Alarming moment Aussie fans nearly ruin F1 driver's race

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·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
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Several VIP fans at the Australian Grand Prix were caught out in pit lane when Williams driver Alex Albon made a late pitstop, causing safety concerns. Picture: F1 TV/Reddit
Several VIP fans at the Australian Grand Prix were caught out in pit lane when Williams driver Alex Albon made a late pitstop, causing safety concerns. Picture: F1 TV/Reddit

The Australian Grand Prix has come under criticism regarding the use of pit lane after a group of VIP fans almost inadvertently interfered with Williams driver Alex Albon's race last weekend.

Albon earned Williams their first points of the season last weekend with a fine drive to 10th place on an unconventional tyre strategy.

All drivers are required to make at least one pitstop to switch tyre compounds in each grand prix, and with Williams suffering through a shocking qualifying session on Saturday, the team was ready to roll the dice on race day.

Starting from a lowly 16th on the grid, Albon stayed out on the hard compound tyres for 57 laps of the 58 lap race - an extraodinary stint, even on the more durable rubber.

Incredibly, Albon felt his pace had only improved as the race wore on.

It was when he finally came in for his mandatory pitstop on the penultimate lap though, that Australian GP staff realised they had been caught out by the unconventional strategy.

A group of VIP fans had been brought down to the pit lane in anticipation of the end of the race, in which fans flood onto the main straight of the Albert Park course once the cars have left the circuit for post-race presentations.

However Albon's late pitsop had gone unnoticed, leading staff to have to usher the fans away from the pit exit as the Williams drove past.

It seemed to be a case of an otherwise safe procedure being compromised by an unconventional pit strategy catching officials off guard - particularly since for much of the race, Albon's Williams had been stuck towards the rear of the field.

Fortunately, Albon didn't mind one iota after scoring a point three races into his return to F1.

“It got to a point where I was driving like qualifying for 25 laps in a row,” Albon said after the race.

“I was just getting faster and faster every lap. We need almost a bit of reverse engineering to understand why that so good to us.

“We just need to qualify on it, bring 10 sets of primes to the weekend and just leave it there.”

Max Verstappen lashes out over 'unacceptable' Red Bull F1 drama

While Albon and Williams were happy campers after salvaging an otherwise difficult weekend in Melbourne, reigning champion Max Verstappen was left fuming.

The 24-year-old suffered the second mechanical DNF in the first three races of the season, leaving him more than 50 points behind championship leader, Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, despite his victory at the Saudi Arabian GP.

Speaking after his race came to an abrupt end on lap 39 of 58 at Melbourne's Albert Park circuit, Verstappen couldn't contain his anger after also failing to finish the season-opening Bahrain GP.

"We are so far behind (Ferrari). We need to finish races," Verstappen said.

The Dutchman could be heard on team radio complaining of a strange-smelling build that could be seen coming out of the Red Bull.

Max Verstappen has been pushing too hard in the early stages of the 2022 F1 season, Red Bull believe. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)
Max Verstappen has been pushing too hard in the early stages of the 2022 F1 season, Red Bull believe. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

'I smell some weird fluid' Verstappen reported over team radio before stopping the car, jumping out and grabbing a fire extinguisher to help marshals to put out flames.

"Today was a bad day, I was managing the tyres, I could not fight Charles," he added.

"It was an easy P2 but we didn't even finish the race — frustrating and unacceptable. These kind of things, if you want to fight for the title, are unacceptable."

Verstappen has not been happy all weekend, complaining after qualifying second about the balance of his car.

"I never felt comfortable for one lap except the long runs," he said.

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