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F1 Australian GP: Sainz leads Leclerc home for Ferrari 1-2, Verstappen retires early

Carlos Sainz claimed his first Formula 1 win of 2024 at the Australian Grand Prix, leading Charles Leclerc home for a Ferrari 1-2 as Max Verstappen retired early on.

After he took the lead from Verstappen on the second lap with a pass around the outside at Turn 10, Sainz maintained the lead throughout the entirety of the race - and his victory in the 58-lap race was enshrined a lap early when George Russell crashed out at Turn 6 to produce a virtual safety car.
A mere two weeks after having his appendix removed which caused him to miss the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Sainz returned to the top step of the podium for the third time in his F1 career, following his victory in Singapore last year.
Although Verstappen had preserved the lead off pole, waving away any wafts of a move from Sainz in the opening lap, the championship leader was unable to break out of DRS range after the first lap and thus gave the chasing Ferrari momentum.
Complaining that he'd 'lost the car' for a moment on the second lap alongside the Lakeside Drive section of the circuit, Sainz was able to barrel past the Red Bull with DRS open and collect the lead for his efforts.
Verstappen reported further issues with his Red Bull, which had started to precipitate the emergence of smoke from the back, which intensified around the rear-right corner of his car.
He then began to slow significantly as it became apparent that his brakes had caught fire, and he trundled back to the pits as the hub started to shed debris to retire.
This blew the race wide open, although Sainz had already taken the initiative and started to break-build to atone for missing out on pole on Saturday, putting a gap over Lando Norris to ensure he had breathing space when it came to the opening pitstop phase.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20 the field at the start

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20 the field at the start

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Norris had been under fire from Leclerc but, as the Ferrari driver stopped at the end of the ninth lap, focused on retaining tyre life and hung it out on the mediums until the end of the 14th lap.
This gave Leclerc the undercut, putting the Ferraris in the top two positions; Sainz pitted at the end of lap 16 to ensure he maintained the lead over his rapidly chasing team-mate.
A virtual safety car shortly after Sainz's stop, produced for a slowing Hamilton as the Mercedes driver suffered an engine problem, brought Leclerc close to Sainz and with a sniff of making a move at the restart, but the Spaniard kept him at arm's length before restoring his advantage.
Sainz got his lead up to 8.7 seconds before Leclerc stopped for a second time on lap 34 as Norris had started to close on the Monegasque, but the leader waited until the end of the 41st lap to make his own switch to a second set of hards.
Leclerc had got the lead down to five seconds, but Sainz stabilised and added half a second on over the following laps to create another buffer. Although he complained that his tyres did not "feel great" with three laps to spare, Sainz had enough in reserve to close the lead out - helped by Russell's race-ending shunt as he was battling Fernando Alonso.
Norris was unable to resume his chase over Leclerc, having lost two positions after his opening stop; Leclerc and Oscar Piastri both got ahead through the first-stint undercut, but McLaren elected to swap Norris and Piastri around to give the Briton a chance to chase second place. 
But Leclerc put in a series of strong laps towards the end to ward off the threat of the third-placed Norris, as Piastri collected fourth to delight the crowd in his home race.
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15

Photo by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

Sergio Perez was some way behind in fifth after an off-colour race, where he lost a place at the start to Russell and then slipped down the order again after his first stop. This forced the Mexican to make ground with the use of DRS, although came up against a stubborn Alonso in the second half of the race.
Alonso had taken the initiative to pit under the first virtual safety car when Hamilton stopped, which put him ahead of Perez; although the Red Bull driver got past, he was unable to shake the terrier-like Alonso from his heel before the final round of stops.
Lance Stroll collected seventh, moving up a place thanks to Russell's crash, while Yuki Tsunoda broke RB's duck for the season with a quiet race to eighth place.
Nico Hulkenberg added more points for Haas after successfully overcutting Alex Albon during the second pit phase, as Kevin Magnussen had also dispatched the Williams to ensure he made the points when Russell retired.
Albon was just outside of the points in 11th after taking over Logan Sargeant's car for the rest of the weekend after his FP1 crash, with Daniel Ricciardo 12th.
Despite copping a five-second penalty for crossing the pit exit line too early, Pierre Gasly finished 13th over the Sauber pair of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu, who both suffered slow pitstops once again.
A three-stopping Esteban Ocon completed the finishers, dropping to back after a rear-right brake fire was addressed in the pitstops - a tear-off proved to be the culprit.

F1 Australian Grand Prix result

   
1
 - 
5
   
   
1
 - 
2
   
Cla Driver # Laps Time Interval km/h Pits Points Retirement Chassis Engine
1 Spain C. Sainz Ferrari 55 58

1:20'26.843

    2 25   Ferrari Ferrari
2 Monaco C. Leclerc Ferrari 16 58

+2.366

1:20'29.209

2.366   2 19   Ferrari Ferrari
3 United Kingdom L. Norris McLaren 4 58

+5.904

1:20'32.747

3.538   2 15   McLaren Mercedes
4 Australia O. Piastri McLaren 81 58

+35.770

1:21'02.613

29.866   2 12   McLaren Mercedes
5 Mexico S. Perez Red Bull Racing 11 58

+56.309

1:21'23.152

20.539   2 10   Red Bull Red Bull
6 Spain F. Alonso Aston Martin Racing 14 58

+1'20.992

1:21'47.835

24.683   2 8   Aston Martin Mercedes
7 Canada L. Stroll Aston Martin Racing 18 58

+1'33.222

1:22'00.065

12.230   2 6   Aston Martin Mercedes
8 Japan Y. Tsunoda RB 22 58

+1'35.601

1:22'02.444

2.379   2 4   RB Red Bull
9 Germany N. Hulkenberg Haas F1 Team 27 58

+1'44.553

1:22'11.396

8.952   2 2   Haas Ferrari
10 Denmark K. Magnussen Haas F1 Team 20 57

1 lap

    2 1   Haas Ferrari
11 Thailand A. Albon Williams 23 57

1 lap

    2     Williams Mercedes
12 Australia D. Ricciardo RB 3 57

1 lap

    2     RB Red Bull
13 France P. Gasly Alpine 10 57

1 lap

    2     Alpine Renault
14 Finland V. Bottas Sauber 77 57

1 lap

    2     Sauber Ferrari
15 China Z. Guanyu Sauber 24 57

1 lap

    2     Sauber Ferrari
16 France E. Ocon Alpine 31 57

1 lap

    3     Alpine Renault
17 United Kingdom G. Russell Mercedes 63 56

2 laps

    2   Spun off Mercedes Mercedes
dnf United Kingdom L. Hamilton Mercedes 44 15

43 laps

    1   Power Unit Mercedes Mercedes
dnf Netherlands M. Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1 3

55 laps

    1   Rear brakes Red Bull Red Bull

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