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  • Writer's pictureBen Waterworth

Australian Grand Prix talking points: Sainz solidifies reputation, controversial Alonso penalty the right call, Haas getting better

Max Verstappen has been beaten for the first time in six months, and once again it was Carlos Sainz who was the man to knock him off his dominant perch.

What does that mean for Sainz and his overall standing in Formula 1 right now?

Well, you’re about to find out as we delve into the latest edition of Formula 1 talking points.

Sainz is the most underrated driver on the grid

A question was put to Carlos Sainz in the post-race press conference: do you sometimes think you don’t get the credit you deserve?

A similar question was put to his fellow podium finishers Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris: do you guys think Carlos is underrated?

Sainz was typically diplomatic in his answer saying that the people who know him and what he is capable of don’t underrate him, but Leclerc and Norris heaped high praise on Sainz for his ability and standing in the paddock.

And while none of the drivers flat-out agreed with the question that Sainz is underrated, it’s hard to not ignore the point of the question given that when most people talk about the top drivers in the sport, Sainz is often left out for the likes of Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris.

But given he is the only driver to win a race besides Verstappen in nearly a year, and the only driver not in a Red Bull to win a race since November 2022, it’s somewhat of a travesty that he isn’t included in that conversation.

Sainz is by far the hottest property when it comes to the 2025 driver market, and there is no doubt that he will easily find a seat next season.

Where that seat will be remains to be seen, but with a Mercedes and Red Bull seat available, you’d place a good bet on him ending up there to solidify his top driver status and continue to bring wins that are the true testament to his talent and ability.

Let’s just hope that it will continue without him having to lose an organ from now on.

(Photo by The Phuket News)

Alonso’s punishment was just

Watching the onboard footage from George Russell prior to his heavy last-lap crash during the Australian Grand Prix, it was clear to see Fernando Alonso back off ever so slightly as the pair entered turn 6.

Whether this act was deliberate by Alonso is a debate that will never be solved, however, the data was clear from the telemetry that he backed off 100 metres earlier than at any point of the race, raising questions about his antics as he defended hard against the Mercedes.

The fact that this act by Alonso caused a heavy crash by Russell warrants the penalty, as given the severity of impact and just where Russell ended up on the track was a huge concern for the safety of the British driver.

Alonso has always been a driver willing to push others to the edge in defence of a position, and he is among the few old-school style drivers willing to do so; Kevin Magnussen and Max Verstappen being among that very select current group.

This is usually great to see, as long as it doesn’t go too far. Unfortunately, this time for Alonso it did, and he suffered a just punishment as a result.

Haas slowly moving their way up the pecking order

At the beginning of 2024, there was nothing but doom and gloom around Haas. Expectations were extremely low for the American team, and many predicted the team would finish dead last in the Constructor’s Championship.

However, after only three races, the team finds themselves in seventh position in the Championship with four points, including scoring points in the last two races and a solid finish in Australia.

While their three points have been helped by the misfortunes of those in the top five teams, there is a clear air of confidence in the team when it comes to their current form and standing in the pecking order.

Alpine and Kick Sauber have started off far worse, and with both RB and Williams also not living up to expectations pre-season, this has only come to benefit Haas and the hopes for a much higher finishing position in 2024 than expected.

(Photo by Haas F1 team)

Williams’ choice fails to deliver

A key reason for Williams choosing Alex Albon to race in the Australian Grand Prix over Logan Sargeant after all the drama that occurred on Friday was that they believed Albon brought a better chance of scoring points on Sunday.

Well, Albon didn’t score points, finishing just outside the top ten in 11th place.

Like most drivers during the race, Albon suffered from tyre graining issues and also had a race-long battle with both Haas drivers, who ultimately finished ahead of the Thai driver.

But the finishing position was around about where the car had been all weekend, something which was also showcased by Sargeant during the two sessions he competed in on Friday.

Would Sargeant have made a difference had he been in the car during the race? We will never know.

But the controversial decision to not at least let him try will stick with the team for some time to come.

Kick Sauber needs a pit-stop kick

Valtteri Bottas would no doubt have been in the points at his ‘home’ race in Melbourne on Sunday had it not been for yet another pit stop issue at Kick Sauber.

Bottas was showing strong pace early in the race and had made up several places at the start, making his way up to tenth place.

However, a 30-second pit stop after a slow wheel change dropped him to last and he was not able to recover.

Teammate Zhou Guanyu also was hampered by a similar issue, with the team also being fined 5000 Euro for dropping a wheel nut into the fast lane of the pits.

This is the third consecutive race in which Kick Sauber has had a wheel change issue, and while team representative Alessandro Alunni Bravi said the issues in Australia weren’t the same as what happened in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, they appeared to be linked.

With less than two weeks to go until the teams head to Suzuka in Japan, Kick Sauber will be hoping that whatever kick they can give themselves in the pit stop department will work much better than what they had previously implemented.

This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here


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