Sensational Sainz wows with Australian GP win as Verstappen’s race goes up in smoke

Carlos Sainz beat Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc and the two McLarens at the 2024 Australian GP

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With no appendix and no 2025 contract, Carlos Sainz proved it was still no problem with a statement victory in the 2024 Australian Grand Prix after a shock early retirement for history-chasing Max Verstappen.

Sainz bounced back from surgery just two weeks ago and swooped past the Dutchman with relative ease on Lap 2, before it became evident that Verstappen had a problem.

However, smoke began pouring out of his Red Bull‘s right rear wheel immediately afterwards and Verstappen was forced to call it a day three laps later, ending his streak of nine consecutive race wins – the second longest in Formula 1 history.

Charles Leclerc and Oscar Piastri were both pulled into the pitlane early to cover George Russell, with the first stops happening on laps eight and nine as the soft compounds that Pirelli brought to Albert Park quickly evaporated.

But that hamstrung the pair and prevented them truly battling Sainz for the win, as he took his second win in two seasons with a (mostly) serene drive and remains the only non-Red Bull driver to taste grand prix victory in that timespan.

He was complaining about his tyres at the death but a heavy crash for George Russell on the final lap brought out the virtual safety car to give Spaniard an early victory lap, ahead of his teammate and Norris.

Verstappen’s flame-out doesn’t ignite battle for win

It’s just the third time under the current era of regulations that Red Bull haven’t been represented on a grand prix podium but despite missing the usual suspects, there wasn’t any meaningful battle for any of the podium positions.

Leclerc quickly fell away from his teammate while Norris was initially undercut by Piastri but neither McLaren could close on the Ferraris and they were inverted from the pit wall to restore the running order from the start of the race.

That status quo means two streaks continue, Albert Park is still yet to see a home driver score a podium while Norris overtook Nick Heidfeld with the most F1 podiums without a grand prix win.

Sergio Perez also never featured in the battle at the top, he was able to pass Fernando Alonso in his second stint but his charge for the top three faltered after his final pit stop and ironically did more to underline Verstappen‘s value to Red Bull than the Dutchman’s own performance.

Verstappen later said his right rear brake stuck on as soon as the lights went out in Melbourne and likened it to ‘driving with the handbrake on’.

And in the absence of a fight for the win, the best battle was at the end of the points-paying positions instead as Alex Albon also showed his importance to his own team.

After causing fatal damage to his own FW46 in free practice, Albon took Logan Sargeant‘s Williams and ran in the points for much of the afternoon in an entertaining fight with both Haas drivers, who brought how three points for the team.

It was also a late battle for sixth between Russell and Alonso, but the Mercedes driver lost control on the final lap and slammed into the barriers before ended up back on the racetrack tipped at an angle.

Mercedes are reportedly investigating whether Alonso brake-checked their driver but with Lewis Hamilton retiring early on due to engine failure, it capped a torrid weekend for Mercedes

It did allow Kevin Magnussen into the points while Lance Stroll and Yuki Tsunoda also scored, but the race was all about the Carlos Sainz Show as Ferrari took their first 1-2 since the 2022 Bahrain GP.

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, and previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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