F1 - Sainz leads emotional Ferrari 1-2 in Australia as Verstappen fails to finish


Carlos Sainz claimed an emotional first victory of the season at the 2024 FIA Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, coming back from illness to lead a Ferrari 1-2 finish as Charles Leclerc took second place, with Lando Norris third for McLaren on an afternoon on which championship leader Max Verstappen failed to finish. 

Just two weeks ago, Sainz was forced to miss the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix when he had to undergo surgery to remove his appendix, but in Melbourne a sensational recovery to victory was sealed within a few laps of the start. 

When the lights went, pole position man Verstappen got away well ahead of front row starter Sainz and took the lead into Turn 1 with Norris third ahead Norri. By the end of lap one the Dutchman was almost out of DRS range of the lead Ferrari and it looked like the three-time champion was settling into his customary dominance. 

However, in Turn 7, Verstappen suddenly slid wide and though he recovered Sainz was able to use the following DRS zone to power past the Dutchman and steal the lead. 

Verstappen was quickly on the radio telling his team his car felt “loose”, but his issues escalated moments later when smoke began to pour from the rear right of his car. 

With his brakes on fire, Verstappen was forced to slow and though he managed to limp back to the pits, it was clear his race was over – the first time the Red Bull driver has failed to finish since the same event in 2022. 

Released into clean air, Sainz now began to pull out a gap and by lap 7 he was two-seconds clear of Norris and Leclerc. The Spaniard was then able to manage his tyres through the opening stint and the first round of pit stops. 

Behind him Norris was being put under pressure by Leclerc, but the Ferrari driver dived to the pits at the end of lap nine giving the McLaren driver brief respite. Norris tried to go longer on his starting Medium tyres but Leclerc’s undercut worked well and when Norris pitted he’d not only been bypassed by Leclerc but also by his team-mate Oscar Piastri, who had also stopped for new tyres. Then Sainz pitted at the end of lap 16 and that 

Bumped Hard-tyre starter Fernando Alonso into the lead, but within seconds, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton suddenly slowed and pulled over at the side of the track, his race ended by a power unit failure. The VSC was deployed and Alonso took advantage, pitting for Medium tyres, and gaining time as the field slowed around him. 

That put Sainz back in the lead, with Leclerc in P2 ahead of Piastri and Norris. Alonso dropped to fifth place after his tyre change, ahead of Sergio Pérez who was gaining ground on fresh Hard tyres. On lap 27 the Mexican dispatched Alonso with ease, powering past the Aston Martin driver under DRS on the run to Turn 9. 

At half distance, Sainz was six seconds clear of Leclerc who had dropped out of his team-mate’s dirty air. With Norris on fresher tyres than his team-mate, McLaren switched its drivers, a swap that left Pérez in P5, 11 seconds off Piastri.

The final round of pit stops left the order at the top unchanged and as the final stint unfolded it became clear that the gaps were solidifying. While the top five order held to the flag, there was late drama behind them when, a lap from home, a tight battle for P6 between Alonso and Russell went wrong. Russell appeared to lose downforce behind the slower Alonso into Turn 6 and slid hard into the barriers on the left side of the track. Though Russell was unhurt, his wrecked Mercedes ended up on its side in the middle of the track. 

A Virtual Safety Car slowed the pack through the final lap, leaving Sainz to score a remarkable win on his return from surgery, with Leclerc taking P2 to seal as Ferrari 1—2. Norris claimed the final podium place ahead of team-mate Piastri and Pérez. Alonso came home in sixth place but was placed under by the Steward for the incident with Russell, while Lance Stroll finished seventh in the second Aston. Yuki Tsunoda delivered a good result for RB with P8 and the final points places were taken by the Haas cars of Nico Hülkenberg and Kevin Magnussen. 

"It's not only the last two weeks. It's the whole start to the year in general, how the year started with the news of the non-renewal," said Sainz afterwards. "Then you get yourself fit. You get yourself ready for the start of the season, pushing flat out. And then you get to Bahrain. You do a good podium. You say, 'OK, now the season is starting well and I can keep the momentum going'. And suddenly, boom, you're missing a race in Jeddah and the operation. Long days in bed, not knowing if I was going to be back in time. Obviously, a lot of unknowns. Am I going to be back fit? Am I going to be back feeling still good with the car? And then suddenly you come back and win. So, yes, what I said on the radio: life is a roller coaster sometimes, but it can be really nice and good to you sometimes. Just letting it sink in and enjoying the moment."

2024 FIA Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix – Race 
1 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 58 1:20'26.843 
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 58 1:20'29.209 2.366
3 Lando Norris McLaren 58 1:20'32.747 5.904
4 Oscar Piastri McLaren 58 1:21'02.613 35.770
5 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Racing 1:21'23.152 56.309
6 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 58 1:21'47.835 1'20.992
7 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 58 1:22'00.065 1'33.222
8 Yuki Tsunoda RB 58 1:22'02.444 1'35.601
9 Nico Hülkenberg Haas 58 1:22'11.396 1'44.553
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas 57 1:20'30.924 1 lap /4.081
11 Alexander Albon Williams 57 1:20'31.852 1 lap /5.009
12 Daniel Ricciardo RB 57 1:20'38.351 1 lap /11.508
13 Pierre Gasly Alpine 57 1:21'07.796 1 lap /40.953
14 Valtteri Bottas Sauber 57 1:21'09.169 1 lap /42.326
15 Zhou Guanyu Sauber 57 1:21'11.136 1 lap /44.293
16 Esteban Ocon Alpine 57 1:21'20.822 1 lap /53.979
17 George Russell Mercedes 56 1:18'04.734 Accident
     Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 15 21'18.426 Power Unit
     Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 3 4'14.672 Brakes
     Logan Sargeant Williams 0 - Withdrawn