Date: 0600 BST, 10/04/2022
Venue: Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit
Formula One returns to Melbourne after two years off due to Covid restrictions and we’re backing Ferrari to flourish in our Australian Grand Prix predictions.
The Prancing Horse prevailed here in 2017 and 2018 and will be back at Albert Park full of confidence following a fast start to the current campaign.
The 24-year-old appears to have matured mentally this year and looks well equipped to handle increasing expectations at the Italian outfit.
Leclerc was reeled in by Max Verstappen in Saudi Arabia last time out, with the Red Bull ace aided by a late Virtual Safety Car and DRS.
However, the feeling is that the next circuit will suit Ferrari better, as they seek to build on a one-two in Bahrain and two podium placings at Jeddah.
Reflecting on the season’s second contest, Leclerc commented: “It wasn’t enough today, but I really enjoyed that race. It is hard racing, but fair.
“Every race should be like this. I wanted to win, but Max did a great job. It was a really fun battle!
“Although I’m disappointed to lose the victory so late in the race, it feels good to be fighting for wins again.
“He was fast in the straights and I was fast on the corners. You have to play on your strengths as much as possible when it’s this tight.”
Albert Park’s street circuit offers few opportunities for overtaking, so qualifying well will be crucial, but Ferrari can have the edge in that department.
Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz was beaten fair and square in third at Jeddah but is 7.0 to oblige here.
How the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix finished
1 Verstappen (Red Bull), 2 Leclerc (Ferrari), 3 Sainz (Ferrari), 4 Perez (Red Bull), 5 Russell (Mercedes), 6 Ocon (Alpine), 7 Norris (McLaren), 8 Gasly (Alphatauri), 9 Magnussen (Haas), 10 Hamilton (Mercedes), 11 Guanyu (Alfa Romeo), 12 Hulkenberg (Aston Martin), 13 Stroll (Aston Martin), DNF Albon (Williams), Bottas (Alfa Romeo), Alonso (Alpine), Ricciardo (McLaren), Latifi (Williams), Tsunoda (Alphatauri), Schumacher (Haas)
Verstappen passed Leclerc with four laps to go to gain some compensation for being forced to retire in Bahrain and kick-start his title defence.
The flying Dutchman was tipped for victory in our Saudi Arabia Grand Prix preview and crossed the line half-a-second ahead after another tantalising battle.
He said: “It was a really tough race but good race. We battled hard and we had to play the long game.”
The Mexican controlled the early part of the last race from pole position but was unluckily undone by pitting just before a Safety Car stint.
“It was the worst timing straight after my pit stop and made regaining P1 impossible after that,” moaned Perez.
“There are definitely a lot of positives to take from the weekend, putting it on pole and having the race pace.
“So, we will keep pushing and working hard because I really deserved the win.”
Mercedes left Jeddah with more questions than answers regarding their early troubles after George Russell finished a distant fifth and Lewis Hamilton was only 10th.
Past Australian Grand Prix winners
2019 Bottas (Mercedes), Hamilton (Mercedes), Verstappen (Red Bull)
2018 Vettel (Ferrari), Hamilton (Mercedes), Raikkonen (Ferrari)
2017 Vettel (Ferrari), Hamilton (Mercedes), Bottas (Mercedes)
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