Sainz leads a Ferrari 1-2 in Australia as Verstappen drops out

Carlos Sainz achieved his third career victory in Formula 1 following a dramatic Australian Grand Prix in which Max Verstappen was forced to retire with brake issue.

After Sainz took the lead from Verstappen on the second lap with a pass around the outside at Turn 10, the Ferrari driver maintained the lead throughout the entirety of the race – and his victory in the 58-lap race was secured a lap early when George Russell crashed out at Turn 6 to produce a virtual safety car.

Just two weeks after having his appendix removed which caused him to miss the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Sainz returned to the top step of the podium, following his victory in the Singapore Grand Prix last year.

Although Verstappen had preserved the lead off pole, waving away with a move from Sainz in the opening lap, the championship leader was unable to break out of DRS range after the first lap and thus gave the chasing Ferrari momentum.

Complaining that he had ‘lost the car’ for a moment on the second lap alongside the Lakeside Drive section of the circuit, Sainz was able to drive past the Red Bull with DRS open and went into the lead.

Verstappen reported further issues with his Red Bull, in which smoke was appearing from the back, which intensified around the rear-right corner of his car.

He then began to slow significantly as it became apparent that his brakes had caught fire, and he returned back to the pits as the hub started to shed debris to retire.

This ends Verstappen’s impressive race results and Red Bull’s reliability. Despite this setback, Max still leads the championship.

Following this retirement, the race was up for grabs. Although Sainz had already taken the initiative and started to build up a gap over Lando Norris to ensure he had breathing space when it came to the opening pitstop stage.

Norris had been under fire from Leclerc but, as the Ferrari driver stopped at the end of the ninth lap, focused on retaining tyre life and hung it out on the mediums until the end of lap 14.

This gave Leclerc the undercut, putting the Ferraris in the top two positions – Sainz pitted at the end of lap 16 to ensure he maintained the lead over his rapidly chasing teammate.

A virtual safety car shortly after Sainz’s stop, produced for a slowing Hamilton as the Mercedes driver suffered an engine problem, brought Leclerc close to Sainz and at striking distance at the restart, but Carlos kept him in situate before restoring his advantage.

Sainz got his lead up to 8.7 seconds before Leclerc stopped for a second time on lap 34 as Norris had started to close on Charles, but the leader waited until the end of lap 41 to make his own switch to a second set of hards.

Leclerc had got the lead down to five seconds, but Sainz stabilised and added half a second on over the following laps to create another buffer. Although he complained that his tyres did not “feel great” with three laps to go, Sainz had enough in reserve to close the lead out – helped by Russell’s race-ending crash as he was battling Fernando Alonso.

Norris was unable to resume his chase over Leclerc, having lost two positions after his opening stop – Leclerc and Oscar Piastri both got ahead through the first-stint undercut, but McLaren decided to swap Norris and Piastri around to give the McLaren driver a chance to chase second position.

But Leclerc put in a series of strong laps towards the end to fend off the threat of the third-placed Norris, as Piastri collected fourth to delight the fans in his home race.

Sergio Perez was some way behind in fifth after a disappointing race, where he lost a place at the start to Russell and then slipped down the order again after his first stop. This forced the Red Bull driver to make ground with the use of DRS, although came up against Alonso in the second half of the race.

Alonso had taken the initiative to pit under the first virtual safety car when Hamilton stopped, which put him ahead of Perez – although the Red Bull driver got past, he was unable to shake Fernando before the final round of stops.

Russell was chasing Alonso for sixth on the final lap when he suffered a big crash at Turns 6-7, with his Mercedes turning over after smashing the barriers.

With Russell retiring in spectacular fashion, Alonso initially took sixth under VSC conditions. However, post-race the race stewards have decided that the incident involved George Russell meant Fernando Alonso was given a twenty-second time penalty plus three penalty points on his FIA superlicense.

Lance Stroll finished in sixth, moving up a position thanks to Russell’s crash, while Yuki Tsunoda scored some points for RB with a quiet race. At least he was much faster than teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

Nico Hulkenberg added more points for Haas after successfully overcutting Alex Albon during the second pit phase, as Kevin Magnussen had also dispatched the Williams to ensure he made the points when Russell retired.

Albon was just outside of the points in P11 after taking over Logan Sargeant’s car for the rest of the weekend after his FP1 crash, with Daniel Ricciardo finishing in P12.

Despite receiving a five-second penalty for crossing the pit exit line too early, Pierre Gasly finished P13 over the Sauber duo of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu, who both suffered slow pitstops once again.

A three-stopping Esteban Ocon completed the finishers, dropping to back after a rear-right brake fire was addressed in the pitstops – a tear-off proved to be the culprit.

So a dramatic Australian Grand Prix with two champions eliminated with technical issues and yet it was a fantastic result for Scuderia Ferrari. Finishing first and second is a good news story for Formula 1. Congratulations to Carlos Sainz in winning and it will be fascinating if this will lead to a new drive for the 2025 season.

Australian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:20:26.843
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +2.366s
3 Lando Norris McLaren +5.904s
4 Oscar Piastri McLaren +35.770s
5 Sergio Perez Red Bull +56.309s
6 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +93.222s
7 Yuki Tsunoda RB +95.601s
8 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +100.992s*
9 Nico Hulkenberg Haas +104.553
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1 lap
11 Alexander Albon Williams +1 lap
12 Daniel Ricciardo RB +1 lap
13 Pierre Gasly Alpine +1 lap
14 Valtteri Bottas Sauber +1 lap
15 Zhou Guanyu Sauber +1 lap
16 Esteban Ocon Alpine +1 lap
17 George Russell Mercedes DNF
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes DNF
Max Verstappen Red Bull DNF

*Twenty-second penalty for “potentially dangerous” driving involving George Russell

5 thoughts to “Sainz leads a Ferrari 1-2 in Australia as Verstappen drops out”

  1. Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz took the first non-Red Bull win of the season with an impressive display during Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, taking advantage of technical trouble for Max Verstappen in the opening laps that forced the reigning world champion to retire.

    Bidding for a record-equalling 10th victory in a row, Verstappen converted his pole position advantage as the race got under way but soon reported issues behind the wheel, with a compromised second lap opening the door for Sainz to get a run on him and make a move for the lead.

    From there, Verstappen’s brake-related woes got worse and, with plumes of smoke exiting the rear of his RB20, he pulled off the racing line to let the rest of the field overtake him before returning to the pits and retiring for the first time in two years.

    Sainz went from strength to strength in Verstappen’s absence, building up a solid lead over Lando Norris, team mate Charles Leclerc and home favourite Oscar Piastri as the race developed, eventually taking the chequered flag for the third triumph of his F1 career.

  2. Max Verstappen says a “stuck brake” right from the start of Formula 1’s Australian Grand Prix is what led to his early retirement.

    Verstappen started the Melbourne race from pole but couldn’t hold on to his lead for long as Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz swooped past on lap 2.

    The Dutchman immediately complained about the balance of his RB20, saying the rear started feeling loose.

    On lap 4 it became apparent why as his right rear corner started smoking. Towards the end of the lap Verstappen had to back off, retiring into the pitlane with a right-rear brake fire.

    “My right rear brake basically stuck on from when the lights went off, so the temperatures just kept on increasing and until the point of course that it caught fire,” Verstappen said.

    “I had that moment after the first lap, but then already the temperature was increasing and increasing, so it just works like a handbrake. But of course, I didn’t know that stuff was happening. It just felt the problem was the car balance was off.”

    “[The team] could see what was going on, but they don’t know what caused it.”

  3. Carlos Sainz says his victory in Formula 1’s Australian Grand Prix felt like a “rollercoaster”, coming just two weeks after undergoing surgery.

    A fortnight ago Sainz had to miss the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix due to appendicitis, facing a battle to regain fitness for Melbourne’s third race of the season.

    But while the Spaniard admitted he wasn’t physically at 100 percent, that didn’t stop him from qualifying second behind Max Verstappen.

    And when Verstappen hit brake trouble from the start of the race, Sainz pounced to break the Dutchman’s winning his first win since last year’s Singapore Grand Prix, taking a 1-2 for Ferrari ahead of Charles Leclerc.

    “I felt really good out there,” Sainz said. “Of course a bit stiff and especially physically it wasn’t the easiest, but I was lucky that I was more or less on my own and I could manage my pace, manage the tyres, manage everything, it wasn’t the toughest races of all.

    “Very proud of the team, happy to be in a one-two with Charles here. It shows that the hard work pays off. Life sometimes it’s crazy.

    “What happened at the beginning of the year, then the podium in Bahrain, then the appendix, the comeback, the win. It’s a rollercoaster, but I loved it. I’m extremely happy.”

  4. George Russell and Fernando Alonso will face the FIA stewards after the Mercedes driver crashed on the penultimate lap of the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix and called the incident “bizarre”.

    The pair were battling for sixth place in the closing stages of the Albert Park race, with Russell closing in on Alonso, having pitted later and with the benefit of fresher tyres.

    Approaching Turn 6, Russell appeared to suddenly gain on the Aston Martin ahead, which destabilised his Mercedes and sent him over the gravel and into a heavy hit with the wall.

    “My take is that I have gone off, and that is on me, but I was half a second behind Fernando 100m before the corner and then suddenly he came towards me extremely quick and I was right in his gearbox,” Russell said.

    “I don’t know if he has got a problem or not. We are off to see the stewards so that is a bit bizarre in a circumstance like this. I’ve got nothing more to say right now, I need to see everything, I am disappointed to end the race like that.”

  5. Fernando Alonso has been penalised for “potentially dangerous” driving during Formula 1’s Australian GP but has escaped blame for deliberately trying to make George Russell crash.

    Mercedes racer Russell wiped out from seventh place two laps from the chequered flag in Melbourne while chasing after the Aston Martin driver. He lost the rear axle through Turn 6 to skate over the gravel, and hit the Turn 7 wall before bouncing back into the middle of the circuit.

    After a lengthy hearing with the FIA stewards, it has been determined that Alonso did alter his driving style in an “extraordinary” way to fulfil Article 33.4 of the sporting regulations.

    This reads: “At no time may a car be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person.”

    Accordingly, Alonso was awarded a drive-through penalty, but this has been converted to a 20-second reprimand – dropping him from sixth to eighth, behind team-mate Lance Stroll and Yuki Tsunoda. He has also lost the clean record on his FIA superlicence via the addition of three penalty points.

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