Sainz dominant after Verstappen retires in Australia

Carlos Sainz led a Ferrari one-two after polesitter Max Verstappen retired with brake failure and George Russell forced the race to end under caution after a rollover crash on the penultimate lap of a dramatic Australian Grand Prix.

Sainz, who had his appendix removed just two weeks ago and hasn’t trained since, started from the front row and swept into the lead around Verstappen’s outside at the rapid Turn 9-10 chicane on the second lap. But the Dutchman was defenseless, suffering with a stuck right rear brake. Smoke began to pour from the car on the following tour, and before long fire was erupting from beneath the wheel.

A small explosion of braking material confirmed in advance as he entered pit lane that Verstappen would not be able to rejoin the race, ending 43-race finishing streak on the spot.


Sainz inherited the lead and began punching in a series of fastest laps, gapping the pursuing field led by Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc and Oscar Piastri.

With the Spaniard in control at the front, Leclerc was hauled into pit lane early, on lap 9, to undercut Norris and take second place. Piastri followed him in, ensuring both drivers would move into podium positions when the first stop window closed.

Norris dropped to net fourth when he entered the lane five laps later. Except for Sainz — who then stopped on lap 16 without losing the lead — the Briton became the fastest man on track.

McLaren wasted no time ordering Piastri, on older tires, to cede third to his teammate, and before long Norris was lining up Leclerc to relieve him of second. The Monegasque was struggling with his left front tire, prompting the team to bring him in for another early stop to protect against the undercut.

Norris and Piastri followed him in on lap 40 and 39 respectively to resume their chase, but on lighter fuel Leclerc was happier on the hard compound and equal to the defensive challenge.

Now it was Leclerc’s turn to begin moving forward, and in the final four laps of the race he sliced the deficit to his teammate from more than five seconds down to just over three. But the pursuit wasn’t allowed to reach its climax after Russell lost control of his car through the high-speed Turn 6 on the penultimate lap.

The Mercedes driver washed out through the gravel and smacked the barriers, tearing off its left front corner. The loose tire jammed under the car as it slid back onto the racetrack, rolling the chassis onto its side before stopping in a dramatic heap in the middle of the road.

Russell emerged unscathed, and a virtual safety car was triggered to end the race at controlled speed. Sainz led Leclerc home in formation finish for Ferrari’s first one-two finish since the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix.

“It was a really good race,” he said. “It felt really good out there. I was lucky I was more or less on my own and I could manage my pace, manage my tires and everything.

“I’m very happy, very proud of the team, very happy to be one-two with Charles here — it shows hard work pays off.”

Leclerc, who collected the bonus point for fastest lap, praised his teammate’s performance two weeks after his appendectomy in ensuring maximum points for the team.

“It feels good, mostly for the team of course,” he said of his second place. It’s amazing that we can do this.

“Carlos has had an incredible weekend to come back after this surgery. He’s done an amazing race.”

Norris was pleased to complete the podium, describing it as validation of McLaren improving to be a closer match for Ferrari after having challenged Leclerc through the race.

“It was a very good day for us,” he said. “I’m very happy for us as a team. P3 and P4 [for Piastri] is a lot of points in the championship.

“I think our pace was strong enough today, but Ferrari and Carlos did a very good job, so hats off to them.”

Piastri was a comfortable fourth in his native city, an equal best result for an Australian at their home grand prix.

Sergio Perez was an underwhelming fifth in the sole remaining Red Bull Racing car. Perez had started a penalized sixth and dropped to seventh on the first lap and struggled to cut through the field after that.

Fernando Alonso finished sixth ahead of Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll, who was promoted a place after Russell’s crash.

Yuki Tsunoda was a strong eighth, scoring four points for RB to take the Red Bull-owned team to sixth in the championship.

Haas teammates Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen completed the top 10, collecting three points between them.

Alex Albon tried unsuccessfully to defend against Magnussen in the second stint but finished 11th ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly, Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu and Esteban Ocon.

Lewis Hamilton was the race’s only other retirement when his engine failed on lap 16.

Story originally appeared on Racer