Leclerc salutes Ferrari team effort after Australian Grand Prix victory

By Sports Desk April 10, 2022

Charles Leclerc saluted his team's work across the Australian Grand Prix, as the Ferrari driver claimed his second win of the 2022 Formula One season in Melbourne.

The Monegasque led from pole throughout to claim victory in the third race of the year, driving a masterfully composed race out in front at Albert Park.

With presumptive title rival Max Verstappen forced into a DNF behind him with another mechanical failure, Leclerc has now opened up a 46-point gap on the reigning world champion.

Even before then, Leclerc had looked comfortable in the lead, and he was quick to pay tribute to his crew back in the Ferrari garage for helping him take his game up a level.

"It's the first win where we have controlled the gap," he stated. "Honestly, what a car today. Of course, I did a good job all weekend, but it was not possible without the car.

"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. I am just so happy."

Leclerc was forced to navigate both physical and virtual safety car restarts throughout, and almost lost his place to Verstappen when the former came in midway through the race.

"It was very difficult, especially the safety car restart," he added. "I thought it was going to be difficult to keep the first position, but then we managed to do so.

"We are only in the third race, so it is difficult to think about the championship, but we have a very strong car, a very reliable car.

"That makes me smile after the last two years, which have been difficult for the team and myself, so it is great to be back in this position."

Red Bull's Sergio Perez came home second to capitalise on team-mate Verstappen's latest car woes, and the Mexican was muted on the missed chance to lock out the rest of the podium.

"That race was a bit tricky," he added. "We were a bit unlucky losing positions with the safety cars which we recovered later. It would've been great to have a double podium, but we lost Max."

Mercedes' George Russell was the biggest beneficiary of both the safety car and Verstappen's withdrawal, with the Briton edging team-mate Lewis Hamilton for his first podium of the year.

"We have got to be in it to win it and capitalise on others' misfortune," he added. "Obviously we got lucky today twice, but you have got to take it.

"We are never to give up. We have got to keep fighting. This weekend we were a long way behind our rivals but here we are standing on the podium."

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    Verstappen took the lead from pole sitter Carlos Sainz after the Ferrari driver made an unforced error and went wide, but his advantage lasted just a few laps after then suffering structural damage.

    The defending champion ran over a piece of debris and believed he had suffered a puncture, but a pit stop did not solve the problem and it was later revealed he had sustained significant structural damage to the floor of his Red Bull.

    That left Verstappen unable to fight his way up the order and instead had to see off pressure from Haas driver Mick Schumacher, who secured a first points finish in F1, and the Dutch ace says the incident "destroyed" the side of his car.

    "I'd just gone into the lead because of Carlos' 'moment' and then a few corners later, there was a piece of debris on the racing line," he told Sky Sports.

     

    "As soon as I arrived there [on the line], I could not drastically turn left or right, so I tried to hit it head on. Normally, it would just get pushed away, but this time it went in my floor and destroyed the whole left-hand side of my floor.

    "Within two corners, I felt like the car was falling apart. I thought initially I had a puncture, which was not the case, but even after that the car was a handful to drive."

    The issues saw Verstappen's lead over team-mate Sergio Perez in the championship drop to 34 points, with the Mexican driver coming second, but Verstappen believes the result was still a positive one after the issues he sustained.

    "I think overall to finish seventh with that car, it was still a good result. It's better than zero points that's for sure," he added.

  • 'There was a lot going on, yeah?' – Carlos Sainz breaks his F1 duck with stunning Silverstone victory 'There was a lot going on, yeah?' – Carlos Sainz breaks his F1 duck with stunning Silverstone victory

    Carlos Sainz hailed an "amazing" first Formula One victory as the Spaniard finally earned top step on the podium by winning a dramatic British Grand Prix.

    His Ferrari took the glory at Silverstone, some 12 years after Sainz won on the track in his fledgling Formula BMW days, a world away from the elite level of motorsport.

    The 27-year-old overtook team-mate Charles Leclerc after a safety car delay, which followed a lap-39 breakdown for Esteban Ocon.

    While Leclerc, Sergio Perez, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso fought for the lower steps of the podium, Sainz stayed out of trouble and powered to the chequered flag.

    This was his 150th grand prix, and despite achieving a flood of podium finishes, a win had been elusive until now.

    "It's amazing. A first race win, 150 races later, with Ferrari in Silverstone. I cannot ask for more," Sainz said.

    "It's a very special day, a day I shall never forget. Lewis was on it today, I heard, but we managed to hold on and I'm incredibly happy.

    "It was not easy. I struggled quite a bit with the balance, especially on the first stint with the medium tyre, Max [Verstappen] was forcing us to push a lot through the high speed. I opened the front left, but even with all that I stayed believing that it could happen. I needed to stay in the race.

    "All of a sudden the safety car gave me the opportunity to get back on it, and we did it. You can imagine the nerves on the safety car restart knowing it was my chance and getting it done and then the win."

    Reflecting on the drama behind him, Sainz said: "There was a lot going on, yeah?

    "Silverstone has been a bit of a special place for me. I had a first ever race win for me in Formula BMW in 2010, first pole position here back in 2010, and suddenly 12 years later I achieve exactly the same but in Formula One with Ferrari."

    Perez took second place, with Hamilton third

    Mexican driver Perez suffered damage to the front wing of his car on the first lap, finding himself sandwiched between Verstappen and Leclerc, but recovered admirably from having to dive into the pits for repairs.

    "It was a great comeback," Perez said. "We didn't give up, and we kept pushing. Then the opportunity came at the end, and we took it.

    "It was a great fight with Charles and then with Lewis. It was an epic final lap, and it was a good fight within us."

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    The seven-time world champion has secured back-to-back podium finishes for the first time this season, with Mercedes utilising upgrade packages to alleviate the issues they encountered in the first chunk of the campaign.

    While they remain off the pace of the title-fighting Red Bulls and Ferraris, Hamilton believes the performance at Silverstone was another significant step in the team's recovery.

    "I gave it everything today, trying to chase down those Ferraris. Congratulations to Carlos, they were too quick for us today," he said.

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    Hamilton, who was congratulated after the race by Hollywood star Tom Cruise, said: "We lost a bit of time in the pit stop, then I was chasing and chasing and chasing, but the pace was great on both sets of tyres. At the end, it was a little bit difficult; once you get a Red Bull behind you, they are so fast on the straights. 

    "We've got some improvements to make, but this is a huge bonus for to be on the podium."

    Hamilton paid tribute to the home fans at Silverstone following what has been a record-breaking attendance for the British Grand Prix, with over 400,000 attending across the four days.

    "I have to give it up for this crowd, we've had the biggest show in history for an event in the UK, so I really have to say thank you to everyone for incredible support," he added.

    "We don't see this anywhere else around the world, this is literally the greatest group we get to see."

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