Max Verstappen explains why Red Bull car burst into flames

Verstappen was forced to retire on Lap 3 after an issue with his Red Bull car

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Max Verstappen has revealed a brakes failure was behind his shock retirement from the Formula 1 2024 Australian Grand Prix, as the Red Bull driver aimed a punchy comment at Lewis Hamilton after a frustrating Sunday at Albert Park.

The Dutchman had won both of the opening races of the 2024 season at a canter in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and was the sure-fire favourite to lead home a 10th consecutive race win in Melbourne after securing pole position on Saturday.

But Verstappen’s day turned into a nightmare after he was passed by Carlos Sainz on Lap 2 under DRS, and shortly after, smoke could be seen emanating from the rear of his RB20 car. The situation only worsened as he continued, with TV cameras showing the extent of the problem with his rear brakes catching fire.

The championship leader was forced to retire on Lap 5 after limping back to the pits, and it didn’t take long for the team to discover the reason behind the mechanical issue – a rarity in itself for the 2023 constructors’ winners.

“What we can see so far from the data is that as soon as the lights went off the right-rear brake just stuck on,” Verstappen told Sky Sports F1. “It just caused the damage and it kept on increasing so it was also basically driving with the handbrake on.

“That’s why the car felt really weird to drive in some corners, just very snappy, while the laps to the grid the car was really spot on and I was happy with what we were doing. But if a brake is stuck on it doesn’t help.”

Verstappen taunts his former rival

His DNF was the second in three races in Australia, after retiring with a power unit failure in 2022. It also brought a disappointing end to Verstappen’s run of 43 consecutive race finishes and nine wins in a row.

However, he will stay at the top of the drivers’ standings unless Sergio Perez finishes third or higher, as he had a 15-point buffer to his Red Bull team-mate heading into the race.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 24: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 leads Carlos Sainz of Spain driving (55) the Ferrari SF-24 during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 24, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202403240215 // Usage for editorial use only //

Verstappen was not the only driver to suffer misfortune with his car, as his one-time title rival Hamilton forced out of the race after an engine failure.

The Mercedes star was running down in 10th place when his engine cut out, and the Briton shouted: “Engine failure, engine failure!” on the radio.

And clearly, there is no love lost between them as far as Verstappen is concerned. When speaking to the media after the race, having been informed of Hamilton’s retirement, Verstappen simply replied: “S*** happens, right?”

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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