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Carlos Sainz Beats the Brakes Off Max Verstappen, Triumphs in F1 Return

2024 F1 Carlos Sainz Australia Ferrari Media

Carlos Sainz pounced on Max Verstappen’s misfortune, passing the misfiring Red Bull early and winning the Rolex Australian Grand Prix on Sunday (March 24) comfortably over Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc. Verstappen retired from the race on lap 4, his current run of dominance snapped by a fiery stuck brake issue. 

Sainz, who missed the previous race in Saudi Arabia with appendicitis, was unchallenged after taking the lead on lap 2 and took the checkered under a virtual safety car after George Russell’s late crash. Leclerc’s second place finish, and fastest lap, gave Ferrari the maximum points day. McLaren’s duo of Lando Norris and Australian Oscar Piastri finished fourth and fifth. Sergio Perez took fifth, while Fernando Alonso’s sixth was converted to an eighth after a penalty for “potentially dangerous driving” while defending against Russell late in the race. Alonso’s teammate Lance Stroll assumed sixth, with Visa Cash App RB’s Yuki Tsunoda finishing seventh. The Haas duo of Nico Hulkeberg and Kevin Magnussen nabbed the final two points-paying positions. 

“It was a really good race,” Sainz said. “It felt really good out there. I was lucky I was more or less on my own and I could manage my pace, manage my tires and everything. I’m very happy, very proud of the team, very happy to be one-two with Charles here – it shows hard work pays off.”

In the driver standings, Verstappen’s 25-point lead shrunk to four, and now he leads Leclerc 51 to 47. Perez is third with 46, six points up on Sainz in fourth.

In the constructor standings, Verstappen’s troubles brought Red Bull back to the field. Red Bull leads Ferrari 97 to 93, with McLaren well back in third with 55, well ahead of struggling Mercedes in fourth with 26.

The Race

Verstappen zipped off the line, leaving front row partner Sainz to contend with the challenge from Norris while Verstappen led into turn 1 on a clean start. Russell picked off Perez, who was the recipient of a three-place grid penalty for impeding in qualifying, for sixth as the only change of position up front.

Sainz took the fight to Verstappen, using DRS to blast by the seemingly crippled Red Bull in turn 9 on lap 2. Verstappen later admitted on the radio that he made a mistake that led to the Sainz overtake. It was an omen of even bigger problems for Red Bull.

On lap 3, a stunning development as smoke began pouring from Verstappen’s Red Bull, and he slowed…

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