How Ferrari earned a shock 1-2 after Verstappen DNF at Australian GP


Talk of Red Bull (or Max Verstappen all by himself) winning every single race of the 2024 Formula 1 season is already over after a dramatic failure for the world champion opened the door for the returning Carlos Sainz to lead a shock Ferrari 1-2 in the Australian Grand Prix.

Verstappen led the opening lap from pole then ran wide into Turn 7 on lap two and was immediately passed by Sainz in the following DRS zone.

He reported that the Red Bull felt “loose” and it became clear why as smoke started appearing from its right rear corner soon afterwards.

“My right rear brake basically stuck on from when the lights went off,” Verstappen explained after his subsequent retirement – which was a visually spectacular one as the brake in question caught fire and seemed to explode as he entered the pitlane to retire from a race for the first time since the 2022 Melbourne event.

It’s the first time Verstappen has failed to win a grand prix since Singapore last September and his and Red Bull’s first F1 race defeat since Oscar Piastri and McLaren’s Qatar sprint win a month later.

HOW SAINZ WON

Given how close the pack behind Red Bull has been this season, Verstappen’s absence might’ve been expected to trigger a wide-open battle.

Instead Sainz made it a very one-sided one.

In a remarkable performance considering he missed the preceding Saudi Arabian GP a fortnight ago to have an appendectomy, Sainz took absolute control once in the lead.

Team-mate Charles Leclerc and the McLarens of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri were his main opposition but by midway through the first stint, they were all struggling for answers to Sainz’s combination of pace and tyre management.

Tyre degradation had been a concern all weekend, prompting most to pit relatively early and prioritise undercuts. Yet late in the first stint Sainz was not only pulling away from second-placed Norris by up to a second per lap, he was still finding more pace from his old mediums than earlier pitters Leclerc and Piastri were on fresh hards.

While running long only bolstered Sainz’s lead, staying out nearly as far only hurt Norris as he rejoined behind both Leclerc and Piastri.

But from then onwards, Norris had the best pace of any of the group bar Sainz. As Piastri fell away from Leclerc mid-race and Norris caught him, McLaren requested a position swap between its cars. Piastri accepted it and ended up fourth not third in his home grand prix as a result, while Norris kept a degree of pressure on Leclerc through the remainder of what became a two-stop race but couldn’t interrupt the Ferrari 1-2 that Sainz gloriously led past the flag.

PEREZ COMPOUNDS RED BULL’S BAD DAY

Sergio Perez had completed Red Bull 1-2s in F1 2024’s opening double-header but never looked remotely like stepping up in Verstappen’s absence in Melbourne.

Though his sixth-place starting spot was mostly down to a three-place grid penalty for impeding Nico Hulkenberg in Q1, even when in clear air Perez never had Sainz’s pace – though he would have been in the podium mix with Leclerc and the McLarens had he started where he qualified.

Instead Perez lost a place to George Russell’s Mercedes on the first lap and then spent the afternoon battling with it and Aston Martins, only showing sporadic flashes of pace, struggling with tyre wear and ending up a distant and underwhelming fifth.

BAD DAY FOR MERCEDES TOO

Speaking of people who would’ve hoped to get some glory as soon as Verstappen hit trouble, Mercedes was emphatically humbled by Ferrari and McLaren on the day Red Bull left the door open.

Lewis Hamilton started on soft tyres after only qualified 11th, made little headway and then retired early with an engine failure.

Russell fought doggedly to make something of a race in which he just didn’t have top five pace. A brief flirtation with a one-stop strategy that turned into a late second stop left him seventh behind Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin in the closing stages.

His race then ended with a massive crash that prompted a virtual safety car finish, as he slewed over the gravel and into the Turn 7 gravel while chasing Alonso.

Russell’s Mercedes rebounded sideways over the gravel trap and was flipped over its own wheels as they were torn from the car, with the Mercedes coming to rest on its side in the middle of the track. Russell immediately informed the team he was “OK” and walked to the medical car unaided.

The stewards will investigate the incident after the race.

MORE POINTS FOR HAAS

Verstappen and the Mercedes’ retirements meant a golden opportunity for points for midfielders.

After his strong qualifying effort, RB’s Yuki Tsunoda always looked like scoring and duly secured eighth behind Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin with an equally strong race performance.

There was a point mid-race when it looked like Alex Albon would justify Williams’s decision to park Logan Sargeant for the weekend so Albon could take Sargeant’s car after his chassis-damaging Friday crash, with Albon running 10th after an early pitstop.

But Haas’s strategy of starting Nico Hulkenberg on hards and running long paid off, and it was Hulkenberg who ended up in what became ninth with Russell’s crash.

And Albon wasn’t able to pick up the 10th that suddenly became available on the last lap either, as the second Haas of Kevin Magnussen overtook him in the final stint.

Behind them, Daniel Ricciardo’s underwhelming home grand prix ended with 12th – reasonable progress on paper from 18th in qualifying but flattered a little by problems for the other four finishes.

Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon were hampered not just by driving Alpines, but by a penalty for crossing the pitexit line and a long pitstop to check overheating brakes caused by a visor tear-off lodged in a duct respectively.

And Sauber’s horrendous pitstop issues continued with painfully long stops wrecking Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu’s days.





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