Race Weekend Central

Carlos Sainz Magnificent in Melbourne, Winning the Australian Grand Prix

Carlos Sainz earned a surprising win at the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday in Melbourne. Two weeks after appendicitis felled him from the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Sainz looked in peak form as he overtook Max Verstappen on lap four and then controlled the race thereafter, making him still the only non-Red Bull driver to beat Verstappen since the beginning of the 2024 season.

Teammate Charles Leclerc could never match pace with Sainz but gave Ferrari a massive points day by finishing second. Lando Norris battled with his teammate and hometown favorite Oscar Piastri and prevailed, taking the third spot on the podium. Piastri followed, crossing the line in fourth.

Sergio Perez finished fifth and proved to be of little threat to take over the rae for Red Bull, offering evidence that the juggernaut of a team is not always able to dominate. Fernando Alonso earned sixth after he benefitted from a virtual safety car to jump for places in the running order after staying out and then pitting during the yellow-flag period. Lance Stroll took the seventh spot after George Russell crashed out on the final lap.

Yuki Tsunoda drove a clean race and brought home vital points for RB as he scored eighth on the day. The Haas team scored the final points of the race with Nico Hulkenberg finishing ninth and Kevin Magnussen earning the tenth spot. In a proverbial ʻclose but no cigarʻ finish, Alex Albon took the 11th position in Logan Sargeantʻs car, almost giving Williams the point it had tried to engineer with the car swap.

The Australian GP, as most Formula 1 races have over the past three years, with Max Verstappen starting from pole and making a clean getaway. Unlike most of the races, Verstappen pulled his car into the pits on lap five with a brake issue that had melted and ultimately exploded the rear right system, and suffered his first did-not-finish since the Australian GP 2022 years ago, a 43-race span.

Verstappen said that it felt like he was basically “driving with the handbrake on” when discussing the matter during the race.

Whatever the issue, Sainz drove aggressively from the jump and, as he said in his post-race interview, thought he would have had a good battle with Verstappen for the duration of the event. Regardless, once in the lead, Sainz drove with a sense of authority, that the race was his to lose, as he never kept pushing the pace while never putting a wheel out of place. Having been unable to resume his normal training schedule due to the appendicitis surgery, Sainz’s accomplishment looks even more spectacular (and a calling card for the soon-to-be free-agent driver).

While Sainz was putting together his stellar effort, Ferrari also did well to bring Leclerc home in second, maximizing their points day. For too long, the team has blundered in their strategy, but they made the correct calls to keep Leclerc in front of Piastri and Norris and allowed him a relatively easy path to second.

If any team warrants a magnifying glass, it is Mercedes. For starters, Lewis Hamilton failed to make Q3 in qualifying at Albert Park for the first time since 2010. Then, the team sent him out of soft tires for the start, a strategy move that may have worked if the Silver Arrows had found a way to gain performance for this week’s race. In the still underwhelming car, Hamilton could make no use of the softs and his eventual retirement seemed fitting for what could be summarized as a lost weekend.

Russell looked like he might have a shot to buoy the team up with a sixth-place finish but never found his way past Alonso in the closing laps. In a last-lap frantic effort to gain the spot, Russell lost control of his Mercedes and caused the yellow flag that ended the race under caution.

While Mercedes planned to go to the stewards after the race to challenge Alonso’s driving, something that did not look out of line, the reality is that Russell could never match pace with Ferrari or McLaren and made his move on Alonso out of desperation and wound up paying for it.

McLaren has taken the third-chair role at the moment as they really battled only themselves in the race, clearly positioned as the third-best team. They did not have the pace to beat Ferrari, but they had no problem distancing themselves from the likes of Aston Martin and Mercedes. Lando Norris continued to accumulate podium finishes, and should things fall correctly, he just might win a race one day – though that might be a lot to ask with Verstappen still usually laying waste to the field.

Haas F1 comes across as the surprising winner of the day, placing both drivers in the points. Though they have just four points, they are tied for seventh with RB, which is amazing considering the team fired Guenther Steiner, team principal, just a couple of months before the season began.

The series takes a week off before sailing to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Here are the results:

About the author

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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