Friday, April 8, 2022 by Eliane Gilain
Canceled in 2020, hours after seeing drivers hit the track, then in 2021 due to significant government entry restrictions, the Australian Grand Prix is back on the calendar this weekend. Although no longer a season-opening event, the event is still presented on the Albert Park track in Melbourne. The latter has benefited from several improvements, corner corrections and a new asphalt, which even allows the activation of 4 DRS zones (a first in F1!) on this long urban track of 5.72 km.
Australia’s only driver in F1 this season, Daniel Ricciardo is finding his fans after a two-year absence but if McLarens performance at the season’s final Grands Prix is anything to go by, it will take a minor miracle to see him win on Sunday. in front of his fans. However, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo both found themselves in the Top 10 during free practice on Friday, to the delight of an already packed crowd in the stands.
Confirming their best start to the season, the Ferrari drivers set the fastest times in both sessions today. Carlos Sainz was fastest in the first session, beating his teammate by 0.571 seconds. Max Verstappen (Red Bull), who had set the fastest time earlier in the session, was unable to regain the lead, losing to teammate Sergio Pérez, 3rd fastest although he saw his car lose a body part during the session.
Lando Norris was 5th fastest, ahead of Esteban Octon (Alpine) and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes). Daniel Ricciardo, Fernando Alonso (Alpine) and Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) complete the Top 10 of this first practice session. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin), back after two races out, was 13th, while Montrealer Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) was 16th. Torontonian Nicholas Latifi (Williams) was 19th fastest. Check the full results here.
After breaking down at the end of the first half, Sebastian Vettel returned to the Aston Martin garage at the controls of… a scooter! However, when he used the song in this innings which pleased the Australian fans but not the officials at all, he was fined 5000 Euros (about $6800 CDN) for this action.
The second session saw Ferrari stay ahead, but this time with championship leader Charles Leclerc in first place as Verstappen separated the two Scuderia team-mates, missing out on first place by 0.24 seconds. Fernando Alonso, looking comfortable on this track and in Alpine control which shows great progress race after race, set the 4th fastest time ahead of Sergio Pérez.
Esteban Ocon returned to 6th place, ahead of Bottas, Norris, Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) and Daniel Ricciardo. There are no Mercedes in the Top 10 of this session, the best time for the world champion team being that of George Russell, 11th ahead of Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) and Lewis Hamilton.
Lance Stroll caused the only change of the session when a piece of bodywork covering a wheel came off his Aston Martin. However he set the 14th fastest time, while teammate Vettel’s session ended early and in a cloud of smoke. The team had to change its engine later. As for Toronto’s Nicholas Latifi, he collected 19 times. See the full results here.