Which Aus Will Be On Top ‘Down Under’?

by Catherine Bruce

This weekend is the return of the Australian Grand Prix, a track featuring 58 laps, 16 corners, a length of 5.303km and a 62% chance of a safety car. Since officially joining the F1 calendar in 1985, only 5 Australians have competed in this Grand Prix, and for the first time in 11 years there will be two Aussies racing there, Oscar Piastri with McLaren, and Daniel Ricciardo with Visa Cash App RB. No Australian has ever won this race or been on the podium in its time on the F1 calendar, could either of these drivers be the one to break the streak?

In 2012, a 22-year-old Ricciardo first competed at the Aus GP, qualifying P10 and finishing P9. Subsequently he has competed there an additional 8 times, achieving a highest finish of P4 in 2016 and 2018, in addition to 2 fastest both of those years, and a highest qualifying position of P2 in 2014. Other highlights for Ricciardo at Albert Park include scoring his first F1 points in 2012 and achieving P7 in 2019 despite having issues with the handling of his car.

However, he has had some serious low points at this track too, including 3 DNFs in 2013, 2017 and 2019, as well as a disqualification in 2014. In 2014 Ricciardo managed to qualify on the front row and maintained this position in the race to finish P2, seemingly making history by being the first Aussie on the podium down under, which also would’ve been his first F1 podium. However, he was later disqualified due to exceeding the maximum fuel flow allowance.

Last year, F1 rookie Piastri competed in the Australian GP for the first time, and like Ricciardo in 2012, scored his first points in F1. The young driver managed to climb from P16 to P8, avoiding the chaos of 3 red flags (the most ever in a single F1 race) and a heavily botched restart. He went on to have a superb first season, winning the sprint race in Qatar, and scoring another 2 podiums.

Going into the race this weekend, both drivers bring a multitude of competitive strengths, as well as some notable weaknesses. Ricciardo obviously has more experience in F1 and at this track, and over his career has demonstrated well-refined racecraft. However, more recently he has struggled in both qualifying and race pace, being outperformed by teammate Yuki Tsunoda, whereas Piastri has the advantage of faster car, has proven his strong race and qualifying pace, is able to outperform his experienced teammate, and has earnt plenty of success so far in his short career. Ricciardo is also facing the pressure of proving his worth for a seat in F1 next season, whether that’s at Red Bull or somewhere else.

With both drivers facing their own set of challenges and opportunities, the stage is set for an exciting race weekend, where the possibility of an Australian driver standing on the podium is within reach.

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