For the love of racing! Can anyone stop Red Bull’s rampage at 2024 Australian GP?

Max Verstappen and Red Bull have won the opening two races of the 2024 F1 season by a country mile

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If you didn’t think Red Bull could get any better after winning all but one of the races in the 2023 Formula 1 season, well… it seems they have somehow managed to do so. The question becomes can anyone stop them? Surprisingly, the answer at the 2024 Australian Grand Prix could be yes according to Lando Norris.

The McLaren driver pointed out that there were several races throughout the previous season when Max Verstappen didn’t get to cruise off into the distance and argue with Gianpiero Lambiase about doing pit stops for fun, and it’s on this basis that he tips Ferrari to beat Red Bull around Albert Park in Melbourne.

The Italian team are currently the second fastest outfit behind Red Bull and have finished in third place in both events with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc sharing the spoils of war but how can they go one better according to the British McLaren racer?

“I think every team is catching up,” Norris said to media on the chances of Red Bull being stopped. “I think even if you look at our 12 months of progress from last year, we’ve been the team who have developed the most and 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. I think there’ll be races this year where Max won’t win, and Ferrari is closest at the minute.

“Even this weekend, I think we might see Ferrari close and potentially ahead. He [Verstappen] was close not winning some last year, we were close last year at certain times. Oscar [Piastri] beat him in the race last year and we got pole in a race last year.

Verdict: Keep an eye on Ferrari…

Lando Norris speaks to Max Verstappen ahead of the 2023 Abu Dhabi GP | Clive Rose / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Lando Norris speaks to Max Verstappen ahead of the 2023 Abu Dhabi GP | Clive Rose / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

What does Leclerc think about Norris’ opinion?

Leclerc has managed to qualify on the front row in both events in 2024 indicating that, over one lap, Ferrari have at least managed to continue their trend since 2022 of being close to Verstappen in qualifying.

In Bahrain, the Monegasque driver actually produced the fastest lap of anyone across all three sessions but unfortunately for him, it came in Q2 when it doesn’t actually count for anything except pride and getting into the next part of qualifying.

Whilst in Saudi Arabia, he was 0.319 off Verstappen, although he did actually beat Sergio Perez to start alongside the Dutchman around the rapid Jeddah Corniche Circuit but what does he actually think about Ferrari’s race pace in comparison to the world champions?

“I find it quite difficult to compare the gap because honestly, every race is different,” Leclerc said to media at the Albert Park Circuit. “I cannot remember what the race situation was the year before, but I think I was also starting way further back.

“I was starting 12th because of the [grid] penalty in 2023, so it’s difficult to compare. However, I definitely feel like we’ve done a big step forward. I think in the last six or seven months, we are the team that have improved the most, and that is a positive signal.

“It means that we are working well, and we need to keep focusing on ourselves, and to keep doing what we are doing now because slowly, slowly, we are going to close the gap to Red Bull.”

He added: “I think we’ll be more consistent [across the season], but now it’s up to us to find more performance because that’s what we are obviously missing today, especially in race compared to Red Bull.”

Verdict: It’s looking good, but it probably won’t happen in Australia.

Max Verstappen of Red Bull leads Charles Leclerc of Ferrari during 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Leclerc has hopes for the future

Norris has pretty much given up on 2025 and is relying on the 2026 regulations to mix up the order and nullify Red Bull‘s advantage after he conceded the team is “in many ways smarter” than anyone else, expecting them to keep their gap through next season.

There, he will rely on Mercedes repeating their feat of 2014 to build a bullet of an engine whilst he hopes Red Bull Power Trains will fumble the bag so that their aero capabilities can’t be flexed to this extent in the future.

But Charles Leclerc hasn’t given up on any of the upcoming seasons as he praised Ferrari for their progress and insists that now the team have the basics nailed down, they simply have to take steps forwards to eat into the delta to Verstappen‘s car.

“I mean, we’re in a better situation compared to last year, for sure,” Leclerc added to media. “However, we are speaking about maybe four tenths per-lap in race, which is still significant. I am more optimistic but I’m not looking at the gap.

“I’m looking at the overall situation of the team, the way we are working and also the way we have very clear ideas and what we need to improve in order to do steps forward.

“That’s what gives me the confidence that at some point during the season will be that putting them more under pressure in some tracks, that’s what gives me the confidence. But for now, we see the gap remains to be for us to realistically take a normal way a normal win come race day.”

Lets not forget that Ferrari also have the experience and talent of Lewis Hamilton arriving in 2025, and if the reports are to be believed, Adrian Newey, Red Bull’s chief technical officer, could also join them.

No wonder the 26-year-old is excited and won’t give up hope with that context in mind. Let’s see what they can do in Australia when the race gets underway on Sunday, March 24 at 15:00 local time (04:00 UK time/00:00 ET).

Brandon Sutton
Brandon is an alumni of an NCTJ and BJTC Liverpool John Moores University course, and has been with Total-Motorsport.com for over a year now. He enjoys covering all forms of motorsport but particularly focuses on Formula 1, and Brandon loves to debate various topics of the sport and other interests, especially if that topic doesn't have an open/shut answer such as the GOAT debate.
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