Verstappen wins in wild finish to F1 Australian Grand Prix

MELBOURNE: After claiming his 100th podium in Saudi Arabia in confusing and controversial circumstances, Fernando Alonso will be looking for a better result at Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix than his two third places so far this Formula One season.

Maybe even his 33rd Formula One victory, and first in 10 years.

The Aston Martin driver finished behind the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez in the first two races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in what has been a one-sided championship so far.

Alonso believes the championship will become more competitive as the season progresses, but is pleased that his Aston Martin is leading the way into the Melbourne race.

Practice sessions for the Australian Grand Prix begin on Friday, with another session on Saturday before qualifying.

“At the moment we are extremely happy with the performance of the car, obviously. It was better than expected, especially in Jeddah,” said Alonso. “We arrived here with a good level of confidence. But, as I said, after a few events from now, I think cars will change a lot in some areas through development.

Alonso, 41, became the sixth driver to reach the 100-podium milestone in Formula One when he finished third in a race two weeks ago in Saudi Arabia with a controversial postscript.

The Aston Martin driver received a 10-second time penalty for being slightly out of position at the start, demoting him to fourth place ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell.

Alonso was later reinstated to third place after a successful appeal to the FIA, arguing that the stewards had not informed Aston Martin about the penalty within the regulated time.

Russell said on Thursday it was an awkward situation but believes the right decision was made.

“Obviously it was the right decision. It was just a bit of a shame how much trouble it was for everybody,” Russell said. “I think from my side and from our side, we didn’t feel like we were third The place was worth staying at, but obviously it’s a great feeling when it’s given to you. But then when it was taken down, it was all kind of silly.

Alonso said that although “the conditions in Jeddah were not ideal,” he enjoyed the experience of celebrating the achievement on the podium before the stewards’ deliberations.

As a result of the Jeddah situation, the grid box has been extended for the Australian Grand Prix and the remaining races, with a center line added to help drivers start in the correct position.

Alonso last won an F1 race in Spain in 2013, but his pair of podiums ends in 2023, prompting excitement among fans in his homeland, including No. 1-ranked tennis player and compatriot Carlos Alcaraz.

Alcaraz dedicated his victory over Tommy Paul at the Miami Masters this week to the two-time world champion. After his victory, Alcaraz wrote the words “33 soon” when signing the result on the lens of the broadcast camera. This prompted a friendly chat between the pair on social media.

“It’s crazy to see how excited Spain is now again for Formula One, whatever is happening. It’s great to see,” said Alonso. “Hopefully we can reach that number, 33, and then go for 34.”

Verstappen, who leads the drivers’ championship by one point from Pérez, believes Alonso is able to end the drought soon.

“I think Fernando should have won a lot more races. He deserves it. I would be happy to see him win the No. 33, but in a way I would like to see him win more.’