Should Melbourne’s place in F1 calendar be reviewed?

His Red Bull counterpart Sergio Perez agreed, arguing that the current opening two rounds in the Middle East were fine but Australia’s timing was problematical.

“I think it works well at the moment because we are doing the winter testing in Bahrain so it makes sense to stay there, but it really has to be back to back with one of those races … so I am sure that going forward they can have a look at it.

“For me it’s not where you place Australia, it’s more like if you come to this part of the world you have races closer to here rather than go all the way back to Europe for the next race. That’s what makes it very difficult with all the travel.“

Russell said that there was no suggestion that there should not be a race in this country.

“I think it’s geographically correct … we are happy I think for the race to be at any point of the season. We race very far east with Japan and Singapore, China, not this year but it is on the calendar from next year onwards. I just think there’s a better compromise to be had. It can be done.”

Mick Schumacher, the Haas driver who is racing in the Australian GP for the first time, said: “Teams have to move back and forwards a lot. We are going from Australia back to Europe and then to Miami, so we are going to three continents in the next three races.

“I enjoy coming here early, but I understand for the team that it’s difficult.”

Meanwhile, Oscar Piastri, the young Australian who is a reserve driver with the Alpine F1 team, is good enough to get a seat on the grid – but his veteran team-mate Fernando Alonso, a former dual world champion, is not prepared to give up his place for the talented youngster.

Alonso first raced in Australia 21 years ago but the 40-year-old has no plans to step down for at least two more years, he said, when asked whether he felt under pressure to retain his place in the team at the expense of the Australian F2 and F3 champion.

“I think if I was 25 there would not be this talk, it’s an age thing that people try to find a way for the young talents,” Alonso said.

“But I think this is about performance. Last year I think I did well, I finished slightly in front of Esteban (Ocon, his Alpine team-mate), lets see this year how the battle goes.

“It is about performance not about age. At the beginning of the year I still feel competitive and fast, and I am still enjoying my time in F1, I will race I guess for a couple of more years, two or three more years.


“If it is with Alpine it will be good, if it is with another team it will be good as well, but I will find out and start these discussions in summer.“

Ocon is a fan of Piastri and says he belongs on the grid – he is just not sure where.

“Oscar is a great guy, he is very involved in the team, he is going to have a great testing program.

“I am very sure he is going to have a seat in F1 shortly, I don’t know where in the paddock but opportunity comes for the ones who deserve it, and Oscar is one of them. He has won all the major titles, he is very professional and dedicated and you will see him around soon.“

Alonso praised Piastri’s work ethic and talent. “He is a good guy, very talented….very professional and hard working on the simulator the factory and all our meetings. He is still very young and hopefully he finds a seat.”

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