There are rumours of drama at the Australian Grand Prix after a late decision to scrap the changes Daniel Ricciardo wanted.
Welcome to our live coverage of today’s qualifying at the Australian Grand Prix.
Local boy Daniel Ricciardo will be hoping to fire his first real shot of what’s been a shocking season so far, after McLaren showed signs of improvement on Friday.
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‘They’re not happy’: Rumour surrounds late track change
The rumour mill has exploded surrounding the late decision from Formula 1 marshalls to remove a Drag Reduction System (DRS) zone from the new-look Albert Park circuit because of safety fears.
The track has had three major areas of upgrades in the past 12 months in changes designed to increase over-taking opportunities.
But on Saturday afternoon, F1 officials confirmed one of the DRS zones between turns eight and nine has been removed.
Some of the teams reportedly found out just 20 minutes before the final practice session on Saturday afternoon.
Sky Sports Formula 1 analyst Karun Chandhok revealed before qualifying there is speculation across the Formula 1 grid that some teams pushed for the decision to be made because it suits the strengths of their cars.
He said one team official told him there is talk Alpine Racing driver Fernando Alonso was the loudest voice who “shouted” for the DRS area to be removed during a briefing meeting with the FIA — global motorsport’s governing body.
He said removing the DRS played into the strengths of the Apline car because it generates speed with better downforce than most of the grid.
“They’re not happy,” Chandhok said of how some teams took the news about the DRS removal.
Sky Sports pit lane reporter Ted Kravitz responded by saying: “It’s a pit lane full of intrigue”.
Aussie Daniel Ricciardo was consulted about the major track renovations and opened up on his input during the week.
“Not taking credit, but I was a little bit involved in the talks about revamping the circuit a few years ago when they had the first idea of what to do to try to make the racing a bit better,” Ricciardo told reporters on Wednesday.
“It has always been a fun track but on Sundays it has been a little bit tricky for overtaking just through the layout and the nature of it.
“Really, the idea was to try and open it up and just to make Sunday a bit more exciting and try to have more overtakes.
“As a race now you’re going to see a totally different Sunday here in Melbourne.”
Final practice results, finishing order
1. Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren 1: 19.117,
2. Charles Leclerc (MY) Ferrari 1:19.249,
3. Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull 1:19.265,
4. Fernando Alonso (ESP) Alpine 1:19.275,
5. Carlos Sainz (ESP) Ferrari 1:19.419,
6. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) McLaren 1:19.693,
7. Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull 1:19.809,
8. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes 1:19.896,
9. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:20.008,
10. Yuki Tsunoda (JPN) AlphaTauri 1: 20.071,
11. George Russell (GBR) Mercedes 1:20.096,
12. Pierre Gasly (FRA) AlphaTauri 1: 20.133,
13. Esteban Ocon (FRA) Alpine 1:20.205,
14. Mick Schumacher (GER) Haas 1:20.692,
15. Zhou Guanyu (CHN) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:20.836,
16. Alexander Albon (THA) Williams 1:20.958,
17. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas 1: 21.025,
18. Nicholas Latifi (CAN) Williams 1:21.050,
19. Lance Stroll (CAN) Aston Martin 1:21.636,
20. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Aston Martin 0.000
Vettel crashes during practice
Sebastian Vettel slammed his Aston Martin into the wall during free practice three on Saturday afternoon, bringing the session to a halt as the red flags came out.
Vettel skidded off the track at turn 10 and while he was OK, his team’s qualifying chances might not be.
“Sorry guys, I’m so sorry,” the German said over team radio.
F1 orders late track change over safety fears
Organisers have removed a Drag Reduction System (DRS) zone from the new-look Albert Park circuit because of safety fears.
F1 last visited Melbourne before the pandemic in 2019 and since then, the track has undergone some significant alterations — but they haven’t pleased everyone.
Multiple corners were tweaked and two were even removed in an attempt to allow for more overtaking and aggressive racing, which in turn resulted in there being four DRS zones — which drivers use to accelerate and aid in passing manoeuvres.
But on Saturday afternoon, F1 officials confirmed one of the DRS zones between turns eight and nine would be removed.
“For safety reasons, DRS Zones will be reduced to three for the remainder of the event,” the FIA said in a statement.
“DRS detection 1 will be moved to before Turn 9, DRS activation 1 will be after Turn 10, DRS detection 2 will remain unchanged, with the following activation zones will be renumbered accordingly.”
Former F1 driver turned Sky Sports pundit Paul Di Resta wasn’t happy with the track changes when the grid turned out for practice on Friday.
“I’m not convinced on it to be honest,” he said. “I don’t think taking out the corners was the right call. 2022 is very different to 2019, four DRS zones is too much I think but I don’t want to see an artificial race.
“Turn 11, which used to be 13, I don’t know why they changed it. Leave it as it was. I don’t know how they’re going to get two cars there.”
Fellow Sky F1 analyst Karun Chandhok agreed, adding: “I’m not sure why they have made some changes but let’s see what we get.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner was another who voiced concerns over the changes made to the track.
“It could end up like a MotoGP race where you’re changing two or three times a lap. If it’s too easy to overtake then that’s not good,” he said.
Haas chief Guenther Steiner called the original introduction of four DRS zones “very unusual” but gave the tweaks a thumbs up before the FIA intervened.
“The changes are pretty good, we have to see how they are,” Steiner said. “Until the car goes and we get the feedback we don’t know.
“The surface is very nice. The change is not a bad thing, potentially more overtaking, the four DRS is very unusual but we need new things or we get bored pretty quick.”
Several drivers including Max Verstappen, Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly gave the track their vote of confidence before qualifying.
“It’s good. I think the track grip is quite nice, the bumps definitely improved,” Verstappen said.
“I think that made the track nicer because you can attack the corners better now, being a bit more smooth. They did a good job with that.”