F1: Max Verstappen wins Australian Grand Prix
Melbourne, Australia –
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won his first Australian Grand Prix on Sunday in surprising circumstances after a chaotic F1 race full of drama from green light to checkered flag.
Red Bull’s first victory at Melbourne was expected since 2011, but a carnage late in the race at Albert Park turned it into a very hard one.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton finished second after an impressive run for Mercedes, while Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso finished on the podium in third place.
Only 12 of the 20 starters finished the race, but Australian Oscar Piastri made the most of the upset to finish eighth and score his first championship points for McLaren.
Verstappen was delighted with the win, but questioned the stewards’ decision to issue the red flag instead of deploying the safety car after crashing on lap 55 of the 58-lap race.
He held a good lead at that stage, but had to fight to retain the front position from Hamilton when racing resumed.
“Obviously I’m happy to win the race, but I think the race itself towards the end was a bit confusing with all the calls,” said Verstappen. “It confused a lot of the drivers why we needed a second red flag. It was pretty annoying today.”
Hamilton was pleased with the improvements Mercedes showed in Melbourne, including Saturday’s competitive qualifying performance.
“It was very unexpected,” he said. “Getting 2nd and 3rd in qualifying yesterday blew us all away and brought a lot of energy to the whole team.”
At the lap 55 restart, Verstappen was able to hold off Hamilton until the first turn, causing a hustle behind the Red Bull to change the final order.
Alonso, who challenged Hamilton for second place for most of the race, was attacked by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz at the first corner of the restart.
Sainz was handed a five-second penalty and demoted to 12th after Ferrari showed excellent speed throughout the race.
The Ferrari driver was upset by the decision and Alonso later said he believed the penalty given to his rival was too harsh.
In another incident, Williams driver Logan Sargent drove behind Nick de Vries and Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly’s Alpine also ended the race after colliding with each other.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crashed on the opening lap, while former leader George Russell’s Mercedes caught fire on lap 18.
Verstappen, who took his first Australian pole position on Saturday, was sprinted out by Russell at the first corner in a lively opening.
By turn three Hamilton had also passed Dutchman, increasing the chances that the improved Mercedes team could pull off a surprising upset.
However, that hope faded when Williams’ Alexander Albon lost control on lap seven and crashed into the wall, presenting the first red flag.
Russell was already heading to the pits when the race stewards decided that the debris left on the track by the accident was a safety issue and could only be resolved by abandoning the race.
This kept the British driver in 7th place, but he was kicked out of the race completely shortly after the restart.
Russell wrote on social media, “When it’s not your day, it’s not your day.
The race saw Verstappen sneak up on Hamilton at the front of the field and the two-time world champion used the Red Bull’s superior speed to take the lead on lap 12.