Controversy from the track followed Formula 1 to Australia for the third Grand Prix of the season

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — For the third consecutive Formula 1 Grand Prix, controversies from the track threaten to overshadow the almost predictable action on it.

News this week for the Australian GP from the FIA's Ethics Committee It allowed its leader, Mohammed bin SulayemSusie Wolff, who is married to Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff and director of the all-female series F1 Academy, was quick to follow up with a social media post saying there was „no interference” at the two F1 events last year. She filed a criminal complaint in French courts against the sport's governing body for statements about her in December.

This comes against the backdrop of the ongoing frenzy surrounding Red Bull Racing and its team principal Christian Horner.

Off-track issues persist In Red Bull Racing, The recently suspended team employee Red Bulls exercised their right to appeal Admission of alleged misconduct by Horner and lodged a formal complaint with the FIA.

„All the stuff that's come to light is very serious … we're living in 2024, not 1984, which means total transparency,” McLaren chief executive Zach Brown told a press conference on Friday. We're three races into the schedule and we're still talking about it.

Of Wolff's legal action, Brown added: „I think Susie is one of the most respected people in motorsport.”

Red Bull's all-conquering RB20 car has a perfect 1-2 finish in season-opening events. Bahrain And Saudi Arabiahas been a secondary talking point at Albert Park for speculation about Max Verstappen prepares to quit For Mercedes.

„I'm happy within the team,” the three-time F1 world champion said ahead of practice sessions, dismissing speculation of a move. „Of course, it's very important to try to keep key players in the team for the long term because that's where the performance is. At the end of the day, it's a performance business.

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Verstappen was the favorite to take his third win of 2024 on Sunday and equal a record 10th straight dating back to last year's Japanese Grand Prix.

He was second fastest in Friday's two practice sessions behind Ferrari's Charles Leclerc. Verstappen lost around 20 minutes of the second session while his car underwent floor repairs.

„I think Ferrari is quick, but, from our side, I think we can fine-tune a few more things, so there's nothing to worry about,” Verstappen said.

On the front row of the grid in Melbourne regular Lewis Hamilton was 18th fastest of 19 cars in the second practice session, which did not surprise Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

„I think in the second session we've had a pretty dramatic system change at Lewis, and it's been massively backtracking,” Wolff said. „But that's why we hold those sessions.”

During the first one-hour practice session, Alex Alban lost control and crashed into the wall, escaping unscathed but severely damaging his Williams.

Ferrari are the closest challengers to the Red Bulls, with Leclerc hoping to lock the front row with Verstappen for the sixth straight event and be more competitive at the Melbourne race.

„We're in a better position compared to last year,” Leclerc said. „However, we are talking about a lap of four tenths (of a second) in the race, which is still significant. I am more confident, not looking at the gap, but looking at the overall situation of the team.

Ferrari's performance may have been compromised here after Carlos Sainz announced he was ready to return to the cockpit, but didn't feel 100%. After surgery for appendicitis Ahead of the last race in Saudi Arabia.

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The Spanish driver, who is out of contract at the end of the season, had the eighth fastest time in opening practice and moved up to third after the second session.

McLaren say they are in contention with Mercedes as F1's third-fastest team, meaning Oscar Piastri is more likely to finish on the podium on home soil than Australian Daniel Ricciardo. Ricciardo raced last year for mid-grid team RB, known as AlphaTauri and the second team owned by Red Bull.

„I think we both need some good luck to finish on the podium,” Piastre said. „But yes, it will be very special.”

Brown praised his Aussie driver.

„He just keeps going faster and faster,” the McLaren CEO said. „What we're seeing is that he's got his new streak out now. He's not really doing anything wrong.

Qualifying is scheduled for Saturday afternoon. The 58-lap race should be run in clear weather on Sunday, with a favorable forecast for the weekend.


AP Formula 1:

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