One car ended its day spraying gravel on the first lap. A second sent its driver to safety after it burst into flames. A third team lost both of its entries when they collided minutes before the end. A red bull? Its top driver took first place on Sunday in his usual position and stayed there all day.
Max Verstappen snatched the lead at the Australian Grand Prix with a ruthless early pass and never gave it back, leading to his second Formula 1 win of the year and reinforcing the impression that his Red Bull team was invincible.
Verstappen’s dominant performance was the highlight of a day that included three restarts, a tense battle between the former world champions for second place and a chaotic late restart that crashed half a dozen cars and rearranged the final order. Verstappen pulled away from it all, leading by more than 10 seconds at one point, on a day when he wasn’t really challenged.
“It was a mess, but we survived everything,” Verstappen said. “We won, that’s the most important thing.”
Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time world champion in the midst of a disappointing season, pipped veteran champion Fernando Alonso, who now drives for Aston Martin, to second. On a day when neither was likely to beat Verstappen, that qualified as its own victory.
Sunday’s Race in Photos
Where the race turned
A red flag on lap 9 halted the race for 16 minutes, essentially giving Verstappen a free run on early leader Hamilton. He took to it immediately, passing Hamilton like a roadside antiquarian and continuing to pull away. The interval was soon two seconds, then four, then eight. The race, at least for first place, is effectively over.
Mantra number: 3
Alonso finished third again, the same position he held in the first three races of the season. That position was briefly in doubt after he was spun by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz on the last race restart of the day. It led to a few tense minutes as race officials reviewed the video, considered penalties and decided on the order for the final, slow lap that ended the race. “Today we had a roller-coaster of emotions, many things happened in the beginning and the last half hour,” Alonso said. “Mercedes was very fast and Lewis did an incredible job. I couldn’t match the pace, but we’ll take P3.
Bad days, ranking
Charles Leclerc. Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll crashed at Turn 3, sending him off the track and into the gravel, ending his race before completing a lap. That means two TNFs in three races for Leclerc. But Ferrari’s unforgettable day somehow got worse, when a five-second penalty on Sainz sent him down to 13th, and put Ferrari out of the points altogether.)
George Russell. If it was a dream day for Leclerc, Russell wasn’t far behind. He took the lead from Verstappen at the first turn, but rarely had a chance to enjoy the view. He soon came under pressure from his own team-mate Lewis Hamilton and was then stuck for an early pit stop when Alex Alban’s accident spread gravel on the track and brought out the red flag. A nadir for Russell? His engine caught fire on lap 18 and he stopped and looked for a place to exit. He walked away from the smoke and never looked back.
Alpine. It was a bright day for Alpine’s pink cars, but everything turned dark on the final restart when Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon – running fifth and 10th – came together in a chaotic few moments and eventually took out half a dozen cars. . Within seconds, the two hopes for Alpine’s points slid into a wall in the grass one after the other. “Unbelievable,” was all team principal Otmar Szafnauer could muster.
This week’s Red Bull rally
Two weeks after Verstappen finished second from 15th, his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez had a chance to show the team’s clear competitive advantage. Perez, who was sent to the back of the early stages after his car adrift in a sea of gravel during qualifying on Saturday, methodically worked his way through the field throughout the day. He finished fifth, saving some points — and his weekend.
What they say
“There’s no way I’m going to lose to him.” — HamiltonOn the radio, he focused more on the driver behind him (his old rival Alonso) than the driver in front of him (Verstappen).
“What?!?!?” — Multiple drivers, after the second red flag with two laps to go in the race. The decision was made due to debris on the track after Kevin Magnussen clipped the wall and destroyed his right rear tire. Little did the drivers know that it would not be the last stop of the day; The restart led to a third red flag, and on another day, the race gracefully crept to the checkered flag on the parade lap.
“No, it can’t be, it’s unacceptable!” — Carlos Sainz, of Ferrari, was given a five-second penalty for spinning Alonso on a late restart after learning. The penalty pushed him out of the top five and out of the points.
April 30: Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku City Circuit