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F1 heads down under

By Tom Gibson | April 5, 2022

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Will Mercedes be able to catch the flying Ferrari and Red Bull?

F1 heads down under

F1 returns to Melbourne’s Albert Park for the first time since it was due to start the 2020 season – before cancelling the race at short notice after McLaren mechanics tested positive for Covid-19.

The sport has been on quite a rollercoaster since then and the start of the 2022 season has seen Ferrari and Red Bull take one win apiece in what looks set to be another cracker of a year.

Mercedes are a relatively lonely third from a pace perspective at the minute and, although Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will both have new rear wings on their car – aimed at improving their relatively modest top speed - it isn’t expected the porpoising issues that have prevented the Silver Arrows from extracting top performance from the W13 will be fixed until at least Imola at the end of April.

It isn’t expected that Ferrari or Red Bull will have updates available until Imola so it looks like Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen will again go head-to-head as the two young chargers battle it out at the top of the championship.

Leclerc’s team mate, Carlos Sainz, has been struggling with set up issues in the opening two races and has consistently been a couple of tenths of his Monegasque teammate – he’ll be hoping to reverse his fortunes this weekend although the Spaniard is on a run of 18 consecutive points finishes for Ferrari, the fourth longest in history for Ferrari.

Sergio Perez outqualified Verstappen to get pole last time out in Saudi Arabia, but an unfortunately timed safety car meant he was demoted to fourth after being the only one of the front runners who had pitted before William’s Nicholas Latifi crashed to bring out the safety car.

Latifi was also the driver who crashed at the end of last year’s season finale in Abu Dhabi, costing Hamilton a record 8th Championship.

Just how F1 is recruiting some of its drivers is increasingly being put under the spotlight, both as a result of Latifi’s crashes but also because of Nikita Mazepin’s involvement in the sport.

Mazepin is the son of a Putin ally and paid his way into his seat at Haas F1 because of a £20m sponsorship package his father agreed. Like Latifi, Mazepin is not one of the 20 best drivers in the world – a point which has only been proved further since Kevin Magnussen returned to Haas to take his place for 2022.

Mich Schumacher, son of Michael, was regularly out pacing and out racing Mazepin last year, at times by over a second per lap. Schumacher himself has since been humbled by Magnussen though, who has been out of F1 for over 15 months when he stepped back into his old Haas seat in Bahrain.

What do you think of people paying their way into the sport? Let us know and we’ll take this further in a couple of weeks. 

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