Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz wins Australian Grand Prix after Max Verstappen retires

By Sports Desk March 24, 2024

Max Verstappen’s bid to win a record-equalling 10 consecutive races went up in smoke as Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz returned from surgery just 16 days ago to win in Australia.

Verstappen suffered a brake failure after just four laps of Sunday’s 58-lap race at Melbourne’s sun-cooked Albert Park to end his winning streak which stretched back to September’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Sainz took advantage of Verstappen’s first retirement in 43 races to claim just the third win of his career a fortnight after he was ruled out of the previous round in Saudi Arabia with appendicitis.

Charles Leclerc finished second to complete a Ferrari one-two with Lando Norris next up as the British driver landed his first podium of the year.

Lewis Hamilton’s miserable start to his final season with Mercedes continued after he retired on lap 17 with an engine failure.

Hamilton, who is leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari at the end of the season, has taken just eight points from the opening three rounds – the worst start of his 18-season career.

Both Mercedes cars failed to make it to the end in Melbourne after George Russell crashed out on the penultimate lap. Russell’s Mercedes ended up on his side but the Englishman was able to walk away from the accident.

More than 132,000 spectators were crammed into Albert Park anticipating another Verstappen victory after the Dutch driver took pole position here on Saturday.

And when the 26-year-old held off Sainz at the start, and ended the opening lap one second clear of the Spaniard, Verstappen looked on course to take his third victory from the opening three rounds.

But to the amazement of the record crowd in Australia, Sainz sailed past Verstappen on lap two before smoke began pouring out the back of his Red Bull machine.

“I have smoke,” he said over the radio “Fire, fire, brake, my brake.”

Verstappen was falling back through the pack and the crowd cheered his demise. He managed to get his wounded machine back to the pits before his right-rear brake temporarily caught fire.

Verstappen remonstrated with performance director, Tom Hart at the back of the garage – appearing to say “that is f***** stupid” – before heading to his changing room and putting on his Red Bull civvies and taking the long walk through the paddock to the media pen.

“The brake stuck on from when the lights went off,” said Verstappen. “The temperatures kept on increasing until the point where it caught on fire.

“Having one brake caliper on was like driving with the handbrake on. I didn’t know at the time but I could feel the balance in the car was off.”

Asked about his exchange with Hart, he replied: “That was related to us doing a pit stop while the car was on fire!”

It was a bad day for the winners of the past seven world championships after Hamilton’s miserable weekend here ended with him stopping on track as his engine expired.

Hamilton started 11th and was running in ninth before his Mercedes gave up the ghost.

Hamilton’s previous worst start to a season had been back in 2009 when he was disqualified at the first round before finishing sixth and seventh. Before today’s retirement, Hamilton had started the season with a seventh and ninth in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

But for Sainz, the man making way for Hamilton at Ferrari next year, he had an afternoon to remember by leading home a Ferrari one-two from Charles Leclerc with Lando Norris completing the podium.

Sainz took his win under the virtual safety car after Russell’s Mercedes dramatically ended up 90 degrees to the floor after he thudded into the wall in his pursuit of Fernando Alonso.

Russell reported over the radio that he was “OK” and was able to walk away from the crash. Oscar Piastri took fourth for McLaren ahead of Sergio Perez’s Red Bull with Alonso sixth.

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  • We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix incident We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix incident

    Sergio Perez has apologised following a second successive retirement at the Canada Grand Prix which left him 87 points behind Red Bull team-mate, Max Vertsappen.

    The 34-year-old remained fifth overall in the world championship and a point behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who was one of five drivers that failed to finish the race. 

    In difficult conditions in Montreal, the Mexican started 16th but hopes of climbing up the pecking order soon faded after damaging his car's front wing on the opening lap when he made contact with Alpine's Pierre Gasly.

    He then crashed into the barriers late in the day after losing control on a damp kerb at turn six, hobbling back to the pits with a broken rear wing. 

    "I'm very sorry for my team, I let them down today. But we will come back no doubt. There’s a very long way to go," Perez said on social media.

    His final incident cost him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Barcelona, with the stewards punishing him for a breach of the safety rules that require a driver to stop if the car is unsafe.

    "The incident was on me, I touched the wet part into turn six and I couldn’t stop the car, I couldn’t touch the brakes," Perez said on Sunday.

    "It has been a very tough couple of weekends, we will regroup, keep our heads down and learn from the weekend. We identified a couple of issues after qualifying and they meant we would have qualified a lot higher.

    "Hopefully we can be back to our form in Spain and get back to the level we were at earlier in the season. I am confident in that, there are good tracks coming for us."

    Perez recently signed a new two-year deal with Red Bull, ending speculation that the world champions will sign free agent Sainz ahead of the new season. 

  • We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix

    Sergio Perez has apologised following a second successive retirement at the Canada Grand Prix which left him 87 points behind Red Bull team-mate, Max Vertsappen.

    The 34-year-old remained fifth overall in the world championship and a point behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who was one of five drivers that failed to finish the race. 

    In difficult conditions in Montreal, the Mexican started 16th but hopes of climbing up the pecking order soon faded after damaging his car's front wing on the opening lap when he made contact with Alpine's Pierre Gasly.

    He then crashed into the barriers late in the day after losing control on a damp kerb at turn six, hobbling back to the pits with a broken rear wing. 

    "I'm very sorry for my team, I let them down today. But we will come back no doubt. There’s a very long way to go," Perez said on social media.

    His final incident cost him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Barcelona, with the stewards punishing him for a breach of the safety rules that require a driver to stop if the car is unsafe.

    "The incident was on me, I touched the wet part into turn six and I couldn’t stop the car, I couldn’t touch the brakes," Perez said on Sunday.

    "It has been a very tough couple of weekends, we will regroup, keep our heads down and learn from the weekend. We identified a couple of issues after qualifying and they meant we would have qualified a lot higher.

    "Hopefully we can be back to our form in Spain and get back to the level we were at earlier in the season. I am confident in that, there are good tracks coming for us."

    Perez recently signed a new two-year deal with Red Bull, ending speculation that the world champions will sign free agent Sainz ahead of the new season. 

  • Canadian Grand Prix 'an opportunity missed', admits Russell Canadian Grand Prix 'an opportunity missed', admits Russell

    George Russell secured Mercedes their first podium of the Formula One season at the Canadian Grand Prix, but felt his third-place finish was a missed opportunity.

    The British driver was on pole for the first time since the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2022 and led for the first 21 laps before being overtaken in quick succession by McLaren's Lando Norris and eventual winner, Max Verstappen. 

    In a contest that saw the drivers endure difficult conditions and in which five cars failed to finish, Russell did manage to regain first place from his compatriot on lap 27 following the safety car being deployed, but again found himself chasing Norris after running wide. 

    He dropped to fourth behind Oscar Piastri, but would reclaim a podium place with his fresh medium tyres for the closing laps, enough to get past the Australian and team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who were on the hard compounds.

    Red Bull's Verstappen claimed his sixth victory of the season, extending his championship lead over Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to 56 points after a weekend to forget for the Italian team. 

    Speaking after the race, Russell believed he had the pace to catch the Dutchman before his coming together with Piastri, but enjoyed being back at the front of the pecking order despite admitting to a few mistakes. 

    "It feels like a missed opportunity, to be honest," said Russell shortly after the conclusion of the race. "We were really quick at the beginning of the race on the inters, and then obviously Lando came through really fast.

    "Then we got back on to the slicks, made a couple of mistakes out there just pushing the limits and paid the price for it.

    "Nevertheless, first podium of the year and we truly had a really fast car this weekend and to be back in the mix fighting for victory was really fun.

    "When we put the mediums on at the end we were really, really fast and I think that mistake with Oscar when I tried overtaking him and I lost the position to Lewis cost us at least P2 and maybe we could have fought with Max later in the race."

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