Charles Leclerc and Ferrari to ‘surprise’ at 2023 Australian GP

Ferrari have won 13 times at the Albert Park Circuit since it was added to the F1 calendar in 1996.

F1 journalist Tom Clarkson believes Ferrari could be a “surprise” candidate for victory this weekend at the Australian Grand Prix, with Charles Leclerc having claimed a comfortable win at Albert Park 12 months ago.

Ferrari have endured a challenging start to the 2023 F1 season and currently sit fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, meaning the Italians have plenty of work to do.

The side haven’t looked particularly good at either Bahrain or Saudi Arabia this season, despite Leclerc having qualified second at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit prior to his 10-place grid penalty.

Melbourne has always been a great venue for Ferrari, though, with the likelihood being that they will be stronger this weekend given the similarities between the SF-23 and their 2022 car.

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Clarkson isn’t convinced that Ferrari necessarily have what it takes to beat Red Bull this weekend but he believes that they can “take a big step forward” nevertheless.

“Yes, it’s hard to look beyond Red Bull,” Clarkson said on the F1 Nation podcast. “But my surprise is actually Ferrari.

“I think they’ve always been pretty hooked up around Melbourne, whatever the regulations, since we first went there in 1996. They have a good setup there and Leclerc was dominant there last year.

“This year’s car is a continuation of the car that they were using last year, it’s an evolution, and while I’m not saying they’ve got the pace of Red Bull, I think we’re going to see Ferrari take a big step forward.

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“Let’s not forget that Leclerc qualified second in Saudi Arabia, just a tenth and a half of [pole sitter] Sergio Perez,” Clarkson added.

“He then got the 10-place penalty which ruined his race.

“But you know if he can put it up there in qualifying, I think he’ll be there or thereabouts.”

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Since Albert Park joined the calendar in 1996, Ferrari have gone on to win at the venue 13 times, whilst Leclerc will be pushing for a second consecutive win at the circuit.

Despite their remarkable record in Melbourne, Clarkson believes a rostrum is the best result that Ferrari can hope for, with the journalist predicting that Max Verstappen will claim victory.

“So I’m going for a Max Verstappen win, Charles Leclerc second and Fernando Alonso third. And Sergio Perez getting that fastest lap that he didn’t get in Saudi Arabia,” Clarkson added.