F1 Australian GP Results: Sainz Storms from Surgery To Success

f1 grand prix of australia
Carlos Sainz Storms from Surgery To Success Peter Fox - Getty Images

Max Verstappen’s victory streak came to a dramatic end in Australia as an early brake failure sidelined the World Champion, clearing the way for Carlos Sainz to surge to success, just 16 days after surgery for appendicitis.

Super Sainz Leads Ferrari 1-2

Carlos Sainz sat out the previous round in Saudi Arabia after a diagnosis of appendicitis prompted surgery on qualifying day. He conceded on Thursday in Australia that the first week post-surgery was tough, spending most of the days in bed, and that he prioritized his recovery over his usual training regime or simulator activities. He would not, he emphasized, be operating at 100 per cent of his typical ability.


But through practice Ferrari was strong, and Sainz put the car on the front row of the grid, with the race runs during practice indicating that Ferrari could place Red Bull under pressure at a front-limited circuit where the risk of tire graining is high. Ultimately such a race between the teams never came to fruition as Verstappen was stymied by a terminal brake problem from the start, removing him from the equation, but once up front Sainz professionally managed the race and was untroubled from behind as he claimed his third career victory. Sainz headed Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc to ensure the Scuderia took its first 1-2 result in over two years, and Sainz again submitted an excellent advertisement of his talents to prospective employers.

“Life sometimes is crazy, you know,” he said. “What happened at the beginning of the year [losing his seat for 2025], then the podium in Bahrain, then the appendix, the comeback, the win. It's a rollercoaster, but I loved it!

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Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari engineer Matteo Toninelli of Scuderia Ferrari after winning the 2024 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia.Future Publishing - Getty Images

“I’m still without a job for next year so I guess this is going to help it!”

Verstappen’s early exit distorted the picture but, having firmly established itself as second-best across the opening rounds, Ferrari has a victory in its pocket already in 2024 and has made sizeable progress compared to this time last year.

“It’s extremely important because it’s been a long time since we have had the genuine pace to have Red Bull under control,” said Leclerc, who rose from fourth on the grid. “We don’t know what was the real pace of Max today, but I will say that from FP1, we knew that pole position and the race win was possible because we had very good tire degradation, very good pace, and that is a very encouraging sign. If you look at the first three races, two out of the first three races, they had the upper hand in the race, so we still have a lot of work to do, but that’s exactly what we need to do as a team is whenever we have the opportunity to actually win a race, we need to take it.”

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Max Verstappen walks back to the garage after smoke billowing from his car during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne on March 24, 2024.Scott Barbour - Getty Images

Brakes Put On Verstappen’s Winning Spree

Once Max Verstappen was clear of the opening sector on lap one it looked likely that Australia’s race would replicate the runaway domination of the first two rounds of the season. But a wide moment into Turn 3 on the second lap indicated that all was not well, and Sainz sliced past Verstappen along the back straight, with smoke soon emerging from the rear right of Verstappen’s car. The World Champion kept going for a further lap, but the smoke worsened and eventually the RB20 slowed, before debris fell from the car, and the right-rear brake caught fire and exploded as Verstappen entered pit lane to retire. It marked the end of Verstappen’s nine-race winning spree and his first failure to finish a grand prix since the corresponding race in Australia two years ago.

“My right rear brake basically stuck on from when the lights went off,” said Verstappen. “So, yeah, the temperatures just kept on increasing and caught fire.” Verstappen added that for the few laps he was on track “it was like [driving with] a handbrake” on the car.

Despite the early bath Verstappen still leads the world championship and it would be a surprise if he was not back on top around the high-speed sweeps of Suzuka in two weeks’ time.

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Max Verstappen drives in the pits during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne on March 24, 2024.Scott Barbour - Getty Images

“It's more important now that we understand why it happened,” said Verstappen on the failure. “We had a lot of good races in a row, a lot of basically good reliability. And I knew that the day would come that, you know, you end up having a retirement and unfortunately that day was today.”

It nonetheless highlighted that Red Bull is fallible, while Sergio Perez mustering only fifth from sixth on the grid – behind the Ferrari and McLaren drivers – showed that race pace fears were justified. Perez’s race was compromised further by picking up floor damage early on but the display continued a trend from 2023 whereby Red Bull has been weaker than its usual phenomenal benchmark at front-limited street-style tracks where the softest compounds are used.

“Since Friday we had struggled quite a bit with the long run, and we tried different solutions and compromises for Saturday, but we couldn’t get a total handle on it,” said Perez. “In the first stint the balance was super neutral, I didn’t have any rear grip, and we completely destroyed the rear tires, and then the second stint I completely destroyed the front tires. It was a bit of surviving mode with the degradation we had.”

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George Russell gets out of his car after crashing during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne on March 24, 2024.PAUL CROCK - Getty Images

A Woeful Weekend For Mercedes

Mercedes lacked pace in all conditions around the high-speed Albert Park and its problematic start to 2024 nosedived spectacularly on Sunday. Lewis Hamilton, who qualified only 11th, was in the lower echelons of the top 10 when he suffered a power unit failure. George Russell was a subdued figure through most of the race and was pursuing Fernando Alonso for sixth when he crashed through Turn 6 on the penultimate lap.

There was an extraordinary post-race investigation when stewards concluded that Alonso had deliberately slowed into the corner, lifting 100 meters earlier than he had all race, braked very slightly at a point he had never braked, and also downshifted, with Russell caught out by how quickly he closed in, suffering a loss of downforce amid the dirty air. Alonso was penalized for a maneuver stewards called “unusual” and “potentially dangerous”, adding 20 seconds to his race time, losing two positions. Stewards could not determine whether the move was intended to cause Russell problems, or whether – as Alonso stated to them – he was simply trying to get a better exit from the corner.

“I was half-a-second behind Fernando 100 meters before the corner and then suddenly he came back towards me extremely quickly,” said Alonso. “It was clear that he braked earlier than he had done on previous laps and then got back on the throttle. I wasn't expecting that, and it caught me by surprise. I hit the wall and had a dramatic few seconds after that.”

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“I think I’m trying to keep things in perspective, you know? It could be so much worse..."Peter Fox - Getty Images

But irrespective of that outcome, Russell still wound up with his damaged car partly on its side on the track, and out of the race. It left Mercedes empty-handed for the first time in three years, Hamilton down on his engine allocation post-failure, and with a repair bill in the wake of Russell’s off. A team that dominated Formula 1 until very recently is only a distant fourth in the standings.

“It’s tough to take,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. “Super tough. And I would be lying if I would be saying that if any moment, I feel positive about the situation and optimistic, but you just need to overcome the negative thoughts and say we will turn this around. But today it feels… very, very, very brutal.”

Hamilton quipped it was his worst start to a season in Formula 1 but was sanguine about the situation.

“Surprisingly I feel pretty good,” he said. “I think I’m trying to keep things in perspective, you know? It could be so much worse, I’m really grateful and have really enjoyed my time here in Australia. I’m still enjoying working with the team, of course I’d love to be fighting for wins and finishing races – it’s never a great feeling when you come all this way and don’t even see half of the race, but what I know is that we will bounce back and will get there, we just have to chip away at it.”

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Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen’s finish marked Haas’ first double points since the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix.WILLIAM WEST - Getty Images

Haas Doubles Up

Haas has had an encouraging start to the 2024 season as it strives to remedy the issues which plagued the majority of its lackluster 2023 campaign. The positive signs continued in Melbourne, as both Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen made in-race gains to move up the order, despite Magnussen’s race strategy slightly slowing his progress. The team’s result was undoubtedly assisted by the exits of both Mercedes cars and Verstappen, but Hulkenberg was ninth, with Magnussen 10th, behind only RB’s Yuki Tsunoda in the battle between the five teams in the lower half of the grid. It marked Haas’ first double points since the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix. Improved race performance is being combined with excellent teamwork, and post-race Team Principal Ayao Komatsu was quick to praise Magnussen’s in-race decision to allow Hulkenberg through when the pair were on divergent strategies.

“It’s very encouraging, and it’s a different way to go racing: last year we woke up on race day knowing it’s not going to be good,” said Magnussen. “Today, I woke up knowing we would have a chance to fight, and it was true.”

Tsunoda’s result means RB jumped Haas in the standings, but the team holds seventh, now on four points, building a slight buffer over the scoreless Sauber, Williams and Alpine.

“To be able to get double points is better than expected, so it just goes to show that you need to be there,” said Komatsu. “You need to do everything perfect to be able to pick up those last available positions. It wasn’t perfect today, so there’s some things we need to improve, but overall, I’m so happy for the team. Both drivers drove a brilliant race, and the pit crew, when it was critical, they delivered.”

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Ricciardo finished 12th in Melbourne.Peter Fox - Getty Images

Ricciardo’s Downward Spiral Continues

Daniel Ricciardo endured a tricky opening pair of races to 2024 and his rough time continued on home soil. Ricciardo trailed impressive RB team-mate Yuki Tsunoda throughout the weekend and was eliminated from qualifying in Q1 after exceeding track limits. Even accounting for the error Ricciardo conceded that he would not have been able to match Tsunoda.

“The lap itself I was happy with from my side, I felt like I got everything out of it, and then when I saw it still wasn’t good enough, let’s say compared to Yuki, that for me is… yeah, I’m still a bit puzzled,” he said. “You obviously take a couple of tenths from track evolution, but six, seven-tenths, that’s not in it.”

Ricciardo stressed it was not a replication of the struggles that truncated his McLaren career – where he never got a handle on the driving style required – but the early rounds have been underwhelming.

Ricciardo made little in-roads in the race and classified 12th, while Tsunoda built on his grid spot and claimed eighth, later promoted to seventh after Alonso’s penalty. Those six points have single-handedly lifted RB to sixth in the championship in one swoop, and the team will swiftly need Ricciardo to step up and deliver his side of the bargain.

“I think we’re still missing some things as sometimes I feel like and I’m not carrying enough speed in some corners,” said Ricciardo. “During the race, I marked some points that are good for gathering data and will help us continue understanding our car.”

Ricciardo’s predicament was accentuated by the home focus gradually shifting to McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, who claimed fourth, equaling the best result by an Australian at the Australian Grand Prix. Piastri is the future now…

F1 Australian Grand Prix Results

  1. Carlos Sainz Ferrari 58 laps

  2. Charles Leclerc Ferrari +2.366 seconds

  3. Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes +5.904

  4. Oscar Piastri McLaren Mercedes +35.770s

  5. Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT +56.309s

  6. Lance Stroll Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes +93.222s

  7. Yuki Tsunoda RB Honda RBPT +95.601s

  8. Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes +100.992s

  9. Nico Hulkenberg Haas Ferrari +104.553s

  10. Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari +1 lap

  11. Alexander Albon Williams Mercedes +1 lap

  12. Daniel Ricciardo RB Honda RBPT +1 lap

  13. Pierre Gasly Alpine Renault+1 lap

  14. Valtteri Bottas Kick Sauber Ferrari +1 lap

  15. Zhou Guanyu Kick Sauber Ferrari +1 lap

  16. Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 57

  17. George Russell Mercedes DNF

  18. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes DNF

  19. Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT DNF