Verstappen wins a wild finish at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won his first Australian Grand Prix on Sunday under remarkable circumstances after a chaotic F1 race filled with drama from green light to checkered flag.
Although Red Bull’s first triumph in Melbourne since 2011 was expected, the carnage that unfolded in the last stages of the race at Albert Park made this victory extremely hard-fought.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, driving superbly with his Mercedes, finished second and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso finished third on the podium.
Only 12 out of 20 entrants completed the race, with Australian Oscar Piastri making the most of the confusion to finish eighth and claim his first championship points for McLaren.
Verstappen was delighted to take the win but questioned the stewards’ decision to red flag after crashing on lap 55 of the 58-lap race instead of engaging the safety car.
He had a solid lead at this stage, but then had to struggle to keep the lead from Hamilton when the race was restarted.
“Of course we are happy to win the race, but I think the race itself towards the end was a bit confusing because of all the calls,” said Verstappen. “This has left many riders confused as to why we need a second red flag. It was pretty dirty today.”
Hamilton was delighted with the progress that Mercedes showed in Melbourne, including performances in Saturday’s qualifying.
“It was very unexpected,” he said. “Second and third place in qualifying yesterday amazed us all and gave a huge boost to the whole team.”
On the restart on lap 55, Verstappen was able to hold Hamilton until the first corner as bedlam broke out for his Red Bull, causing the order of the finish to be changed.
Alonso, who had been battling Hamilton for second place for most of the race, was knocked down by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz at the first corner of the restart.
Sainz, whose Ferrari had shown good speed throughout the race, was penalized for five seconds, dropping him to 12th place.
The Ferrari driver was upset by the decision and Alonso later said he thought the punishment given to his rival was too harsh.
In another incident, Williams driver Logan Sargeant crashed into the back of Nick de Vries, and Alpines Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly also retired after crashing into each other.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crashed on lap one and former Mercedes leader George Russell caught fire on lap 18.
After claiming his first pole position in Australia on Saturday, Verstappen lost out to Russell in a sprint down the first corner in a brisk debut.
By Turn 3, Hamilton had also overtaken the Dutchman, raising the possibility that the improved Mercedes team could pull off a stunning upset.
But those hopes were dashed when Williams’ Alexander Albon lost control on lap 7 and crashed into a wall, resulting in the first red flag.
Russell had already headed to the pits when the race stewards decided that the debris left on the track by the accident was a safety problem that could only be solved by stopping the race.
As a result, the English rider ended up in seventh place, although he was forced to leave the race shortly after the resumption.
“When it’s not your day, it’s not your day,” Russell wrote on social media.
The race resumed with Verstappen chasing Hamilton up front and the two-time world champion used the superior speed of his Red Bull to take the lead on lap 12.
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