Down Under Thunder: Verstappen Hunts for a ‘Ten-der’ Victory at Albert Park

Here are the biggest on-track talking points ahead of the 2024 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne

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Formula 1 is Down Under for the 2024 Australian Grand Prix and the big question is can anyone raise their game to stop the seemingly unbeatable Max Verstappen.

Verstappen is just driving superbly and has an opportunity to equal his record of 10 consecutive wins this Sunday. To do this just six months on after he surpassed Sebastian Vettel’s former benchmark of nine victories in a row is mesmerising.

“It’s pretty crazy,” said Verstappen. “For me, I don’t really think about these kinds of things too much. Every single weekend, I approach it as just one single achievement.

“Of course it’s great that we have the opportunity to try to win 10 in a row again, but for me, the more important thing is that we always score points and win the championship.”

Given how dominant Red Bull were in their 1-2s in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, everyone else will be fighting for best of the rest again. How many times will we say that in 2024?

More mayhem at Albert Park?

Verstappen’s 2023 win in Melbourne was far from straightforward after three red flags and a chaotic end which saw multiple accidents.

He withstood two standing start restarts and initially being stuck behind George Russell and Lewis Hamilton in the early stages of the Grand Prix.

It wasn’t an all-time classic race but the new Albert Park track layout, which was first seen in 2022, seems to throw up more drama thanks to the increased wheel to wheel action.

Albert Park Circuit | Formula 1
Albert Park Circuit | Formula 1

Several turns were opened up and a key chicane got rid of to allow for a fourth DRS zone. As a consequence, we saw a lot more overtaking in 2022 and 2023 compared to previous Australian GP.

Naturally, if you have more racing, there is a higher chance of incidents, thus a bigger chance of safety cars or red flags which can turn a race on its head.

“I think every team is catching up,” said Lando Norris on whether the field can catch Red Bull. “Even if you look at our 12 months of progress from last year, we’ve been the team who have developed the most.

“We’re the best developing team over the last 12 months, so when you look at it from that perspective, I think we can be very happy with the job that we’re doing. But it’s not enough and it’s not close enough to challenge them.

“But I think there will be races this year where Max won’t win and Ferrari are the closest team at the minute. Even this weekend, I think we might see Ferrari close and potentially ahead.”

Softest tyre range

Interestingly, Pirelli have brought softest tyres to Albert Park – the C5, C4 and C3, so tyres could be a big talking point this weekend.

Very few drivers have ran the softest C5 tyre compound this year as it was only available in pre-season testing in Bahrain and not many teams opted to utilise it.

The range for Australia is a step softer than last year, which was a one-stop race but there are some high-speed corners where the tyres get punished.

It’s good to see Pirelli go aggressive and try something to mix up the strategy options. Variables make for great racing, so the softer tyres, track layout and high chance of incidents could be stumbling blocks for Red Bull to overcome.

Max Verstappen of Red Bull ahead of 2024 Australian Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

“From my side, I don’t really think about being invincible,” said Verstappen. “As a driver, you always have to believe that you’re the best on the grid.

“At the other end, I’m not really too worried about thinking that way. I’m just enjoying myself, I feel good with the car.

“I know that when I get to the race weekend that I always try to do the best I can, I try to maximise everything that I can. When you have a great car, you can do great things.”

Will Sainz be up to speed?

All eyes will be on Carlos Sainz during Friday practice to see if he is ready to drive after his successful appendix surgery during the 2024 Saudi Arabian GP.

Sainz, who is finished third at the season-opening Bahrain GP, admits he’s not 100 percent but is fit enough to compete. However, Oliver Bearman is on standby if required as he returns to Formula 2 duties for Prema in Melbourne.

“First of all, just by seeing me move and the exercises that I’m doing in the gym, everything this tells me I’m fit to jump in the car tomorrow and try,” said Sainz.

“But obviously, I’m not stupid, and if I don’t feel good tomorrow, I will be the first one to raise my hand and say that I need another two weeks until the next race.

“This together, with the FIA, is also the plan that we have in place. I have another check with the FIA tomorrow, and they are monitoring my progress.

“And I’m the first one that doesn’t want to be in pain, to suffer, or to make it any worse. I’m not stupid and I will be very clear with how I’m feeling and everything.”

John Smith
John Smithhttps://total-motorsport.com
Editor at Total-Motorsport.com and all round Motorsport journalist specialising in Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E.
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