Formula 1 Racing

Sainz shows surgical precision as Verstappen’s hopes melt in Melbourne · RaceFans

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Albert Park, 2024

The UK’s National Health Service offers clear, insightful information for patients in their care undergoing treatment for all kinds of medical conditions.

For those everyday folk who require an appendectomy – a common procedure to remove the appendix – the NHS offers patients and their loved ones an idea of how long they can expect their recovery to take.

“You should be able to return to normal activities in a couple of weeks,” says the NHS. “Although you may need to avoid more strenuous activities for four to six weeks after open surgery.”

But Carlos Sainz Jnr is not an everyday human being. As a Formula 1 driver, he is one of just 20 superhumans entrusted to pilot the quickest racing cars on the planet. And as a Ferrari driver, he is one of only two who have the privilege of racing for the sport’s most prestigious team.

But even with his elite level of physical fitness the idea of Sainz returning to the grid two weeks after having surgery and performing at his usual level was one even he dismissed.

“It’s not like I’ll be 100% for it, because obviously I’ve been 10 days in bed, not ten days training, going to the simulator and preparing for a normal weekend,” he said.

Something was amiss with Verstappen’s car from the start

“But if I’m fit to race and don’t have any pain or any bad symptoms, I can still put together a strong weekend and the target will be to challenge the Red Bulls.”

After two days of running at the stunning Albert Park circuit in downtown Melbourne city in which he gradually built himself up session-by-session, Sainz had sensationally backed up his words by putting his car on the front row alongside Max Verstappen, being the closest driver to the world champion. At the same circuit where the pair had raced in Formula 1 for the first time as Toro Rosso team mates nine years earlier, Sainz now had to take the fight to Verstappen during Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.

Verstappen led the grid away on the formation lap from pole position for the third consecutive race day in 2024. Behind him, every driver down to tenth-placed Fernando Alonso started on medium compound tyres – the entire field expecting the battle with their own tyres to prove just as challenging throughout the evening as the one they would have against their rivals on track.

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The previous year at Albert Park, Verstappen had suffered a rare defeat in the race to the first corner. He did not…

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