F1: Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc Continues Podium Dominance With Australian GP Win

With his second win in three races, the Monegasque driver looks like an early favorite to take the 2022 F1 championship.

(Getty Images)

Charles Leclerc kept his momentum alive at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne over the weekend, making good on pole position to finish first for Ferrari. 

The 24-year-old Monegasque driver had an excellent race, and faced little in the way of challenges from his rivals, barring a close call when Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, the reigning F1 champion, nearly caught up with him after a safety car period. 

When Verstappen was forced to retire due to a technical issue on lap 39 of 58, however, Leclerc’s victory seemed all the more certain. 

“It was the first race where we could control a little bit the gap, and honestly, what a car I had today,” Leclerc said at the conclusion of the race (via ESPN). “Of course, I did a good job all weekend, but it was not possible without the car and this weekend, especially on race pace, we were extremely strong.”

“The tires felt great from the first lap to the last lap. We were managing the tires extremely well and I’m just so happy,” added the Driver of the Day.

The Australian Grand Prix marked the continuation of a fantastic 2022 start for Leclerc, who kicked off the year with a first-place finish in Bahrain on March 20 and second-place finish in Saudi Arabia the following week. It also cemented his lead in the year’s driver standings—he’s now 34 points ahead of second-place driver George Russell of Mercedes—and Ferrari’s strong start for the 2022 constructors’ championship

Verstappen’s late exit from the Australian Grand Prix cleared the way for his teammate, Mexico’s Sergio Perez, to race into second place. 

“We are already miles behind,” Verstappen said after his disappointing race. “I don’t even want to think about the championship fight at the moment. It is more important to finish races.”

Behind Perez came Russell and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes in third and fourth, while Lando Norris of McLaren came in fifth. Norris’ teammate, the ever popular Daniel Ricciardo, came in sixth—a definite cause for celebration considering his rough start to 2022 and the fact that it was his home race. 

“After Bahrain I was still very positive and I knew we could make a turnaround,” Ricciardo said after the race (via ESPN). “Didn’t think it would happen already.”

“For that reason, I’ll definitely take it. As a whole, it was certainly better. Team result was mega compared to the last few.”

Like Verstappen, Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz—who has otherwise looked better than ever this year—failed to finish the race after ending up in the gravel early in the early going. 

“I need to be hard on myself for a driver mistake,” the Spaniard told The Race after the fact. 

“At the same time, we were not perfect as a team,” he added. “It puts you under pressure and I didn’t react accordingly.”