Winners and losers from F1’s 2024 Australian Grand Prix

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The 2024 Formula 1 season received an arguably much-needed on-track shape up as Max Verstappen’s misfortune proved to be Ferrari’s golden opportunity.

But among the rejumbled order – and following a big post-race stewards decision – who were the biggest winners and losers from the race?

Winners

Carlos Sainz

What a sensational couple of weeks for Carlos Sainz. Actually no, what a sensational year for Carlos Sainz so far.

He starts it off by being sacked by Ferrari and knowing he has to spend another year with a team that may like him well enough but doesn’t want his services for 2025 and beyond.

He then delivers a great start in Bahrain with a podium, only to have to miss the second race with appendicitis. Sainz then spends every waking hour with a dedicated plan controlling exactly what he eats, when he sleeps and when he walks, all so he could return in Melbourne.

Then he goes and pulls off an extortionary weekend, outperforming team-mate Charles Leclerc and, just like in Singapore, taking full advantage of Max Verstappen’s misfortune. – Josh Suttill

Ferrari

You can’t get a more emphatic victory than a 1-2 finish so Ferrari is obviously delighted and rightly so.

You could play it down of course. Max Verstappen retired. Red Bull still took a clear pole even after Ferrari looked so good in practice. That four-point gap in the constructors’ surely won’t be that small for very long. The driver that won is the driver Ferrari’s binning off at the end of the year.

But also, this all feels like it’s going somewhere at last.

Problems – like sketchy tyre management and race execution – are being solved. McLaren was a threat on Sunday but it was still defeated. Mercedes is nowhere near Ferrari right now.

Across the start of this season, Ferrari’s clearly established itself as the team best-placed to make Red Bull edgy. Today it capitalised. And it did so in a way that promises a lot for the future. – Matt Beer

Haas

The Ayao Komatsu era of Haas F1 has started incredibly strongly, with a first double points finish since mid-2022 the team’s latest triumph.

Yes, it didn’t win the ‘Class C fight’ with Yuki Tsunoda slipping ahead to claim seventh, but it did secure three valuable points and is the first of the bottom four teams to get both cars in the points this year.

And it did so with two clever opposing strategies and two drivers who, just like in Jeddah, worked well together for the genuine good of the team – and this time both drivers reaped the rewards.

It’s so far blown most of the pre-season expectations out of the water and the VF-24 looks like a genuinely solid race car. – JS

Yuki Tsunoda

For a second race weekend in a row, Tsunoda was the class of the midfield on single-lap pace by dragging the RB into Q3, even outqualifying the underwhelming Aston Martins to line up eighth.

But unlike in Jeddah, here there was no chance for any rival teams’ spoiler tactics to come into play. Tsunoda made sure of that with a strong opening stint in which he kept touch with Lance Stroll and created a margin for error around his pitstops that meant RB didn’t have to worry itself too much about the threat of the undercut from behind.

That aforementioned margin to Stroll only really went up towards the end of the final stint, before which Tsunoda had been keeping the Aston Martin honest within four seconds’ reach (and often closer). Without the retirements of Verstappen and the Mercedes and Fernando Alonso’s penalty, perhaps this would have been a best-of-the-rest null points for Tsunoda rather than a fine seventh place – but given the margin RB seemed to have baked in he might well have been a contender for the final spot in the top 10 anyway.

Tsunoda’s had a fairly impressive, if incomplete, start to 2024 – but there was little to pick apart in this performance. – Jack Cozens

Losers

Fernando Alonso

Regardless of whether you believe Alonso was deliberately interfering with George Russell’s braking into Turn 6 or was simply trying a different line into the corner as he told the stewards, this is an embarrassing day for both Aston Martin and Alonso.

Of all the people you’d expect to be the first recipient of the FIA’s harsher penalty allowance for “aggravating circumstances”, it probably wouldn’t have been Alonso – the most experienced driver on the grid and currently one without a single penalty point.

The damning part of the stewards’ verdict – the “extraordinary manoeuvre” into Turn 6 where he braked over 100m earlier than previously – was a clear misjudgement.

To do so when you have another car so close behind you is just reckless, whatever your reasoning.

And on Sunday in Melbourne, it’s cost Alonso four points. Ironically with team-mate Lance Stroll finishing behind him, Stroll picks up that sixth place and only two points are dropped to the RB of Yuki Tsunoda.

And fortunately for Aston, the rather woefully large gap between the top five teams – of which Aston is the slowest – and the bottom five teams probably means this won’t make a difference come the end of the season. – JS

Red Bull

Some rare question marks for the team we’re used to crushing everyone else.

Verstappen’s was a dramatic but potentially quite simple failure, the sort you no longer expect Red Bull to have.

The evidence of qualifying and lap one was that Red Bull’s practice problems were probably solved but Christian Horner didn’t sound totally convinced his cars could’ve matched Sainz’s mix of pace and tyre management mid-race. There’s now reason to take Ferrari seriously.

Worst of all: when Verstappen’s Red Bull broke down, Sergio Perez was nowhere near picking up the pieces. The qualifying penalty didn’t help, some aero performance loss from a visor tear-off getting lodged under his car didn’t help in the race either.

But Horner had every opportunity to emphatically suggest that the penalty and the tear-off stopped Perez from being there to deny Sainz, and he stopped well short of doing so.

Red Bull knows that Perez didn’t fulfil what he’s hired for in Australia. He very much did so in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, but he can’t afford to give the team reason for doubts right now. – MB

Mercedes

Outside interference from Alonso – malicious or not – contributed to Mercedes leaving the Australian GP without adding to its points total. But it won’t dramatically alter how Mercedes reflects on what was another difficult weekend.

There was another, increasingly familiar flash of speed that flattered to deceive – from Lewis Hamilton in FP3 – but in reality Mercedes was once again further from the pace than it should be. The reactions don’t lie; Hamilton, who was in minor points contention only before his engine failure, called this “the worst start of the season I’ve ever had”.

On a weekend where one of the fallen giants in F1’s big three landed a convincing 1-2 and proved it’s got on top of its major problems, Mercedes didn’t look like it’s got tangibly closer to eradicating its woes. – JC

Williams’s gamble

Williams and Alex Albon taking a point away from Melbourne would have certainly softened the blow Logan Sargeant received on Friday night when he had his car – and the chance of racing in Melbourne – taken away from him.

But it simply wasn’t to be for Albon, who just couldn’t keep pace with the Haas drivers. Unlike in Jeddah, there wasn’t any interference from Magnussen. Instead some hard racing, having a slower race car and six-lap-older tyres than the Haas kept the final point well out of reach of Albon.

Albon said his early pitstops “disguised” the lack of the car’s race pace and any attempt to run with the cars ahead caused excessive graining.

Ultimately on a day when two of its rivals scored, the Australian GP was clearly a big missed opportunity for Williams.

Would Sargeant have done better? It seems highly unlikely.

Does that soften a bitter weekend? Not at all. – JS

Sauber

This is now beyond embarrassing.

The fundamental problem that’s causing repeated cross-threading and awful pitstops for Sauber isn’t going away and we’re now three wasted races into the season.

In Melbourne, Valtteri Bottas spoke optimistically of there being enough of a solution that the race day stops would probably be OK enough if the team was cautious. The evidence of his and Zhou Guanyu’s stops suggests that solution and caution made no difference.

It was especially galling as in Bottas’s hands the car was more competitive this weekend. This problem could easily be the biggest reason Sauber ends 2024 last in the championship. – MB

Daniel Ricciardo

Was this Daniel Ricciardo’s last home F1 race? On this form, there’s no reason for him to be in the conversation for a Red Bull Racing seat in 2025 and if he’s not heading in that direction there’s no need for him to be at RB.

Regardless of the deleted qualifying lap, it’s the insistent pace deficit to Tsunoda that’s bothering Ricciardo and rightly so as he needed to be emphatically leading this team to get back into the calibre of car he wants to be in.

And even if he turns it around from here, has he provided too much evidence that this sort of puzzled slump is going to be a regular trend at this end of his F1 career? – MB

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