It was a chaotic finish at the Australian Grand Prix, but an F1 star wasn’t worried about the red flags.
Red Bull star Sergio Perez is the latest driver to take aim at the Australian Grand Prix, declaring he “didn’t feel safe” in the dying light of Sunday’s race at Albert Park.
Perez started in pit lane after his qualifying crash but rode his rocket ship of a Red Bull all the way into fifth by the end of the race, helped along by some late carnage.
But even as ‘Checo’ celebrated his incredible comeback he felt it necessary to criticize officials for the way the race ended – but not in the same way as his fellow drivers.
“I’ve seen some more crazy races than this,” Perez told Sky Sports F1 when asked of the three red flags and eight DNFs.
“I think (those circumstances were) all good … (but) we need to make sure we start the race earlier. I didn’t feel safe towards the end of the race so there is plenty of work to do there.
“The sun is basically in our face – at the restart we couldn’t see anything.”
Perez’s comments came after his teammate Max Verstappen led a chorus of angry drivers who questioned why officials chose to deploy three red flags throughout the race.
PIASTRI NOT GETTING THE RICCIARDO TREATMENT
McLaren boss Zak Brown has hailed the debut points finish for rookie driver Oscar Piastri and doubled down on his belief the young Aussie has the means to match his star teammate Lando Norris this season.
Piastri put his plodding McLaren into eighth-place at the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday, helped along by a ridiculous series of events that led to almost half the grid failing to finish.
But the 21 year old showed some great race nous to win his battle with midfield rival Yuki Tsunoda during the trying middle stages, and managed to keep himself out of trouble in the late-race chaos to earn his first Formula One points.
Norris ran a superior race and finish two spots ahead in sixth, but Brown believes over the course of the season Piastri can keep his more experienced teammate close.
“It’s early days but everything we’re seeing is he’ll pretty much be a match for Lando – certainly that’s our hope,” Brown told Sky Sports F1.
“I’m sure Oscar will be saying, ‘Actually maybe Lando should be a match for me’.
“They’re definitely very close, I think you can see on the overlays that there’s not much between the two – Oscar just needs a little bit more experience to put it together on a lap-by-lap basis like Lando can.”
It was high praise from a man who was uber-critical of Piastri’s predecessor, Daniel Ricciardo.
After his drivers revelled in their good fortune to feature high in the points despite all the Albert Park drama, Brown conceded the team still had plenty of work to do to make such a result a regularity.
“After the start of the year and some bad luck in Saudi it was about time we got a little bit of good luck our way,” he said.
“It’s great for Oscar to get points in his home race. The team did a good job in staying out of trouble and sometimes you get some luck your way and sometimes you don’t.
“We clearly still have some pace we need to find in the car so while it’s great we got some points on the board, we have to keep our feet on the ground.
“Were we sixth and eighth-quickest? No, but we’ll take the points and come back fighting in Baku.”
McLaren will bring its first upgrades of the season in Baku later this month but Brown cautioned the track would not be a great first-up test of the changes.
“We’ve got a deficit obviously in a straight line,” he said.
“Baku (upgrades) should help but it’s also not the type of circuit that I think, with the upgrades we have coming, we will totally see the benefit of it. But it should be an improvement.”
‘TOO HARSH’: ALONSO FELT SAINZ HARD DONE BY
His Aston Martin teammate was a beneficiary of the penalty, but Formula One veteran Fernando Alonso has rated the price Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz paid for spinning him around after the second race restart as “too harsh”.
As he chased down Lewis Hamilton in second, Alonso was spun around by Sainz at turn one in a chaotic restart after the first of two late red flags at Albert Park, which dropped the dual world champion down the field.
The Spanish veteran was moved back to third place by the stewards, who reverted to the start order from the previous restart after the race was red flagged for a third time.
Alonso went on to claim a third-straight third-place finish for the year, while Sainz copped a five-second penalty for the incident with his countryman.
When the penalty call came through, Sainz was sitting in fourth place, but after the penalty was applied at the finish, the Ferrari driver dropped to 12th.
Alonso’s Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll would instead finish in fourth place.
Despite the benefit to the team, Alonso felt the penalty Sainz received was too severe.
“I mean the penalty is too harsh,” Alonso said.
“I think because on lap one (of a restart), it is very difficult always to judge what the grip level (is) and I think we don’t go intentionally into another car, you know?
“Because we know that we risk our car and our final position, so sometimes you ended up in places that you wish you were not there in that moment.
“And it’s just part of racing, but I didn’t see the replay properly, but for me it feels too hard.”
After his third podium of the year, Alonso described Aston Martin’s start to the year as “happy days”, but said it was now up to the team to continue its development curve.
“We never expected to be on the podium, maybe even throughout the season and in three races we have three,” Alonso said.
“So everything that comes now is a plus and as I said today, third and fourth is a lot of points so we take every opportunity and we need to learn and we need to grow as a team also maybe now off-track because we are racing against Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari, teams that are used to this kind of pace of development and things like that.
“And maybe we are just in a learning process. So we take this 2023 in a very humble manner and let’s see how it’s going”.
EREBUS ENTERS TITLE RACE
A surprising new title challenger has emerged to Triple Eight and Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen this season – and he drives a Coca-Cola Camaro.
Brodie Kostecki’s breakout at the Melbourne SuperSprint came as a shock to some but not those who have kept close tabs on ‘Bush’ through his career.
The arrival of Gen3 was meant to shake up the established order and let the cream of the driving crop rise to the top, and that seems to be the case for Kostecki.
It took the 25 year old 71 starts to take his first Supercars chequered flag and just one more for his second, as the Erebus ace stepped on the podium in all four sprint races at Albert Park.
Second and third-place finishes bookended back-to-back race victories that were marred by engine fire controversies – but the caliber of Kostecki’s driving was more than deserving of the results.
The No. 99 emerged from the second round of the Supercars Championship as the overall series leader and will take a 32-point advantage over Chaz Mostert into the Perth SuperSprint at the end of the month.
Shane van Gisbergen sits 86 points back from the Erebus man after a win and further two podiums at Albert Park.
Kostecki’s stellar week in Melbourne also earned him the coveted Larry Perkins Trophy, as the best driver of the round.
It’s the first of what he and Erebus hope will be a season filled with silverware – and so far so good for the Dandenong squad.
“I was definitely really excited after the wins (on Friday and Saturday) but this meant a lot more to me and I knew it meant a lot more to our team as well,” Kostecki said of the Larry Perkins Trophy win.
“I thought we had pretty good form coming out of pre-season testing and going into Newcastle, obviously (it was great) getting that first pole.
“We didn’t really convert in the (Newcastle) races too well, but we really put our heads together coming into this round – the cars were outstanding in all the races.”
Having conquered his race victory duck, there is nothing holding he and Erebus back from mounting a genuine challenge at the championship in 2023.
But when asked about his title hopes, Kostecki was happy to play a straight bat.
“To be honest – obviously I care about the championship – but I live day-by-day. I just take each race as it comes,” he said.
“We went to Newcastle and seemed pretty fast and we’ve come here (to Melbourne) and the team has been really fast. Going into the next round in Perth there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be up the front, but anything can happen.
“It’s a pretty steep learning curve with these cars so other teams can jump up the front as well.”
But you can never count out the Red Bulls – and the ever-growing stature of young gun Broc Feeney, who romped home to claim his second career race victory on Sunday, makes Triple Eight an even more formidable force in 2023.
If not for the reigning champions’ dual disqualifications in Race 1 at Newcastle, they would be leading both the driver and teams championships.
Still, Feeney feels he and van Gisbergen are in for a fight.
“These Erebus boys are pretty quick as well, so it’s certainly going to be a battle for us this year,” he said.
“We’ve got some points to catch up on – luckily we’ve had four decent results this weekend, so for sure I feel like we’re in the mix.
“Obviously we were bummed about the (Race 1) result getting taken away from us … but no one was really (feeling) down coming into this weekend.
“We needed to start clawing back some points so it’s been a good recovery weekend I think.”
Originally published as F1 news 2023: Drivers didn’t feel safe on Australian Grand Prix track
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