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Rating the 2024 F1 Australian GP race

The Australian Grand Prix produced a different winner as Carlos Sainz benefitted from Max Verstappen's retirement to cruise to his third Formula 1 victory.

As the Red Bull driver suffered a brake problem at the start of the race, his Ferrari rival took control early on and never relinquished it, scoring his first win since last year's Singapore GP.

Charles Leclerc settled for second as Ferrari grabbed its first one-two finish of the year, with McLaren's Lando Norris completing the podium ahead of Oscar Piastri and Sergio Perez, who in Verstappen's absence, led a very discreet Red Bull performance. 

Our writers give their verdict on the third round of the 2024 season.

It's the hope that gets you: 5/10 - Matt Kew

Scary ending noted, that's just blown a hole in the side of the (already weak) argument that Formula 1 is brilliant so long as you ignore Max Verstappen. Even with the dominant driver out the way, another champion retiring to introduce a tantalisingly timed virtual safety car, and the Ferrari duo very briefly teeing up a dice for the win, it all fell flat. There was a dearth of wheel-to-wheel racing. Granted, some of the blame goes to the narrow nature of the Albert Park lap.

The Australian GP was the best race of the tame season so far - yes, that's very much damning with faint praise. A proper, spectacular retirement for Verstappen plus an on-track overtake for the lead (albeit the Red Bull was kneecapped from the start) earn a couple of points. But those graining Pirellis inspired processions rather than divergent strategies.

Charles Leclerc's early charge to close to within a second of leader Carlos Sainz offered promise – how would the tacit number one driver fare against his effectively sacked stablemate? But it came to little.

In short, the fiery Verstappen brake failure created a headline. George Russell's crash is another. However, there wasn't a lot of substance beyond that.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38 Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB20 and George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38 Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB20 and George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

The best race of 2024, but that's not much: 6/10 - Oleg Karpov

I felt it was the best race of the season so far. By far. And that's pretty much all you need to know about the season. Max's retirement made it exciting, simply because we knew we'd finally get a new winner, and the fact that it was Carlos in the end - with a feelgood story coming back from his surgery - made it even better. And sometimes, when you've seen one driver dominate for so long, it's just enough to make you feel good about the race.

Two more retirements, both of them from Mercedes, made a prize for the 'B' group of current F1 even bigger - and that was exciting to watch. Well, as exciting as a fight for P9 can be (which became eighth after Russell's exit). Well done to Yuki Tsunoda for winning that race! His performance against Daniel Ricciardo also became one of the talking points of the year - and the talk in F1 has always been just as important as the action on track.

After all, we can pretend for the next few weeks that the championship battle is alive again, with Checo Perez closing in on Max. Which is a bit better than just watching the Dutchman win race after race.

Watchable race gives Ferrari and neutrals hope: 6/10 - Filip Cleeren

If certain people were expecting Formula 1 to suddenly deliver a thriller for the ages once the dominant Verstappen is taken out of the picture, then the Australian Grand Prix poured a bucket of cold water over that theory.

With Ferrari's race pace being as strong as it is, Sainz's win never really seemed in doubt. We will never know if the race for first would have been better had Verstappen's brakes not exploded, but at least the Spaniard's much-deserved win is the biggest feelgood story so far of a season that could use some.

The drivers may hate the graining, but I liked Pirelli's decision to go a step softer with its tyre compounds as it finally delivered some strategic variance and jeopardy at Albert Park rather than a dull one-stopper.

Between that, and some of the midfield heroics involving the Haas cars and RB's Yuki Tsunoda, I thought the race was pretty watchable and certainly the best we've had so far, even if that's not saying much.

The Australia race weekend does provide more hope that Ferrari can go toe to toe with Red Bull on more circuits and McLaren wasn't miles away either.

Not a classic race, but a sign of what F1 needs overall: 6/10 - Alex Kalinauckas

Red Bull not winning was the pressure release F1 needed after the dire start to the campaign in the championship excitement stakes.

But, once Verstappen was out and Sainz was clear in the lead, the battle at the front was down to a dull tyre management race, especially when Leclerc had to pit early in stint one to cover others behind.

Perez couldn't produce the typical Red Bull fightback and the action yet again was mainly down the order, including the Alonso/Russell crash controversy on the last lap. Yet, if real, regular form swings from race to race can occur, F1 would have a classic season.

That's still probably the aim for 2025 onwards. However, as of right now, this feels like a one-off different winner.

Smoke spills from the rear of Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, as he retires from the race

Smoke spills from the rear of Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, as he retires from the race

Photo by: Mark Horsburgh / Motorsport Images

What 2024 might be like without Verstappen: 6/10 - Haydn Cobb

Nobody wants Max Verstappen to leave Formula 1 because it is wonderful watching the best drivers on the planet compete against each other. But this race answered the question of what the 2024 season might be like if the reigning champion wasn't on the grid.

Still too much tyre management but closer gaps at the front between evenly-matched teams, with Ferrari prevailing and a feelgood story of Carlos Sainz's appendicitis comeback.

With Lewis Hamilton also DNF-ing, and then the shock late crash by George Russell, it gave the midfield teams multiple points positions to target and therefore spiced up that fight too.

Lack of intra-Ferrari battle takes away some shine: 6/10 - Rachit Thukral

Verstappen's early retirement in Melbourne didn't blow the race as wide open as many would have expected, with Sainz cruising at the front once after snatching the lead from him on lap 2.

While a non-Red Bull win already puts the Australian GP higher up than most grands prix we've witnessed in the ground effect era, a lack of fight between Sainz and team-mate Leclerc meant that the race wasn't exactly as exciting as a quick glance at the results might suggest.

While Leclerc's first goal was to move clear of the McLarens and secure a 1-2 result for Ferrari, he couldn't step up his game in the final stint, eluding fans of a proper fight for victory.

There was also a lack of intra-team battle at McLaren, with Lando Norris also untroubled by Piastri once he had been let through by his team-mate.

Perez could have shown the strength of the Red Bull package and added an extra variable to the race, but fifth was as far he could get on his RB20 on a weekend where he was no match to Verstappen.

Verstappen not always the problem: 5/10 - Pablo Elizalde

While it was good to see a different winner, the Australian GP dispelled the notion that F1 races are dull exclusively because of Verstappen's dominance. The problem goes much deeper than that.

Ironically, given Sainz's form, the race would have probably been better had Verstappen not retired, although considering his usual pace on Sundays, that's difficult to know for certain.

With the world champion out of the picture, Sainz was free to cruise home unchallenged, and the remaining drivers in the top positions were never close enough to each other to make the race semi-interesting.

Like in Saudi Arabia, the battles for the places outside the top 10 were the most entertaining ones, but that's a very low bar for F1, especially in a race with the dominant world champion out by lap 3.

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