Charles Leclerc enjoyed a sensational start to his virtual Grand Prix season with a dominant display in Melbourne, leading home Formula 3 ace Christian Lungaard and the Williams of George Russell.
The Ferrari was unchallenged all race, executing a flawless strategy while his rivals floundered around him.
An 18-minute qualifying was run to order the grid for the 29 lap Grand Prix.
Renault Sport Academy Christian Lungaard danced his car to provisional pole position, edging out Scuderia Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc. However, a 5-place grid drop penalty for Lungaard after a collision with Jimmy Broadbent promoted the Monegasque to head the field for the race.
A sterling start from Leclerc was key to establishing a comfortable cushion over the field. Fellow F1 rival George Russell fell in line behind the Ferrari, albeit more than three-seconds down by lap two.
The foreshadowed opening lap shenanigans were somewhat nullified as mostly everyone remained out of harms way. Though a double spin for the Red Bull duo of F1 pilot Alex Albon and Cricket World Cup champion Ben Stokes did shake up the midfield running order.
After qualifying P13, Kelly Racing Supercars driver Andre Heimgartner had worked himself up to ninth by lap three.
An unforced error from George Russell at turn one on his fourth tour promoted Arthur Leclerc (younger brother to Charles) and Lungaard into the podium finishes as Charles Leclerc continued to extend his margin as the race leader.
Arthur Leclerc soon had his arms full – quite literally – as he lost the rear of the Ferrari in his adamant defence over Lungaard, relinquishing second place while he rejoined down in fourth and behind the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi.
The leaders all made their pitstop as the quarter-race distance approached, though the Mercedes of Stoffel Vandoorne, who had taken the alternative strategy of pitting early for the undercut – had played himself up to seventh after everyone else completed their mandatory stop.
With ten laps remaining, Charles Leclerc had fabricated a seven-second lead over Lungaard who was quickly coming under pressure from a resilient George Russell. The Williams driver being the only of the top five to fit the medium compound tyre while everyone else opted for the less-grippy Hard tyres.
A scintillating battle between 2009 World Champion Jenson Button and F1 rookie Nicholas Latifi ensued for P11. Button, ensuring he made his McLaren as wide as possible on several occasions, kept the Williams behind him for a number of laps. But a robust Latifi utilised DRS and a brave move around the outside at Turn Three to get ahead of Button on the penultimate lap.
A faultless drive from Charles Leclerc meant he had established a lead of 14.094s over Christian Lungaard at the chequered flag. George Russell couldn’t match the pace of the duo ahead despite being on a faster tyre compound, crossing the line to seal P3.
Arthur Leclerc made it two Ferrari’s in the top four, while Alex Albon executed a credible fightback from last to finish in eighth. Heimgartner finished 16th on his F1 virtual debut, ahead of Johnny Herbert and Ben Stokes.
|1||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||29 laps|
|5||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+2.735|
|8||Alex Albon||Red Bull||+6.938|
|9||Jimmy Broadbent||Racing Point||+4.226|
|12||Luca Slavadori||Toro Rosso||+7.351|
|13||Nunzio Todisco||Toro Rosso||+0.923|
|15||Anthony Davidson||Racing Point||+7.947|
|17||Johnny Herbert||Alfa Romeo||+1m22.233|
|18||Ben Stokes||Red Bull||1 lap|
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