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Australian Grand Prix Race Pace: A MASSIVE day for Mercedes

Australian Grand Prix Race Pace: A MASSIVE day for Mercedes

Australian Grand Prix Race Pace: A MASSIVE day for Mercedes

Shubham Sangodkar
Australian Grand Prix Race Pace: A MASSIVE day for Mercedes

Former F1 Aerodynamicist Shubham Sangodkar joins us after every race to look at what the data tells us about what went down on Sunday afternoons. Here he does his usual deep dive to pull out the key nuggets from a day of carnage at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

The 2023 Australian Grand Prix had an exciting start with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton overtaking Max Verstappen on the very first lap.

Both the Mercedes drivers went for it all while Verstappen was cautious as he knew, that with the faster car and a powerful DRS, he could always reassert his dominance.

READ MORE: F1 Driver Salaries: How much do Hamilton, Verstappen and co earn?

Russell was unlucky with the timing of the first red flag caused by Alex Albon's DNF and with nobody up front to provide some DRS help to Hamilton, Verstappen breezed past through Hamilton in the new DRS zone in Sector 3.

The red flag meant most of the drivers got a free pit stop, while Carlos Sainz and Russell found themselves unlucky to have pitted just before the red flag. This meant the race was going to be a straightforward dash to the finish until Magnussen decided to hit the wall with his rear right tyre causing another red flag with 2 laps to go.

Then came the controversial decision of red-flagging the race again in the hope of not having a safety-car finish. This decision backfired as the drivers with their used soft tyres and opportunistic instinct caused complete carnage with 9 cars involving themselves in an incident.

The race eventually ended with a victory lap under the safety car with Verstappen, Hamilton and Alonso finishing on the podium.

Let's dive deeper into the race pace analysis to see what Sunday told us...

Race Pace - Top 5 Drivers

The race was predominantly run on the hard compound tyres, thus it makes sense to look at the performance of the cars on that specific compound to pull out the key findings.

The plot below is what we refer to as a ‘box plot’, which highlights the range of lap times during the race and then the boxes themselves cover a region of the lap times the drivers were consistently doing, while the dotted black line is the mean pace of the driver.

Because all the drivers had to make the hard tyre compound work, they were all managing their tyres and lap times during the race.

Also, one big factor in this race was the effectiveness of DRS on the overall lap time in the race. A good example of this was when Sergio Perez overtook a significantly slower Haas during the second half of the race. Nico Hulkenberg could keep up within the DRS range to Perez and that helped Hulkenberg to set significantly faster lap times. The same could be noticed with Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly - with the DRS benefit Gasly was significantly lapping faster than he previously had.

With this in mind, let's dive into the race.

Key Takeaways

Verstappen was the class of the grid yet again, having some lap time in his pocket which he could unlock whenever he wanted

Hamilton's race pace was very impressive considering how much he had struggled in the first two races, here the Mercedes genuinely would have finished about 10-15 seconds behind Verstappen compared to 50 seconds behind in Bahrain.

Alonso had as good a race pace as Hamilton, if not better, but didn’t have the pace delta to overtake him. It looked like he was managing the gap to Hamilton to preserve his tyres for most of the race, and was waiting to unleash everything in the last five laps. That obviously then never happened due to late red-flag shenanigans.

Sainz's race pace was surprisingly good - he had to make up a lot of lost positions after the first red flag but he was genuinely catching Alonso during the race. This is a positive sign for Ferrari, who had struggled mightily in the first two races to match both Mercedes and Aston Martin.

Perez's pace is skewed as he had to make his way up the grid, while Gasly’s mean pace is higher than expected due to the DRS impact we explained earlier. However, one can notice the larger length of the box for both these drivers, which suggests the higher variations in lap times that I'm referring to.

Midfield Race Pace

The big surprise of the midfield was that Hulkenberg in the Haas was able to hold onto his impressive qualifying performance from Saturday. His race pace was very similar to Lando Norris for McLaren, and they had some good battles on track in which Norris came out ahead.

Williams, in the hands of Alex Albon, looked like a consistently fast car, while the most disappointing teams were AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo.

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