Formula 1 Racing

F1 Lap Time Watch: 2024 Australian Grand Prix

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Albert Park, 2024

The opening races of 2024 have shown the Formula 1 field is roughly split in to two halves.

While Red Bull are unquestionably leading the top half on raw performance, their former championship rivals Mercedes increasingly appear to be at the bottom, with Ferrari, McLaren and Aston Martin separating them.

For the second race weekend in a row, Mercedes produced the fifth-fastest single lap ahead of the grand prix. With that kind of pace, the team’s risk of one of their drivers falling victim in Q2 to a strong lap by a midfield rival is high, and sure enough Lewis Hamilton failed to reach the final 10 after being eliminated by RB’s Yuki Tsunoda.

Mercedes looked stronger at the first round of the season in Bahrain. However on that occasion a particularly strong lap by George Russell on a day when others faltered lifted them to third overall.

Russell was in great form again today, capitalising on a poor Q3 for the Aston Martin drivers to claim seventh on the grid. Both Aston Martin drivers failed to improve their times between Q2 and Q3. They weren’t the only drivers to find the conditions less favourable at the end of the session: Charles Leclerc went slower as well, while the likes of his team mate and Tsunoda found only a few thousandths.

The margins remain incredibly tight, however, especially around Mercedes: Seven hundredths of a second covered them, Aston Martin and RB.

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Ferrari have looked quick all weekend

Thanks to Tsunoda, RB lapped over a second faster than they did at this track last year, as they also did in the previous two races, making them the only team thus far to do so. They are only the second most-improved team this weekend, however, McLaren being over 1.8 seconds quicker than at this race last year.

The signs are good for Ferrari too, as for the first time this year they are over a second quicker than they were at this track 12 months ago. It looked like there was more in hand, too: Carlos Sainz Jnr lost a significant amount of time through turns nine and 10 on their quickest lap, while Charles Leclerc hit trouble in qualifying. Ferrari appear to be stronger on the harder compounds as well, which bodes well for their prospects in the race.

Red Bull are faster than last year by eight tenths of a second, which is roughly the same amount they were in Jeddah. Half of the teams, including rivals Mercedes, couldn’t manage that much. Two of them were slower on a single lap: Alpine (for the…

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