Carlos Sainz wins the Australian F1 GP after Verstappen’s early exit due to an engine fire

Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll of Montreal finished in seventh place.

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz ended Red Bull’s winning streak in Formula 1 on Sunday when the Spaniard took advantage of Max Verstappen’s early exit to win the Australian Grand Prix just two weeks after missing the previous race in Saudi Arabia due to an emergency appendectomy.

Sainz, who started on the front row alongside Verstappen, kept his place at turn one but passed the Dutchman on lap two at turn nine to take the lead and took control once his rival retired two more laps. late due to a serious mechanical failure.

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Verstappen had won the first two F1 races of the season in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and was on a nine-game winning streak.

Sainz finished ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc for Ferrari’s first 1-2 finish since the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix, with McLaren’s Lando Norris finishing third for his first podium at Albert Park.

His teammate, Australian Oscar Piastri, was fourth.

Sainz, who will be replaced by Lewis Hamilton at Ferrari from 2025, was excited to take the third victory of his career against all odds, his first since last year’s Singapore Grand Prix.

“I felt really good out there,” he said. “Of course, (I felt) a little stiff, especially physically. It wasn’t the easiest, but I was lucky to be more or less alone and able to control my pace, control the tires, manage everything.

“Life is crazy sometimes, you know? What happened at the beginning of the year, then the podium in Bahrain, then the addendum, the comeback, the victory, is a roller coaster. But I loved it”.

Leclerc, on the podium for the second race in a row, was encouraged by Ferrari’s pace and its ability to battle rival Red Bull during its period of dominance.

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“We knew that pole and winning the race was possible because we had very good tire degradation and very good pace,” he said. “That is a very encouraging sign. However, if you look at the first three races, two of the first three races, they (Red Bull) had the advantage in the race, so we still have a lot of work to do.”

Norris said it was no surprise he was able to take his first podium since Brazil last year.

“I think when you put out a Red Bull, I would say no,” he said. “I think our pace has been good all weekend. Yesterday we put things together very well. On Friday we showed good pace on long, fuel-intensive runs, so I wouldn’t have said we didn’t have a chance.”

The race ended under the virtual safety car, ensuring there was no racing for most of the final lap, after Mercedes driver George Russell crashed at turn seven. Red Bull’s Sergio Perez closed out the top five, recovering just one place from where he started sixth, after receiving a three-place grid penalty for impeding Nico Hulkenberg in qualifying.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso finished sixth on the route, but dropped to eighth after stewards handed him a 20-second penalty and three points on his license, for “potentially dangerous” driving while battling Russell on the final lap.

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Lance Stroll of Montreal, driving for Aston Martin, finished in seventh place.

Alonso let off the accelerator just over 100 meters earlier than he had entering turn six during the race, while Russell behind him lost control and crashed on the exit of the turn.

Russell’s teammate Lewis Hamilton also failed to finish after an engine failure on lap 17, leading to Mercedes’ first double failure since the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, ending its reliability record.

Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda gave RB, the team formerly known as AlphaTauri, its first points of the season, with six points for seventh place, having been elevated by Alonso’s penalty.

The American Haas team earned its first double-point finish since the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix, with Hulkenberg and teammate Kevin Magnussen closing out the top 10 in ninth and 10th, respectively.

Verstappen’s lead in the drivers’ standings has been reduced from 15 points to four, with Leclerc in second place. Verstappen has 51 points and Leclerc 47.

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