50
14 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1’21.685 1.450 232.61 52
15 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Red Bull 1’21.789 1.554 232.31 52
16 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’21.819 1.584 232.23 48
17 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’22.233 1.998 231.06 46
18 63 George Russell Mercedes 1’22.680 2.445 229.81 16
19 23 Alexander Albon Williams-Mercedes 1’23.349 3.114 227.97 6

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2023 Australian Grand Prix tyre strategies

The tyre strategies for each driver:

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2023 Australian Grand Prix pit stop times

How long each driver’s pit stops took:

Rank No. Driver Team Complete stop time (s) Gap to best (s) Stop no. Lap no.
1 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 17.657 1 1
2 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 17.814 0.157 2 2
3 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine 18.056 0.399 1 1
4 21 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri 18.08 0.423 2 45
5 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 18.319 0.662 1 7
6 2 Logan Sargeant Williams 18.382 0.725 1 1
7 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 18.951 1.294 1 1
8 2 Logan Sargeant Williams 19.018 1.361 4 36
9 63 George Russell Mercedes 19.146 1.489 1 7
10 2 Logan Sargeant Williams 19.158 1.501 2 2
11 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 19.825 2.168 2 53
12 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas 20.789 3.132 1 7
13 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 21.659 4.002 1 1

NB. Tyre changes made during red flag period excluded

2023 Australian Grand Prix

Browse all 2023 Australian Grand Prix articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

18 comments on “The single lap when Verstappen revealed some of Red Bull’s true pace in Melbourne”

  1. To be honest, I haven’t bored of Max dominating yet. If it goes on for year after year then yeah, I’d get tired of it. When it happens that someone is just totally hooked up with the car (Schumacher and others have done it), I think it’s important to admire it first and then worry about whether this is a sport anymore later.

    The others combined have thousands of people, brilliant minds and billions of dollars. For a team and a driver to get as far ahead as Max is now is a phenomenal effort. So i’m just enjoying it for now, even if it is a one man race.

    1. @bernasaurus It’s not grating yet and TBH Max’s attitude – yeah, well, I’m good and the car’s good – is actually a plus. He doesn’t do false modesty and just says it how it is. It does bother me more that it’s already all over in terms of the WDC (as Perez confirmed this weekend with his performance). But having just accepted that fact, the rest of the competition is intriguing this season: can Aston Martin/Alonso trouble the podium? Can Ferrari finally act a bit more like Ferrari? Will the Mercedes upgrades finally work? Can McLaren recover? Lots of interesting teammate scraps too. It’s fine.

      1. I’d say as long as there’s some fight for wins it’s a season that can be fun, I didn’t expect mercedes to improve so much already this race, and alonso also got closer than ever in quali. Can probably see it like 2019, where merc dominated but ferrari won 3 races on merit and should’ve been more if not for some mistakes\bad luck and red bull won some too, also on merit.

      2. yeah, the tip of the spear is always exciting if there’s a fight on, but that comes around every 5 or so years. in the meantime, there’s so many great story lines up and down the field that keep the show entertaining.

  2. The pace after Max regained the lead showed the true pace of the RBR. Partly the lap time was improved also due to DRS, but obviously there is also much more pace hidden in the RBR than revealed to the public.

  3. Robert de Jong
    3rd April 2023, 18:35

    I really love these race recaps. This is so valuable in understanding what goes on.
    I’ve been a F1 fan since 98, but it’s due to these graphs and the explanations that my understanding and race enjoyment have grown.
    I normally don’t comment on websites, but I think I have to acknowledge all the work you guys put in.

    1. You’re welcome – very glad you found it useful.

  4. José Lopes da Silva
    3rd April 2023, 20:00

    Verstappen pretty much showed that he deserved this as soon as 2016.~
    And this analysis article is the single interesting point of the race.

  5. My guess is that they’re holding back and the true pace difference is around a second – even more if they really had to push. But how can we know? Virtually impossible.

    1. I think we might have seen it if max had a chance to get fastest lap at the end of the race. After the last race I would have expected Sergio and Max to lay it all on the table on the last lap.

      1. Good point.

    2. you can see flashes, even from last year. the performance at Japan was a showcase in Max’s skill, but also the actual ability of that Red Bull, that was after almost an entire season of the rest of the field being able to play catch up. he was 1 lap a second clear of the closest non Red Bull car. and they improved upon that success for this year. they are definitely hiding pace.

  6. We certainly saw race management from Verstappen this weekend – managing his pace to spare his tires and car. The question is whether he went further than that – “the car would be fine at X, but we’ll go 0.5s slower” – for PR purposes.

    Personally I think it’s possible on the margins, but it can’t be by much, because we have seen the car flat out. Vestappen was clearly flat out almost to the end in Saudi Arabia, and the margin there was 1 second, so it looks like that’s the gap.

    For the 1 lap in Australia where he had a bigger advantage – we’d just had a restart, and he was the only car in the field with clear air. Certainly the only car with both clear air and DRS. That combination is easily worth half a second (probably more), which leaves his car advantage under 0.7s (probably less).

    That would be consistent with the gap seeming to be slightly closer in Australia than in Saudi Arabia — and with Perez (in the brief stints he had clear air and was pushing) trading fastest laps with other people rather than having them all to himself.

    So, best guess for me – on our limited data so far – is that the Red Bull’s advantage varies by between 0.5s and 1.0s per lap depending on the track, and that’s ‘real performance’.

  7. Keeping the narrative alive… while in reality the others are not that far behind and especially Mercedes is not.

    1. Mercedes I think after these last 2 races has a very favorable look. but I think to say they’re back is folly, those 2 tracks are very soft on tires, the Mercedes was chewing it’s tires a lot faster than the competition in Bahrain. in Bahrain, Mercedes was the first of the front runners to pit, and again, the second stint they pitted earlier than the others at the front. at the end Lewis was clearly falling back from Fernando in that last stint. so yeah, on circuits where the tire deg doesn’t really come into it so much, the Mercedes can push a lot harder than they will be able to at most tracks.

      I expect once we get to actual race tracks where tire deg plays a role, and not street circuits, Mercedes will be back behind Ferrari and Aston Martin.

      1. I doubt they’ll be behind Ferrari… as Ferrari are as bad on their tyres as Mercedes is. Plus Mercedes will outdevelop Ferrari from race 1 onwards, so by the time we get to Barcelona, Mercedes would have already found a few tenths on Ferrari.

        Aston will still have an advantage on Mercedes in high deg circuits, so it could be interesting to see their battle in Baku.

        Red bull had this season wrapped in pre season testing. I don’t think there’s a narrative at all for the WDC and WCC winner other than Max and RB.

    2. What narrative?

      Are Verstappen fans still pushing the laughable narrative that the Red Bull is a slow dog that only Verstappen can get decent performance from. But then, Perez is comfortably P2 in the WDC and Red Bull has nearly double the points of their closest rival. This after just three races – three wins, two 1-2s.

      Man up and admit it, the Red Bull is clearly the fastest car by a huge margin. As fast as anything Hamilton had when he was dominating. The only surprise in this race was that Perez failed to get on the podium.

  8. Hamilton’s lap times.
    Lap 6 1:22.890 – Lewis was trying to catch Russell
    Lap 11 1:23.790
    Lap 12 1:24.616 – Max overtakes Lewis
    Lap 13 1:23.771
    Lap 17 1:22.121

    Lewis is sandbagging.

Comments are closed.