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Ferrari enjoys putting Red Bull under pressure

MELBOURNE: Thousands of red-clad Ferrari fans flocked to Lygon St in Melbourne to party at the Italian restaurant strip until the early hours of Monday following Carlos Sainz’s unlikely victory in the Australian Grand Prix.

The Italian Formula One team hopes the celebrations at Suzuka will continue in two weeks after Albert Park breathed new life into the championship.

Sainz and teammate Charles Leclerc’s one-two victory in Australia cut Red Bull’s lead in both the drivers’ and constructors’ title races to four points, marking a significant turnaround after Max Verstappen’s dominance in the Middle East.

Ferrari were fortunate that Verstappen was forced out at Albert Park with a braking problem, ending Red Bull’s two-year streak of avoiding DNFs (non-finishes) on race day.

Ferrari still leaves Melbourne delighted with the speed of its SF-24 car after being beaten by Red Bull in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

“This weekend is good proof that we (Red Bull) can put a little pressure on us if we put everything together – and I’m not sure if we’ll be able to do that every single weekend,” said team boss Frédéric Vasseur .

“When they are under pressure, they make more mistakes. We have to continue in this direction.”

With three-time world champion Verstappen topping the podium ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez in the first two races of the season, Red Bull was surprised by setup difficulties right from the start in Melbourne.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said Red Bull had not addressed the conditions while Ferrari clearly had.

“I think the nature of the surface was also a factor. I think Ferrari in particular seemed to have the grain of the tires under control here,” he said.

“Certainly their long runs were looking good from Friday onwards.”

Perez, who finished fifth after his car’s floor was damaged, said Ferrari “absolutely” would have had the pace to beat Verstappen if the Dutchman had gone the distance.

However, Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko was not convinced.

“I spoke to Max and he said that despite the problems he was able to keep up with Sainz’s pace relatively easily,” Marko told Sky Sport.

“With Max in the race, things would have been completely different.”

Ferrari may only know where it stands in the next real duel against Verstappen, who won 19 of 22 races last season and is desperate to bounce back at the Japanese Grand Prix.

In contrast, Mercedes can have little doubt about its place in the pecking order, with Melbourne confirming its status as a follower.

With no championship points at Albert Park and their first double loss since 2018, the Silver Arrows have fallen to fourth in the championship, 71 points behind leaders Red Bull.

The free fall could continue as the Brackley-based team struggles to understand the fluctuating performance of their overhauled W15 car.

“We haven’t swallowed a stupid pill since 2021. It’s simply because we don’t understand some of the car’s behavior,” said team boss Toto Wolff.

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