Sainz, meanwhile, is still struggling to get on terms with Leclerc in this new Ferrari despite his results looking substantially stronger than Perez’s, with a pair of podiums putting him second and 12 points behind his teammate in the title standings — a nonetheless lacklustre return for the man who beat Leclerc on last year’s championship table after their first year as teammates.
The Spaniard described his second place in Bahrain as his “most difficult weekend as a Ferrari driver” because of his inability to come to terms with Leclerc on pure pace, and though he managed to qualify directly behind the Monegasque in Jeddah, he was still some way back at the chequered flag and never really in victory contention.
Sainz is a presumptive title contender by virtue of his highly rated talent and the machinery beneath him, but he’s still desperate to win his first race, and frustration will build every weekend Leclerc keeps him at arm’s length. How he responds to these issues will be fascinating.
Title leader Charles Leclerc and reigning champion Max Verstappen share the season’s two wins between them as the presumed championship candidates, but what about their teammates?
Sergio Perez will arrive in Melbourne in good form despite what on paper looks like an underwhelming DNF and fourth place to open the season.
The Mexican appears to have made inroads on his deficit to Verstappen compared to last season, particularly in terms of one-lap pace. The RB18 is more to the Mexican’s liking, no longer an edgy car able to be tamed seemingly by Verstappen alone.
Indeed he managed to wield it more effectively than the Dutchman in Jeddah qualifying to take his first career pole and beat Verstappen for only the second time in their run as teammates.
It’s been three years since Formula 1 cars took to the streets of Albert Park with intent, but that long racing drought is broken this weekend with the long-awaited return of the Australian Grand Prix.
The spectacle this season will look more than a little different to the one fans were treated to in 2019.metasports
The cars are new, and so is the track. Max Verstappen is the new world champion, and Charles Leclerc is a first-time title contender — and their teammates are hoping to muscle in on the action for the first time to make it a four-way fight.